Monday, June 27, 2005


Hello there - we are riding on the GReat Annual Bicycling Adventure Along the Wisconsin River. Its a 500 mile ride that goes from Eagle River, WI to Prairie du Chein, Wisconsin. We have done this tour every year since 1998. This is GRABAAWR’s 20th Anniversary and it runs from June 25 to July 2, 2005.

Saturday night - We drove to Eagle River, and friends B & G were kind enough to take our truck to Waunakee, where we will bail off the ride on Friday. Had a great time at Billy's cabin again; he opens up to us and even provides food (We also bring food and libations). Thanks again Billy. Got back to the school at 10:15 and were saying good-byes in the parking lot, admittedly close to the tents. "G" is always a little loud and someone got a bit upset. I think the exact words were "shut up... its quiet time.... read the brochure.... blah, blah, blah" So B&G left in my truck and we went to bed. The next morning, I hear the same person indicating that there was some noise after 10PM and "I took care of that". He then went on to talk about how he never got married because "women were cheaper to rent than to buy." Mind you, this conversation was occurring at 5:00 AM outside of my tent, which I consider to be quiet hour. Anyway - I wasn't alert enough to speak about prostitution (rent a woman? there is a word for that...) and didn't want to incite a fight or anything on day 1. Live and let live, I guess. It’s just not the best way to start off the week.

Sunday - Eagle River to Rhinelander, 80 miles. It was hot, humid and windy. Had beer in DT Rhinelander at the micro brew there. Not bad. Had a Ruben at the Rhinelander Cafe... a good place considering its in Northern Wisconsin.

Monday - Rhinelander to Wausau, 80 miles. Hotter and more humid than yesterday, and 10-20 mph headwind. Many people were suffering, including our group. We organized in to a nice paceline and even picked up a guy named John from Madison and let him pace with us. As a rule I NEVER draft with strangers, although John is a good rider and he knows people that we know. Coffee is at the Whey Cool Cafe in DT Wausau (where I am typing this); Dinner was at Little Italy in DT Wausau... which was very good.

Tuesday - Wausau to Wisconsin Rapids, 74 miles. The weather is considerably better today. It’s warm, with highs in the mid 80s although we don't have to contend with a head wind nor the humidity like we did on the previous day. It’s a busy day for us because we are going through our hometown of Stevens Point. My brother, who lives in Point, had taken the day off and met us along the route. We had four stops to make in Point: (1) Point Brewery for free beer, (2) Emmy J’s coffee shop for espresso, (3) Gu’s on main for lunch and (4) The Hostel Shoppe to say hello to a couple of friends. Today was the day that Kurt abandoned the ride, grabbed his car and headed back to Minneapolis. Eventually we made our way to Wisconsin Rapids, largely by way of County P, thus avoiding a the planned route which sent riders to Wisconsin Rapids by way of Rudolph. Dinner was Pasquale’s, which was near the school. It was a decent meal, although a few GRABAAWR participants lost patience and sort of went off on the staff. We had to console our young waitress who was dressed down pretty hard and was nearly in tears. She appreciated it and carried on. After dinner we pedaled over to Ida’s Bar, which had recently been remodeled, for a few beers. It was back to the school at about 10:30.

Wednesday – Wisconsin Rapids to Mauston, 71 Miles. For some reason, I took a minute to turn on the weather radio that I had brought and learned that severe thunderstorms with damaging winds were predicted for the upcoming overnight hours. I chose to believe the forecast and called a hotel in Mauston and booked three rooms for our group. It would prove to be a good decision.

The riding on this day was boring as hell… flat, humid and sort of windy. We organized in to a decent paceline and took it easy and made our way south. We picked up another rider, a woman named Sue from Green Bay. It was her first GRABAAWR. After making her stay on the back and checking out her ability, it was clear that she knew how to ride. Her lovely blue Waterford also gained her instant credibility with me, as did her Bob Roll-autographed cycling jersey (OK – it was a G.D. USPS jersey; subtract 10 points for that but add 10 points for the Bob Roll autograph, so it washes out to a net zero on the credibility meter). Sue rode with us all day and we even ran in to her at dinner. Sue maintains a raw food only diet, which I find admirable and is probably very hard to maintain. We recommended the Ecopolitan restaurant in Minneapolis, should she ever get this way. We had a beer and lunch stop at the Dirty Turtle Bar and Grill, about 15 miles from Mauston. The Dirty Turtle is the anchor of an intentional tourist community of condominiums that has recently been built. It was a decent lunch and one of just a few options for food all day.

The severe storms that were predicted did materialize at about midnight in Mauston. Winds were in the 50-70 MPH range, and there was ample evidence of that. Most people that I spoke to got through it OK, save for a few tents that were destroyed.

Thursday – Mauston to Portage, 45 miles. We decided that we would sneak off route and go to Baraboo for lunch at the Little Village Café. We’ve been there several times before and knew that it would once again prove to be the best meal of the week. We weren’t wrong. We ended up riding 60 miles this day, which included riding to our hotel (it was the one night that I had reserved in advance) and riding to dinner. On the way in to Portage we stopped at Jim E’s place for a couple of hours. He treated us to some of his home brew and we were able to catch up with each other. Jim has a big old house in Portage and has hosted us for dinner and lodging a few times in the past. It was great to see him again. Dinner was at the Hitchin’ Post, which was alright.

