Day 23: The National Mustard Museum

Date: June 18th, 2019

Miles Traveled: 70

Weather: Mostly cloudy. Warm.

Physical Status: Tired

TL;DR: Mustard, Scottish chickens, metal graveyards, prairies, and a circus town.

At around 7:30am, I woke up, said goodbye to Megan, wrote until 10:30am, packed up my things, went down the elevator, rolled up to the nearest bike path, and suddenly witnessed a dude in full lyrica barreling down the path on a unicycle.

“Well, that’s an interesting start to the day,” I thought.

The dude riding a unicycle was indicative of what was to come because today… today was, indeed, interesting.

I pedalled through downtown Madison, passed by the Wisconsin State Capitol building, and continued on through the University of Wisconsin’s enormous campus on the West end of the city:

After hopping on a short bike path and riding a couple miles along suburban streets, I rolled towards a small downtown area and noticed a peculiar sign in the distance.

Does that say ‘Mustard Museum’?” I thought.

“OH MY GOSH IT SAYS MUSTARD MUSEUM.”

I had inadvertently found the National Mustard Museum, nestled in a small suburban town called Middleton:

The National Mustard Museum was everything you would expect such a museum to be and more. Over a dozen multi-level shelves were placed around the store displaying countless jars of exotic and gourmet mustards. Free mustard samples with small dipping pretzel sticks were layed out for the public to enjoy. Caramel mustard. Root beer mustard. Braterwurst mustard. It was a mustard lover’s paradise:

But that was just the beginning.

I walked down the staircase on the left side of the facility and entered the (actual) mustard museum.

There, I marveled at the various mustard-related artifacts on display and was thoroughly entertained by the hilariousness of it all.

Here I was in a small suburban town in Wisconsin learning about mustard on a bicycle trip across the U.S.A.

Sometimes, life is both strange and amazing.

Anyways, here’s some pics:

Prior to exiting the National Mustard Museum, I bought a cute lil’ chicken that is now strapped to my handlebars.

Everybody, meet Heinrich (“Heinz” for short).

Heinrich is German-born lad who was adopted by a Scottish family soon after being hatched from the egg. After serving in the British army (feathered regiment) for a number of years and making a living as a plumber, he is now retired and spends his days motivating me with comments like “keep pedalin’, ye bumblin’ bambot!” or “you wispy-haired, leather-faced, bawbag-eyed, huffy wee numpty… is that all ya got?! Me chicken legs can climb this hill better than you, ya jobby-flavored lozenge!

In addition to going on bicycle adventures, Heinrich enjoys whiskey, corny jokes, and long walks on the beach.

—–

With Heinrich firmly zip tied to my handlebars, I rode 10 miles along a lovely bike path adjacent to highway 12 West.

As I cruised along the smooth, asphalt surface of the path, I enjoyed vistas of picturesque Wisconsin farmland with expansive fields of green, beige, and brown:

After turning off the bike path, I traveled through additional farmland on some exceptionally quiet country roads:

Along the way, I noticed something almost eerily odd to my left. There, on the side of the road, was a small farmhouse with a caved-in roof on what must’ve been over 500 acres of land on either side. Throughout the fields and forests surrounding the farm, countless old pieces of large equipment, metal scraps, and miscellaneous bits of junk could be seen, strewn about as if some enormous giant took a large handful from a scrapyard and tossed it about:

Spoooooky.

I then continued on along a series of quiet roads, made it back to highway 12 West, hopped on another bike path, crossed the Wisconsin River, and stopped for lunch in a town called “Prairie du Sac.”

After briefly exploring the town, I ended up going to a bakery called “The Mixing Bowl” and proceeded to not get what one would consider lunch.

…and soon realized that there is a limit to how much sugar a cyclist can consume in one sitting.

Note to self: a cinnamon role, 7 layer bar, and a peanut butter cookie, no matter how many calories you’ve burned today, is NOT a substantial lu

—–

After barely getting down the cinnamon roll and peanut butter cookie, I threw the 7 layer bar in my handlebar bag and pedalled onto the Great Sauk Trail.

In short, the Great Sauk Trail was simply amazing. For over 10 miles, I rode through forests, farmland, and an incredibly vast prairie with a backdrop of small, dark green mountains in the distance. I was in  complete solitude with probably a few miles between me and the nearest frequently traveled road:


After reaching the mountain ridge at the far side of the prairie, I hit a bit of a dilemma: although I had originally planned to pedal over the ridge via a two-lane highway about a few miles to my left, I was now at the end of the Great Sauk Trail with no easy way of navigating to said highway.

Fortunately for me, however, Google Maps indicated that there was a local road that presumably went over the ridge less than a mile from my location. So, I figured I would take that route instead.

