I had two great rides on the fat-tire bike this week. One was a rural 15-miler out of West Salem, Wisc. The other was an urban 20-miler through Minneapolis. They were both on trails that I had seen and had been intending to ride for a long time. Neither one disappointed.
There is a Cenex truck stop in West Salem, Wisc. (I-90 exit 12). Across the street is the La Crosse River State Trail. This trail connects the Great River (Mississippi) Trail to the famous Elroy Sparta Trail. To ride on the trail takes a pass, which can be bought at the truckstop. The daily pass is $4. The annual pass is $20. These passes are good on all Wisconsin’s state trails. To hike or run the trail is free. I rode the trail from West Salem to the Great River Trail near La Crosse. The round trip was 15 miles. The trail itself is crushed limestone and runs between I-90 and the La Crosse River. Occasionally it will give you views of either one. Most of the trail tunnels through trees. That gives me that alone-in-the-woods feeling.
If you are ever on a load that allows you to take a 34-hour restart, this is a great place to do it. There is a small Wisconsin town to enjoy right there in West Salem. La Crosse is a bigger city that is less than an hour bike ride away. If you do head east Sparta recognizes itself as the biking capitol of America. That connects you with the mother of all rail trails, Elroy Sparta. The Elroy Sparta Trail boasts three long tunnels. You will want to bring a light with you. I have ridden the length of the trail twice. It is a fave trail. There is a point in one of the tunnels where you can’t see the light at either end. The floor is slippery, so don’t ride in them — get off and walk. I-90 provides a practical alternative to I-94. Instead of taking I-94 though the twin cities you can take I-90 and U.S. 52. As a side note, it avoids the scales if you are westbound.
If you ever have a long unload in the Minneapolis area get on the Midtown Greenway trail. I started out at the Super Valu in Hopkins, Minn., and headed east towards the cities. The trail system in the Minneapolis area is just plain awesome. Midtown Greenway runs below grade along the rail line. Many trails spur off or it. The fact that it is below grade allows you to ride under the streets instead of crossing them giving you an uninterrupted ride.
If you know of any awesome rides near truck parking, let me know. We are trying to compile a guide for truckers to use. In the meantime, keep searching. There is fun in discovery, and you might just get a little healthier while you look.
Jeff Clark is a trucker, a grandfather and an eight-time marathon (26.2 miles) finisher. He is dedicated to helping truckers improve their health through better habits. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.