Sunday, December 16, 2012

COMING SOON: Ride to Remember - Bicycling Alaska in 2013

Coming up in summer of 2013 I plan on bicycling Alaska for three weeks, raising money and awareness for Alzheimer's.   

My father has the disease and, since he's the one that helped me develop a passion for bicycling, I thought a tour to gather stories, encourage interaction and raise awareness would be a good way to pay back the gifts he has instilled in me. 

Gifts raised during the tour will be forwarded to Cedar Community Foundation and its Memory Loss Program. Cedar Community is based in West Bend, Wisconsin and, since 1958, caregivers have identified unique approaches to assist residents facing progressive memory loss and Alzheimer's. 

Cedar Community features a Friendship House Assisted Living facility which combines the care of attentive, specially-trained staff 24 hours a day, seven days per week. 

Residents have one-to-one relationships with staff and they’re engaged in activities including trail outings, art “Mneme” therapy, pet therapy, music therapy and “It’s Never Too Late,” person-centered technology that helps improve cognition while inspiring those with memory loss.

Contributions to the Memory Loss Program are tax deductible.  Please consider making a charitable gift to the Cedar Community Foundation.  All gifts support the mission of Cedar Community to enhance the well-being of seniors and their families.

Donations can be addressed to: 

Amy Johnson, Director of Philanthropy
Re: Ride to Remember
Cedar Community Foundation
113 Cedar Ridge Drive
West Bend, WI  53095
Be sure to include the Federal Tax ID Number for the Foundation:  39-1249432


For information on Cedar Community's programs for those facing Alzheimer's or other progressive memory loss including our Resource Library and Support Groups, call 262.306.4244 or email

Preparations for the tour have been a team effort. Special thanks to Rachel Womack at Today and Forever Videos in Slinger, Wis. for the promotional video and thanks to Michael Albiero from Versant Solutions in Milwaukee for the logo design.  


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Look back at bicycle tour to South Dakota

           In July 2004 I bicycled from West Bend to South Dakota. Below
                                 is a portion of that travel journal.  

Saturday July 3rd - - Gays Mills, Wis. to Decorah, Iowa. 65 miles in five hours.

I HEART Decorah, Iowa.

This city is unbelievable. It's a mix of Norman Rockwell with a hip shot of twentieth-century groove.

My first stop was an antique store. It was actually in a garage. The owner, Nancy, said she had been living out of her garage for the past 22 years. I don't know why I stopped. I can't buy anything because I'm not about to carry anything else.

It was torture because she had a lot of cool things like an orange ash tray resting in a black stand with a golden antelope leaping over the tray. A bargain at $25. There was a Saturday Evening Post of the Beatles, dated March 1964. A steal for $20.

There were a bunch of old radios stacked neatly on a shelf; Admirals, Musicare, Delco, Sentinal, and Silvertone. Nancy's favorite pieces were her brown-and-white transfer ware; white dishes with intricate brown patterns.

Nancy let me use her phone to call the pastor in town to see if he would let me stay in the church hall for the night. After several unsuccessful calls Nancy deemed it too much work and said I could stay at her place.

"By the way, I'm leaving for the night so would you mind watching my place," she said.

That was some quick trust established in 10 short minutes.

Nancy's home dated to 1910. Her husband had died several years ago and she was going to visit friends for the July 4th holiday.

Having secured a nest for the night I bicycled around town a bit and saw the neatest things.

All the shops on Decorah's Main Street were cool, independent businesses that tried to team with the one next door.

LaRana Bistro was Nancy's favorite eatery - upper class but comfortable. Wood floor and wood bar with Anchor Steam beer and Guinness on tap. Other selections lining a glass shelf above the back bar included a 16-ounce can of Old Speckled Hen and Schell Pilsner.

The menu was mid-priced and the dessert list started with Carmel Pecan Cheesecake.

The theme they shared with the spa next door was frogs. The spa was closed but had a frog on the tin sign out front. The restaurant had a black door jam in the shape of a frog and their screen door had a tin sign that read 'Ask for Kleen Maid Bread.'

The ice cream shop in Decorah was called the Whippy Dip. There were two bicycle shops. Mike, from Oneota River Cycles gave me a map and filled up my bottle of chain cleaner. Both acts of customer service were on the house.

A couple blocks from the Whippy Dip were kids floating down the Iowa River on black inner tubes. There were silver baskets of Polly wave petunias hanging from every light pole. There were kids on bicycles everywhere. Adults too. Some were giving me the 'evil eye' but I found out it was because I was riding in the street. Decorah has marked bike paths on their sidewalks. It was amazing.

Downtown was the Magpie Coffee House with no charge Internet.

