When Dwight Bussman moved to Wisconsin about five years ago, he knew he wanted to visit Door County. But Bussman, a cyclist, didn’t just want to circle the scenic peninsula that stretches across the western shore of Lake Michigan like a bony silhouette.
So he and his wife joined a Door County Bike Tours group in the summer of 2012 and cycled for three days from town to town to experience the sights, sounds and tastes of the county at a leisurely pace.
“We went to boil fish, saw art galleries, we stayed at the Eagle port hostel at Ephraim and I also had a good exercise, ”said Bussman, who has moved from Portland, Oregon, and now works for an educational software company affiliated with the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“My wife is not as sporty as I am, but we were able to ride at our own pace,” said Bussman, 33. we stopped.
“It was a good mix of activities and riding so it worked out well for us,” said Bussman, who rides twice a week around Madison, Middleton and Verona. “I especially enjoyed learning about local traditions like the Door County fish boiling.”
These premium bike tours are the brainchild of Chet Gerlach, 67, a former state lawmaker who once represented the Assembly District which included South Milwaukee, Oak Creek, and Cudahy. He now lives in Madison and works as the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Tourist Attractions Association.
Gerlach grew up riding a bicycle, but practically stopped when he and his wife were raising their three children. However, one of his sons caught the cycling bug and is now a professional triathlete based in Tucson, Arizona, and Madison.
“He’s 34 and on the drop of the hat he’s going to go 100 miles,” said Gerlach. “I’m not that kind of guy, but he had some influence on me. Now that the kids are grown up, my wife and I have a little more time and have developed a new interest in cycling.”
Gerlach first cycled in Door County in the summer of 2011 after he and his wife drove to Sturgeon Bay. They then cycled around the peninsula for five days. He said his wife had arthritis, so they rented an electric bike for him from the Ni Door Sports and Cyclery shopping at Fish Creek to help her climb hills and when she was tired.
“It was such an enjoyable experience for us that I started to wonder if there was a possible cycle touring business here,” said Gerlach, who contacted in-laws who rode bikes all over the place. ‘Europe with Vermont Bike Tours.
On their recommendation, he toured from Charleston, SC to Savannah, GA, with VBT in 2011. He enjoyed it, but came away feeling it could be done even better in Door County. . So he launched his business in 2012.
Most tours are based at the Eagle Harbor Inn, although he did one that started to Glidden Lodge in Sturgeon Bay. For weekend tours, he chooses a home port, and cyclists then spend their days riding and visiting parks, restaurants or cultural attractions.
“We meet up and after an orientation session we start driving around 1:00 pm Friday, finally returning to our home base for the evening,” he said.
From Ephraim they usually roll up Peninsula State Park, stop at the Eagle Bluff Lighthouse for a tour, then return to the Inn by bike for a group dinner. They could also attend a play in the evening. And when they stop at a gallery, they can meet the owner who can talk about the artwork.
A highlight of some of the tours was a stop at Tasty spoon cooking school in Ellison Bay for a class, after which cyclists can eat what they’ve created, he said.
“The whole idea of these tours, frankly, is that the bikes are our means of transportation to see things,” he said. “That’s why we only drive between 15 and 25 miles a day. I’ve spent most of my career exploring the state’s attractions, so I like to do some in Door County which are doable by bike. We can go north, south or east over the next two days. We canoeed on Lake Europe, hiked in the sanctuary of the ridges and cycled to Sister Bay to sail on the schooner Edith M. Becker. There are so many great things to see and do here. “
Gerlach said most of the land in Door County is hilly, although there are several large hills on the west side of the peninsula that lead to Fish Creek, Egg Harbor, Ephraim and Sister Bay.
“We usually do these climbs at the start of the day when everyone is the coolest,” he said. “But then we take easier roads.”
Gerlach guides the tours and his wife drives the “slump cart” in case people need help or run out of steam. If riders are feeling more energetic, they can start earlier and cover more miles and take a route that will get them to their first destination around the same time as the rest of the group.
In addition to several three-day weekends that he will offer in August and September, Gerlach will also be hosting a five-day hike in July similar to the one he and his wife did in 2011. It will start in Sturgeon Bay and include overnight stays. in Egg Harbor, Ephraim, Whitefish Bay and Sturgeon Bay.
More information: Rates start at $ 825 for a single person and $ 1,250 for a couple for a three-day visit. The five-day ride starts at $ 1,650 and $ 2,450, respectively. For more details see portecountybiketours.com.
Pedal Across Wisconsin is another outfitter offering tours in Door County (with daily mileage between 50 and 75 miles). pedalacrosswisconsin.com. Upcoming events include the Century Peninsula Spring Classic June 20, Door County Century Ride September 13 and Peninsula Century Fall Classic September 19.
For more information on Door County, including shops that rent bikes, see portecounty.com. Peninsula State Park and Potawatomi State Park offer bicycle rentals. Washington Island also has rentals near the ferry dock.
For the first time, the Door County Visitors Bureau will have a self-service bicycle helper station at the Door County Visitor Center at 1015 Green Bay Road, Sturgeon Bay. The free outdoor station will have basic tools, an air pump and space to perform maintenance such as seat adjustments or tire inflation.
Getting There : Door County is approximately 150 miles north of Milwaukee via I-43 and Highway 57.
Brian E. Clark is a Madison writer and photographer.