Bike Love: Summer 2016

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Summer is the perfect time to get out for a bike ride. Always up for learning even more about the Driftless – and bike rides – we’re going to be checking out another part of our region for a ride: rural Viroqua for Bike the Barns Driftless! Watch Facebook and Instagram for our updates coming right up Sunday, June 26, 2016!

It’s clear that here at Inspire(d), we love the bicycle life! Enjoying a beautiful day on a bike is a great way to see the landscape, immerse in the outdoors, and meet great people. (Not to mention the exercise!) The Driftless Region provides fantastic riding and challenges in all directions – winding rural ribbons of highway, paved bike trails through rich environments, endless rural gravel roads, tight rocky singletrack, and hills galore. It doesn’t take much to convince us that it’s the right moment to get out and crank a few miles, and this summer is shaping up to offer some fantastic and unique experiences from behind the handlebars. In fact, follow along via social media as we attend FairShare CSA Coalition’s Bike the Barns Driftless event in late June! It starts and ends in Viroqua, Wisconsin, and features 52 miles of riding with delicious stops for local fare along the way. Check out the sidebar for more bike-powered events this the summer in our region. Ride on!

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Bike the Barns Driftless!

The fourth annual Bike the Barns Driftless features the rolling hills of the Coulee Valley. The ride starts and ends at Kickapoo Coffee / VEDA Food Enterprise Center in Viroqua, Wisconsin, and will feature two farm visits, a creamery, and tasty local food throughout. Proceeds from this event benefit FairShare and its Partner Shares program, which helps low-income families purchase and learn more about local, organic vegetables.

Who: Anyone can ride, as long as you can make the 50+ miles! Who does it benefit? FairShare CSA Coalition, based in Madison, Wisconsin, and serving Southwest Wisconsin. Their mission? “From farm to table and back to farm, we bridge the gap between area farmers and folks who are longing for a deeper connection to food and community.”

For over 20 years, FairShare Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Coalition (formerly Madison Area CSA Coalition,) has worked to link local people to local food and farmers. Through education, outreach, community building, and resource sharing, FairShare is committed to raising the bar on the quality and accessibility of CSA shares in Southern Wisconsin.

What: A 52-mile day of biking, with featuring great friends and food – a breakfast snack, plated lunch, afternoon snack/dessert, and post-ride refreshments. All in the name of FairShare Coalition and community supported agriculture!

Where: Registration for 2016 is now closed. Visit www.csacoalition.org/events next spring to sign up for Bike the Barns Driftless 2017.

When: Sunday, June 26, 2016

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Can’t Make Bike the Barns Driftless? Here are some other great rides to join as well!

closeuptireRoot River Bluff & Valley Bicycle Tour
July 8-10, 2016

Pre-register for this fully supported three-day tour of the Root River Valley and Trail. From Whalan through Lanesboro, Fountain, Preston, Harmony, Houston, Rushford, and Peterson – including cool stops along the way and nightly events. Jump on and just enjoy the ride – all the plans are ready-made for you! www.rootrivertrail.org

Cedar Valley Gran Fondo
August 20, 2016

Enjoy the challenge of this endurance bicycle ride (60 or 100 miles) through the Cedar Valley and whoop it up after at the finale, FondoFest! The fun begins and ends in downtown Cedar Falls with live music, local eats and brews, and even an all-kids “FUNdo Area” complete with a Strider Bike Course and more. granfondocedarvalley.com

La Crosse Bicycle Festival
September 2-5, 2016

Crank up the miles and fun over Labor Day Weekend in La Crosse! Check out multiple self-supported routes and group rides all starting from Cameron Park. Additional events, parties, and the one-and-only Beer By Bike Brigade, which rolls out Saturday evening, are all part of the fun! www.explorelacrosse.com/bikefest

Ride The Ridges, Winona
September 17, 2016

The fourth annual Winona Rotary “Ride the Ridges” takes bicyclists through some of the most scenic areas of Southeast Minnesota. Choose one of four routes, each with spectacular elevation and views of the Mississippi Valley and beyond. All proceeds go to the Winona Rotary to support various projects like Feed My Starving Children, Winona Volunteer Services – Kids Summer Lunch Program, and literacy initiatives. www.ridetheridges.info

Ice Cream, You Scream: Driftless Treats

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by Sara Friedl-Putnam • Photos by Inspire(d)
Originally published in the Summer 2014 Inspire(d)

Deep in the recesses of the Library of Congress lies a treasured document authored by Thomas Jefferson – and, no, it’s not a copy of the Declaration of Independence.

This document, handwritten by Jefferson himself in the 1780s, calls for “two bottles of good cream,” “six yolks of eggs,” “a half-pound of sugar,” and “one vanilla bean.” It is, according to the library, one of the first recipes for ice cream recorded in the United States.

