Andrea Engel, RN, LMT, CPT

Aesthetic RN, Ashiatus massage therapist, health coach near Rhinelander, Wisconsin.


Double Century Weekend (2013)

Double Century Weekend Ride


When I go on long rides, I like to attach some significance for it and keep that at the forefront of my mind as I pedal the hours away. It occurred to me as I was already well into this one, that I didn’t do any of that. I had a weekend to myself, I love to experience the beautiful countryside of the northwoods at a bicycle pace, and I suppose
I was asking my body what it thinks of the possibility of crossing “Race Wausau 24 mountain bike race as a solo rider” off of my bucket list this year. So, nothing profound on this trip. Just experience. I’ve had long rides, but never back-to-back century days.

Food & Maps

As always I relished the planning. Mapping, portable healthy foods, stops, choosing a scenic destination. I finally broke down and bought my own panniers this past week. I also acquired the old Bibler tent which has been around the world on a bike, which I used on my Lake Superior trip last summer. This time I planned a route which would take me to Lake of The Falls near Mercer, Wisconsin. “The loon capital of the world”. There is a county park for camping, and I was able to come up with a twisting, indirect route to total 100 or more miles each day.

My daughter, who is 16, stated on Friday evening that she would get up early and start her own 50-mile ride at the same time I started mine. How cool is that?? I made a route for her that would take her with me the first 25 miles, then we would split off. Actually she ended up doing that 50 mile route as well as another on Sunday. Impressive!

Getting Goofy

Saturday morning I awoke around 4:40am. I showered and dried my hair so it would be somewhat manageable for the weekend. Then I realized it was raining steadily. I ate, dawdled, drank coffee, put kinesio tape on my lower legs, looked at the radar…. it would rain for quite awhile yet. So much for 30% chance. Thanks, weatherman. I don’t mind at all if it starts raining when I’m riding. I am kind of fond of the feeling, actually. However, I do not like to start in the rain. Especially cold rain. I just won’t do it. I will be riding almost all day with breaks, and I do not want to be damp the whole time. Besides, what would that do for my saddle area??  My daughter woke up and was fine with going, rain or shine. I put my tent and sleeping bag inside a garbage bag, refastened everything, and off we went!

Yes, those are Breathe Right strips.
They’re awesome.

Now, the wind typically comes from the south/southwest. We were heading north/northwest. On this day it was coming from the north and it was significant, even at 6:30am when we began the ride! “Good thing I have all day”, I thought. We skirted around Rhinelander, dipping south briefly and then west/northwest to the corner of County K and Highway 51. It was slow going, but nice to have the company of my daughter. The rain continued the whole time. We stopped at a gas station for a bathroom break, had a bite to eat, and with a hug we went our separate ways. Soaked.

Near the Willow Dam
Roadside Scenery

I continued on Swamp Lake Road. It starts out smooth enough but quickly turns rough. I had been forewarned! Totally rideable and quite scenic, it took me to County Y where I turned north, to Willow Dam Road, to Crystal Falls Road (one of my favorites) all the way to Hazelhurst. I stopped roadside to shed some layers and eat some trail mix. The rain had stopped and I was ready to listen to some of my favorite tunes on my little old iPod Shuffle. I had been on most of these roads before, but at this point I was venturing into new territory. Lower Kaubashine and Camp 9 Road were absolutely beautiful! I crested a hill and surprised a whitetail doe, who also surprised me. I saw little farms with sheep and horses, small lakes, rolling hills…. all the way to Highway 70. From 70 I went into the Indian Reservation, along Thoroughfare Road. I completely missed a turn in my mapping, so at the end I thought I was to go right and be in Lac du Flambeau for a much-needed break. The rain had started again and wind was not backing off. I rode a few miles and decided to pull off on a little side road to check my map/take a natural break. The mosquitoes were so bad

Lac du Flambeau

there was no chance of squatting in the woods! I also realized that I was going the wrong way. A few miles back the way I came, and a few more, and I was in Lac Du Flambeau. I toured around looking for a coffee shop. Settled for a gas station. Went across the road to the casino where I was able to charge my phone and eat a salad. It reeked of cigarette smoke from the moment I stepped in. When I finished eating, I walked about (garnering interesting looks from those who were not entranced by the machines they were sitting in front of). It saddened me to see all of these souls, looking so unhealthy and devoid of life, plugging money or cards into machines. How boring! I put $1 into a machine, pulled the lever, lost my dollar, and got back to my ride 🙂 Back to the 18mph headwind, that is.

