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Wisconsin 2007

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Pirates, Poets and PAW

By Laurie Allshouse

     Escaping the hot and sultry August days of Oklahoma has become an annual event for Jim and me.  Our exodus takes us to the cooler climate of Wisconsin for a week-long bicycle tour called Pedal Across Wisconsin – Northwoods (PAW).  Jerry Goldman, the tour director extraordinaire, arranges lodging in establishments with an indoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi hot tub that is the perfect answer to sore legs at the end of the day.  Five group dinners were also included for an unbelievable low price for a tour of this caliber.  Other treats include ice cream socials, daily food stops and happy hour at the luggage truck making PAW king of organized bicycle touring.  BUBHA (Brotherhood of United Baggage Handlers of America) aka Don, collected and delivered bags to each day’s destination, as well as handled hosting responsibilities of Happy Hour.  Diana, a twelve year old, along with her father, mother and younger brother, helped with baggage and food stops.  She told one rider who was worried about his cue sheet, “You don’t need no stinkin cue sheet.  Just follow the yellow marks!” or as her father commented one day, “The yellow marks have never failed me.”  Future daughter-in-law Nikki must bake cookies for months because we never run out of these delectable goodies.  Janice, Don’s wife, Barb, Jerry’s sons, Bob and Ken, round out the incredible support team.  Always ready with an encouraging smile, they offer to share water and cookies when you see them on the road.

   This year’s route took us from Merrill, Wisconsin to Eagle River, WI and back to Merrill with several rest days that provided out and back routes for those wishing to either rest or ride less than the 60 mile standard routes.

   One of the joys of doing this tour every year is seeing friends we’ve made in the course of our previous visits.  Guy from Ripley, Tennessee has survived cancer and looked better than ever, riding like the wind.  Dave from Nebraska had both hips replaced and no longer rides with a cane strapped to the side of his bike.  I told him it was harder to spot him now.  Sharon, from Ft. Atkinson, WI has gotten married since we first met her and now has her own SAG driver, Dave, who keeps us entertained with an endless supply of stories at our evening get-to-gathers.  The Appleton girls doubled their ranks this year with eight women zipping by me chatting and singing as I was heavy breathing up another of Wisconsin’s little hills.  Then there were the two tandems from St. Charles, Missouri with stokers named Ann.  Many other familiar faces and many new faces discovered the joys of quiet country roads, and tranquil lakes surrounded by rolling hills.

   On the way to Eagle River, we like to take sandwiches to the boat lift in hopes of watching boats lifted over the highway.  It’s great entertainment and this year we were not disappointed.  We saw three boats maneuver over the road in the Chain of Lakes area.  Watercraft can navigate 22 connecting lakes with only this one portage point.

   My favorite day has always been on an optional rest day.  The ride goes to the little town of Phelps for breakfast.  It’s the hilliest route of the week but very pretty and worth the effort.  What I had forgotten was that leaving Phelps, the route is just as hilly until you get to the source of the Wisconsin River.  Then it flattens out for our ride into a small portion of Michigan and back into Wisconsin’s Town of Land O’Lakes, where we ride on a bike path through the quiet country side. 

   One of the highlights this year happened on a day that wasn’t being kind to Jim.  He discovered a flat tire before we ever left our room.  Then when he picked up his camelback, it leaked all over the bed.  Since the route was out and back to Boulder Junction we thought we’d ride a shortened version to the food stop twenty miles out and then come back.  The route ended up being more challenging than we’d anticipated and Jim was having a bad day anyway.  He wasn’t in the best of moods.  We left the rest stop with some other people and quickly came to an intersection at the top of a hill.  I was last, of course, and saw everyone stopped in the middle of the intersection.  As I headed towards the left, someone indicated that they’d seen a bear on the road to the right.  As I pulled to a stop, right in front of me emerged the allusive bear.  He was about a year old and stopped to pose for me.  I was snapping my fingers and trying to get the attention of my companions without scaring the bear as I frantically looked for my camera in my front bike bag.  Jim turned, zoomed in and got a great picture of the little bear before he turned and ran away.