Wade's Window Burgers was a window, with a menu on the wall. You could order a wide selection of a burger, brat, taco, taco-dog, hot dog, malt or float. The place could have been mistaken for a simple apartment window with a sliding screen. I'm thinking it was an easy place for a health inspector to miss. There were no customers outside Wades.

On the corner wall of Water and Winnebago was the Dolan Snyder Pharmacy. There was a detailed, color mural of what the corner used to look like in 1898. The picture showed Ben Bear Square, a shop with 'fine clothing' written on the front window and a sandwich board on the street that read: ‘This is the place to get your spring suit.’

Off the main drag I found the schools. The red brick building was undergoing major construction. The front of the school had Decorah High School engraved near the top of the building. Underneath, in white letters was Decorah Middle School. Next door were a series of small trailers. On the front door there was a sign that read 'Mrs. Procter's portable 5th grade.'

Ran into a man named Lanny at the VFW. "It's short for Landis," he said. Landis was a retired barber who reminded me of the lead singer from The Blues Travelers. He had a round face and square glasses that magnified his eyes and made him look like a sleepy turtle.

Landis was 61 years old and returned home to the place where he got his first job at the age of 17.

"Everyone wanted their hair cut like Elvis," he said. The Beatles came along and put him out of business. "Nobody came in for a hair cut because it took them three months to just grow it out."

Landis was sporting a white ponytail. It was pretty unkempt for a former barber. He also had white pork chop sideburns. His whiskers blended with the long hair coming out of his ears. Landis also had white, Nike running shoes that probably never ran a step. He had black socks, kind of like Michael Jordan but his doughy white legs were a far cry from Jordanisque. Landis wore some unfortunate black shorts, a black shirt, silver and turquoise bracelet and a straw cowboy hat.

He also clicked his teeth together when he talked. I think it was to pop his ill-fitting dentures back into place. Miller on tap was his beverage of choice and he smoked Marlboro lights with a rubber band for his hair wrapped around the lighter.

Landis said he felt comfortable in Decorah. He told me to go look at the minuteman statue at the courthouse square. He said it was a target for high school pranks. The latest was a kid who scaled the statue and put a white baseball cap atop the minute man's head. He said the kid fell while climbing down and broke both his arms.

I walked across the street and down the block to the statue. It was about two and a half stories tall and on top of the gray, concrete minute man was a white baseball cap.

After getting past my obvious obsession with my new best friend Landis I decided to move on and notice other things about Iowa.

- Iowa likes to put rumble strips before all their stop signs. I'm not used to that, even on the most remote country roads. Since I forgetfully stumbled onto all of them along my route, I need to see a bike doctor to true my back wheel.

- Iowa has pull tabs in vending machines. They're anywhere from 25 cents to 50 cents and all the garbage cans next to the machines are full with lost wages.

- The latest book I'm adding to my littlest library will be 'Friendly Farm Dogs of Iowa.'

- A can’t-miss hit on the 4th of July holiday celebration was broadcast all over the local radio as a demo derby between combines, pickups and mini vans.

- KVIK radio 104.7 FM actually had a station window facing the main drag in Decorah. There was also somebody live in the studio. Imagine that! I ran into a classic country show while bicycling. It wasn't my first choice, it was my only choice. But, they did play some good music, all in a row. Keith Whitley, Vern Gosdin, K.T. Oslin, and The Judds. If they had veered from their format and thrown in a little David Cassidy, I may have had to throw a resume their way.

- Trying to keep up on national news. I understand Marlon Brando is dead. Someone classified as 'Anna Kornakova with game' won Wimbledon. John Edwards is John Kerry's choice for VP. And... Kenny Rodgers had twins. I heard he ran into Rod Stewart in the maternity ward of the same hospital. What a coincidence. I guess Stewart was at the hospital awaiting the birth of his next wife. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Neillsville, Wisconsin - The Highground

The Wisconsin Pavilion from the 1964 New York World's Fair was moved to Neillsville at the conclusion of the Fair. The building is now home to local radio station WCCN/WCCN-FM and a gift shop.

Robert Kanyusik's sculpture, "Fragments," dedicated to Vietnam victims from Wisconsin 

Bicycled to Neillsville, Wisconsin (about 50 miles west of Stevens Point) for a quick weekend tour to The Highground; a veterans' memorial park with tributes to Vietnam War veterans and memorials to World War I and World War II veterans.

For a small town of about 3,000 Neillsville rocked with its hometown bars and caf├ęs like Degan’s Sport Zone, Green Valley Pub, and the Brickyard Bar & Restaurant. There was a locally owned grocery store, Marty’s Foods Inc. on E. Division St., the St. Vincent DePaul thrift store is in an old bank, and the hometown paper is the Clark County Press & Shopper.

