106.1 miles

Argh…this was the day that almost did us in. In a car, campgrounds always seem so plentiful and nearby. On a bike, they’re not. Particularly in eastern New York. We had a campground in mind this day (actually made reservations for once) and knew it’d be a long ride. The payoff would be the pool at the end — ya, we’d gone high end in campground land.

The morning started like most on the Erie Canal route. Get up, pack up our tents, and not think an ounce about our route — there’s only one. Oh, and get an in-depth tour of the lock mechanics and motors by the lock master. Talk about a glimpse into the past. Here was a guy whose full-time job is to operate equipment that’s barely changed in 100 years. The backup generators look like they’re out of a museum — but they’re still the main backups. Meticulously cared for — brass shining. More people should see this stuff.

Later, our route pulled us out of the Mohawk River valley for the first time in a long time (saving us quite a few miles over the Erie Canal route) and south into Schenectady. This gave us a straight shot to Albany, but…a lesson we kept learning…it put us into the suburbs — a nightmare for bikers. Multiple lanes, no shoulders, no sidewalks, and lots of traffic. Lots of drivers looking at you like you’re crazy, like you don’t belong. Alas, we made it and headed into the heart of Albany and the capital (the older parts of town are always more bike friendly).

We took a break at the capital and met some friendly guards who watched our bikes while we took the tour. One of the more interesting capital buildings I’ve ever seen. We also got to witness a bit of politics — an assemblywoman showed up to gavel the session in and out to circumvent something the governor wanted to do.

After Albany, our ride turned into one of the few “slogs” that we had on the trip. We were already tired had another 45-50 miles to reach our campground and pool. The roads, still scenic along the Hudson, continually went up and down hills in a systematic strength zapper. To top it off, James got a flat with just a mile to go. We pulled into the campground in the dark with our tent site number pinned to the bulletin board outside the campground office. All was quite and closed…

…including our pool.

We set up our tents, zombied through a shower, and crawled into our bags. Tired, but we slept knowing that Manhattan was definitely within reach.


JW Wells State Park to Gladstone, Michigan

Length: 44.7

Trip total: 276.9

Weather: chilly (summer polar vortex) with winds out of the northeast (straight in our faces).

This was definitely our least favorite day of the trip so far. Highway 35 to Escanaba is narrow and has a lot of semi and holiday traffic on it. At first, I could hardly stand it. I kept checking the map for an alternative route. James and I separated by a couple of hundred yards (so we didn’t both get hit by some idiot driver). Adding to the stress, the road was under construction with various widths of shoulder with cones and barrels to dodge. It would have been fun with the ability to respawn when we got plastered. The was the first day that I was glad Lori wasn’t with us. She would have been miserable and perhaps mutinied. I wouldn’t have blamed her.

In Escanaba, we found a town bigger than we expected and the best meal we’d had so far. Checking Yelp, we found the Applewood Cafe on main street. This was after spending around an hour on the beach in the great city park they have. Lake Michigan water is cold, though. We didn’t swim much. James got himself some icecream from a park vender who managed to call him both old and overweight. James kept looking at his icecream wondering why he’d gone through with the purchase.

For lunch, I had the best grilled cheese (two types of cheese, tomato, bacon, and pesto) I’ve ever had. James’ sandwhich — some grilled chicken was also incredible. The sides, fresh coleslaw with olives and warm German potato salad (who serves this??), were also incredible. I don’t ever remember liking German potato salad. Where did this place come from? There was no one else in there (we were having a late 2pm lunch), but it should have been packed. With coffee and desert (chocolate covered bannana), we got out for around $22. Definitely someplace to go back to.

Past Escanaba, we switched to Highway 2 and the scariest stretch of road we’d seen so far. It’s no different than a four-lane interstate, but BUT, the shoulder completely disappeared on us at the bottom of a hill under a railroad bridge. We were doing around 25mph, traffic was going 65mph, and we prayed as we moved quickly into the lane of traffic and back to the shoulder. We were glad in Gladstone to get off this thing for the night. We found their city campground at the edge of town and on the edge of the lake and got a site right next to the beach. Yet another incredible camp site. This time, we did get in the water and freeze our tails off for several minues before drying off in the sun. Amazing what this sequence will do for your mental state.

