Ride to Richard Bong State Recreation Area
Not many moms get to share their favorite hobby with their 19-year-old on his birthday weekend, but that is what my son and I did when he returned from his first year of college this past May. We rode from the northern suburbs of Chicago to Richard Bong State Recreation Area in southern Wisconsin, a distance of about 55 miles.
Once there, we met up with fellow touring cyclists from Milwaukee's Cream City Cycle Club and camped out for two nights. The Richard Bong State Recreation Area, once designated to be a jet fighter base (it never happened), was named for Major Richard Ira "Dick" Bong, a farm boy from near Poplar, Wisconsin, who became America's leading World War II air ace. He shot down at least 40 Japanese planes over the Pacific.
We went on a beautiful loop ride to Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, and stopped at the AEppelTreow Winery, which makes hard ciders and brandies from apples! And at night in camp we saw thousands of stars not visible at home, and heard the sounds of nature from our two-person tent.
All of these refreshing experiences were available without starting a car or spending much money. We were able to return home refreshed, happy, and excited to go about our regular lives. A three-day self-supported bike tour was a wonderful way to "get away from it all," and spend quality time with a young adult fresh back from his first year of college.
Derek's birthday shirt from the Bong ride.
Tip for this adventure: In Illinois, use the Active Transportation Alliance Chicagoland Bike Map to find the safest road routes for cycling. Bring your map and be prepared for alternative routes due to road construction. In Wisconsin, use the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin maps to determine suitable roads.