Archive for May, 2011

Wisconsin Bike Tour

Posted by Doug Shidell, May 31st , 2011.

I leave Saturday for a bike tour across the state of Wisconsin. I’ll ride from the Twin Cities to Green Bay, approximately 325 miles. The tour will be self contained, about a week in length and the first significant bike tour I’ve taken in over 20 years.

My original plan was to ride the Mountain Bay Trail from Wausau, Wisconsin to Green Bay, but that changed a couple of weeks ago when I had the chance to test ride the eastern end of the trail. The ride began at the end of an all day rain. The first thirty miles were on paved road, then I jumped on the trail. It took only a couple of meters for me to realize that my speed on the trail would be permanently reduced from about 16 mph to 11 mph, and even that reduced speed required a substantial increase in effort. The trail in this area, near Shawano, looks and feels like a jeep trail with two narrow tracks, soft wet gravel and occasional puddles. I turned off at the first cross road that went in the direction I was heading.

Wisconsin has an extensive network of paved back roads, some of them with as little as 50 cars per day, or one every half hour. Central Wisconsin was flattened 10,000 years ago by glaciers, so the road system is pretty much in a grid. With a resource like that, all I had to do to get to my destination was ride generally northwest by going first north, then west and making my turns almost at random until I neared my destination. For me this is the essence of bicycle touring- to get from Point A to Point B, but not necessarily in a straight line. I look forward to a week of similar meanderings.

Filed under: Bikeverywhere News, Misc

North Star, You, Your Bike

Posted by Doug Shidell, May 16th , 2011.

We’ve just added a new and exciting map for the Twin Cities metro area. Titled “Northstar, You, Your Bike”, this 9 page brochure/pdf file opens up the world of bikes and commuter rail. Hop on the train, ride to another station and begin exploring. The options are endless. Here are just a few:

  • Looking for a casual ride and plenty of relaxation? Try the Rum River Loop from the Anoka Station. The trail starts across the street from the station, follows the Rum River north to Bunker Hills Rd, then crosses the river and drops into Rivers Bend. The round trip is about 12 miles, allowing plenty of time for lounging along the river or buying ice cream and hanging out in downtown Anoka.
  • How about an overnight trip that isn’t more than 20 miles each way? Take Northstar to the Big Lake Station, ride to Lake Maria State Park, then spend the night at one of their walk-in campsites or camper cabins. Return the next day and pick up the train.
  • Feeling strong? Take the train out to any station and ride all the way back to Minneapolis. The longest distance, from the Big Lake Station, is 55 miles. We’ve got two different routes mapped for you.

We’ve mapped out big loops and small ones, routes that follow country roads and routes that take in local trails. The brochure includes train fares, first arrivals and last departures, destinations, points of interest and local riding conditions. As a matter-of-fact, there is so much information, including our unbeatable maps, that each pdf is too large to download from the site. We’ll send it to your email address using YouSendIt. Check out the jpgs on the product page for samples of the route maps and information available for each station.

This is the perfect antidote to riding the same old loops again this weekend, and you don’t have to drive to get there, either!

Printed brochures are available on standard paper or tear and water resistant paper. Choose the delivery style that best fits your needs: Electronic delivery or hard copy.

Filed under: Bikeverywhere News

Dads, Kids, Bikes and Camping

Posted by Doug Shidell, May 14th , 2011.

I met Mike Vanderscheuren at the Living Green Expo last weekend. Mike is one of the owners of Banjo Brothers, manufacturers of panniers, messenger bags and gear for the urban cyclist. This isn’t about their gear. It’s about an annual bike camping trip Mike and a group of dads do with their kids every year. It’s part of a growing trend I’ve seen over the years: Biking families taking short bike camping trips within the metro area. Here’s Mike’s story, in his own words.

Carver Bike Camping

For the past 5 years a small, but growing group of dads have organized
an annual kids/dads 2 day bike camping trip to Carver Park. The trip
architect was Peter Leugers, the brother of my business partner Eric,
(Peter is also a bike rep for RP Active Sports — Bell, Hwy 2, etc) who
mapped the original route from South Minneapolis to Carver. The idea
was to be fully self-supported and to go by bike. Since our kids were
much younger 5 years ago, the early trips were navigated by
trail-a-bikes and loaded bike trailers with gear.

The first few years we split up the responsibility for meals among the participants. So
each dad had a responsibility for feeding the camp dinner night one,
or breakfast day 2. Each dad brought their own snacks.  At Carver their is potable water and Camelback bladders were used to keep a supply at camp for cooking and dishes. Someone brought a collapsible water jug last year.

Typical breakfasts were oatmeal, dry cereal with powdered milk. PBJ and lunch and Mac and Cheese at dinner. Because you were dragging kids and gear, you tried to keep the gear at minimum but you
had to have some creature comforts for the kids, beach towels, fishing rods, etc. Cooking is done on camp stoves and over the fire.

