by, Sherri Larson
On day-three of last years Swiss Cheese and Spotted Cows Bicycle Tour, my friend Liz and I knew we were close to our destination. Our cue sheet indicated only ten or so miles remained of the 65-miles for the day. The sweet rolls and cookies from the Mennonite bakery at mile-17 were a distant memory and we were tired, hungry, hot and thirsty.
It sometimes astounded us how long we could go without pedaling, which energized us all for the next climb.
Our cycling group of fifty adults was coordinated by tour leader Mary Derks and a small support staff. We began with a get-acquainted meal while spending the night in Mineral Point, WI. The next morning, our group of all ages and experience levels pedaled a parade of bright colors along the nearly traffic-free Wisconsin roads. It’s a hilly area of Wisconsin, but each ascent was of course met by an exhilarating downhill. It sometimes astounded us how long we could go without pedaling, which energized us all for the next climb. Our route would wind through the quiet farmlands and include hotel stays in New Glarus and Monroe, WI. and Galena, IL.
The New Glarus Brewery was the pinnacle experience of day one and it wasn’t just the beer. The small town nestled between rolling hills is called “Little Switzerland” for obvious reasons. We enjoyed an authentic Swiss meal and local entertainment.
After a second day of riding, Monroe greeted us through the hospitable and generous Minhas Brewery tour and a meal at Turner Hall, where local musicians and historians entertained us. We added a stop at a local bar for a Limburger cheese sandwich, an undeniably distinct moment.
On our third day, as we neared Galena, Liz and I slowly ascended another of the many hills surrounding the town. Eager to explore the town, we hoped to visit the many unique shops, restaurants, wineries, and historic sites. We might tour the home of Ullysses S. Grant; or we might pretend to give a speech as Lincoln had, from the balcony of our hotel, the DeSoto?
Approaching, we shifted down into the “granniest” of gears, propelled with thoughts of how close we were to a shower, clean clothes and beer. These last ten miles were not a straight, flat stretch. This area is called the “driftless region,” which means it has hills–rolling and winding, long and steep, like asphalt ribbons between farm fields and meadows, and pastures.
We should not have been surprised at the challenge of this particular climb. We were approaching Council Hill Road, Illinois’ highest point of elevation. At one point, Liz claimed “a determined, scurrying daddy long legs spider passed her on the hill”. Laughing hysterically at what I hoped was an exaggeration, we surged forward with determination, intently…finally!
Breathless and reaching heart rate records, we witnessed a direct act of God at the top: a quaint church with a water spigot to refill our bottles. And just then, we also saw the support van. The sag vehicle drivers provided cold water, Gatorade, bananas and “chin-dripping peaches”–like manna from heaven! We were encouraged that we had only one more climb before the long and swift downhill into town. As we clipped into our pedals, energized by this feast, I said, “I feel like we don’t even deserve this!” Liz commented wisely, “Maybe we do, Sherri. Maybe we do.”
Cyclists had come from all over the country for the Swiss Cheese and Spotted Cows tour. Some were experienced cyclists, accustomed to hilly terrain. Others, like Liz, hadn’t taken a trip like this before, but loved biking enough (maybe it was the promise of beer and cheese?) to go for it. This tour gave equal and perfect measures of challenge and reward. And we made it—every single one of us, all 250+ miles!
I credit our success to the many thoughtful details. We were provided excellent accommodations, meals, happy hours with cheese trays, sag support and luggage delivery, clearly marked routes and maps, local historians and entertainment. This tour was an invigorating, renewing, adventure–a memory-making, goal-reaching, friendship-fostering, challenging and rewarding ride, every mile. Join us this year – Maybe you deserve it!
For more information and to register, go to www.scscbiketour.com.