Lil Swiss Weekend = Mini RAGBRAI

My bike pal Sherry and I had discussed doing a day or two of #RAGBRAI in Iowa this year, but then had a better idea that involved less car driving and far less aggravation. Don't get me wrong, #RAGBRAI is a fun ride and well worth the aggravation. But it is aggravating (crowded, hot, noisy, etc.).

So instead of figuring out the logistics of getting ourselves to and from Iowa, we instead opted to participate in the Wisconsin Bicycling Meetup's "Little Switzerland Weekend," a small social organized bike ride in New Glarus WI that corresponded roughly with the end of RAGBRAI.

It was actually a three day ride - Friday through Sunday - with different routes each day. All the rides started at the Swiss themed Chalet Landhaus Hotel in NG, where people had the option to stay overnight if they were coming from afar. New Glarus is only about 30-40 minutes southwest of Madison by car, so we didn't require lodging and drove to NG early in the morning on the days we were riding - only Friday and Saturday, corresponding with the last two days of #RAGBRAI.

On Friday morning, I drove to the Verona Park and Ride and met Sherry there at around 7:30 in the morning (she was a little tardy). We took my car down to NG, after throwing her bike on my rack and her gear in the back, and rolled into the large and mostly empty parking lot of the Chalet about 8:15. Friday's "Sugar River" leg of the ride was scheduled to push off at 8:30, but we didn't get going until about 8:40.

The cue sheet provided by the ride leader, Ron, had us mostly on country roads that crisscrossed the Sugar River Bike Trail at several points, so we had the option to take trail whenever we got sick of roads (and hills). We exercised said option a few miles outside of Albany WI and followed the trail into said town, our first rest stop. The General Store downtown wasn't open yet when we arrived, so we went into the divy bar next door and had a couple beers before noon, #RAGBRAI style, and bar food (a burger for me and grilled cheese for Sherry).

We thought we'd encounter Ron and the four or five other Friday participants in Albany, but they eluded us somehow. We found out the next day that they had stopped briefly at a different establishment in Albany before riding on.

After the refreshments, I proposed that we ride on to Brodhead WI (the destination of the day's longer route) from Albany by way of bike trail, which would be far fewer miles than the road route on Ron's cue sheet, and less hilly to boot. We did so and partook of coffee and ice cream (at separate establishments) in Brodhead. For the return trip, we took the bike trail all the way back to NG, avoiding roads, and logged just shy of 50 miles by the time we rolled up to the Sugar River Pizzeria, behind the Chalet Landhaus, at the conclusion of our ride. We split an awesome Alfredo chicken pizza and had a couple more beers there, then we wandered over to the New Glarus Bakery a couple blocks away so Sherry could indulge her sweet tooth (in full disclosure, I ate a sugar cookie).

I drove Sherry and her bike back to the park and ride and bid them adieu before meeting another friend, Wendy, for our weekly Mastermind accountability group session in Verona about 5 PM. I rounded out the evening by taking my girlfriend Deborah to see a friend's cover band, FIGHTING FOR, at the divy music venue, Badger Bowl.

On Saturday morning, I repeated the drive to the Verona Park and Ride and this time met both Sherry and her boyfriend Tyler for the carpool to NG. Saturday's "New Glarus" leg of the ride was on roads and had quite a few challenging hills that brought me to my maximum heart rate a few times. Sherry, Tyler, and I opted for the shortest route option, 24 miles, as did a couple of the other participants, and that was challenging enough. Ride leader Ron said he was probably going to attempt the 99 mile route option, an impressive feat. As fate would have it, our short route intersected at certain points with an actual bike race going on in the area. The roads were open to us, but we were careful not to interfere with racers when we encountered them on occasion. When we were on the home stretch of our ride, we happened to cross the finish line of thevrace and it was kind of fun to be cheered on by spectators who thought we were part of the race.

Back in NG, we once again indulged ourselves in Sugar River Pizza. Sherry, Tyler, and I were joined by two other of the ride participants, Kathy and another woman I think was named Nancy. My girlfriend Deborah drove herself down to NG and met us at the pizza place as well, after first getting a little bit lost. We strolled the NG downtown and Sherry once again visited the bakery. Deborah took off and then I drove Sherry and Tyler back to the park and ride before going home.

The two days of biking must have taken a lot out of me because I succumbed to a four hour power nap after I got home. Nonetheless, it was a fantastic biking weekend. The weather was good both days, especially Saturday and we had a great time. It was a good substitute for #RAGBRAI and avoided a lot of the hassles associated with the massive Iowa bike ride.

I probably could have ridden the Sunday leg of the Lil Swiss ride, but I was slated to host the Bos Meadery open mic on Sunday in the early afternoon and opted to spend Sunday morning working on music instead. That was probably the best use of my time. I'm back from open mic now and I have a couple hours to myself before I go to the open jam at Funk's Pub tonight at 8 PM. I'll probably whip up a little dinner and refresh some songs I might be called on to play at the jam.


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