Riders enjoyed the tree-lined South Right of Way
Road north of Marinette. It is designated
a Rustic Road by the state of Wisconsin.
A cyclist leaves a tunnel of trees
along South Right of Way Road.
The Michigan state line provided a photo
opportunity for SAGBRAW cyclists.
Customers of Bubba's Pampered Pedalers take it
easy in Ashwaubenon after 55 miles of cycling.
Phil Smith of San Francisco dons a Cheesehead in
honor of the fact were camping only five blocks
from Lambeau Field, home of the
Green Bay Packers.
Cyclists take a break for water at a SAG
stop southwest of Oshkosh.
Cyclists take advantage of the friendly
community of Waupun for some ice cream.
To honor our visit to Waupun, a photographer got
up on a fire truck to get an aerial photo
of the SAGBRAW riders.
A man riding a recumbent bicycle passes farm
fields near the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge.
Cyclists enjoy more pastoral scenery near Hartford.
As cyclists make their way from Hartford
to Port Washington, they got the chance to see
participants in the Hartford Hot Air Balloon Rally.
Cyclists climb a hill leading to a small
Lutheran church on the road to West Bend.
SUMMARY: SAGBRAW's a great ride for a cyclist seeking an introduction to multiday touring. The route starts off flat to gently rolling and becomes more hilly as the week progresses. There's lot of great rural scenery along the way. Support staff members go out of their way to help you with problems. On the downside, it can be difficult to find food and restrooms along portions of the route.
RIDE WEB SITE:http://www.bikewisconsin.org
The 2003 version of Sprocket's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Wisconsin, better known as SAGBRAW, turned into a field trip for the Belleville Area Bicycling and Eating Society (BABES). Five of our cyclists decided to make the trek to Wisconsin for this ride.
I had committed to this ride way back in February because it was one of the few weeks of vacation available to me that had a ride that was being serviced by Bubba's Pampered Pedalers. Although pampering isn't necessarily a requirement for me to do a ride, it's nice to have pampering and it's always good to see my good friend Bubba Barron.
But I helped plant the seeds for my fellow BABES riders in May when I told Inge Ucinski and Elaine Moore about my plans during the Tour de Stooges ride in Lebanon, Ill. They both sounded intrigued and ended up signing up for the ride and Bubba's service.
Our trek began Aug. 3 with our bus trip from the Flying S Ranch in Port Washington, Wis., where the ride would end, to Marinette, the starting point. Marinette sits along the Wisconsin-Michigan border along the banks of the Menominee River, and the 2003 version of SAGBRAW would make its first-ever excursion into Michigan on the first full day of cycling.
All of us, except for Inge, had a decent night's rest on the air mattresses provided as part of Bubba's service. Inge, however, had not one, but two, air mattresses go flat on her. Inge clearly had a case of bad luck because I had never had an air mattress go flat on me during the three trips I've used Bubba's service. My night's sleep was spoiled by silly teenagers who honked their horns while we were trying to sleep. It's clear that there isn't much to do for fun on Sunday nights in Marinette.
Cloudy skies, but delightful temperatures, greeted us Monday for our first day of cycling. Cyclists had options of 60.3 or 77.3 miles. I chose the 60.3-mile option because I wanted to ease into the week. That was a smart choice. The course generally was flat, with a few minor hills along the way.
One of those minor hills took place at the Wisconsin-Michigan border. After cruising down to the Menominee River and crossing the bridge, we were suddenly in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. No welcome centers or other hoopla. Just a sign that said MICHIGAN. Crossing the Menominee River isn't quite the same as crossing the Straits of Mackinac into the UP as I have done twice before while on the DALMAC bicycle tour. Still, it was a big enough deal that people stopped to take a picture or two.
The downside of riding in rustic northern Wisconsin is that there were few opportunities for food or for restrooms. During the course of the day, I saw dozens of cyclists sneaking in or out of the woods or a corn field to take care of their bodily needs. About 45 miles into the ride came our main food stop of the day. I got fed, but many of my fellow cyclists were angry because the food ran out. From what people were saying, the folks who organized the stop only made enough food for 600 people. There were 1,100 cyclists on SAGBRAW. This was the 26th year of SAGBRAW, and many people thought the organizers should have had their act together and arranged for enough food and portajohns for everyone.
We stayed in Marinette a second night, and I slept much better. The kids must have found something better to do!
We woke up to fog Tuesday morning, which made for an interesting beginning of the ride along Green Bay. But once the fog lifted, it revealed the worst scenery of the trip. The route was as flat as a board. While some of the marshes were neat, most of the route was lined with brush with limited views of Green Bay. Again, I got fed at our main food stop, but other people reported similar problems with the lack of food. As we approached Howard, a suburb of Green Bay, the route got hillier and the traffic got thicker. I definitely was glad to get into our camp at Ashwaubenon High School.