Roadside along Highway 47

I took Cemetery Road and several of the homes were boarded up. Children were playing in a few of the yards and waved as I rode by. Dogs barked. As I got further up, it turned beautiful again. It connected back to Highway 47 and I turned north. My next road was to be River. When I reached it, there was a sign stating “Minimally Maintained”. It looked more like an ATV trail. It was to be a pretty long section, and given the bike I was on, I kept rolling along the highway. Not looking for that kind of adventure on this trip. I rode through Powell Marsh. It was so windy!! Between the wind and the load I was carrying, I was fighting for 15mph. I would get down into my aero bars and start cranking, then realize the foolishness of doing such a thing. I had to ride another 100 miles the next day, after all. I would shift down and spin an easy gear, cover up my speedometer, and try to just enjoy the scenery. I stopped a couple of times to take photos.

Grasses in Powell Marsh, blowing the opposite direction of the way I am headed.
Powell Marsh

Around mile 90 I had to work on mental toughness. I felt beat down. My feet had been wet all day, my saddle felt hard as a rock, and the gusts of wind nearly stopped me. I wanted to be done. I would do my best to duck out of the wind for awhile and then sit back up, defeated by Mother Nature. I reached Highway 51, exhausted. Funny how a change of direction can change a

mindset, though. A sign stated that Mercer was a mere 3 miles away. Yes! That put the pep in my pedals. I was happy to see Clair d’ Loon welcoming me town. Of course I had to stop for a photo. From there I stopped at a gas station for drinking water, a bathroom, and to inquire about any local coffee shops. Turns out there was one, only a block away. Looney Beans. I sat by the air conditioner and sipped a Backroads Coffee Co. French roast. I charged my phone and wrote in my notebook. Less than 10 miles left to the campground. I savored the coffee. The atmosphere was quite different and I will share more about that in a little bit. The barista was the 11-year-old daughter of the owner. She was doing a great job getting drinks and working the cash register.

Back on the bike, I headed north up Highway 51 to County FF. What a scenic road!

Gorgeous! Some of the hills made me work pretty hard, but I had it in me to stand and power over the top. I arrived at the camp ground and selected my site. There were only a couple other campers there. It felt so good to take my wet shoes off. I promptly found the canoe launch and took a full dunk in the lake. It felt *amazing*. I put on a flowy, light skirt and a tank top and went about setting up camp. I love, love, love that old tent. It came with a rich history and I feel privileged to own it.

Shortly after my arrival, my good friend Crille and his 2 dogs pulled up. Crille was my designated person to keep a copy of my route and have me report in at my stops, for safety. He had asked if they might come visit camp for a bit in the evening, since they don’t live too far away. He recently returned from a trip home to Sweden. I thought it would be nice to see photos and hear stories. He started unloading his truck. A grill, cooler, firewood…. and proceeded to grill steak, sweet potatoes, asparagus, green beans and red peppers. Something about a can of sardines not being good enough after a 100 mile ride. He set about starting a camp fire. We walked over to the “falls”. At least I think that’s what it was. It was more or less a man-made dam with a rapids below. Maybe the actual waterfall is somewhere else? I don’t know, and I didn’t feel like going off in search of it. I felt more like eating and visiting around a fire. The food was amazing, and I was stuffed! If I was hiring a soigneur, Crille would be it! Here are some photos of the area around the campground:

Ginormous rock by the road. I like rocks.
More campers had pulled in over the course of the evening. I enjoyed photos and stories from Sweden, ate bacon for dessert, washed it down with a glass or 2 of red wine, and said goodbye to my friend. As I walked to the bathroom and back I noticed lightning bugs. It was a chilly evening and I snuggled into my sleeping bag. Around 10:30pm the country music was blaring, the rope lights polluted the darkness, and my camp neighbors were pretty well drunk. When they would be quiet for a few moments I could hear the rapids. I decided I prefer back country camping. I mean, I loved being able to have a fire, but other than that I believe my camping will be away from campgrounds for the most part in the future. I tossed and turned all night. I was cold and using my long-sleeved jersey as a pillow. Although I did not hear any loons in the loon capital of the world, the coyotes raised a ruckus during the night. Now that is a cool sound! So wild! There were apparently several of them.

