Before we hurl ourselves into the madness & mayhem that is a major underground cycling event, we need to reflect on the much more bucolic past few days. By the time the chaos, camaraderie and competition of COG’s big tournament in Milwaukee wears down, we’ll forget that we spent two days touring rural Wisconsin, climbing up and down forest roads, the rumble of an approaching car’s engine such a rarity that we had the luxury of the whole street to ourselves. We’ll forget the absence of all noise but the wind rustling through the leaves and whirling by our ears. We may not forget the constant struggle of battling yet another hill, but we might forget how awesome some of these roads were:

Stanek Road! Parties everywhere!

Stanek Road! Parties everywhere!

Oh, it’s true. Pausing at this street sign, a dog chased us down, then promptly lost interest when it realized we weren’t moving anymore. It’s owner came out & asked us if we were lost. “No, we’re just taking pictures of the street sign,” because of the whole last name thing”. “Oh, are you related to any of the Stanek’s? Dan & Bill? They live right over there.” As far as I know, I’m not, but I’m going to wait for my Grandmother’s deference on that one. Hi, Grandma!

Jonny confessed that there were less challenging ways to bring us into Madison “but I figured it’d be easier to keep you here for an extra day if I tortured you a bit first.” Jonny’s a methodical kind of guy. He had at least two advantages over the bulk of our previous hosts: 1) he keeps up to date with our blog and knows the generosity we’ve already been shown, and 2) he’s competitive about it. He wanted to make sure he planned a tour that rivaled everything we’ve encountered so far. And he’d be the one to do it. In addition to the underground food collective, he organizes an annual Bike The Barns ride & fundraiser, which tours local farms and raises money for low-income families to afford CSA packages. Also, since Jonny was in charge, he took most of these photos.

The Wisconsin River

The Wisconsin River

somewhere in wisconsin, near a barn

somewhere in wisconsin, near a barn

Our first stop, which was supposed to be lunch, happened at a clandestine restaurant tucked away into the hills. They only take reservations for Fridays & Saturdays, but Jonny works with them a lot, and coordinated a late lunch / early dinner for us. All of the produce is grown & harvested within the 16 acres of their property.

Lightyears restaurant and farm

Lightyears restaurant and farm

They had a lot of chickens & ducks there

They had a lot of chickens & ducks there

We kept going. Jonny took another wrong turn, turning our 60 mile day into a 78 mile day. I’d like to think this was completely a mistake, but then again, he wanted to make sure we stuck around in Madison for a while, so I’m not sure. We ended up at Caitlin & Andy’s place – a beautiful renovated barn at the top of yet another hill. Andy makes gruyere cheese. Caitlin makes paintings.

We got there sweaty. Jonny snapped photos. He thought I looked hilarious.

my future combover

My future combover

it took some time, but we convinced andy to keep going with us instead of staying with the cows

it took some time, but we convinced andy to keep going with us instead of staying with the cows

but i mean seriously, this cow was adorable

but i mean seriously, this cow was adorable

i left my waterbottles at the house and had to backtrack 4 miles to get them. Jonny took this as I finally showed back up.

i left my waterbottles at the house in the morning and had to backtrack 4 miles to get them. Jonny took this as I finally showed back up.

Andy the cheesemonger wakes up early in the morning to make Upland Cheese Company’s award winning gruyere. By the time we got to his dairy, he was well into the process of separating the curds from the whey. For his tour, we had to don some stylish hairnets & booties

new style!

new style!

Andy gave an amazing tour

Andy gave an amazing tour

cheese. young.

cheese. young.

cheese, older

cheese, older

one of america's best cheeses is made here

one of america's best cheeses is made here

One thing we have just about no documentation of is rhubarb. Ever since staying with Arone’s mom in Spicer, Minnesota, we seem to have had rhubarb in some form for every meal. Apparently it’s in season. We knew just about nothing about rhubarb before this trip. Like what it looked like. Here you go. DON’T EAT THE LEAF! That part’s poisonous. Most rhubarb isn’t this huge. This is Jonny’s friend Lee’s photo.