I decided to join the annual SAGBRAW Wisconsin Farmlands Bicycle Tour. This was to be my first organized bike tour, however over the past ten years I had gone onmany self guided tours with friends or purchased a guided trip from a tour company so a cycling vacation was not new.
This was the 33rd edition of this Wisconsin ride with 462 cyclists on board. My first surprise was the background of the participants, with some coming from 32 American states and others from 3 Canadian provinces. There were families with children (age 8 and older) and seniors (oldest was age 87) with an average age of 53 almost evenly split between men and women.
Operated by Bike Wisconsin, the route changes each year and this year we were starting out from Columbus located near the capital of Madison and heading north through farm country while cycling into the area just south of Green Bay (some years the route does go into Green Bay). The distance varied from 327 to 367 miles depending on the route on whether you rode the short or longer option each day.
Most of the group set up there own tents on the grounds of local schools which had been reserved for us, some set up another option which was gym floors and still others took the option where rented tents were set up for them. The benefit of this option was you had a large tent, camp chairs and fresh towels at each stop ready and waiting when you arrived.
Like a lot of bicycle tours of this type there was a meal plan with very generous portions and excellent food for breakfast and lunch. Cyclists are a hungry lot and if you arrived for breakfast at 6 a.m. you would be way back in the line. They also made sure the menus varied at each stop. Lunches were on our own with some stopping at restaurants, some taking sandwiches and other situations some of the towns along the route had food for sale.
Around 5 a.m. every morning there was movement in the campground as people started taking down their tents. As I headed for breakfast at 5:45 a.m. others were already starting down the road for a very early start for our Wisconsin cycling or to a local restaurant if they had not purchased the meal plan (a big mistake in my opinion).
My cycling friends and I started out around 7:30 a.m. after loading our luggage on the trucks, and most of the others were long gone. The SAGBRAW route takes you over quiet gently rolling country roads on a farmlands bicycle tour. What I was to see over the next week was cows and corn daily.
What I like about this style of touring is you set your own pace just following the yellow signs the organizers had set up the previous evening or the numerous other cyclist. Although we were given maps I rarely needed to take a glance.
About every 15 to 20 miles there was a water stop where local organizations sold pieces of watermelon, corn on the cob and bratwurst for charity causes. At right is our break stop at a town called Beaver Dam. We were stopping at 10 a.m. for a bratwurst, but it was good. Some of the towns such as Beaver Dam even provided musical entertainment during our short breaks.
Each day we cycled from 41 to 66 miles usually arriving around 1 p.m. in each of the small towns where we stayed. Every town laid on transportation to downtown (usually meaning a local pub) and evening entertainment for us and the local citizens as well.
On this farmlands bicycle tour it was all corn, cows and cheese, but I loved my first visit to Wisconsin (the state name means gathering of the waters). This style of cycle vacation makes planning easy.
Click US Bicycle Touring Routes for other ideas.
Well now we are finished and I have filled my cooler with Wisconsin cheese for the drive home. Get a copy of Backroad Bicycling in Wisconsin: 28 Scenic Tours through Lakes, Forests, and Glacier-Carved Countryside for other Wisconsin bicycle touring routes.