   The tide had turned on Jim’s bad day and now he took great pleasure in showing off his picture of the bear.  We walked to the group dinner at the Riverstone, a jewel of a dining establishment in the small town of Eagle River.  After stuffing ourselves, Dave offered Jim a ride back to the hotel, while Sharon and I chose to walk.  Right there on the river, we spotted a pirate ship.  Captain Steve looked like he might be interested in claiming a couple of castaways for an evening ride.  We found out the particulars and agreed that a sail would round out our biking experience.  We rushed back to ask the guys if they wanted to join us but all they saw was a relaxing bed in their futures.  Sailing past beautiful homes and vacation cottages was the perfect end to our event filled day.  We visited three area lakes, saw views we couldn’t see by bike and came back into port as the sun was sinking past the tree lined horizon. .  “Sure beats peddling,” Sharon commented as we strolled off the boat.

   As we climbed the hill by Eagle River, we passed through a park and found a handful of PAW singers accompanying a PAW guitar player.  Guy sang base and sounded wonderful with the group.  The day ended on a magical note.

   New this year was a survivor dinner the last night of the tour.  I really liked this feature as it gave us a chance to all get together before we rode into Merrill on Saturday and went our separate ways.  The Comfort Suites Inn had a room big enough for our group of 120 or so and it had a bar built into the common area so that Don could take the night off from performing his Happy Hour duties.

   Saturday was not the last day for us, however.  We were continuing our touring days for an additional week.  My legs were losing their soreness, but alas, they didn’t feel like they were getting stronger.  Saying good bye to Sharon and Dave with a promise to keep in touch, we loaded up our bikes and headed for Madison with Guy following us in his pickup.  With routes explained to us by Jerry, the three of us headed off to discover the wonderful bike lanes, paths and routes that Madison is known for.  We saw lots of other cyclists and a number of roller bladders. 

   Sunday, Jerry joined Guy, Jim and me for a ride all over Madison.  We started at our hotel on the northwest side.  We rode a frontage road in front of our hotel for two blocks before catching a bike lane that led us to a bike path and we were on our way to a fantastic tour of beautiful Madison where a slight breeze and plenty of trees helped keep us cool.  I began to fall in love with Madison and the ease of traveling around the city by bike.  The bike trail, path, and lane system is incredible.  Every city manager should visit Madison to see how it should be done.

   Next, Jerry showed us much of his weekend routes near Pardeeville, with very neat, clean, farms, many which are owned by the Amish.  We visited a man, who along with his sons builds Amish buggies from scratch.  It was on this ride that I heard the most melodious wind chimes I had ever listened to.  Guy pointed out that you could tell which farms were Amish by there not being any curtains on the windows.

   Dinner was at the Hitching Post in Portage on Senior Citizens night.  What a noisy look into our futures – or how not to act when we get older!  The next morning we said good-by to Guy as he headed back to Tennessee to get ready for a century ride later that week.

   A ride from Portage to Baraboo for lunch was just what the doctor ordered.  With nary a hill in sight we rode along Levy road with birds singing as gentle breezes cooled our lazy summer day.  A young girl sitting beside the road with a table laden with clothing items and shoes neatly displayed underneath asked us if we needed water.  I asked her if the pink prom dress on the table was hers and she said, “No, it’s my mother’s and we are giving it away.”  I’m not sure who she was hoping would stop by since there was very little traffic.  One PAW rider had told Jerry he worked on Levy road at the Aldo Leopold Foundation.  We stopped to see if Bob was in but he had left for lunch in Baraboo.  We looked around and couldn’t figure out what the foundation did but it seemed to be based on energy and wildlife conservation.

   We were rained out of our last day of riding in the area but drove to Mt. Horab and New Glarus “Little Switzerland” on our way to the big city of Chicago.  We followed more PAW weekend routes and enjoyed resting our tired legs for a day.

