Training in Wisconsin

Submitted by team member Kathy.

In order to train for RAGBRAI this year, I decided I needed a change of pace for my training regiment. I had been researching rides for awhile and decided it would be fun to start riding in another state. So the week of June 19-26 I headed to Wisconsin to ride GRABAAWR. This ride starts up in Eagle River and ends in Prairie Du Chien. It is designed to follow the Wisconsin River. 

While RAGBRAI is fun and I enjoy crossing Iowa and experiencing the small town hospitality that is unique to our Midwestern state, it was a relaxing change of pace to ride with just 450 riders from 26 different states and 9 Canadians. The ride was approximately 450 miles long spread out over 7 days. The average day was 63 miles.

We criss-crossed the Wisconsin River and had some breathtaking vistas along the way. 

The ride began in Eagle River which is the world snowmobile headquarters. It is home to the snowmobile derby. I think nearly every home I passed on this day had one or two snowmobiles parked in the yard. 

In Rhinelander I learned about the Hodag. Rumor has it that, more than 90% of all lost eyeglasses, fishing lures, car keys, bottle openers, corkscrews, golf balls and world-record fish can be attributed to the Hodag. Very strange looking creature.

Monday we were off to Merrill which had us climbing Father Menard’s hill. I was told it was one of the steepest we would climb. (I’m not sure I agree). I was definitely in granny gears,  with head down pedaling, but the downhill afterwords was worth the effort.

Tuesday was a day to just cruise over the roadways. It was fairly flat and you could zip along doing 17-20 mph. We had a stop at a cheese factory and saw several fields of gensing. The overnight was in Steven’s Point which is the home of the “Sisters of St. Joseph” convent which is the mother house and retired sister’s home. I walked across the street and spend some time at the grotto on the grounds. It was so peaceful.

Woke up to rain Wednesday morning but it was through by 6:30. I also started the day with a front flat tire. This was just a preview of things to come. Another fairly flat day where we cruised along the roads. It was also the day I got slightly off the route, experienced a three dog attack while biking with a rider from Oregan and laughed as repairs were made to his back tire. A few twists and turns later and we were back on the route and the overnight in Adams-Friendship. Two towns that collide.

Today would be a short 52 mile day that would take us through the Wisconsin Dells. We have the option of stopping off and going to a waterpark but I decided to pedal on. The Dells have become so commercial since my first time there in my youth. I liked it better then. The overnight for this day was Baraboo – home of the circus. 

Friday we started with some pretty climbs in the 8% grade range. I was in granny gears within the first 6 miles of the ride but had hit an all time high of 41.7mph on the downhill into Merrimac. Sweet. We crossed the Wisconsin River on the Merrimac Ferry. It holds 12 cars and a few bikes. You can buy ice cream while you wait to catch your ride. Today was the Wollershein Winery (no I didn’t stop) and the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor’s Center by Spring Green – Home of the “House on the Rock”. The wind picked up a bit and I ended up in a draft line three different times as we madeour way to Richland Center. This was our longest day at 83 miles and the overnight was a welcome site.

The final day of the ride and it’s a little bitter sweet. It’s been a long week on the bike but a lot of fun. I met so many great cyclists this week and have some kodak moments & short films that will stay with me forever (or for as long as my memory allows… which is questionable some days). We have a little bit of wind as we make our way 60 miles to Praire Du Chien. It was a fantastic week and a ride I would definitely do again, but I have so many others I want to try as well. While I have always been passionate about biking… I think I may have shifted into a higher gear after this week. 

Happy and safe cycling … and watch out for dogs!

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