The first thought in most people's minds when I say I am going to this year's STIHL Tour des Trees in Wisconsin usually involves one of the following: cheese curds, cheese heads and beer. Followed by attempts to sing the themes songs from "That 70's Show," "Laverne and Shirley" and "Happy Days."
I know a different Wisconsin. One covered in plush green or white -- depending on the season -- rolling hills kept perfectly groomed by thousands of dairy cattle. The North Woods, a place of beautiful solitude filled with the biggest maple trees I have ever seen and wildlife of every kind. A Wisconsin that comes alive in a local tavern in the middle of nowhere at six o'clock on a cold winter night.
I'm looking forward to seeing some different places in Wisconsin during the weeklong STIHL Tour des Trees, where I'll be cycling nearly 600 miles through the state. I'm excited to learn about the culture in the industrial and cultural centers. Our trip begins in Milwaukee, Wisconsin's largest city, one that abounds with Midwestern pride and culture. We are arriving a day early to ride in a parade during GermanFest. Fitting for STIHL right? This city has one of the largest German American populations in the country. So, Day One is all about beer and bratwurst and getting to know the wonderful people of Milwaukee.
From there we head to Madison, the center of Wisconsin's politics, culture and education. It also appears to be one of the most bike friendly cities in the USA, with miles upon miles of bike paths and designated bike lanes throughout the city. This wins big points with me anytime! To paraphrase Gandhi, "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals (and bikers!) are treated." I'd say Madison is headed in the right direction.
On Day Two we leave the two largest cities in Wisconsin behind and head for the less populated area of Wisconsin Dells. According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, 46 percent of the state is forested land, of which the majority is Maple, Basswood and Oak hickory forest. I can't wait for my fellow riders to see these beautiful forests while we cycle further into Wisconsin's interior. Once in The Dells, we can see what has attracted tourists for more than a century. And after a century of our own, don't be surprised if you see a few bikers jumping off the Duck Boats into the cool waters of The Dells July 28.
From The Dells, we travel to Stevens Point in Central Wisconsin. From what I understand, this is where we will experience some of Wisconsin's best small town charm. With a quaint downtown area full of shops, restaurants and cafes, this should make a nice place to rest before traveling to Green Bay.
That's right I said it: Green Bay. I'm hearing rumors that we are going to be partying at Lambeau Field! Can't beat that! I'm not the biggest football fan, but I am a fan of a fan-owned team that has a history of success in the world of big money sports!
From Green Bay, we'll skirt the West side of Lake Michigan stopping in Sturgeon Bay and Port Washington. I hope the wind is from the north and the sun is high in the sky as we head back down to Milwaukee.
I'm looking forward to riding the rolling hills through the hardwood forest and along the shores of Lake Michigan. Anything else I should try to see? I'd love your comments on the best of Wisconsin.