We found out were only four or five blocks from Lambeau Field, the home of the Green Bay Packers. The Packers were the first football team I cheered for as a child. The Vince Lombardi era reached its climax when the Packers won the first two Super Bowls in the 1960s, and that's when I became old enough to enjoy football. I was hoping to take a tour of Lambeau Field and the Packer Hall of Fame, but I was unable to do either because of the renovations that were being done to the stadium. Still, we found it amazing that you could walk through a residential and light-commercial neighborhood and find an NFL stadium across the street from suburban-style single-family homes!
Day Three took us out of Green Bay along the Fox River, and the rolling countryside and nice views of the river was a sight for sore eyes and the tedious route we had taken the day before. We had options of 35.8 or 42.2 miles, and the long route had an option of climbing a big hill at High Cliff State Park. I nearly missed the turnoff for the park, but I decided to make the big climb for the view of Lake Winnebego and the Appleton area.
We got into our stop for the night early when a big thunderstorm hit the area. Some people ended up with water in their tents, but the storm eventually passed. Those of us who ate at the school ate walleye or salmon dinners. The walleye was OK, but the wait was long. Apparently, the organizers underestimated how many people would eat at the school, and the Menasha High School Athletic Club struggled to keep up with the demand. I don't blame the club for the problems. If the organizers are going to tell a group how many meals to make and if that number is considerably lower than the number of riders in the event, then the organizers need to tell the cyclists other places where they can eat near the campsite.
My mood improved considerably on Day Four as we rode along Lake Winnebego toward Oshkosh, then through some nice rolling country to Waupun. The day had all the makings of a disaster, however, when I found out I had left my rear bag open and my billfold had fell out. When I stopped to see whether anyone had seen it, several people said they had seen another SAGBRAW rider pick it up.
I had hoped that I would have the wallet in hand when we approached the American Legion hall in Oshkosh, our designated rest stop for the day. But when I asked support driver Paul Urqhart whether anyone had turned it in, he said no. But Paul went beyond the call of duty and offered me a loan for the day so I would be able to buy food. Paul was typical of the SAGBRAW support drivers, who always seemed to have enough water for us and were visible throughout the day.
We had an option of 70.8 or 63.6 miles that day, and I chose the long route because it had a town where we could buy food. I caught up with Elaine in Ripon, and we found a Mexican restaurant. It's odd to hear voices with Wisconsin accents serving Mexican food, but the Mexican buffet was great. And at $5.85 a person, the price was right!
A tailwind that pushed us into Waupun lifted our spirits even more, and charming downtown Waupun enticed me with its ice cream parlor. But the best was yet to come.
Waupun High School and the town's residents pulled out all the stops. Students held the doors for us and greeted us as we entered the school. Once inside, students went out of their way to make sure we found the locker rooms and snacks. Residents had us sign a huge poster, and the town even arranged for a photographer to go up in a fire truck to take a group picture. Of all the towns where I have stayed overnight on multiday tours, the people of Waupun did more than anyone else to make us feel welcome!
As for my billfold, the honest cyclist turned it in to the ride director, money and credit cards intact, and I made it a point to find Paul to thank him for trusting me enough to make the loan to me — and, of course, pay him back.
The fifth day started with thick cloud cover as we skirted the edge of the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge. The ride got hillier as we approached Hartford. I managed to break a spoke on the second significant hill on the day, and once again, the support vehicle was close at hand to help.
Kevin Sawicki, a mechanic from the Wheel and Sprocket bicycle shop, fixed the spoke and had me go over his photos from the trip. He's relatively new to photography, but he has a art background and it showed in his photos. You can see some of them at his online photo album. He'll have fun combining his passions of cycling and photography as I've done. I also had plenty of opportunities to bond with his dog, Megan. Great dog!
Kevin, like Paul a day earlier, was a trusting soul. I was a bit short of cash to pay him for the spoke repair, but he trusted me enough to let me pay for the repair when we got into camp in Hartford. I truly was impressed with the support staff's willingness to go beyond the call of duty to help SAGBRAW cyclists.
Drizzle accompanied us into Hartford. While the welcome
wasn't quite as extravagant as we had in Waupun, the people of
Hartford seemed glad to have us. Downtown Hartford was quite
the happening place.
Like all good things, SAGBRAW had to come to an end. Many people left early so they could get started on their trips home, but those of us who left a bit later were treated to seeing balloons flying into the Hartford Hot Air Balloon Rally. We encountered a few more hills as we traveled through the Kettle Moraine region of Wisconsin, and we had to walk through a farmer's market as we passed through West Bend.
Earlier in West Bend, a couple on a tandem recumbent bike was being ticketed, apparently for running through a stop sign. I heard some grumbling from some of the cyclists, but I wasn't very sympathetic. If we cyclists expect to be treated as legitimate users of streets and highways, we are obligated to follow the rules of the road.
After a nice downhill run on the bicycle trail into Port Washington, it was time for the final hill of the ride. The journey was at an end.