Dinner in town at a local pizza place. Most bacon I’ve ever had on a pizza. Bought enough to take back to camp and make breakfast the next morning.


Yep, that's Lake Michigan


Obligatory lighthouse photo


Obligatory campsite documentation

Date: Monday, July 14, 2014
Segment: Lake Winnebago to Green Bay
Length: 57.1

Trip total: 146.3

Weather: sunny and mild, high 60s, perfect riding weather

Road up and over top of the “Ledge” (Niagara Escarpment!) northeast of Fond du Lac.

Great Wisconsin back roads (really, is there a better place for road biking?) and awesome view of dairies and the wind farm. Again, got on the Fox River rail-to-trail that really slowed us down at first (lost about 3-4 mph over roads). Advantage of rails-to-trails? They’re close to the as-the-crow-flies route. We tried back road alternatives, but they turned out to be too long.

Figuring (correctly) that our legs would be shot after the second day, we rolled the dice with Hotwire and got the Tundra Lodge just down the road from Lambeau Field. Beer and a hot tube helped with recovery. Of course, had to send this photo to the spouses to prove the depths of our suffering.


Important stop for any Wisconsin bike tour


Implementing recovery procedures


Best BBQ in Green Bay

Date: Sunday, July 13, 2014

Fort Atkinson to Columbia Park (on east shore of Lake Winnebago)


89.5 miles
Trip total: 89.5 miles

Today we hoped to start with a bit of a bang — hopefully not running into anything or hitting the pavement, but starting with a strong day to wake up ye’ old muscles.

Planning the trip, I tried to take as many dedicated bike routes as possible — sort of a geographic sample of the current state of biking routes across the Midwest. Today, we f

ound out that not all rails-to-trails paths are the same. I’ve complained about the state of the trails in our neighborhood before, but no longer — the DNR does a pretty good job. The surfaces can very a lot, and we found out that soft, muddy trails do not lead to efficient travel — especially with 25mm tires. We took the Wild Goose Trail its full length to Fond du Lac, and it wore us out. Thirty-five miles of soft trail that we could only do 12-13 mph on. It was pretty, but not a great way to cover ground fast. Take the back to roads. As we got close to Fond du Lac, I expected that the trail would

improve and we’d see more people (it was Sunday), but it didn’t change all that much. In Fond Du Lac, they have “The Loop” which was a great urban bike trail that included the lakeshore park — a must for anyone traveling through town.

After town, we headed around the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago to Columbia Park. Turned out to be an great place for our first night. Showers, power (for phones), and nice shady tent sites. AND…a supper club — Jim and Linda’s — right next door. Couple of beers, a great meal, and an easy stumble back to the camp site.


Wild Goose Trail


Columbia Park campsite

travel down 151, great camping place, great dinner at the supper club

Hmm…amazed how long it’s been since I’ve last made a post. Well, we’re back on the bikes again (along with James Hartwick from last year’s trip) on a more ambitious trip — 21 days from Wisconsin to New York City. We didn’t necessarily plan it this way, but after looking over our route, I realized that we’re closely following the full extent of the Niagara Escarpment from Wisconsin through the Great Lakes to eastern New York (and beyond). Looking over the profiles of each of our biking days, it’s pretty clear when we’re climbing or descenting the Escarpment. To James’ dismay, this meant quite a few hills to climb with fully loaded bikes but also meant seeing some incredible Midwestern terrain.


So, with this ambiguity in mind, we’ve christened our ride “Escape from/to(?) the Escarpment.” Here goes.

Maps of each of our days: RideWithGPS (on phone, so excuse if it doesn’t work well)

The recently released campaign contributions available at the FEC’s website (http://www.fec.gov/disclosurep/pnational.do) provide another measure (along with all of the recent polling we’re hearing) of each candidate’s support in Wisconsin and differences in the types of supporters. Note that I’m only exploring individual “hard” dollar contributions to each candidate. These totals don’t include regular or Super PAC contributions or the nebulous and more difficult to track “social issue” groups.

First, the contribution totals for both candidates (up to Oct 17, 2012):

Candidate # of contributors Total contributions $$ Average contribution
Romney 8,841 $3,831,521 $433
Obama 40,933 $4,409,612 $108

In dollar totals, Obama has a slight edge over Romney and, taken alone, would indicate numbers similar to the polls — a narrow edge in Obama’s favor. The number of contributors, however, reveal a substantial difference — Obama has almost five times as many individuals contributing to his campaign.