Today, more than three centuries later, the International Dairy Foods Association ranks Americans as the top consumers of ice cream in the world, with more than 48 pints of ice cream downed per person per year. So pervasive is our passion for ice cream, in fact, that Ronald Reagan declared July as National Ice Cream Month exactly three decades ago.

Luckily, area residents will find plenty of ice cream shops eager to satisfy their cravings for this delicious frozen concoction throughout the summer months. Whether your preference is soft-serve or hand-dipped, chocolate or vanilla, go on, read on, and then treat yourself to a cup or cone of ice cream at one (or all!) of the following Driftless Region establishments.

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The Whippy Dip
121 College Drive, Decorah, Iowa
Owners: Rosie and Greg Carolan
Open seasonally

It may not rank up there with Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July, but make no mistake about it: Opening day at the Whippy Dip is among the most anticipated days of the year in Winneshiek County.

Owner Rosie Carolan estimates a couple thousand people indulged in a soft-serve ice-cream treat – cookie-dough Tornado, anyone? – at the Whippy Dip on opening day last March. “We had long lines stretching both directions along College Drive for hours,” she says.

There’s nothing fancy about the Whippy Dip, but therein lies its (considerable) charm. Whether you crave vanilla or chocolate (or both!), served in a cone or cup, this iconic Decorah business – marking 60 years this past spring – sticks to the basics, dishing up ice cream plain (or with any number of toppings) sure to please even the most discriminating palates. “We’ve heard very few complaints,” says Carolan, who, with her husband, Greg, has owned and operated the Whippy Dip since 1985.

According to Carolan, the Whippy Dip’s fans have a former Decorah milkman, Derwood Baker, to thank for opening the shop back in 1954. “He delivered milk early in the morning and then worked here in the afternoon,” says Carolan, the fifth Whippy Dip owner. And while the ice cream machines, menu, and milk supplier have changed over the years, the bricks and mortar have remained the same.

“We have a great building in a great location,” she says. “We’re near the campground, the bike trail, the movie theatre, Luther College, the local schools, the swimming pool, and, of course, the Upper Iowa River.”

Still, location – or the contagious Whippy Dip nostalgia – doesn’t entirely account for the establishment’s staying power. “We use premium dairy products to ensure our ice cream is rich and creamy; we offer other fare like tacos-in-a-bag and foot-long hotdogs; and we have unbelievable help,” says Carolan, who employs nearly two-dozen high school students as well as a handful of adults. (Her husband, Greg, power-washes the premises every morning and serves as its go-to mechanic.)

Carolan admits that those sunny summer Friday nights when lines stretch down College Drive do generate a bit of stress, but that comes with the terrain of running such a well-known and loved business.

And the feeling is mutual, says Carolan: “I love running the Whippy Dip – I love my employees, I love our customers, and I am very grateful to be doing what I am doing.”

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The Sugar Bowl
410 West Water Street, Decorah, Iowa
www.sugarbowlicecream.com
Owner: Craig Running
Open seasonally

Craig Running knew a good thing when he saw it.

A longtime Decorah resident – he was raised in the town – Running believed buying retail space along the town’s main Water Street was a “win-win situation” when he seized the opportunity in 1999.

“I tore down the rental building that was here and then spent eight years designing and building this space,” he says of the Sugar Bowl, the balconied, two-storied ice cream parlor he opened in 2008. “I thought that there was a niche market for quality, hand-dipped ice cream, and I was pretty sure it would work…who doesn’t love ice cream?”

Who indeed – especially when that ice cream is made by the Chocolate Shoppe, an award-winning producer of hand-dipped ice cream headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin.

According to Running, it was more than serendipity that led him to select the Chocolate Shoppe as his ice cream vendor. “I had a conversation with a man who made it a point to mention that the best ice cream he had ever had was from the Chocolate Shoppe,” he says. “I called up the company and told them I was opening an ice cream shop, and they immediately sent 16 different pints to my front door. By the time I polished off the first pint, the decision had been made.”

Running currently dishes up 24 different flavors of the Chocolate Shoppe’s ice cream from his dipping station, with choices ranging from Old Fashioned Vanilla to Kitty Kitty Bang Bang (cheesecake-flavored ice cream with raspberry flavoring, Oreos, and chocolate chunks). The most popular flavors? Zanzibar Chocolate (containing three kinds of cocoa) and Zoreo (made of Zanzibar ice cream, marshmallows, Oreos, and chocolate chunks).

And while ice cream remains the star of this Water Street establishment, its décor – described by Running as “industrial deco” – has garnered plenty of admirers as well.