Day 2:

Morning fog on the lake

I was awake at 4:30am but too chilly to get up. I tried to sleep a little more but couldn’t. I listened to the birds while it got light out. I did some reading and reflecting

from my journal from last year. The cell service was darn near non-existent, but I was able to get a current temperature of 42° around 5:30. Brrr…… didn’t bring knee covering. I dressed, wearing my knee-high compression stockings to help keep warm. I ate trail mix and beef jerky for breakfast while I broke camp. My thermos of coffee from the day before was lukewarm but at least it was coffee. I walked down by the lake for a couple of photos.

Ready for Day 2, Breathe Right
dork strip included!

6:30am, on the bike. Highway FF and the brilliant sun… you know, rain and wind make a person appreciate the absence of rain and wind :-).

FF is twisty and hilly, and there was already a fair amount of traffic. I saw a coyote cross the road but missed the camera shot. Stopped for a photo of the roadside wild flowers:

It seemed much shorter going out than coming in. Highway 51 has some beautiful scenery as well:

Back in Mercer, I stopped in at Looney Beans for a good cup of coffee. This is not your big-city coffee shop! There were 2 older gentleman talking about a bear a friend got the previous day. They struck up a conversation and we chatted over coffee for awhile. One of the gentleman asked if it was me riding out on FF a little while ago. He said it was hard to see me due to the glare of the sun and the curvy nature of the road. I do dress brightly for that reason but still, it’s a risk. I realize that. He said I waved, and I tend to do that. I told him that was my “Thanks for not running

me over” wave and he chuckled. He left to go deal with the bear meat. A fisherman came in to order a latte. I had to snap a photo. Check out the barista. This is a northwoods coffee shop, all the way! Nice folks, though. Apparently they own the bait shop next door. The woman in charge also does logging and runs the heavy equipment. According to this fellow, she is the boss, no questions asked!

From Mercer I took county highways up to the Michigan border. Plenty of sunshine and a beautiful route. I love seeing the “Rustic Road” signs. Plenty of exquisite scenery. The smells of the forest and flowers this time of the year are incredible and I breathe it in as deeply as possible. Cedar swamps have a fragrance that is absolutely heavenly. Too bad no photo will allow you to experience it. I suppose you all will have to just get outdoors and get it first-hand!

Here are some photos from the road:

Doe on the side of the road
Mile after mile of this

And then there I was. At da U.P., eh.

I took a roadside break to relieve my bladder and shed some clothing. All warmed up!


So my bike is kind of a mutt. It’s not meant for touring. It has no rack mount. I use hose clamps to put the rack on. I have a time trial seat post and aero bars from days gone by when I thought I might get into TT racing. However, I have to say on a long solo ride I love spending time in the aero bars. It’s quite comfortable and nice to have
another position option. Also I’m glad my bike has a triple front ring. Definitely used that on some Iron County hills, hauling a load up them. Although I could probably power up, it would be foolish with the amount of miles I plan to be riding. I whisked along with a slight tailwind. Oh, gracious tailwind.


Had to slow down to avoid hitting a grouse. Passed many small lakes. Passed a mailbox painted like the Swedish flag.

Welcome to Presque Isle

It was around here I started having to take bootie breaks. My backside hurt something awful.

Another doe. Can you see her?
Big Lake Bootie Break

Highway P going towards Boulder Junction was beautiful. Another rolling, twisting, forested gem of a road. I pulled into Big Lake state campground for a bootie break, about 10 miles out of Boulder Junction.

