Elroy-Sparta Rail to Trail, Wisconsin; Day One: Getting There

Joyce Boarding Amtrak

Joyce Boarding Amtrak

So we are finally on our way, after having planned and talked about and changed our plans and solved obstacles for over a month now. We have our final Fahrplan (itinerary), and now we are implementing it. Today is a travel day, first by airline to Milwaukee, then by shuttle from the airport to Amtrak Airport station, then by Amtrak to Milwaukee Downtown station, and then by Amtrak to Tomah, Wisconsin, where we are spending the night. Except for the constant questioning by the last conductor as to where we were going to put our bikes, because the train was very full and lots of backpacks were taking up the baggage space, the Amtrak people have been courteous and helpful. At the Amtrak downtown station, where we picked up our bikes (sent last week from Atlanta Amtrak station), the workers didn’t fuss about our leaving the empty boxes for them to dispose of, and they said we didn’t need to cover the bikes when we boarded the train with them. By the way, one conductor said he thought the bikes would fit behind the last row of seats, which they did, and that’s where they are now, tied together to discourage anyone from trying to get off the train with them because we’re sitting up in the lounge car where we have a fabulous view of the Wisconsin countryside, peacefully thinking of nothing except that we are actually on this trip, so long existing only in our imagination. I have become an avid Amtrak fan!

The Southwest flight attendant was particularly witty on the flight up, which helped make it an enjoyable 90 minutes. One of her lines, which Martha is mentioning also because we both were intrigued by it, was “No matter where you go, there you are.” A nice piece of wisdom in a subtle sort of way. Martha’s interpretation was more of a mental/physical contrasting experience (am I really here?), whereas I was thinking of it in a more purely physical sense in that sometimes it doesn’t really matter where we are, but we need to enjoy and appreciate the experience of the moment. It also reminded me of a favorite T.S.Elliott line—not to have the experience but miss the meaning.

Artwork in Milwaukee Amtrak Station

Artwork in Milwaukee
Amtrak Station

My meaning from today’s “where I am” are the realizations that at my age of 68, almost 69, I am healthy enough to 1) have the mind enough to get my bike up to Milwaukee, 2) the physical strength enough to carry my panniers weighing about 25 pounds total at the same time I lift my bike and walk up two steps to get everything onto the train, and 3) the courage enough to set out on this trip with a welcome sense of adventure. Another “meaning” for this trip is my blessing of having a husband who supports and encourages this goal of riding all the Hall of Fame Rails to Trails.   I wish he could see all the sights that Martha and I see, but his love for bike riding doesn’t quite equal ours, and doing these on our own is part of our adventure.

When we deboarded Amtrak in Tomah, we had no difficulty loading up our panniers onto the bikes and riding the two miles to our lodging at Cranberry Suites. A nice place. We got the bikes into our room and then walked over to Culvers for our dinner. Friendly staff, and as Hemingway would say, “a clean, well-lighted place,” so it was a good meal and ended a good first day of our trip.

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