Posted on August 4, 2014 8/4/14
“Hey, it’s Ben Gura again – and I am so happy to say I am writing the final day’s blog while sitting comfortably on my couch at home! I made it safe and sound with only a couple of mechanical issues on the bike. My legs are sore but in a good way – and the rest of my body is happy to be off the bike.
The last ride day, Saturday, was bittersweet. Everyone was excited to be finished and to ride into the closing ceremony, but also disappointed that we would have to leave all of these new friends we made. The 40 miles went way too fast. I spent the first 20 miles with the fast guys just to see what it was like to put the hammer down and it felt great! The last 20 was a slow processional with a lot of chatter. It presented a great opportunity to say thank you to all of those I had ridden with throughout the week.
At the very last mile, the Team Wisconsin riders moved to the front of the pack to lead the way to Mount Mary College. This is where all of our friends and family had gathered and where the international tree climbing championships were being held. As we turned into the college entrance, the entire road was filled with people cheering and clapping for us. It was a really nice moment to see how happy everyone was to see us. Among those cheering was my family…now that made me smile!!
After hugs and kisses from the family and a quick round of pictures we had the final presentation. The TREE Fund
thanked the sponsors and identified the 10 ten individual fund raisers. Team Wisconsin was the top fund raising team which was our goal! The Tour des Trees
raised over $500,000 for The TREE Fund this year. I didn’t hit my goal but I am so happy at how close I came. I want to take an opportunity to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who donated to The TREE Fund! It really means a lot to me and your support really does help the trees.
A highlight from this year’s Tour was witnessing the dedication of over 23 trees, and a record number of educational events featuring Professor Elwood Pricklethorn
. As riders, we tend to focus on the miles and occasionally we forget about the trees. But every tree that the Tour dedicates is a benefit to the community, environment and ecosystem. Every tree will provide oxygen to a cyclist, a shady spot to rest and a break from the wind. The trees are the reason we ride!
My favorite part of the Tour was the educational events for the kids. Tour rider Warren Hoselton – aka “Professor Elwood Pricklethorn” does an outstanding job engaging the children and helping them understand the importance of trees. I heard that the Tour entertained over 300 kids during this year’s events. That’s 300 kids who now have an appreciation for “planting the right tree in the right place,” understanding what trees give to the community and hopefully having a desire to do more with trees as they get older. Who knows… maybe one or two of those kids will be foresters when they grow up!
The final tree dedication was at the Mount Mary College grounds, following the presentations. This tree dedication was particularly special because my family was there and my daughter, Morgan, and son, Jake, got to see how silly a group of adults could be.
What a great way to end the week! Thank you again to ATC for sponsoring the lunch and educational event in New London. The Tour des Trees really matches our corporate values and I hope that ATC will become a long-term sponsor of this great event.
And thanks to all of you for letting me share my experiences with you during the past week. I’m now fairly certain: this Tour will not be my last…”
Posted on August 3, 2014 8/3/14
Hey everyone – its Ben Gura checking in again from the STIHL Tour des Trees
. We wrapped up this amazing ride on Saturday (which I’ll have another update on), but I wanted to catch you up from the days prior. Talk about a great pedaling lovely weather and scenic riding.
Day five was a blast. It was a short 57 miles from Green Bay to Sturgeon Bay. The day started with a once-in-a-lifetime tree dedication. The City of Green Bay and Bartlett Tree Company had acquired a very special tree. What made this tree so special? Well, it actually derived from the only surviving tree from ground zero. While cleaning up the rubble at the World Trade Center in New York after 9/11, the workers found a pear tree that was still alive. It was the only tree that survived the attack. Only a few trees have been grown from the cuttings of the tree and it is very special for a city to receive it. The dedication in Green Bay took place at a park near the Fox River and the library. The City had commissioned a beautiful memorial for the people from Wisconsin who died in the 9/11 attacks. It really was something to see and will be a great place to visit.
The days riding was uneventful a few nice rolling hills and a view of Green Bay. We had an early stop in Brussels and then a stop at the home of a Tour riders friend, for a nice ice cold beer. Lunch was served at a park right of Green Bay just north of Sturgeon Bay. We got into the hotel so early my room wasnt ready. But I took advantage of the time by doing some laundry. We only get two jerseys so we need to wash them every couple of days. Some people wash their clothes in the sink while others wear them in the shower to wash them. Im a fan of the guest washing machine that the hotels have. I also had time for a soak in the hot tub, a trip to McDonalds for a cheeseburger and ice cream cone, and some more carb loading. We had a tasty outdoor dinner and enjoyed a polka band while we relaxed a bit. The evenings activities capped off a wonderful day.