Friday – Portage to Spring Green (actually Waunakee for us), 65 miles. Today would be the last day of the tour for us, meaning that we have to miss the scenic Spring Green to Prairie du Chein last day. We have to get home to tend to our dogs and attend a Lucinda Williams concert. We stayed on the route to some point between the Merrimac Ferry and Prairie du Sac, at which point we went to the Roxbury Tavern for lunch and then back to B&G’s place to our truck. The weather was quite a bit cooler. It was mostly cloudy with temps around 70. As usual, the ad-lib part of our ride was very nice, with some roads that I had been on before and some that I had not. Our dive home took us through Eau Claire and a dinner stop at the Mona Lisa, which was very good. If you can find Water Street I would suggest going there.

Epilogue – I don’t know… GRABAAWR is a really good time and the organizers do a great job in putting it on… but I think I need to stay away for a year or two. I have done it every year since 1998 and both Kay and I are thinking that we might do our own credit-card/hotel tour next year, and maybe jump on the route for a day as part of our trip. Maybe I am becoming a curmudgeon, or maybe I am just ornery, or maybe the routine is becoming too familiar, or maybe its just time for a change. I guess it doesn’t matter right now because I have about 352 days to kick it around. We did have a good time and found espresso every day, although Portage needs an espresso shop pretty bad. We met a few new people and enjoyed riding with them. No one in our group crashed and I heard of only two crash-line accidents all week, neither of which was serious. We did have a guy approach us and our Surly Cross-Check bikes and ask if we lived in the Twin Cities. Evidently the Surly brand gave it away (It’s a popular bike in Minneapolis).

Here are the stats:
- We ended up with 455 miles for the week.
- We never took an activity bus and used our bikes to get around the overnight towns.
- We never ate at any of the schools, which is an unwritten rule.
- We never slept in the gym or hallway, which is also an unwritten rule.
- Espresso was located every day.
- The Surly Cross-Check is great bike for this tour, and a great all-around bike generally. I can’t tell you how many $4K plus bikes I passed with my Campagnolo Daytona-equipped Surly (Frame retails for a mere $410).
- There were two hotel nights, one planned and one that was storm-induced.
- The group was: Margaret, Jeff, Kurt (up to Stevens Point), me and Kay. The others that we met and rode with were John from Madison, Sue from Green Bay and little brother Dan.
- Our picture is probably in the Merrill newspaper.
- Over 800 riders were on the ride. 561 men and 239 women, average age is 47.9 years old. It seemed to me that there were more younger and in-shape riders than in previous years, including more men with shaved legs than I had ever seen on this ride. The total probably went over 900 because a lot of Southern Wisconsin residents jump on for the last two days.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Nature Valley Grand Prix

We had a great weekend, so I thought that I would leave a few words here. The Nature Valley Grand Prix bicycle race was held here in Minnesota this weekend. We took in the Friday night crit in downtown Minneapolis and the crit in Stillwater on Sunday.

We rode to both events and had a great ride home in the dark (at about Midnight) on Friday night.

Sunday's ride to Stillwater was great too. Four of us made the trip out there and we stopped for a beer, errrrr several beers, at One on One Bicycle Studio before making our way home.

Pix of the event can be found here:


Sunday, June 05, 2005

Iola, Wisconsin Weekend

During the weekend of June 4-5 we returned to our hometown area of Stevens Point, Wisconsin for some bicycling. We stayed in Iola, WI, a town of about 800 people that serves as a great place to launch rides from. We stayed at the Norseman Motel, which is probably the best value in lodging on the whole damn planet. If you ever go to Iola or in the Stevens Point area, stay at the Norseman and have breakfast at the Crystal Cafe.

Another redeeming quality of the Iola area are its farms and rolling hills. Like most of Wisconsin, the county and township roads have been paved. This, of course, is largely due to the dairy industry and their needs to get milk to market under any weather conditions. The roads in this area are lightly traveled, and there is no shortage of deer, Sandhill cranes and wild turkeys to see.

As a reminder, June is dairy month is Wisconsin.

This was actually Gina's weekend and her group ride. Trouble is, the group largely leaked out, leaving the foursome of me, Kay, Gina and Dan to ride on Saturday. We ended up doing the pie ride route, which goes north of Iola and then makes a loop to the west, south and then east back to Iola. We altered the route to deal with county road C being closed due to road construction and ended up with 45 miles. We waited out a rainstorm at the hotel and did another 15 miles, making it a 60 mile day.

Sunday's ride was the annual TRIPPER, Tommorow River Incredible Pancake, Potluck and Excelent Ride. The ride is a heartland club event that is hosted by Barb and Rolf, owners of the Hostel Shoppe. Its a 50 mile or less ride that starts outside of Amherst and goes to towns like Waupaca and King. After the ride there is a feast at the home of the hosts. It was another great time, probably our 3rd TRIPPER.

Here is a group photo from the TRIPPER.

A couple of highlights from the weekend:
- We saw Fuzzy Thurston at a gas station in Waupaca and said hi. His cool new Cadillac had Packer Plates with vanity "FUZZ 63" and he was wearing a Packer gold shirt. I don't think he minded that I recognized him and said hello, especially given that I referred to him as "Mister Thurston". If you don't know who Fuzzy Thurston is, then you probably don't know much about the Lombardi era Packers. That's probably not a crime unless you are over 40 and live in Wisconsin.

- We saw a Bald Eagle sitting on a fence post along I-94. Huge bird, man. Really cool, almost as cool as seeing Fuzzy.