I mean, really… how bad could it be?

After pedalling along a scarcely traveled road with a sign saying “Rescue Point 3-1”, I turned left and immediately stopped.

There, directly ahead of me, was probably one of the steepest grade climbs I’ve encountered to-date:
well… on a loaded bike at least. 😉

I half-heartedly chuckled at my misfortune. “Welp… this is going to suck,” I thought.

And so I wedged my feet into my toe clips, switched to my highest of high gear ratios, and proceeded to crawl up the slope, applying my full body weight onto each pedal with every half stroke of the crank.

After conquering the climb and rolling down a short descent along the ridge, I came to a fork in the road.

To my left, there was a steep downhill road that would presumably take me all the way back down I the ridge I just climbed. And to my right? A muddy dirt “road” that went further up the ridge.

Remember how I mentioned there was a “local road” that went over the ridge? Yup, that was the one.

And so, after weighing my options, I took a deep breath, accepted my fate, and proceeded to pushed my bike up the muddy road, knowing that the state park up ahead was at most 2 miles away.

Fortunately, it was short-lived. Less than a mile into my trek through the forest, I saw a gravel road up ahead:


Phew.

For the next few miles, I rolled up and down some sketchy gravel hills and eventually made it to Devil’s Lake State Park:
After taking climbing up a small hill I cautiously rode down an epic downhill section and continued on to Baraboo, Wisconsin:
Although I could only explore Baraboo for a short time, I learned that Baraboo was home to Al Ringling (of Ringling Bros Circus) and the International Clown Hall of Fame:
After leaving Baraboo, I traveled along highway 33 for 13 miles or so and witnessed some cloudscapes that made me think Mufasa was going to pop out of the sky and be like QUINN… REMEMBER… WHO YOU ARE”:
After reaching Reedsburg, I pedalled to the “400” State Trail and proceeded to ride it 8 miles to my next host in La Valle, Wisconsin:
La Valle was a small town with only one or two restaurants in the area. I turned right off of the trail and noticed an intrigueing sign to my left:

Well that’s something you don’t see in New Jersey.
I then pedalled less than a mile to the home of my hosts, Lee and Doug.

After stopping ahead of their front gate, one of their children noticed me and called their dad over.

“You must be Lee,” I said.

He chuckled and shook my hand with a strong grip. “Nope. I’m Doug. Lee’s inside.”

Oops.

As I walked with Doug towards the house, I met Frank, a man with a towel drapped over his head, who I later found out was working on their small farm through WorkAway.

I followed Doug into their home and  met Lee and their three children.

After showering, I joined Doug and Frank out on the patio, where we munched on pizza and green beans  and discussed things such as how Doug and his children raised emus as “pets” and Frank’s adventures in Yellowstone and Glacier National Park.

I put “pets” in quotations because Doug made clear that emus, although able to be cuddled, are not pets. 

Shortly after dinner, I sat down on a couch with Lee and Doug’s children and watched a corny movie that I can’t quite remember the name of.

…and for a brief moment… I felt normal.

—–

Tomorrow, I’ll be traveling 70 miles along nothing but bike paths to La Crosse, Wisconsin, where I’ll be staying with another Warmshowers host.

Until next time!

4 thoughts on “Day 23: The National Mustard Museum

  1. Hey Quinn, what an amazing trip you are having, and because of your great blog we are able to share some of it too. This post really brought back memories of bicycling in Wisconsin in the 70s (although those great bike trails you are enjoying didn’t exist then, those wonderful country roads sure did). And The Mustard Museum, OMG! My brother was a neighbor of Barry Levenson in Mount Horeb (the original home of the museum) when Barry decided to leave his job as Assistant Attorney General and get into mustard. A rather radical career decision, but it seems to have worked out. He was incredibly spontaneous, creative, and just plain funny. I still laugh when I think of the tee shirt he sold proudly proclaiming the wearer to be a graduate of Poupon U!

    Like

    1. Oh wow, that’s funny! So if I’m following you correctly, your brother was a neighbor to Barry Levenson, the founder of the mustard museum? Small world, haha.

      Like

  2. Hi, Quinn,

    Just wanted to let you know I am thinking about you. Your writing and photos are amazing and a true gift to all who read. Thank you for sharing so much with those of us following you… I have only now just caught up with your trip due to an extremely busy June… but… I look forward to future installments as your journey continues. I also look forward to revisiting what you have already written when time again allows.

    Stay safe and stay strong, especially mentally. You’ve got what it takes, and much more. -What a beautiful country we live in and how blessed the freedom we have to make our way within it… as you are doing.

    Best to you-and Godspeed always,
    Lily Murphy

    Liked by 1 person

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