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.


Blogger 1 quick roadie said...

Really nice to skip the work detail and spend a day with the groupo. I also enjoyed the 162 miles to the start of the ride and the 2 1/2 hour drive home on Saturady. It was the first time I was in and auto for over two weeks. It was a treat to be able to spin for the day on a directional
ride. Wonder if there is a market for moving GRABAAWR cars?

5:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great to get out for a few days of dedicated riding and camping. I don’t generally get a bunch of miles in so I really appreciate my co-leaders and non-leaders dragging me all across northern Wisconsin. When it’s long, hot, humid and headwindy (“vent en face” Jim) there’s nothing like a tight little pace line to give one hope. I did have to cut out early, but was able to roll over 1,000 miles for the season somewhere between the bar and the brewery in Stevens Point.

And a tip of the hat to Dan, who valiantly rode up from Point to shuttle my car to Point. I understand he rode One Hundred and Sixty Two miles that day. That’s 162 miles or 261.3 kilometers. Hell, those eurowussies in the TdF don’t even log that kind of milage. 1-6-2. Think about it.

Ever Dan’s tifoso, Kurt

2:39 PM  

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