PRESIDENT’S NOTE: Here is the official ride report of the Rural Ramble that happened outside Madison, Wisconsin on Saturday October 4th. This report was submitted by the ride leader, Wrongway.
Fifteen nutters braved threatening skies for what turned out to be a lovely day awheel at the Sixth Annual Rural Ramble, otherwise known as the Ripley Road to London and Cambridge, in southeastern Wisconsin.
Coffee, tea, scones and other delights awaited the arriving club lads and lassies, as friends old and new renewed bonds or forged new ones. Larry Hasterok won the Union Jack in the annual prize drawing, but he’d also won it the year previous, so chose a spiffy Union Jack cap with a drape neck in its stead. Alan Lloyd’s name was pulled next and he walked away with the flag, though how the banner of the British Lion would survive the trip home with the terrible Red Dragon of the Welsh flag which Alan had brought and proudly hung remained to be seen.
After pictures and last-minute cycle adjustments, the group was off, as we quite typically are a little off anyway. Along the Glacial Drumlin State Trail we rolled, followed by a brief stop at Rock Lake Bridge for some photos of this “beauty spot.” Thence to Korth County Park, where we climbed the steep incline to the pavilion and chatted with a church group a-picnicking.
Alan then blazed a trail through the reedy “rough stuff” to set up his video camera so as to capture the rest of us coming through the maze. And so on to London Marsh, today a bird sanctuary but once hideout of the thieving criminal family called “the Fighting Finches.” It is also the site of a still-sunken steam locomotive, lost in the muck back in the 1800s.
And so on to London Tavern, where “The Vice Squad” imbibed and the more sober-minded stuck to turning the cranks round, that is until Larry punctured and Mike “Cheesy” Bullis, bicycle mechanic extraordinaire, performed a repair. In the lull Alan did yeoman’s work by dragging off to the margin of the road the battered body of an unfortunate possum, which had just been struck by a dreaded motorcar — another fatality at the teeth of the vile four-wheeled monstrosity. No, Alan’s goal was not elevenses or an early lunch, but to give the creature proper dignity. By the time we were again ready to roll, the tavern tipplers had in cockamamie fashion wrenched themselves from their stools and again joined us.
Abandoning the limestone path, to the King’s highways we turned, passing many a lovely country scene, thence past the trout hatchery, the state reformatory, and across busy Highway 12/18 to a veritable bucolic paradise where the ace cyclist Tom Huber, riding 26 miles all the way from Madison, appeared like an apparition in the mist and joined our party. It was his sixth Rural Ramble, and he is the only nutter other than mine hosts who has made every single edition. And so we took to the road past crofters cottages leading to the drop down into Rockdale and another brief tavern tip.
Along the lovely two-miles of the CamRock trail to that ancient citadel of education, Cambridge and our Cyclist Touring Club-approved caterer, CamRock Cafe & Sport, where we ingested (without indigestion) a luncheon (some of us, two!), and sampled beverages from their 100-plus brand brew cooler.
Prying ourselves away from table and tap, we again took to the macadamized surface, this time along the Ripley Road, past Lake Ripley, ending in a steep climb, which snapped Wrongway’s Sturmey-Archer FW toggle chain which had been trigger-pulled under load. A rusty staple extracted from a roadside post by the resourceful Owen Lloyd gave Wrongway something to stick into the remaining bit of chain, thereby holding the gear in a manageable 3rd rather than the iron fourth into which it had defaulted.
Awheel again, through more farm, fen, field and fell, past wild turkeys and a large (30 or so) flock of sandhill cranes, and then our stop, one mile from the finish, at Sandhill Station State Campground, which features boardwalks out to Mud Lake (the water being the highest in recent memory) and a separate Bicycle Entrance.
Back at the Trailhead where it had all started six hours previous, we said our farewells to those heading home, while a contingent of us removed to Tyranena Brewery for pints and a “jaw session.”
It’s hard to believe it has been six years since the event first started, inspired by our illustrious forebears, Jon Sharratt and Noel Robinson, but time moveth forward fiercely when fun is afoot (or should I say awheel?) and fun it was indeed! We hope to see ye next year!