The bright-white building contains a treasure trove of antiques, from a 1952 Whizzer motorbike to a Popsicle Red Ball Express train (one of only about 200 made). “It was a long process, but I enjoyed acquiring these items,” he says. “I had collected and restored cars, trucks, and motorcycles for a long time so it wasn’t such a stretch to start collecting and restoring things that were displayable here.”

As Running envisioned when he opened the Sugar Bowl, the combination of rich-and-creamy ice cream and eye-catching antiques has proved irresistible for many a Decorah resident and visitor. “It’s been quite successful,” he says with a smile. “And business gets better every year.”

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Homestead Dairy
850 Rossville Road, Waukon, Iowa
www.wwhomesteaddairy.com
Owners: Tom Weighner, Paul Weighner, and Tom Walleser
Open year-round

Homestead Dairy has dished up ice cream for less than three years, but it already serves a frozen treat literally fit for a king.

The dairy had been making ice cream for only a few months when Luther College’s general manager of dining services presented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: Would the Homestead Dairy accept a commission to make cinnamon ice cream in honor of Norway’s King Harald V and Queen Sonja for an all-Iowa-foods banquet?

They jumped at the chance.

“It was pretty nerve-wracking,” admits Angela Weighner, who makes the dairy’s ice cream using only milk produced on its two Northeast Iowa dairy farms.

She need not have worried: King Harald gave the cinnamon ice cream an unequivocal thumbs-up at a news conference held at the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum a few hours after the banquet.

Few would disagree with that assessment. The dairy has created 40 ice cream flavors to date. “We take the time to ensure we produce a quality product,” says Weighner, who credits the rich taste and creamy texture of its ice cream to the fact that it uses pasteurized, not homogenized milk, meaning the milk is less processed. “We also figure out the right amount of flavorings and mix-ins and make only small batches at a time.”

Those batches are sold at several restaurants (including the Pedal Pushers Café in Lanesboro, Minnesota) and stores throughout the Driftless Region, and, of course, at the ice cream parlor the dairy opened in Waukon in 2012. In addition to seating both inside and out, the parlor offers 16 different flavors in its dipping station – coffee toffee is Weighner’s favorite – and most of its other two-dozen flavors (including the cinnamon!) are available in take-home pint cartons too. The dairy also sells fresh creamline milk, cheese curds, butter, block cheese, and ice-cream cakes.

“It’s hard work but very fun to come up with new flavors that people really like,” says Weighner when asked the best part of running an ice-cream shop. “There’s really nothing that compares to seeing families spending time here together enjoying our ice cream.”

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The Pearl Ice Cream Parlor
207 Pearl Street, La Crosse, Wisconsin
www.pearlstreetwest.com
Owners: Michelle and T.J. Peterslie
Open year-round

Not all that long ago, bikers were a familiar sight at 207 Pearl Street in downtown La Crosse. “It was a very popular biker bar,” recalls T.J. Peterslie. He and his wife, Michelle, bought the building in 1990. “On a nice Saturday afternoon, it wasn’t unusual to see more than 80 choppers parked outside.”

Today, the location attracts a very different clientele. Gone are the choppers. In their place? Tables and chairs packed with ice cream lovers of all ages enjoying a scoop from The Pearl Ice Cream Parlor.

Peterslie describes the transformation as a labor of love.

“Ice cream parlors were a prime social meeting place from the 1800s into the 1900s,” he says. “We wanted the Pearl to be a place where people could bring the whole family, enjoy a treat, and step back in time to when things were simpler and less stressful.”

To evoke the feel of an old-fashioned ice-cream parlor, the Peterslies scoured the Midwest, picking up the tables, chairs, mixers, sundae dishes, dipping cabinets (circa 1940s), and a bubble-gum machine that all help give the Pearl its unique charm. “You can’t just order these things,” he says.

It was Peterslie’s late father, Oscar, who created most of the ice cream flavors – from Mississippi mud and butter pecan to the bestselling vanilla – as well as the fudge and other sweet confections for which the Pearl has become so revered in and well beyond La Crosse over the past two decades. (The Peterslie’s daughters – Dani, Azia, and Tara – have followed in their grandfather’s footsteps and make much of the ice cream and candy sold at the Pearl these days.)

“My dad was adamant that we serve homemade ice cream, and he is why the Pearl is here,” he says. “We enjoyed designing the Pearl, but once we opened it, running it was like running any other business. My dad took ice cream-making courses at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, researched recipes online, bought our ice cream-making equipment down in Texas, and was just magic working behind the counter.”

While remaining tight-lipped on their ice cream making process – “We can’t really talk too much about how we do what we do,” he says – Peterslie says they’ve reaped nothing but rewards since entering the ice cream biz more than two decades ago.

“It’s a happy business,” he says. “When customers come in, they have the attitude that they are going to treat themselves to something good, and you in turn feel good knowing you are selling them something that they really want.”

