The Trans-Wisconsin Adventure Bicycle Route has been a dream of Frank Hassler's for a while. Ever since spending 8 days bike touring part of the route in 2011 and having a whole bunch of Type 2 fun, he's dreamed of formalizing this trail. In this interview I talk with Frank about the route and what it's going to take to complete the project.
This sounds like a massive project. What inspired you to take this on?
Developing a 700-mile bike route seems like a big reach, but fortunately, I’m standing on the shoulders of giants, so to speak.
In the early 2000’s, Chad Berger developed the Trans-Wisconsin Adventure Trail (TWAT) dual-sport motorcycle route. Inspired by the TWAT, Joe Meiser created the Trans-Wisconsin Mountain Bike Trail (TWMBT) and organized the Trans-WI Mountain Bike Race along this route in 2010.
What I am calling the Trans-Wisconsin Adventure Bicycle Route (TWABR) is really just a further development of the TWMBT. I expect we will be updating 30-40% of the route for the TWABR, but mostly small improvements along the same general corridor. We only need to route 1/3rd of 700 miles.
Back to what inspired me specifically: Over 8 days in July and August of 2011 I toured the TWMBT.
Despite repeated heavy thunderstorms, persistent deer flies, breaking my thumb, loosing my wallet, trudging through sand roads and getting lost on abandon logging roads that lead no-where but into a swamp, I had a great time.
Its a brilliant route, traversing major bioregions of the state including the Driftless Region, the Mississippi Valley, the Central Sands, the North Woods and finish on the shores of Lake Superior in sight of the Apostle Islands.
It links together some of Wisconsin’s best mountain bike trail networks. Ever since doing this trip, I wanted to share the route with other like-minded cyclists. I think it's a world class route.
What's the current status of this project and when do you hope to complete it?
I have a proposed route worked out on RideWithGPS.
Now as the riding season is starting it's time to ground-truth the route to see if the red line on the computer screen makes sense in reality. At this point I’m seeking adventurous riders to scout the route out and local riders who can perhaps suggest better options based on what they like to ride.
It will be going together in pieces, I think after we finalize each section of the route it would be good to plan a day-ride on those sections to give it a final check with a number of riders, and to introduce people to each segment.
I think with some collaboration we should be able to get the route finalized by late-summer or early fall.
Then it's time to get people out to ride the route! I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a tour on the southern-half of the route in late-July with an open invite to anyone who wants to join. Then a second tour in September to ride the northern portion. In any event, we’ll put together the details on the Facebook group.
What are your favorite parts of this route?
That’s a tough call.
While its mostly paved and gravel roads, the first couple days in the Driftless region are just real solid scenic rural riding.
Another great section is the last segment north of Delta to Hwy 13 which feels extremely remote, I saw almost no other humans the entire day (but plenty of wildlife).
But if I had to pick a single favorite section it would probably be the Black River State Forest. The Central Sands are just unique and remind me of riding in the highlands of northern Arizona.
The stunted black oak and jack pine of the barrens is just so different from every other environment in the state. And as a botanist, I just can’t get over the fields of lupine and roadside ditches full of grass pink orchids.
How can people get involved or help out?
The further along I get in this project the more aspects of it I realize there are.
There are a lot of ways large and small that people could help make this a reality.
As mentioned above, we need a bunch of people to get out on the roads and trails and ground truth the route.
Outreach: We need people to get in touch with local trail organizations, public land managers, bike shops and so forth to let them know what we’re planning and start to work together where needed. I think what we’d be looking for local ambassadors in each region who are part of the community to facilitate communication and coordination.
We could use a graphic designer to develop a logo for things like stickers, patches, and trail blazes.
We could probably use a website and thus a webmaster, and some organization willing to host the website. Right now we’re using a Facebook group to organize things, but having a website as a central information depot will be essential in the long-run.
I would love it if we could have a someone with some GIS/cartography skills develop a good looking map of the route.
There seems to be a lot of interest in reviving the idea of a race along the route. That would require someone stepping up as a race organizer.