A while ago a group of of my Minnesota friends who had been riding the RAGBRAI (the popular week long ride across Iowa) thought that it might be more fun to just do their own week of riding around Wisconsin. Thus was born the WAGBRAI (Wisconsin’s A Gas, Bike Ride Around It), an informal annual midwest ride that I’ve been lucky to be a part of for six years now. I thought I would write up how we do this style of riding in case it inspires someone in our club to start something similar.

Wisconsin is great for cycling – rolling hills, farms, lakes, forests and miles of roads with little traffic. And it’s pretty easy to find some ice cream for a snack no matter how remote the area. All those dairy farmers probably have some political clout to demand those nice paved roads to get milk to market.

There were a dozen of us on the trip this year, and we camp along the way. If you don’t like sleeping on the ground in a tent, washing up in a lake or dealing with bugs then this style of traveling is not for you.

Everyone stores their gear in a standard Rubbermaid tub, which makes loading the “WagVan” trailer quick and easy. We each sign up for one shift driving the WagVan to the next lunch stop or campsite, possibly stopping to restock the cooler, get water and then riding back to meet the group. Here is a typical lunch stop. The top of the custom built trailer has been propped up and the rear panel of the trailer serves as a table.

The last week of July is statistically the driest of the summer and we usually have decent luck. This year we only had one afternoon of rain, which we spent in a machine shed a local kindly let us hang out in.

The rest of the trip was smooth sailing. I rode 448 miles for the week, in a big loop northward from Altoona (near Eau Claire) to near Lake Superior. The first day was through Chippewa Falls and across farm country.

We then rode up into the “burning sands” area near Hayward, where the American Birkebeiner ski race is held in the winter. The Birkie is Martin’s (pictured below) big event – for him cycling is a way to stay in shape for xc skiing.

After that it was up into the Northwoods of the Chequamegon national forest, for our longest segment, 79 miles. The pace isn’t fast – we’ve got all day. I usually averaged around 14 mph.

The quirkiest sight of the week was the Concrete Park outside of Phillips, where sixty years ago Fred Smith went on a tear making hundreds of folk art sculptures.

Wisconsin scenery isn’t as dramatic as what we enjoy out here in the West, but for quiet soothing rides I find it hard to beat. I’m sure there are similar rides to be had in Minnesota, Michigan or even just retracing old RAGBRAI routes in Iowa. By the third day I find that get “in the groove” and the green miles just flow on by.