Gnats! Bike marathon on the Mascoutin brings some bugs, ice-cream and workout camaraderie

GREEN LAKER REPORTER Ariana Hones and Jorge Gutierrez celebrate with cheese curds and ice cream at Shepard’s Drive-in in Berlin at the midway point of their bike marathon on the Mascoutin Trail. submitted photo

by Ariana Hones

I am biking down the Mascoutin Valley State Trail at 9 p.m. on a Tuesday.

I am wearing sunglasses.

Although the glow of my bike light and of the lightning bugs offer some faint shreds of illumination, it is still, as one could probably imagine, quite dark.

The sunglasses stay on until I am afraid that if I can keep wearing them I will hit a loose patch of gravel or side sweep a scurrying rodent and go flying.

That would be embarrassing, I decide, to explain to the paramedics who are mending my scratched face on why I was still wearing sunglasses.

But the bugs!

The sunglasses keep those tiny, pin-sized gnats out of my eyes and the path to Berlin and back to Ripon is long—26 miles to be exact. Thus I keep my eyes protected as long as I can.

I decided to trek to Berlin and back because the start of the Mascoutin Valley State Trail is right in my backyard.

I grew up walking our puppy Punkin on the it, running down the tree-lined lane, biking to Rush Lake and back. Post-college, I now walk our old lady Punkin very slowly and having many a conversation with friends.

This trail has been a constant part of my childhood and now adulthood and though I had biked to Berlin and ran to Berlin in the past, I wanted to try it again because I am older and slower and I wanted to prove to myself that I still could.

Thus, after a Tuesday night dinner, I embarked with Jorge Gutierrez on our bike marathon adventure. We left late. In retrospect, perhaps a bit too late, but decided that the pressure of fleeting daylight would serve us well.

The wonderful thing about this trail, for those who haven’t wandered it, is that it is flat; very flat. And the views! The picturesque views of rolling farmland, bird-filled marshes, cloud-streaked sky and benches. Oh, and did I mention glorious benches for sitting when you get tired?

Jorge and I recommend the bench just beyond the Rush Lake collection of houses near the marshes. There are plenty of chirping birds, not too many hungry mosquitoes, and we even saw an otter.

Arriving in Berlin is joyous. A wooden boardwalk provides an exciting break from the gravel pounding and once the trail is finished, Shepard’s Drive-In is a quick minute ride away.

We ordered a cookie dough Storm and cheese curds. The bites of cookie dough were both generous and delicious, the cheese curds crisp and salty. Excellent fuel for the journey home.

Now, if I am being honest, which I am, I will say that we called my mother to come pick us up because it was cold and getting dark.

However, when mom’s phone went to voicemail, Jorge and I decided to be brave and strong and dedicated for the sake of this column.

Thus, the sunglass wearing even though it is dark outside.

And we made it.

Just shy of 9:30 p.m.

Tired and sweaty, but happy with our bike marathon accomplishment.

A warm shower and comfy bed was the best medal I will ever receive.