Of course, after a short day you have to make up some miles and day six did not disappoint us on that; it was a short 120 miles to Port Washington. I knew this was going to be a long day so I made sure to be up early and ready to roll. A taco truck feed us breakfast burritos, which was a welcome change from our standard breakfast before we rolled out at 7 a.m. The day started with some long climbs out of Door County but as we made it to Lake Michigan things leveled out. We had a slight headwind but I had a good group of riders that I worked with for the whole day. When you get a group of cyclists together that are willing to share the work of the ride, they can cover miles quickly. Our group ranged from 5 to 10 riders throughout the day. We would each take a turns pulling the other cyclists for a few miles then drop back into the pace line.
Sorry for getting my cycling nerd out but there are a few terms that you learn when pack riding. A pace line is a group of cyclists riding in a line. They ride about 3 inches to 3 feet behind the rider in front of them and obviously, the closer the better. Taking a turn or pulling is when you are the lead cyclist in the group. The lead rider splits the wind for everyone else. This helps the other riders rest while the lead is pulling. A good pull will set a pace that is comfortable for the group and they stick to it without speeding up or slowing down. In our case it was 17 mph. After the leader pulls, they move to the left and fall to the back of the pace line. When you are not in the front you work about 30% less than the lead rider. Its the best way to get a lot of miles done quickly.
Our day ended around 3 p.m., with 8 hours in the saddle, just before a severe rainstorm with hail hit the hotel! At dinner we had presentations from The TREE Fund
, and the rider awards were handed out. After dinner I had to stop for a slice of pizza. For some reason I have been hungry all week
could be the 500 plus miles on a bike?
All for now, and I’ll catch you up on the finale soon!
Posted on July 31, 2014 7/31/14
“Hey – it’s Ben Gura again from the Tour des Trees. Days like today are the ones I love! The weather was perfect and the roads were scenic and rolling. We started our day early and managed to have gelato by 9 a.m. I had 47 miles to lunch and was excited to see all of my peers in New London from ATC. During those miles, I reflected on why I signed up for the Tour a second time.
Simply put – it’s the impact that the Tour has on the communities it touches. Each of these towns opens their arms to the Tour when we ride through. It seems that community members love seeing all of the riders decked out in their matching kits – plus they’re happy to feed and hydrate us! The message that the Tour sends about the value and importance trees on the environment and community is always heard by the residents who attend the tree dedications and the educational presentations.
When we made it to lunch all of my peers had the ATC Grow Smart
tent set up and were assembling the giveaway bags that the kids got to bring home. They received books about trees, purple coneflower seed packets, a kid’s activity guide and other goodies too. Melinda Myers
was there to greet the kids, talk about Grow Smart and answer any gardening questions that the guests had. We had some other special guest as well including the mayor of New London.
There were about 50 kids present who got to hear “Professor Elwood Prickethorn”
give his tree presentation. It was great to see the kids getting involved and learning about trees and planting “the right tree in the right place.” After the presentation, the kids dedicated a tree in a very special Tour des Trees way.
The dedication starts with a clap of the hands above your head. Then we
rub our hands together to make energy. Next the energy is transferred to the trees roots by pointing our hands at the roots, wiggling our fingers and saying “the roots, the roots are on fire.” Then it ends in a loving rendition of John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” but instead the lyrics go: ‘All we are saying…is give trees
a chance.’ Some of the kids get embarrassed about doing this but most think it’s really fun. It was great to see my ATC friends and the kids that get to hear the ATC and Tour des Trees message.
The day ended 53 miles later with a tree dedication to a special kid who’s life was impacted by a car crash, followed by a lovely dinner at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
Now, just three days of riding remain and my legs are getting stronger. We’re heading to Sturgeon Bay on Thursday, but cross your fingers for a strong north wind on Friday as we had 120 miles to ride down to Port Washington.”
Posted on July 29, 2014 7/29/14
“Greetings again, from Ben Gura at the Tour des Trees! Three days are in the books and it has been an amazing journey so far. Day one started with lots of excitement and energy as 80-plus cyclists gathered at German Fest (Summerfest fair grounds) for the official kickoff. A tree was dedicated and the riders used their energy to help the tree get a good start in a very fun ceremony. The opening banner was cut by a STIHL chainsaw and we were on our way to Madison. We took over the streets of Milwaukee with all of the riders were clad in matching jerseys and helmets representing the Tour des Trees – overall, an impressive sight. As the ride passed Oconomowoc it was clear that this was going to be a difficult day. There was a constant 25 mph headwind with gusts into the upper thirties. Im a decent cyclist but this proved to be very difficult. There were times where I would be climbing hills and the wind would almost bring my bike to a standstill. Then when I would need to rest on the downhill portions, I had to pedal instead of coasting. It was the most difficult day Ive had on the bicycle.
