Why We Ride: A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

It is easy to come up with reasons why we ride bicycles. Bicycling is a fun way to get exercise and stay healthy that also saves us money commuting. But those explanations don’t capture the almost addictive attraction of bicycling. Words alone can’t convey why we love pedaling the back roads and trails of Wisconsin. One reason why I became a photojournalist is that I have always felt that sometimes a picture really does convey more than what even the best writer can piece together with words alone.

“This photo not only captures the beauty of this state, but the essence of why I have chosen to ride my bike regularly for the past 30 years.” – Kevin Eccles                                                                                                                                            Photo by Julian Kegel

As the quote by Kevin Eccles says in the caption above, this beautiful photograph of me riding up a hill outside Baraboo says more about why I ride and why I love to ride in Wisconsin than I could hope to say in words. It was taken on the second day of our now annual trip in which we ride a vintage train from Milwaukee to St. Paul and then pedal back on trails and back roads over three days, averaging about 120 miles each day. Members will remember we published a full story about last year’s trip in our Bike Fed Magazine and shared a shorter excerpt of that story in this blog post.

Our bikes ride unboxed ride in the baggage car, where we can watch the scenery speed past through open doors.

This is the second year I have been invited on this trip by friend and Bike Fed member Tom Schuler, a member of the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame who has raced in the Giro d’Italia for Team Seven Eleven. Tom’s Team Sports, Inc. now manages the Tour of America’s Dairylandand he owns the building which houses the Bike Fed’s Milwaukee office.

He came up with the idea for the multi-modal adventure four years ago after he learned about the vintage train cars passing through Milwaukee on their way back to St. Paul after they are used to host parties at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago every May.  The Friends of the  261 and the Railroading Heritage of Midwest America maintain the Milwaukee Road 261 steam locomotive and fleet of passenger cars, including the luxurious Cedar Rapids, one of the Skytop Lounge streamliner cars designed by famed son of Wisconsin, industrial designer Brooks Stevens and built by the Milwaukee Road in 1948 in its own shops for service on the Minneapolis-Chicago “Hiawatha.”

The gorgeous Cedar Rapids streamliner, glass-backed lounge car was designed by Brook Stevens.

After the trip last year, Tom offered to auction off a spot on his invite-only trip at our Saris Gala. The winner of that auction was John Fleckenstein, a long-time member and supporter of the Bike Fed’s Valid Bike Shop. John is a strong rider and a great guy who fit in perfectly with the eclectic crew. John pulled us along like a locomotive through the headwinds and got us home in record time on day three when we had a 20mph tailwind most of the way from Baraboo to Milwaukee.

Fleck and Tom ride through tunnels of trees line much of the 100 miles of trails that make up a third of our trip.

Can I get a side of mashed potatoes with my meatloaf, green beans and mashed potatoes?

On this four day epic adventure, the eight of us pedaled through thunderstorms along the Great River Road. We struggled to grind our way over steep bluffs and the wind put grins on our faces as we sped down winding descents. We traveled through the famously dark tunnels of the Elroy Sparta Trail, our nation’s oldest rail trail.  Surprised waitresses and and area farmers looked on in disbelief as we cleaned up double orders of delicious, made-from-scratch meatloaf, mashed potatoes, gravy and pie at small roadside diners.

Tom stuffing his pie hole in Stockholm while the heavens pour down around him.

Triple Berry or Double Lemon? Peanut Butter Fudge or Triple Chocolate Pecan? Apple, Rhubarb, hot Chicken Pot Pie and Apple-Sausage Cheddar Quiche, with a menu like that, I see a lot of stops at the Stockholm Pie Co. in my future.

After two years doing this trip, I don’t believe I will ever tire of the miles or the trails with all the gorgeous Wisconsin scenery. But Wisconsin has more to offer than low-traffic paved roads and thousands of miles of trails. You will find our state to be a remarkably friendly place to ride if you take the time to meet town folk like Hap, the 84-year-old retired pilot who refused money after he gave the slower members of our group (yes, I was in the truck) a 31 mile lift in his pickup to catch us back up with our faster friends after we were delayed by sheets of rain and delicious triple berry pie at the Stockholm Pie Company. Thanks again Hap. Can we at least buy you and your wife a slice of your choice next year when we pass through town?

This trip reminded me once again why I love cycling and why I honestly believe that Wisconsin truly is America’s Best Ride. You can view (and purchase) lots more photos at the Bike Fed’s Photoshelter website here.

Sunset on an empty town road in Wisconsin.

You can see our route for each da by clicking on the Garmin links below:

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3


About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

4 thoughts on “Why We Ride: A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

  1. Incredible article, Dave! How loud can I say ENVIOUS?! And that first photo by Julian…so packed with emotion, it fills me up with total cycling joy! Please take me with you next time!

    • Thanks Mark, I am trying to work out a way to expand the ride, maybe a little later in the summer. There will also be another chance to bid on the open spot for Tom’s ride next May at the Saris Gala later this year.

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