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Lemond Rider
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Planning to take the family to Wisconsin this summer to ride the Elroy - Sparta and "400" bike trails. The "family" is the four of us with two kids, ages 7 and 4 1/2.

I am looking for info on the "best" parts of the trail to ride, i.e. interesting scenery, and good places to picnic / lunch / commune with nature. We won't be doing the whole trail, just bits and pieces, maybe twenty mile round trips.

Also, I am looking for lodging. Preferably, a "suite" with separate rooms - one for the kids and one for us. A pool would be a nice addition.

Come on, Cheeseheads (I am originally from Milwaukee, my wife is from Oshkosh), help me out!
 

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my wife and i did it a few years back. i got a lot of infor from Mike Bentley's site:
http://www.mikebentley.com/bike/sparta/

he has a ton of stuff, including links about the trail and lodging:
http://www.mikebentley.com/bike/sparta/eslinks.htm

we stayed at the Country Inn in Sparta. it was about 1 mile from the termination of the trail. they had a nice pool, outdoor grill, and pretty good breakfast.

we used Speed's Bicycle Shop for getting us to the start of the trail:
http://www.speedsbike.com/shuttle.html

the day we rode, we biked down to the termination spot, Speed's showed up and loaded our stuff, then drove us to Elroy, giving a nice tour-guide talk along the way. we were lucky enough to get there during a farm auction. complete with pigs, mules, horses, llamas, and amish. well, the amish weren't being auctioned off, but they were buyin and sellin.

the trail is fun, especially the tunnels, but i need to warn you that not everbody loves it. my wife, for instance. while she liked it and talks about taking our son there someday, she wasn't crazy about it at the time. there are no real hills, which is good, but between each tunnel there is a long, slow, gradual incline. nothing awful, but it ended up getting to my wife.

and as far as fun things to see? well, if youre not in to nature, the only thing you will like is Gina's Pie are Squared in Wilton. the pies really are good. and square. my wife still talks about those pies. and their lunches are good, too.

when we finshed, we took time in the hot tub, then a swim, then grabbed some pizza at a nice mom-and-pop shop. there is a movie theater in sparta, but not much else. well, if you like the space program, there is the deke slayton museum...

we thought the best way to do this with kids was to drive to sparta, stay at the hotel, shuttle to elroy in the morning, do the trail, hang out in the pool, then go to the dells either that evening or the next morning. because you will only be doing a small section, you might wanna stay in sparta, ride down to the trail, go to the first tunnel (which i think will be the longest one), then come back. can't recall how far away gina's is from there...find that out and you may want to take a shuttle there, or have the shuttle pick you up at gina's. make the ride a destination.
i had a great time. my wife thought it was "ok." i just asked her about it, and she thinks the 4 year old might have trouble. one of the tunnels is so long you cant see either end from the middle. hope the lil one doesn't get frightened. i remember seeing a family with a trailer and small bike. when the kid got tired they stuffed his bike in the trailer with him and the dad chugged along.

my trail advice is to bring as much repair stuff as you can. and check every bike and piece of equipment. i lost a cleat screw in the first tunnel and had to ride the rest of the way without clipping my left foot in. and bring plenty to drink.

my wife's trail advice is to go to the bathroom each chance you get. no places to go on the trail between towns.

here is another review of the trail:
http://www.bamacyclist.com/journal2005/2005North/day33.htm
 

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cgilker said:
Planning to take the family to Wisconsin this summer to ride the Elroy - Sparta and "400" bike trails. The "family" is the four of us with two kids, ages 7 and 4 1/2.

I am looking for info on the "best" parts of the trail to ride, i.e. interesting scenery, and good places to picnic / lunch / commune with nature. We won't be doing the whole trail, just bits and pieces, maybe twenty mile round trips.

Also, I am looking for lodging. Preferably, a "suite" with separate rooms - one for the kids and one for us. A pool would be a nice addition.

Come on, Cheeseheads (I am originally from Milwaukee, my wife is from Oshkosh), help me out!
I think to find suites AND pools you are going to have to go all the way to the Dells.

Most of the hotels within riding distance of trail are small family operations. Some have outdoor pools, but most don't have pools at all. For your purpose I would think you would want to be somewhere in the middle of the trail in the Wilton, Kendal, or Norwalk area. That way you can ride east one day and west the next. However if the lodging criteria trumps easy access to trail it dosn't matter because you will be loading and hauling bikes to any access point along the way. I think Tunnel Trail Campground sells pool passes for non-guests (call to confirm this, they may only do this at slow times). Their pool is nothing to write home about, but it gets you wet.

The tunnels are the fun part of the trail. Bring flashlights for everyone. If anyone chills easily, bring windbreakers. I'd recommend a sweatshirt or something for the 4 year old. You'll want them for the long one and the wet one. Tunnel #3 has a natural spring running in it. I've never ridden the 400.

Scot
 

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I second Pie are Squared - really great pie. My wife still talks about it too. Another second to the Mom & Pop Pizza joint in Sparta, I think it's called Slice of Chicago, really cheesey! Can anyone confirm this?
 

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