Stayed at the Moraine Motel run by Bill and Carol Sawchuk. You would have thought you were staying at grandma’s house. Quilt on the bed, candy dishes everywhere filled with hard candy. The towels in the bathroom didn’t match but they were clean and soft. There was no phone in the room but a Bible in the drawer and wifi access. Funny, Bill showed me how to use the remote for the TV. He was a character with a pocket protector busting with pens and tools. 

The morning breakfast was over the top with small packaged cups of fruit, oatmeal, raisins, sweet rolls, cereal, toast, a variety of small juices and two thermoses of hot coffee. There were small wooden trays painted like watermelon to be used to collect breakfast and then sit outside on the patio.

Unique attraction were all the Amish at the Saturday morning farmers’ market and the Wisconsin Pavilion from the 1964 New York World’s fair that currently serves as home to the local radio stations WCCN/WCCN-FM and the local cheese and gift shop. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Totals for the tour: Florida to Wisconsin

Some final totals from the past three weeks and the Florida-to-Wisconsin bicycle tour. 

- 1,417 total miles, which equals an average of about 70 miles a day. 
- The most miles covered in one day was 130 mi. from Bloomington, IL to about 25 miles from the Wisconsin state line.
- Three flat tires, four dog chases, and one overnight stay at a fire department in Marengo, IL.

During my final day on the road in Mukwonago the heat got to me and I laid down around 1 p.m. under an overhang outside the entrance to the local high school. Within an hour three people checked on me and one poked me with a stick, out of courtesy I suppose, to see if I was still alive.

A priest helped me find a place to stay that evening. Father Joseph Wood, dressed in full collar and black cassock, answered the door at the rectory next to St. Pius V Chapel.

 “You can come in, out of the heat,” he said. 

Fr. Joseph spoke as if he was visiting from another country; he had a slight lilt in his voice and somewhat of a British accent.

“I’m from Colorado,” he said dryly. Fr. Joseph was studying Latin at St. Pius; he took classes from a tutor that visited the parish on weekends.

“Since I’m not in charge I really can’t give you permission to stay in the church, but let me make a couple of calls,” he said.

Sitting alone in the front office was pleasantly cool. The room was sparsely decorated with dated orange brown chairs, a plain desk and bookshelves full of religious reading.

Fr. Joseph returned with his laptop computer and suggested he book a room for me online.

“I’d take you to the motel myself but,” he said dropping his head a bit and cocking it to one side, “how would that look?”

Fr. Joseph was a young 30-something with a wry sense of humor.

I tried desperately to decline the charitable offer, going so far as to suggest I’d even sleep on the carpeted floor of the office where we were sitting.

“You know, we normally don’t have the air conditioning on in here,” he said. “It’s just that the cleaning lady came and turned it on today and we haven’t found the courage to turn it off.”

Fr. Joseph was so humble; you felt he’d never be able to muster a harsh penance. 

We chatted for about 30 minutes while he surfed the net and tapped in details for a room for the night. 

He had a friend in college who made a coast-to-coast trip on a bike and was aware of the many challenges while on the road.

“Once my friend’s bike broke down and a man sold him a car for $2. They made it as far as Idaho before it finally quit; I think they got their monies worth out of that vehicle,” he said.

As Father Joseph walked me to the door he wished me well. “I’d let you stay here at the rectory, but I assume you’re head out early and, you know….  how would that look,” he said again with the head nod and grin. 

It felt very much like a Bing Crosby Fr. Chuck O’Malley – Julia Roberts scenario. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Note the political stickers on the sign.

Friday, June 29, 2012.

Made it home safe, happy and a bit weary. Pulled into West Bend around noon. Stopped at the store to pick up a 'thank you' card for the WB PD as they paid extra attention to my home while I was away.

Final total on the odometer 1417 miles in 19 days. Biggest question: Did I keep the gun? The answer 'yes.' Now I have to take a class and get a permit.

Best experience was the people I met, especially Juanita and all the churches and fire departments and new friends that helped along the way. I'm proud of the accomplishment but could not have done it without my friends back home.

A big thanks to my web editor. Long-distance communication is not easy and she made the stories and travel journal look wonderful! I also appreciated the assistance with locating nearby bike shops in an emergency, Googling solutions for bed bugs, and overall positive support and a calm/reassuring demeanor.

The bike is already in the shop at Mountain Outfitters in West Bend getting a complete overhaul - although owner Kevin Schultz said "give me that gun I'd like to shoot that bike and put it out of its misery."

That'll never happen - we'll be ready to tour again shortly and I hope you'll follow along.

If you enjoyed the stories please send me a note at and tell me what you liked. Also share the web site with your friends.

Thanks for coming along.   Judy Steffes