By the time I got to Dancing Bear coffee shop in Boulder Junction I was ready for a significant break. 50 miles in, or 150 into my 200 mile trip, I sat in the grass by my bike, took my shoes off, at a tin of sardines and rested before going in for coffee. My legs were fatigued but the worst was from sitting on the seat with a crap chamois.
Happily, they have almond milk and even gluten-free almond-based cookies. Umm, yes please!! I ate 2 cookies there and purchased 2 more to take home and share with my daughter. I used the restroom and slathered on the chamois butter. I really took my time at this place and didn’t leave until I was good and ready. I even made a dragon fly friend who happened to land on me while I was putting my helmet on. I went to restart my Strava app and realized I never restarted it 10 miles back at my bootie break. Crap!
From Boulder Junction I hopped on and off the paved bike path. The breeze had picked up, so at times it was a good way to be a bit sheltered. Of course on a Sunday afternoon there were others out riding. Going 18-20mph is not how most of them ride, so if I saw a group ahead I’d cut out onto the highway for a while. I do enjoy those trails. At one point I had to let out a “Woohoooooooo!”.
Time flew by and before I knew it I was in Saint Germain. Just in time for their 4th of July parade! Cars were parked randomly on the bike path and it was a bit of a zoo. Nice to see such a turnout, though, and a perfect afternoon for them. My last coffee shop stop was on the other side of town. Red Canoe. I sipped an iced almond milk coffee, ate trail mix, and put my feet up. I practiced learning Swedish. “Min rumpa är öm.” I used every last bit of chamois butter, pretty sure it would leak through. Don’t care. 26 miles to go. I can do this.

15 miles to go. I can’t stand it. This hurts so bad! My legs feel strong. My body feels strong. My butt hurts. I hate this saddle for long distances. Also the only bike shorts that seem to work well are my 6-year-old Pearl Izumis and they’re threatening to fall apart. They were still wet from the previous day or I’d have worn them again. So there I am, standing at the roadside of Pine Lake Road and County D, just hating on that saddle. I whined. I ate some sweet potato. I ate some trail mix. I whine some more. I knew it was less than an hour home. After several minutes I got going again. My legs actually felt, despite a bit sore, incredibly strong. I may never have long and lean legs, but I’ll tell you what. My short little legs are amazing. I was able to stand and truck up some hills. I felt the sunlight pouring through my helmet and into my body as it had been all day. I felt grateful as I approached 100.0 miles on my odometer. This body may never be one of a model, but it’s damn healthy and strong!

Almost home! Love this little lake.

I did not find an answer to the question about whether to race 24 solo this year. On the one hand, there are no guarantees I’ll have another chance. I’ve learned not to put things off in life, and to seize the opportunity. I’ve been putting in a lot of miles and my body responds pretty well to distance. With the exception of one thing. My Achilles. Or, this year, my Achilles’. Both of them. Mountain biking is a different animal, too. It’s much more physically demanding. If I were to race it, the point would be the experience. The outcome holds nothing for me. I don’t care about podiums any more. I’ve raced a lot over the past 5 years. I want new experiences that have nothing to do with what other people are doing. I want to know how far I can go, in harmony with my body. I want to ride in the middle of the night. As I write this on Monday, it is painful to my Achilles’ to walk. I rode last weekend at a pace which allowed me to breathe deeply through my nose with the exception of particularly steep hills. In other words, I didn’t push it hard. So, I don’t know? Either I race 24, or 12 solo which I am signed up for, or find a partner and have a really freakin’ good time. Completely undecided. I do know I don’t want to wreck my body and be unable to purely enjoy long rides, as I do now. I get so much out of them. Heck, if I want to “race” I can go throw down on the boys’ Wednesday night group ride.
And then there I was. In my front yard, flopped down in the grass, reveling in the experiences I’d had over the last 2 days. 207 miles total. 207 amazing miles. How do we know what we’re capable of unless we get out there beyond our comfort zone? Really there is nothing special about me as a cyclist. I spent the majority of my life not taking good care of my health and am still on the border of overweight. My point is, get out there and experience life. You don’t need the latest and greatest to do it. You certainly don’t need to wait for someone else to do it with you or for you. You don’t even need a perfect weather forecast. Get out there. Have an adventure. Just go for it. I promise you will not be disappointed.

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