2016 Superior Vista after-glow
By Dan Miller
Photos by Steve Block
As the Superior Vista weekend approached, I had visions that I may be doing it alone. Some of my biker friends had other plans or decided not to attend after being rained out on previous years. And this year’s weather forecast was not wonderful either. For me, it was the first Vista Tour in several years and I had to push doubts about weather and who would be attending aside.
About two weeks before the event, I was asked to schedule bookend rides for Friday and Sunday to fill out the weekend. After several feverish queries to past ride leaders for ideas and maps, Carol Fitzgerald came forward to offer us a wonderful riff on the Tiger Cat Flowage ride done in previous years as the Sunday ride. She routed it in reverse, which made the original start going up a very significant hill into a breathtaking descent at the end. It was a beautiful ride and the 30-mile length was appreciated after the substantial effort on the previous day.
We all can thank Bill Bennet for submitting the Saturday, Superior Vista Tour as an Outreach Ride this year. Last minute road construction changed the lengths from 100 and 70-mile routes to 80 and 60 miles. For those who have never done the Superior Vista Tour, it starts with a lengthy climb out of Washburn. Once on top, you can make a choice to continue on a very scenic forest road that has the feel of a doublewide bike path. Smooth, rolling pavement, intermittent shade and forests will bring smiles and many “one with nature” moments. The other choice is an approximate 10-mile downhill out and back to Cornucopia, a small lakeside hamlet with a commercial fishing harbor. On previous tours, I had never ventured downhill to Cornucopia. The views are fantastic and the road ahead appeared to drop off the earth’s edge. The riders coming back up hill appeared to be working pretty hard. Doubts started creeping into my head - what did I get myself into. I met up with friends at the Cornucopia rest stop and we climbed out together. Surprisingly, it was much easier than it appeared based upon the speed of my earlier descent and observing the return riders.
The weather forecast for the Superior Vista Tour was 80% rain at the beginning of the week and it didn’t get much better. An evening before was 55%. I resolved this year that rain wasn’t going to stop me. I packed a rain jacket, helmet cover, gloves, fenders and clothing layers. About all I was missing was an M-16 rifle which I wouldn’t have known one end from the other. In case of a wet bear – stop, back up, play dead, scream, holler or ride like hell!!!
With some effort, the fenders were fitted to the bike the night before and clothing laid out for the worst. Ready to jump into action before breakfast at the Time Out café and prior to the 7:15 am ride from the motel to the Tour start. Guess what – there was no rain. We had sun, shade, humidity and a wicked cold wind in Cornucopia and later in the ride. Some would have thought that I was overdressed. It came out just about right and the fenders and jacket were good insurance to ward off anything worse. And everyone knew where I was from the clunking of the fenders.
The rest stops were stocked with watermelon, cookies and other home baked treats. A memorable stop near the end is the farm dairy where they make hand made ice cream sandwiches. This farm is so treasured that a challenge was given to beat us to the ice cream bars by some Birchwood Girls as they breezed past us into the headwind. Now this is at the end of the ride and after a good all day effort. For whatever reason, I got to be the lead out guy for one who will not be mentioned until the right moment for her to pounce and where I became a memory. However, there were plenty of ice cream bars, a dog’s head to scratch and stories from the owner.
Back downhill to the ride start a few miles away were waiting Hugo’s pizza, great coffee, and more watermelon, treats and ice cream bars. I spent two hours at the rest stop talking with ride officials and local riders about the Superior Vista and other routes in the area. It was a cordial afternoon made so much better with Northcoast Coffee, a local coffee shop and supplier and the lady who didn’t drink coffee - making it in a percolator. Must have been the combination of grounds, local water and talent.
That evening we had an impromptu potluck, which turned out to be a profitable day for the local IGA. Cottage made deviled eggs, baked potatoes, salads, roasted chicken and steaks, beans and smoked fish. Amazing what can be produced with little. I think I met the Barbecue Bible’s Steve Raichlen’s nephew on the grill and the evening descended into a lengthy discussion of proper preparation of Jaternice and Sauerkraut. Yup, a perfect conclusion for the day.
On Friday we rode Madeline Island taking the ferry over and back starting in Bayfield. We biked 31 miles with two out and back roads. Some additional gravel roads were suggested by an avid bicyclist as being road bike able. We stopped at the state park and town park for views of Lake Superior, putting our feet in the water and just relaxing. One of our riders has parents on the island making for a third, refreshing rest stop with spectacular views just before the end.
It was a fantastic weekend and I was surprised at the amount of TCBC riders that attending which I did not know were planning to be there. The Superior Vista has the makings of a mini Tour of Lakes, albeit smaller scale. One needs to plan for weather. This area has its own microclimate that can bring both high humidity and chilling cold all in the same day. The up factor is that there is plenty to explore in Bayfield, Ashland and other nearby hamlets.
Additional photos can be seen at the following link: http://imageevent.com/sblock/superiorvistas2016