As maps, these numbers tell a similar story. The first maps show the difference between total dollars contributed and number of contributors by zip code in Wisconsin. Zip codes with blue circles indicate more contributions or contributors for Obama while those with red circles indicate more for Romney.

Difference in total dollar amount of contributions by zip code:

Difference in number of contributors by zip code:

Large contributors are most likely to influence a politician’s direction and policies. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign has posted a table of Walker contributions exceeding $1,000. Of the $4,753,895 shown on this map, $2,837,359 or 60% is from outside Wisconsin. Here’s the map:

(Click on icon for details of each donation)

(Full disclosure — my wife is currently leading the recall campaign against Senator Fitzgerald; see Recall Fitz)

Several weeks ago I heard Mike McCabe from the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign (WDC) talk about the growing power of money in our state politics and, in his words, its equivalence to modern-day bribery. My attention had mostly been on the role of Citizens United in our national politics and not the details of state politics. I also discovered, in subsequent searching, that there’s a treasure trove of data the WDC’s campaign finance database. Here’s an initial look at my state senator’s, Scott Fitzgerald, individual contributions for the last election cycle (starting from Nov 5, 2009):

Click to view interactive map
Click here for the full interactive map.

What is really interesting is how little of his money came from his own district. Approximately 86% of his contributions were from outside the 13th — only 14% came from within his own district. He received more money (15% of the total) from outside the state. Look over those out-of-state donors, I ran across the name “W. Preston Baldwin” who shows up as the chair on ALEC’s Private Enterprise Board.

Who, then, is he accountable to?

Note: only free and publicly available data and software (QGIS and LibreOffice) was used to generate this map on my personal computer.

First Amendment rights apparently don’t apply for parking. That’s what the Johnson Creek police chief told me before hanging up. My wife, Lori Compas, and I were attending a protest at Diamond Precision Products in Johnson Creek, Wisconsin, today where Governor Walker was coming with a TV crew from CNN. I called to ask about the extensive “No Parking” signs that lined the streets around the company’s site and was told that they were put in place to protect public safety. When I asked for clarification on how the public’s safety was being improved, the police chief told me the conversation was finished and abruptly hung up.

Here’s a quick map of the area closed to parking (lines in blue) and the Diamond Precision Products facility (red plus sign):

View larger map

Given that parking legally required nearly a quarter-mile walk along a couple of busy county roads and both elderly and parents with small children were attending the protest, improving public safety was obviously not the prime reason for the parking restrictions.

Even if protecting Governor Walker was a prime concern (removing parking from any potential sight lines?), these restrictions were excessive. Many of the closed streets were well beyond any location where the Diamond facility was visible.

The obvious conclusion: the police restricted access to hinder protesters.

Just felt I had to document the fact.

Update: the recount results are now complete and certified (available here). Waukesha had a total of 87 votes that were changed for Prosser and Kloppenburg resulting in a 0.07% error in the original count (not including the 14,000 vote election night snafu).

As the governor is poised to sign the controversial voter ID bill in Wisconsin, what seems to be lacking on both sides of the discussion is evidence of voting irregularities or fraud. An article from yesterday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel cites 20 prosecutions of voter fraud from the November 2008 election (none of which involved voting in someone else’s name), but citizens have been presented with little additional evidence of voter fraud.

Of far greater concern for voter confidence is the state’s ability to count votes correctly. Here, we do have evidence from the recount currently underway from the Supreme Court election in April. Certified results from every county except for Waukesha are available here from the Government Accountability Board. Adding up the total number of changed votes for each candidate reveals 1,271 votes that were missed or incorrectly counted in the original vote. Here’s what the distribution of changed votes looks like across the state:

Total changed votes in recount

Obviously, the totals are larger in more highly populated counties. Below is another map showing the percentage of the total votes cast — highlighting counties within the state with the highest proportion of discrepancies. The highest percentage was 0.76% change in Waupaca County — almost every one out of a 100 votes was counted incorrectly.

Percentage of votes changed in recount

If we’re looking to instill greater confidence in the electoral process, shouldn’t we start (as Senator Lena Taylor noted) by getting the count correct? Surely in our age of technology we could do substantially better.

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