After finishing the 50-mile route of the Door County Century Ride last year, I sat at a picnic table in the big barn at the Door County Fairgrounds and sipped slowly on a glass of Fat Tire. I was beat, in no small part because I crashed near the 44-mile mark (slipped off the edge of a freshly paved road like an idiot) and in part because I had been trying to keep pace with Brian Fitzgerald, director of the Ride for Nature and a guy who apparently doesn’t know the meaning of the phrase “taking it easy.”
I felt good about completing the 50 miles – until an 8-year-old sat down across from me looking fresh and spry. Brandon Stillman had just finished the 30-mile route and looked no worse for wear.
“He wanted to go a lot longer,” says his mother, Denise. “But I am the weakest link in the family and we weren’t going to keep going.”
About a month before the ride they upgraded Bandon’s single-speed bike to prep him for the ride.
“We got him a little Schwinn 10-speed Ranger,” said Brandon’s father, Greg. “He hadn’t completely figured it out, but he kept up just fine.”
The Stillmans are an active family in business and on their bikes. Denise and her husband Greg manage four Door County resorts, including the Parkwood Lodge in Fish Creek, where they live. Last year Greg knocked out a calendar full of peninsula silent sports events – the Hairpin Run, Door County Triathlon Sprint distance, The YMCA Duathlon, and the Door County Century. He missed the Ride for Nature because he heads to Blue Mound State Park that weekend for the Horrible Hilly.
When he takes that on again this year, Denise hopes to do the Ride for Nature with Brandon on a tandem bike. While she says she gets Brandon out for rides in Peninsula State Park regularly (the park is right across the street from the Parkwood), Greg gets his more lengthy rides in early in the morning.
“I head down Hwy 42 to County F, which takes me over to Baileys Harbor,” he says. “From there I hit County Q, which takes me along the lakeshore, then loops back into Ephraim and back down 42 to Fish Creek.”
All told, his morning ride covers about 23 miles at 18 – 20 miles per hour, and gets him back home and ready for work around 8 am. On off days, he heads to the YMCA for 50-minute spinning classes.
“There are so many routes you can take up here that it’s just a great place to ride,” he says. “When I go out in the morning, I’ll only see a couple cars on the roads, and maybe some people walking, so I’ve got it all to myself.”
Greg serves on the Town of Gibraltar’s bike plan committee as well, which is working to implement elements of the town’s comprehensive bike plan approved last year.
“We want to link our routes to Ephraim and Baileys Harbor,” Stillman said. “People already bike between the villages, and I think we’d see many more if we could make those routes safer.”
The committee hopes to wrap the improvements into the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s 2014 re-surfacing of Hwy 42.
By then, I’ll be hoping Mr. Fitzgerald’s pace will finally slow, and Greg will probably be training to keep up with Brandon.