This weekend I had the pleasure and honor of traveling to the Green County Fair to accept a Friend of 4-H Award from the Green County 4H, who manage our Monroe rest stop on the Ride Across Wisconsin. Since registration for RAW is only open one more week, I also made our annual donation to the Green County 4-H.
Each year we have asked our riders to donate to 4-H as a small thank you to all the family farms we ride by on the Ride Across Wisconsin. The Bike Fed then matches those donations with profits from the ride. Although we ask our riders to be “Roll Models” and follow all the rules of the road, it is inevitable that 500 to 1,000 people on bikes are going to cause some traffic problems on these small town roads.
This year our RAW participants generously gave almost $1,500. With our match, we were able to cut a check to Green County 4-H for a total donation of $3,000.
First and foremost, we started the Ride Across Wisconsin as a key fundraiser for the Wisconsin Bike Fed to generate unrestricted revenue that allows us to respond to community requests for help with bicycle safety and infrastructure questions about bike lanes and trails across Wisconsin. While our lean organization leverages every penny of profit from RAW, we want to use the ride to build relationships with people who live in the communities we pass through, but who might not be “cyclists.”
We are also grateful to the farmers who host our rest stops, like Jean and Kerry Holland on the Holland Dairy Farm in Gratiot, so we also stock our rest stops with as much fresh produce we purchase directly from area farm stands and farmers markets as we can find. We are doing as much as we can with bicycle supported agriculture.
One of the big reasons RAW is such a great ride, is that we travel on very low traffic paved town roads. We always try to keep that one of the major reasons those scenic rural roads are all paved in Wisconsin is our dairy farmers partnered with early bicycle advocates or “Wheelmen” in the Good Roads movement back in the 1890s to advocate because needed better roads to get their milk to the dairies.
Today, from our Tour of America’s Dairyland to the Polish Moon Ride, if you sign up for an organized bike ride in Wisconsin, riders expect chocolate milk or ice cream instead of another T-shirt. This year our Ride Across Wisconsin will feature chocolate milk from Nature’s Touch Dairy, the house dairy for Kwik Trip. Those gas stations run by La Crosse-based Kwik Trip have become the defacto favorite option for refueling on a bike ride or in the car in Wisconsin.
If you are RAW curious but have not signed up yet, registration is open for one more week. For those not sure they can ride 175 hilly miles in one day, this year we are offering a 105 route from Dubuque to Beloit. The shorter route takes in the most scenic parts of the ride and a bus gets you to the finish to celebrate with everyone else.