Day two had no wind but plenty of hills. We headed west from Madison to Blue Mound State Park and up the hill to dedicate another tree. On the climb up I broke a spoke and my rim constantly rubbed on my brake making the climb even more challenging. The great support group fixed it and I was able to continue the day. We finished a very long 106 miles at 6:30 p.m. that evening. The total footage climbed was over 6,000 feet which doesnt seem like much until you do it on a bike.
Day three was a great recovery day; a short 86 miles from Wisconsin Dells to Stevens Point. After two very difficult days and over 16 hours on a bicycle your whole body aches, especially your seat
Even though I knew today would be easier it was very difficult to wake up and put on my cycling shorts, jersey, helmet, gloves and cycling shoes. My gloves were still wet from yesterdays sweat which made them even more pleasant to put on. Overall, day three went well. There was a minor accident in a group in front of me that left a couple riders off their bikes for the rest of the day; fatigue from the previous two days and close riding to one another are to blame. I finished the days ride a little after 3 p.m. and I feel great.
Another cyclist told me that their fitness tracker said they burned over 6,000 calories on day two, but this seemed low to me. On a normal training ride I burn close to 1,000 calories in an hour! The Tour does a great job keeping everyone feed and hydrated. Each day starts with a great breakfast that it is typically high on protein and carbohydrates. Once the days ride has started we have a rest stop before and after lunch where we can get snacks and water. These stops are short and typically include shoving as much salty food and bananas as you can get in your face before youre off riding. Along the way, the riders also track down some of their own favorite stops. For me it has been for ice cream – twice on day two and once on day three. Lunch is catered in and again, its high in protein and carbs, lots of chicken, potatoes, rice, and fish.
Dinners typically are the best meal of the day and I always have an appetite. On day one we had a pasta bar ready for us at the hotel as soon as we arrived. This is perfect for a cyclist to help their bodies recover. After the pasta bar we had our official dinner at the UW Arboretum. Most of the cyclists go back for seconds or thirds on dinner just to help recover the calories they are burning. I am averaging two to four chicken breasts per meal.
Four more days and about 290 miles left. Stay tuned…”
Posted on July 28, 2014 7/28/14
Hi, Im Ben Gura, vegetation management specialist at ATC. Ive worked in utility vegetation management for over 15 years and have made a career of keeping trees out of utility rights-of-way to maintain safe and reliable electricity to help ‘keep the lights on.’ When I found out the STIHL Tour des Trees was returning to Milwaukee this summer I knew this would be a great opportunity for me to give something back to the trees.
The STIHL Tour des Trees is a week-long, 583-mile bicycle ride. The Tour is also Americas largest fundraiser for tree research, which benefits The TREE Fund. Since 1992, The TREE Fund has raised over $6.6 million dollars for tree research and educational programs. Some of the money raised also goes to grants that help sustain urban forests, which is part of my role at ATC. In Wisconsin, forests are under attack from a variety of pests including the Emerald Ash Borer. The TREE Fund provides grants that are helping protect Wisconsin ash trees and by identifying new varieties of ash trees that may be EAB resistant.
During the Tour, we will dedicate trees to communities, provide books about trees to local libraries, and present educational events to children about the importance and care of trees. The Tour spreads the word about how trees are an important part of the urban landscape and a necessary part of the ecosystem. The Tour benefits people, trees and the environment. Recognizing that these traits align with ATCs Tree Line USA award and ATCs environmental stewardship, ATC is sponsoring the 2014 STIHL Tour des Trees lunch stop in New London on July 30. This should be a great event that will include presentations from the Tours Professor Elwood Pricklethorn and nationally renowned horticulturist, author and radio/TV host, Melinda Myers.
Going all in on a seven-day 583-mile bike ride isnt something that one takes lightly. Besides having to spend a lot of time on a bicycle training for the event, each rider is required to raise $3,500 for The TREE Fund. Its a commitment that Im happy to take on for the trees. Please help me reach my goal by donating below.
The Tour’s first day from Milwaukee to Madison was tough because we had a 25 mph headwind and got caught in two downpours. Monday’s weather looks better though! Thanks for reading and be sure to check back in the coming days for more updates and photos as I pedal through Wisconsin all for the benefit of trees.