Mini goes to LaCrosse Wisconsin!

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(Mini stopping to enjoy one of the Locks on the Mississippi River)

Mini Says: “I love Bicycle rides. My family loves me because not only am I cute but I’m practical too!”

One of the passions BigMan and I developed this summer was bicycle riding. Initially I picked it up to add to my fitness regime since it’s such a wonderful calorie burn and it gives me the freedom to eat the way I want to be able to eat, instead of eating like a rabbit counting calories. As the summer wore on and we got in better shape, increasing our distance, we decided to take a ‘Mini’ vacation to LaCrosse Wisconsin to ride the very first bike trail in America. Sparta, which hosted a train rail line back in the day, converted that rail line into a bike path when it was mothballed and a new line put in. Now, if you ride from the trail head in LaCrosse to Sparta, you can log 21+miles. From Sparta, you can continue up another 10+ miles to Tunnel #1, which is not only 1 of 3 wonderfully hand carved tunnels, but also a winter bat sanctuary.

Hubby and I ticked off over 40 miles Day 1 by riding from LaCrosse to Sparta and back again. Burning over 3,000 calories, we were able to fully enjoy amazing food and fun beverages in downtown LaCrosse. Then Day 2, Mini hauled the bikes to Sparta. We unloaded them, and started the 3% grade climb up to tunnel 1. Since it was sunday and we still had a drive back home, we only went as far as tunnel 1 before we headed back down.

The trail is all packed limestone. So, if it’s sunny and dry, its a breeze and we could cruise an easy 16 mph on the flats. We discovered however, that after a rain shower overnight, the trail is slow where it was damp. Be sure to have at least hybrid tires on your bicycle or it could be a rough go.

If you are near LaCrosse WI and have your bike on your roof….I highly recommend the ride. The ride sports some amazing views and downtown LaCrosse is quaint, full of friendly people and a great place to grab a post ride bite!

We fully enjoyed ourselves having a healthy vacation….

And Mini loved being admired, as usual!

(Mini getting ready to take a nap, at the bike path trail head in LaCrosse)

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(Limestone bike path from LaCrosse to Sparta)

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(Vistors Center in Sparta. Head left and its ALL uphill!)

 

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(Tunnel #1. About 10 miles from Sparta. The doors were installed to close in winter to protect the bats)

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(The Tunnel is long, dark and drippy. Bring a STRONG flashlight if you want to go on to Tunnels #2 & 3)

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Kalua Pork

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While traveling on the island of Maui, we were told to try many dishes and drinks – Moco Loco, Poke, POG, Mai Tai’s, Hawaiian varieties of fish and Kalua Pork, or Kalua Pig which brings me to Hana. Heavenly Hana.

The road to Hana is known not as a destination, but a journey. It is all about the drive along the way. Stops galore with sights that constantly take your breath away. Breathtaking not only for the hair-raising dare-devil, barely two lane road (but mostly one car sized road) drive up perilously treacherous hairpin turns overhanging the ocean hundreds of feet below, but also for the sheer beauty of nature. It’s a journey that should be on everyone’s Bucket List.

We got a late start and hubby took the wheel on the way up. We hugged the hillside so close I swore we were going to take off a side mirror, climbing to over 1400 feet on a road that twisted and turned as it carved in to the hillside on a path, I swear, was made for goats. There were lots of turnouts so there were an abundance of walking and stretching of leg opportunities to take photos, but they handled few cars and one needed to mind where walking, lest you end up bumped off the side!  Up, then back down again, then up even higher, then back down again. Despite the potential for car sickness or other calamities, it was completely and utterly worth the ‘thrill’ of the ride.

We saw painted eucalyptus trees. Trees who’s bark looks like it was painted with an artists watercolor palette. We saw small remote towns who grew Taro in small fields out on a volcanic spits where the waves crash and spray like a steam iron on overload. We saw palm forests that looked like they were out of Jurassic Park, literally. The scenes for the opening of the original Jurassic Park were filmed in one of the valleys on the way to Hana. We saw cattle, bamboo forests, gorgeous plants and flowers one only sees in florist shops, growing wild. We saw Tarzan vines, and roots that looked like the rudders of a ship and were nearly as big. The canopy of the forest was overflowing with beautiful vivid orange tropical flowers, reminiscent of the image in Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ when Bilbo climbs to get his bearings. We saw lots and lots of rain, but then it is a rain forest. That part of the island can an average of 12 feet of rain. There were secluded waterfalls and caverns with their crystal clear blue pools.

We made it all the way to Hana, where the sands are black and the waves are big. It’s a quaint isolated little town, where they were friendly to the tourists. We grabbed a coffee at the local market (which reminded me very much of a Ben Franklin 5&10) and then it was my turn to drive back down. As it was getting late in the day we decided to stop at this teeny tiny little tin covered hut, (which we passed on the way up) that sold Kalua Pork, for an early dinner. It was pouring rain at that moment and it sounded like the heavens above were coming down on us, what with the tin roof and all. A woman standing on a platform behind a counter, with a couple of food steamers and an ice cooler, was serving a nice selection of fish, shrimp and Kalua pork tacos or bowls, ‘homemade’ mac n’cheese, hot dogs and chili. I choose the Kalua Pork bowl. There were giant condiment bottles labeled with masking tape ‘HOT-garlic/chili’, ‘BBQ’, ‘Sweet Chili Sauce’ along with soy, Tapatio, ketchup and mustard. I went for the BBQ, garlic chili and soy. Oh, it was mighty tasty. Sitting there in that forest, hugging the side of the road, with the rain beating down loud enough to make it difficult to talk among each other was absolutely wonderful.

Sometimes in circumstances like that, you wonder if the food was really as good as you thought. Was it? Or was the ambience and scenery so amazing that the food benefits by association? I’ll never know. Kalua Pork on it’s own isn’t all that hard to make based on the recipes I looked up. Maybe it was the atmosphere, or the smell of the rain forest, or the leaves its’ steamed in. Maybe it was the picnic bench covered with a vinyl cloth, or the man next to us in his handmade banana leaf brimmed hat. Maybe it was the chickens pecking about next to us, or the music of the rain on a tin roof. All I know was that it was amazing. It was amazing, and I hope to be back again in my lifetime.

Just because it’s checked off the Bucket List doesn’t mean I can’t repeat it, right?

(The photo up top was taken from my iPhone, during a break in the rain. Quality suffers, but you can find many other professional quality photos online)