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It is ironic that we have this posted on the new Bike Fed site that was designed to encourage people to ride more places more often, but please don’t drive across the state to ride your bike. Even if you are healthy and don’t plan to have contact with other people, we have been asked to avoid traveling for recreation. Rural areas of Wisconsin have been spared the worst so far, let’s try to keep it that way.

I’m lucky to feel healthy and show no symptoms of Covid or any illness, and I have been able to do a little contract work from home to keep some cash coming in. I’ve got a freezer full of venison, a well stocked pantry and toilet paper. So with all the genuine hardships, sickness and death so many people are struggling with during this pandemic, I really have nothing to complain about. 

That said, at this semi-retired stage in my life, my plan was to work 20-30 hours a week and spend the rest of the time bikepacking, mostly in Wisconsin’s wonderful Northwoods. My mom is from Park Falls, so from an early age, I learned to love going Up North on our family vacations. I still have some relatives up there and have made a lot of friends on my frequent trips north to go biking, hunting and fishing.

I have spent so much time in Ashland, Bayfield and Sawyer County, that when I walk into a restaurant or tavern, I usually run into someone I know. “Hey Dave, did you finally buy a place up here?” or “I see you so often you might as well live up here,” are a couple of the comments I get.

I have even traveled to Nashville to see Hugh Masterson, my favorite singer songwriter from northern Wisconsin. His songs Ashland County and Butternut are about the area where I hunt deer and North Country, the video above, has been on heavy rotation since I have been sheltering down south for reasons the opening lyrics make clear.

I’m still a proud son of Milwaukee and take advantage of all the city’s great urban assets. But as I’ve aged, I find that I am happiest spending time in nature, by myself or with a friend or two. Whether I am sitting alone for 10 hours all day in a deer stand or getting lost on some unmarked gravel road, being alone with nature has become something essential I can’t live without for long. I miss it more than I can say. 

I even got a lump in my throat and my eyes welled up a bit watching the Wisconsin Foodie episode about the Delta Diner.

Man riding toward camera on rough gravel road.
I really, really miss trips like this.
two cyclists high five riding a gravel road
Please do not get a bunch of friends and drive to Wyalusing to recreate your own Dairy Roubaix.
Man riding bike on empty gravel road in woods on sunny day
This looks safe, but I’m not traveling from Milwaukee to find gravel roads until I get the all clear.
I miss the smiles in CAMBA’s GRavity Cavity feature.
Two elk standing in the woods
I will not see these guys on a ride in Milwaukee.
pizza and a Dirt Rag magazine
I miss the pizza at the Rivers Eatery in Cable, and Dirt Rag magazine, which stopped publishing last year.
man jumping mountain bike over rocks
Unless you live in the Wausau area, do not drive to Sylvan to practice your jumps.
Man on bicycle with rifle over his shoulder rides in snow past tent.
Even my Henry Long Ranger .308 deer hunting rifle was made in Rice Lake, WI.
Orange Schlick Northpaw fatbike in snow by deer unting cltohs hangin gon line in woods
My Schlick Cycles Northpaw, parked outside my deer camp.
a cat walks through the snow in front of two deer hunters.
All the smart cats wear orange during deer hunting season in the northwoods.

As I said, I am healthy and when I am north of HWY 8, I typically spend most of my time alone on rarely traveled forest roads, camping solo in the woods. With little contact with any other human, I doubt I would spread anything. Even so, I have respected the request that I postpone my trips to God’s country until this pandemic is under control. Looking at the state Covid tracking map, right now, it appears this unpleasant shelter in place rule is at least slowing the spread in the rural counties, where hospital resources are few and a resident population that skews more elderly is particularly vulnerable. 

Map of Wisconsin Covid 19 cases by county.
The guidelines restricting travel are having a positive effect slowing the spread of Covid 19 to our rural counties.

Sadly, I have been hearing reports that others are not following the guidance to limit travel to essential trips and postpone trips for recreation. I’m getting reports of groups of friends from Illinois, the Twin Cities, Milwaukee and Dane Counties, traveling to go mountain biking and gravel riding in northern Wisconsin and the Driftless region.

I got the follow message from a friend Up North, “I was out for a ride today on the National Forest where I live and ran into some other cyclists. At first I was stoked, seeing other people on bikes. But then we started talking. Their group was from close enough, but they said last weekend they drove down to Trempealeau to ride, and they were thinking about going down to Prairie du Chien next weekend to ride the Dairy Roubaix even though it’s cancelled. Ain’t no world wide pandemic going to keep them from doing what they want to. This whole stay at home thing won’t work if people keep taking trips for nonessential travel, like riding your bike. Hell, my family has postponed burying my dad due to my sister and I wanting to avoid traveling during these times as our mom is high risk as is many of our aunts and uncles. Just seems selfish to be taking road trips to bike right now. End of my rant”

I’ve got more of these messages, but you get the idea. I’ll share just one more, because it is short and to the point, and about Cable, WI, a little town very dear to me.

“We are three covid cases away from a local taking a baseball bat to all the Illinois tagged cars in the Rondeau’s parking lot!”

– Message from a Resident of Seeley, who prefers to remain nameless

Yes, it sucks that the Dairy Roubaix isn’t happening this year, but don’t pack your friends in the car and drive over to Wyalusing State Park to ride the course anyway. I’m truly sorry you don’t have epic mountain biking close to where you live, but don’t drive up to Wausau to huck the black line at Sylvan. 

Man in Dekalb hat poses in front of a Mcloed tool on a bench cut trail with a bike in background
Not the Gravity Cavity on the CAMBA Trails, but it’s a mile from the end of my driveway.

I’ve been trying to make do by working on my neighborhood mountain bike trails. No, my two miles of trail in a little pocket park by my house is nothing like Seeley Pass in CAMBA Country, but I’m in the woods. Today I found a baby Dekay’s Brown Snake while I was clearing brush on a new green line we are adding. Yesterday I uncovered a bumble bee benching in an old off-camber trail. I went home and learned that the queen bumble bees hibernate underground. I’m enjoying nature, getting exercise, improving my neighborhood and more importantly, doing my part to lower the curve and reduce the spread to rural communities.

So if you are tired of riding in your neighborhood, or your trails are closed, do something positive. Maybe sign the petition or work with your municipal leaders to open under-used streets to biking and walking like Oakland and Denver have done. At the very least, please respect the residents of those rural areas and postpone your trips. To all my friends who love it Up North or in the Driftless Region as much as I do, let’s shelter down at home and plan a really big party in the woods when this is over.