ALSO WELL WORTH THE TRIP

Barrel Drive In
2014 Highway 150S, West Union, Iowa
Open seasonally

Top off a burger and fries with a shake, sundae, or cone served by carhops at this classic drive-in restaurant.

Country View Dairy
15197 230th Street, Hawkeye, Iowa

Wonder where the popular Yotopia Frozen Yogurt in downtown Iowa City, Iowa, procures its frozen yogurt? Look no further than Country View Dairy, purveyor of many flavors of yogurt found in stores throughout the Driftless Region.

Culver’s
904 Short Street, Decorah, Iowa

It’s not just the home of the ButterBurger. This restaurant serves fresh soft-serve frozen custard with a variety of toppings.

Happy Joe’s Pizza and Ice Cream
105 East Water Street, Decorah, Iowa

Sundae anyone? Follow up a tasty pizza with your choice of classic hand-dipped ice cream flavors and treats.

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Sara Friedl-Putnam, an avid ice cream lover, thoroughly enjoyed doing “research” for this article and highly recommends readers sample a treat from all of the friendly Driftless Region establishments profiled in it.

 

Fear Fear

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The only thing to fear is fear itself. Man that is a genius quote. You’ve heard it, right? It’s from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inaugural speech back in 1933. Things were tumultuous then. Things are tumultuous now. And we wonder how we can move forward; how we can conquer the fear. Here’s what I’m thinking:

It’s totally natural to have fear. Fear of heights. Fear of public speaking. Fear of starting a new year at school, a new job, a new relationship. Fear of riding on a plane for the first time or, if you’re like me, fear of bats (ugh).

So often, this fear comes from a place of ignorance, irrationality, or preconceived notions. It doesn’t make the fear any less valid, but it’s incredibly important to acknowledge its source.

But this emotion – fear – it can’t control us. Think of all the times you’ve overcome your fears: You started that new job and kicked ass. You rode on a plane and went thousands of miles in a few hours (wow!). You conquered something that was holding you back, and it was exhilarating. When you realize you can take on your fears, you can do anything.

Fear of each other and our differences – these are the fears I want to talk about today. So much of what’s wrong with the world right now stems from not understanding or being willing to accept that all of us humans are different.

You and your wife? You are totally different, right? (Think about how you load the dishwasher, amIright?) Your best friend is not exactly like you either, thank goodness. Otherwise you’d never be able to kick each others’ butts into gear when you need it.

What else? Your Muslim neighbor worships her God differently than you worship yours. Your atheist co-worker goes on a hike in the woods every Sunday. The cashier at the grocery store doesn’t own a television while the person grabbing organic pears in the produce aisle is a Game of Thrones aficionado. We all love to do different things.

But the fear comes from thinking that one way is the right way. It festers and grows and fear becomes hate that becomes, maybe, evil. Then it all leads to war and terror and hate crimes and a whole bunch of isolated, disconnected people.

So we ask ourselves: What can we do? It’s too big! What can we do?!

Don’t worry – there’s always something we can do.

Maybe we all love chocolate chip cookies. I bet we might. Try making some for your neighbors – especially the ones you haven’t met yet.

I’m certain we all love laughing. And I’m with Buddy the Elf – smiling’s my favorite. Smile at the people you cross paths with on the street. Look them in the eye. Especially if your first thought is to look away. Make eye contact. Smile. It’s simple.

We’re all looking for connections. Strike up a conversation with a person in a crowd that looks out of place. Odds are they want to be welcomed in – otherwise they wouldn’t be in that crowd. Don’t assume they’re strange or weird or dangerous. They’re definitely not like you – no one is – and that’s the beauty of it all! Remember the exhilaration of overcoming fears. Of trying new things. Of making new friends. Maybe you’ll shed some important light to an issue that new friend hadn’t thought of yet. Maybe you’ll humanize an issue for them, put a fear to rest, and change the world for the better.

The best way to end fear of the unknown is to get to know it.

Trying new things can be scary. It’s comfortable to stay in your house, in your pajamas, turn on another episode of the Walking Dead, and wait for it all to burn the f*&k down.

But the reality is that we don’t really want it all to burn down.

Mr. Rogers says look for the helpers. I love that quote. But here’s a secret: You’re one of the helpers. We’re all the helpers. We’re all the heroes. We all have the opportunity to affect change. Look inside, start with yourself, and start today.

XOX,
Aryn

P.S.
And for f*cks sake, vote! If you missed the primaries, well… no regrets, but do better next time, and VOTE this November. Educate yourself on ALL the politicians on your ballot and VOTE!  It is so important and we are so lucky we live in a democracy that allows this. The system might not be ideal for you, but it will only change if you vote in people you believe will help better it.

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The Only Thing to Fear is Fear Itself – Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inaugural speech, 1933:

“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”