A Day in Sparta

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What a day!  Our 54th Walk was spent in the charming town of Sparta.  After just a few hours, I quickly learned Sparta has so much to offer—from beautiful bike paths to gorgeous bridges to downtown shops.  Big thanks to Tim Hyma and the entire Sparta Chamber of Commerce staff for making the day absolutely wonderful.

Our day began at Speed’s Bike Shop, where owners Rose and Milt lent us wonderful bikes to try out.  We hopped on and headed down the Sparta-Elroy trail, which is the very first “rails to trails” bike path in the State of Wisconsin.  I learned that there are long tunnels along the path, one even a mile long!  After our bike ride, we stopped over at the Sparta Chamber of Commerce, which is now in an old train station.  It was so wonderful to learn about all of the great events and tourist activities going on in the Sparta area.

I also had the wonderful opportunity to join the dedication of the Five Shovelman Bridge in Amundson Park.  The five shovelmen, Al Jenkins, Jim Cook, Jerry Kast, Kerry Schumann, and Reinhard Mueller, have been donating their time since 2009 to build multiple covered bridges throughout the city.  These wonderful men have dedicated themselves to adding impressive bridges across the Sparta area to connect bikers, snowmobilers, and walkers from path to path.  This group of volunteers is truly incredible, giving so much time and energy back to their community.  US Silica also donated materials for the project and equipment as well.  I was so happy to join the dedication of this bridge and to see the result of hard-working volunteers coming together.

That afternoon, we headed over to the Ben Bikin’ statue, which marks the beginning of the Ben Bikin’ Trail.  After enjoying some apples and cold water, our walk began near Ben, and we traveled through downtown Sparta, making stops at other covered bridges built by the Five Shovelmen.  Each bridge was so different, but all were beautifully crafted by the volunteers.  One of my favorite stops was on the “Love Lock Bridge.”  Love Lock bridges are all across the world, attracting tourists to add their personal lock, symbolizing their love.  I even had a Walk with Walker lock to put on the bridge, thanks to Deb Moore.  Deb owns Ginny’s Cupboard, a charming shop with plenty of goodies and treats that tempted us when we stopped along the walk.  Finally, we arrived at Rudy’s Drive In, where owner Gary Rudy treated us to absolutely delicious root beer floats!  It was so nice to sit and relax after the walk, and chat with all the community members that came out to join us!

Thanks to everyone who had a hand in planning our day, it truly was wonderful.  Sparta is just one of many hidden gems in Wisconsin, with so many fun activities to offer!  It was so nice to see so many people on my walk; hope to see you all next month in Vilas County!