This is not gear intensive trip and bikes range from mountain bikes pulling trailers to co-motion tandems with a trail-a-bike and a trailer attached (How’s that for a rig!). We use a lot of our $40
waterproof panniers as luggage. At 9, the kids on their own bikes could handle a pannier or two packed with lighter stuff, greatly helping out the dads. This trip is within reach for any family with a
little ingenuity and adventurous spirit.

At Carver you can buy firewood, so after tents were set up, someone was dispatched to load a Burley full of wood for campfires. The first few years the kids were all 5 or younger. As the groups got larger the
range was more spread out and ranged from 5-11. At camp, there is a nice playground and as the kids have gotten older, they enjoy the freedom of just playing on their own terms heading over to the park on their own, making up games, with several hours spent down at the beach.

Three years ago, a really nice grocery store opened in Victoria, so now we have less on-board supplies and we usually make one or two grocery runs as the store is only 2 miles away into town. We’re also not that militant about inviting only Dad’s who bike, so we usually have at least  one dad who drives. This person usually ends up with some extra duties (beer – though not sure it’s legal at Carver), chairs, or more ice. I think we’ve topped out at 6 dads and 10 kids.

The trips have always been two nights and we always tried to leave mid-morning on Fridays, meeting up behind Punch on the Greenway and heading west. We usually keep the kids stoked by promising ice cream at the Cottagewood Country Store (http://www.cottagewoodusa.com/). There are always stops for potty breaks, the occasional convenience store stop for drinks or snacks. The shaded trail on the LRT provides a nice canopy and we’ve traveled in both good weather and less than ideal conditions with kids bundled in raincoats and dads pedaling their rear off trying to get out of the rain. Normally, there is very
little complaining on the trip out.

It was a big transition a couple years ago when the older kids started rinding on their own bikes. Some
of that didn’t sit as well with the kids on trail-a-bikes as they weren’t as comfortable being one-upped by their older siblings or friends,  but this is usually pre-trail and once everyone is rolling this dissipates. The nice thing about having oder and younger kids is for the most part they travel in packs and outside of being supervised at the beach the entire group has tended to hand together for the weekend.

Carver is a really nice family park. There are sites with campers but the pit toilets tend to keep out the riff raff.  Outside of the beach, the lake has a lot of vegetation so you don’t have jet skis, etc. Other than maybe being able to hear a little traffic on Hwy 7, it feels very remote. At night, to this point, we’ve resisted letting the older kids bunk together, keeping the families in tact to make sure the kids get enough sleep.

We’ve survived a couple of storms  and some rainy days. It tends to make the stay-at-home spouses more nervous than the dads. It should be noted the park staff is also excellent with weather-updates.  (There is a nature center not too far away.) We also have a tradition of having a really nice dinner one night – we’ve grilled pizza, had steaks. etc.

On Sunday we have group breakfast and then break camp. We stop at Cottage wood on the way back too to break up the trip up.

Filed under: Bikeverywhere News, Misc

Planned bike trail construction in southeast Wisconsin

Posted by Doug Shidell, May 7th , 2011.

Several plans have been announced for construction in 2011:

  • Hank Aaron Trail extension. Presently the Hank Aaron State Trail ends at 94th Place in West Allis. Bikes can continue west on the old right of way but the pathway is quite rough, more suitable for mountain bikes than road bikes. Plans have been announced to put  in a temporary crushed stone surface connecting the HAST to the Oak Leaf Trail. Following the reconstruction of the Zoo Interchange, plans are to construct a paved surface.
  • Lake Country Trail paving. Last year both the western and eastern ends of the Lake Country Trail were paved, leaving the middle section, mainly through Nagawaukee County Park, unpaved. On its website the Waukesha county parks department has announced that paving the middle section will start this spring. This announcement should be treated with a bit of skepticism since the paving of the middle section was originally announced for last year.
  • Oak Leaf to Ozaukee Interurban Trail connector. For some time plans have developed, and grants have been announced, to build a trail connecting the Ozaukee Interurban Trail (in the person of the Brown Deer Trail at Brown Deer Road) to the Oak Leaf Trail at Hampton Avenue on the north edge of Estabrook Park. The connector would use both WE Energies right of way dating from the old Interurban tracks and unused railroad tracks. Phase I of this project from Brown Deer Road to Bradley Road, connecting the Brown Deer Trail to the Oak Leaf Trail at Brown Deer Park, scheduled to take place this summer. While short, this section would eliminate a very tricky left turn between Green Bay Road and the old village of Brown Deer, a turn that is dangerous in both directions.
  • Downtown to Bay View connector. This path would utilize long-abandoned railroad tracks east of First Street between National Avenue and Kinnickinnic Ave, replacing part on the on-street route between downtown Milwaukee and Bay View. This project was first presented some years ago, unfortunately as an alternative to allowing bicycles on the Hoan Bridge.

I would be very disappointed if these are the only bike-oriented projects in southeastern Wisconsin. Please let me know about those I have missed.

Cross-posted at Wisconsin Bicycle Routes.

Filed under: Bikeverywhere News