Total miles: 27.8 miles

Well, sometimes those weather forecasters are right. They were calling for rain, and it’s raining. We made it from the B&B a quarter mile to the Lake Mills trail shelter before it really started in. We debated — we could ride in the rain. A quick check of the radar showed some “yellows” heading toward “oranges” coming our way. We wimped out and hung out in the shelter watching the triathlon runners and bikers go by — they’re tougher than we are today.

James started talking about his strange ideas and future plans, so we decided that the rain didn’t look so bad. The ride must have freed some long-ago imbibed substance stored in James’ body. Actually, we’re thinking how great a travel study for students would be for this trip — take students across the state and all the geography, history, and culture they could learn along the way: A people’s history of Wisconsin: The culture, the people, and their ice cream.

After the rain let up, we hit the trail and learns what happens to this hard-packed pea gravel. It turns into a nice grey slurry with an uncanny ability to stick to your tires and be slung all over your legs, shoes, and delicate derailleurs (check out the photos). We also discovered that water bottles make for nice squirt bottles for cleaning all this stuff off. This sounds like I’m complaining, but it didn’t slow us down much even on our skinning 23mm tires.

We stayed at a friend’s apartment in downtown Madison at the end of our short, “rest” day.

By the way, breakfast at the B&B in Lake Mills was amazing. My preconceived notion that this trip was going to be tough it eroding quickly.

Distance: 62.2 miles (MapMyRide app)

After a great cup of coffee at John and Linda’s, we hit the trail and headed for Lake Shore State Park on the east side of the Summerfest grounds. The plan was to meet James (who had stayed at his sister’s place) at the far eastern edge of the park at 7 am, touch the lake, and get rolling. He showed up within minutes of our arrival, we took the obligatory selfie, touched the pristine waters of Lake Michigan, and got on our bikes.

For anyone that hasn’t bike in Milwaukee, the trails leading west from the Lake are a pleasant surprise. First off, we did have to traverse a half mile or so of city streets, and Milwaukee drivers seem to be very accommodating. The rest of the ride through the Menomonee Valley on the Hank Aaron Trail was great — at times you couldn’t believe you were in the middle of a major city.

Rest of the day: breakfast at Dave’s in Waukesha, zipped down the Glacial Drumlin Trail, and arrived at the Sweet Autumn Inn in Lake Mills at around 3:30 pm.

We stored the bikes, grabbed showers, and headed into town to find our “recovery drink.” We didn’t have walk long. We found Timber Creek Pizza Company on the town “triangle” where they serve the locally-famous Mullen’s Ice Cream from Watertown. We all bought and scarfed down tall shakes and malts. And Lori bought a taco.

Lori had friends in town who just happened to have ripe raspberries in their backyard, so we walked to their place and chatted in the backyard while picking their canes clean. Aren’t friends great.

Now for dinner. Every time we’ve driven through Lake Mills, we’ve seen a ton of people at the local Mexican restaurant. Tonight was no different. We sat down, ordered a round of waters, and proceeded to fill up on chips and salsa. Lori gets credit for noticing that margaritas were half off on Thursdays, so we decided that a second “recovery” drink was in order. Went well with the fajitas and burritos.


Distance: 14.5 miles (from MapMyRide app)

One of my goals on this trip was to see if we could do the whole thing without using a car. I couldn’t stand the irony of being dropped off by a car at one end of the state and be picked up on the other side by car — effectively driving twice across the state — to do an “eco-friendly” bike ride. So, I think we’ve figured it out. To get to Milwaukee, we’re taking Badger Bus from Johnson Creek (about a 15 mile ride from home) to Milwaukee’s bus depot, about 3 miles from where we’re staying the 3rd Ward. Badger Bus is a very bike-friendly company — no box needed — just throw your bike (gently) in the luggage hold and give the drive $10 extra.

That’s a great plan as long as you leave for the bus on time. Both Lori and I had really busy Wednesdays. Rushing back home, I spaced it on the time management and only gave us just over an hour to get to Johnson Creek. Doable, but not the leisurely afternoon ride that I promised Lori and not the relaxed start to the trip she wanted. So, a bit of excitement as we headed north pedaling and drafting as fast as we could go. With Lori grumbling at my math skills, we made it just in time (caught the 5:45 pm bus in arriving at 7 pm).

After the uneventful bus ride, we met Jeff Zimmerman at the bus depot and he took us on a hair-raising ride through the streets of downtown. We dodged cars, buses, potholes, and one horse and buggy on the way east. In the 3rd Ward, we met John and Linda at their place, stashed the bikes, and headed to Cafe Benelux for a beer and some dinner (ever tried “pannenkocken?”).

Thanks to John and Linda for letting us stay at their place!

The recently released campaign contributions available at the FEC’s website ( 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)

Employment map, March 2011-2012 (click for larger image)

I’ve watched several unemployment reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) roll by without diving too much into the details. What I have seen is both the Democrats and the Republicans cherry picking data at times to highlight either job losses or gains in the state. What’s a trend? …well, it usually depends on how you define your baseline. Democrats start counting in June while the Walker administration likes to start from January of last year — presumably the time period he’s influenced those numbers.

The recent data from the BLS is different. It covers the period from March 2011 to March 2012. Given when Act 10, the Budget Repair Bill, was unveiled and publicly debated, this March to March period reflects when Walker’s policies have been in place. Arguably, this is the best measure of the effectiveness of his key policies in creating jobs and turning the Wisconsin economy around. Wisconsin was the only state in the union to have statistically significant job losses over this period.

The recalls underway in Wisconsin present an interesting opportunity to compare two forms of democratic participation: signature gathering and campaign contributions. Both have raised questions about what constitutes valid exercises of democracy and representations of the people’s will. With open records laws in Wisconsin, it’s relatively easy to see who is contributing time or money to either process. Petition circulators can come from anywhere in the USA and so can campaign contributions.

Here’s an initial look at the recall effort against Senator Scott Fitzgerald compared to his 2010 campaign contributions. On the left are the mapped addresses of each recall petition circulator (with the size of the circles indicating the relative number of signatures collected); on the right is Fitzgerald’s campaign contributions (with the size of the circles indicating the relative size of campaign contributions):

Recall versus contributions
Link to larger interactive maps (may take a while to load)

While we could perform statistical analyses on distance-weighted averages, standard deviation ellipses, or the like, the distributions are fairly clear. Unlike most of Fitzgerald’s campaign contributions, most of the petition circulators come from his own district — his own constituents collected the vast majority of the signatures to recall him.

Data sources: petition circulators from Karen Tuerk via the GAB; campaign contributions from Wisconsin Democracy Campaign database

Full disclosure — my wife, Lori Compas, organized the recall effort in Fitzgerald’s district.

Lori, my wife, asked if there was any way to visualize the signatures she’s been collecting for the Senator Scott Fitzgerald’s recall. She was interested in both inspiring volunteers and in analyzing the distribution of signers. After finding a post about QGIS‘s Time Manager, this was relatively easy to pull off:

Short version of procedure

  1. Collect addresses in spreadsheet (LibreOffice).
  2. Modify date of signature to conform with Time Manager’s format and add random offset (so all signatures on the same day don’t appear at exactly the same time).
  3. Geocode using GPSVisualizer’s batch geocoder (built on Yahoo’s geocoder).
  4. Import delimited text (*.csv) file into QGIS. Export layer as shapefile.
  5. Create three versions as suggested by underdark and set Time Manager settings.
  6. Export sequence to series of images.
  7. Use AviSynth and VirtualDub to create video.

(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.