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Bicycle vacationers pedal into Superior

While a lot of people might bring their bikes along on their summer vacation, for 300 cycling enthusiasts who pedaled into Superior on Sunday, their bikes are their vacation.

Frank and Vincent Montabon
Frank Montabon and his son, Vincent, 15, ride into Sunday's Bike Northwoods stop at Superior Middle School. The two are among 300 riders who are taking part in the six-day, 300-mile cycling tour. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

While a lot of people might bring their bikes along on their summer vacation, for 300 cycling enthusiasts who pedaled into Superior on Sunday, their bikes are their vacation.

The group was on their second day of a six-day cycling tour, called Bike Northwoods, when they arrived at Superior Middle School in the afternoon.

The 300-mile trip started in Iron River on Saturday and will spend two nights in Superior before heading to stopovers in Port Wing and Bayfield and then ending back in Iron River. Side loops are planned for the North Shore and Bayfield areas.

It's the 15th year for the Bike Northwoods tour, which alternates routes along what organizers call "the best two-lane rural road system in the nation." That means nice blacktop,

scenic vistas and ample room for bikes to share the roadway with vehicles.

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This year's tour cyclists range from age 8 to 78, many of whom stay in tents along the way while others stay in motels or lodges. On Sunday night, some were planning to stay in the school gymnasium on cots.

"It's a vacation on your bike. Some of the riders have been doing it for all 15 years," said Erich Schramm, co-owner of Madison-based Two Bicycles and a Map Ltd. and sponsor of the tour. "It's just a fun way to see a great part of the state, with great people."

Riders come from across the U.S. and Canada.

There's no racing involved, no marathon rides. There's ample time to stop and smell the wild roses or white pines, or stop and eat at a local pie shop or ice cream shack.

It's a supported trip, meaning folks don't have to pack all their gear; it comes along on trucks and is waiting for them when they arrive at each stop.

Frank Montabon and his son, Vincent, 15, rode into Superior on a tandem recumbent bike a while ahead of wife Sheryl and daughter Lillian, 12. The Ames, Iowa, family is made up of veteran bicycle tourists. It's the second time they have done the Bike Northwoods tour, and they say it's a little less crazy that the famed cross-Iowa tour held each year that attracts more than 8,000 cyclists.

"It's a nice sized tour, not so many people that you have to wait in line for an hour for food or showers. The scenery is great. And the weather is nice; not too hot," Frank said. "It's a very relaxing way to travel. You don't have to think ... especially about work. I won't check my e-mail all week. My office may have burned down and I wouldn't know about it."

The Montabans scarfed down some hot dogs after the day's trek, and there were plenty of baked goods -- pie is a favorite of bicyclists -- and even root-beer floats awaiting bikers on their arrival. "You can eat anything you want and not gain weight on these trips," Frank noted.

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"I burned 1,840 calories on that ride" from Iron River to Superior, said Sue Karbacel of Palos Verdes, Calif. She was on the trip with a friend, both of them veteran cyclists. "It's a very nice ride; nice greenery along the way."

The Schramms are noted across Wisconsin for their cycling tours. The couple in June staged their 29th annual Great Annual Bicycle Adventure Along the Wisconsin River (GRABAAWR) from Land O' Lakes in the northeast to Prairie Du Chien in the southwest. Next month they'll host their 36th annual Schramm's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Wisconsin (SAGBRAW), from Marinette to Kewaskum. They also have tours planed in France and Hawaii.

Mike and Johanna Allex
Mike and Johanna Allex of Verona, Wis., refuel and rehydrate while more cyclists arrive at Superior Middle School on Sunday afternoon during a stop on the Bike Northwoods tour. (Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com)

Related Topics: SUPERIOR
John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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