   Jerry showed us many of the Chicago area highlights including a ride through Barrington Hills which looks like Kentucky with white fences surrounding green pastures holding beautiful well cared for horses and overlooked by palatial homes resembling a hotel.  Jim teased that it was a nice looking trailer park.  We hit some of Jerry’s favorite places to eat like Malnati’s for Chicago style pizza (yummy including the crust), Portillos and Baloney’s in Barrington.

   For our last day, we drove to Chicago’s downtown area and watched for planes practicing in preparation of the Saturday and Sunday air show.  Situated on the shores of Lake Michigan and with a passage of water running through it, there are many places near the downtown to escape the cacophony of big city life.

   Our gracious hosts, Jerry and Janice, grilled a succulent salmon dinner for our last night at their home in Evanston.  After dining we walked downtown and I spotted a Whole Foods store, which a friend had told me was her favorite place to shop in Austin.  I can see why.  The choices of organic fruits and vegetables and all other foods were phenomenal.  Didn’t I hear that a Whole Foods might come to downtown Oklahoma City?  I hope so. 

   Jerry had me laughing to the point of tears at least once a day.  Who can forget Guy losing his room key, only to find it stuck to his butt after going to the bathroom at dinner that night?  Dave’s collection of 101 stories always entertained and amused us.

   All good things must come to an end.  Our drive back to Oklahoma City was with a rain storm that followed us all the way from Chicago.  During our first night back, a tropical storm dumped over 5 1/2 inches of rain (our rain gauge runneth over, so we don’t know how much we actually received) and major flooding was once again making history.  As we looked over the wide open spaces of the city, I told Jim, “Oklahoma City seems like a cow town compared to Chicago.” But don’t worry Wisconsin.  We’ll be back to see you and PAW next year.

Click thumbnail for larger view of photo.

Barb at the check in table.

Don, aka BUBHA

We greet Sharon and Dave on our way back from supper.

Bob, Jerry's oldest son and master of everything needing done. Thanks for all the cookies on the last stop of the day.

We are having a pre ride meeting.


The group gathers before the dinner bus.

Dinner at Holiday Acres Resort in Rhinelander

Impromptu rest stop at beautiful lake.

The first rest stop of the day.

Lindsey & Fred


Diana and her mother, Betty, doing baggage duty

Courthouse in Rhinelander

Sharon is ready for a fast sprint. She told us an old woman should not have a 12.4 average speed.

Roger on the left.

Laurie and Sharon are almost at the boat docks.

A crowd begins to gather at the boat dock.

Hurry, the boat is approaching Dan.

Boat Lifting.

Cyclists are enthralled with the approaching boat lift.

Steve Stein, new hips and all.

Here comes the boat.

It doesn't take much to excite a bunch of cyclists.

Well, the boat made it!

A serene spot on the lake.

Roger, Paul & Kiel. This kid can RIDE.

Happy hour at the luggage truck

Barb and Don hosts of Happy Hour.

Don talking to Guy.

Don is entertaining the Appleton girls.

Holly telling us about her day on the ride.

Jim and Laurie

The sign out front of the Riverstone Restaurant where we ate two of our delicious dinners.

Dr. J takes his own pictures.

Hungry cyclists patiently waiting for the food.

A neat cloud formation.

One of the many lakes.

Oklahoma had 100+ deg weather while we enjoyed 82 degrees.

The rest stop at Phelps.

The Lake at Phelps.

We ate breakfast at the Cozy Corner Cafe.

Eagles just after breakfast in Phelps.

Sharon, Dave and Laurie prepare to walk to the source of the Wisconsin River.

Dave, Sharon, Laurie, Jim at the headwaters of the Wisconsin River.

The Appleton girls

The Appleton ringleader.

This brought back memories of our winters in Wyoming and my old 100 horse power ski-doo.

We are at " Land of Lakes" now.

That boater is trying to get the skier up.

The bear - I took this after we left the rest stop on the way back to Eagle River.

Laurie, also got a good shot of the bear.

The Appleton girls heads to Soda Pops for food.

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last modified March 12, 2013