Posts Tagged: la crosse

Making La Crosse a Promise

BY SARA WALTERS
PHOTOS BY DAHLI DURLEY PHOTOGRAPHY (unless otherwise noted)

When it comes to revitalizing a neighborhood, a fresh coat of paint is a great start.

But what La Crosse Promise has done goes much deeper than the surface. The goal of the area non-profit is to economically transform La Crosse, Wisconsin, through a program available to families that build, buy, or renovate in select neighborhoods deemed challenged by poverty, crime, and low property values.

The “promise” is one dedicated to the participants’ future – more specifically, their education – in the form of a scholarship. “We are investing in these neighborhoods by investing in people,” says Brian Liesinger, Executive Director of La Crosse Promise.

Dependents or adult learners can use up to $25,000 each – with a $50,000 Promise household maximum – at 2 or 4-year accredited colleges.

For Lissa Carlson, a self-employed single mother of two, that was too good to pass up. “I make no secret that I did it for the money,” she says with a laugh. “$50,000 will go a long way for my kids.”

It was in October 2016 that Lissa and her sons moved into their “Promise Home,” as they’re called, in the Powell-Poage-Hamilton neighborhood. Powell-Poage-Hamilton and Washburn are the two neighborhoods currently being served by La Crosse Promise – they were identified as declining rapidly due to deteriorating property, pockets of poverty and an uptick in crime in a thorough community assessment conducted in 2010 by the City of La Crosse and La Crosse County.

Declining neighborhoods resulted in depressed housing values, which led to a greater tax burden for homeowners across the city. Coupled with nearly half the land in La Crosse being tax exempt due to higher education institutions and public marshland, many people became frustrated with tax rates and sought newer housing and lower rates in the suburbs. The exodus continued to fuel a cycle of decline in housing on the south side.

“After reading the community assessment report, leadership from the City, County, School District, and area businesses really came together to imagine a collaborative program that would have a rapid impact, and La Crosse Promise was born,” Brian says. “Each of those groups remains heavily involved and represented on our board. The three higher education institutions in La Crosse are represented as well. So collaboration is really in our DNA.”

So with the help of the Promise program – and a tight housing marketing – these neighborhoods are seeing revitalization. There are now five Promise Homes on Lissa’s block alone. Residents are also deciding to build in areas that were previously void of new construction. “In the 15 years prior to the launch of our neighborhood program, only two private individuals chose to build homes in these two neighborhoods. From our launch in the fall of 2015 until now, we have 13 new homes with Promise families living in them, plus seven more Promise-eligible homes being built,” Brian says. “New homes have meant new taxable value added to the city. And that ripples out to nearby homes as we see the depressed housing values start to rise in Powell-Poage-Hamilton and Washburn, which improves not only other homeowners’ equity but again, raises the tax base.”


The beautification is obvious, and dramatic. “When we visit with the neighborhood associations and speak with long-standing members of the neighborhoods, they cannot believe the transformation in just a few short years,” Brian says. He attributes some of this to the “worst-to-best” approach that Promise takes, explaining that the dramatic transformation from a vacant lot or condemned home to a beautiful new build can be very inspiring.

Even more beneficial than the improved appearance is its impact on the use of the homes. “The ‘worst of the worst’ are homes known for significant criminal activity. We know of two Promise homes that were former magnets for crime – specifically drugs. One of those homes was occupied by an individual dealing drugs as late as October of 2017. That home has since been condemned and razed and has been replaced with a new home,” Brian says. “Homes like that remaining in the neighborhood come at a high social cost. The value in replacing them is beyond dollars.”

La Crosse Promise definitely isn’t all about new building, though, or losing the character of these historic neighborhoods. In fact, the program encourages projects that preserve external historic characteristics and are appropriate to the architectural features of the area.

Renovation programs were a good way to let people who already live in the neighborhood take advantage of La Crosse Promise’s scholarships and invest in their own home at the same time. An owner who invests more than $30,000 becomes eligible for $25,000 in scholarships. Investing more than $60,000 raises the eligibility to $50,000.

What other stipulations exist for Promise applicants?

• The family must live in that house for at least four years, and they must continue to live in La Crosse until the youngest child receiving a scholarship graduates from high school.

• The oldest student who can benefit from this opportunity would need to reside in the new home prior to the beginning of 9th grade.

• Each La Crosse Promise Family is permitted a maximum lifetime scholarship amount of $50,000 to be distributed among dependents however the family chooses, providing that no one student receives more than $25,000.

One of the hopes of La Crosse Promise is that there will be a mix of household and incomes that highlights neighborhood diversity

Lissa especially appreciates this aspect of the program. “La Crosse is an amazing community, but it is pretty homogenous,” she says. “I like being part of a neighborhood that looks a bit more like the rest of the world. I like that my kids have friends of a wider variety of backgrounds.”

Another hope is to increase enrollment in public schools. The convenient location of these neighborhoods within the city helps make this more likely.

“My youngest is able to walk to school,” Lissa says. Brian agrees that the proximity to schools has been a motivating factor for many Promise families. Plus the neighborhoods are close to some of the city’s largest employers as well as a downtown full of shopping and recreation.

And as far as the crime and unrest that many associate with these areas? Lissa has little to report. Her only small hang-up has been the occasional language barrier. Safety has not been a concern, she says.

Perhaps the biggest hope is that these conveniently-located homes with $50,000 educational stipends – funded entirely by generous donors – will motivate community-minded folks – like it did Lissa – to sign up and take a chance on La Crosse Promise. “No other community in the nation, as far as I know, is tackling neighborhood revitalization in this way – by attaching education incentives to homes. And doing it in a way that involves a deep and long-standing collaboration between the city, county, school district, and area businesses and nonprofits,” Brian says.

He believes strongly that the educational component – the investment in people – is a big part of the program’s success, and beautification is the added bonus. “At first glance,” he says, “our neighborhood program looks like just a housing program. When in reality, it is just as much an education program. The Promise families, some who have very young kids and some who have kids who will soon enter college, will have their lives transformed through education – an education the Promise scholarships will help fund.”

As an added component, La Crosse Promise also runs Future Centers, an educational advising program in Logan and Central High Schools. The centers have dedicated advisors to help students get career and college ready, along with technical support for things like student aid applications.

Together, Promise Homes and Future Centers are providing a comprehensive solution. The future is bright for the program, its participants, and the city. The people-first approach has been working. “What makes great neighborhoods are great neighbors,” Brian says. “We need more than just new homes. We need civically-engaged, education-minded people to strengthen the neighborhoods, and who plan to stay.”

The positive changes are felt by the entire city of La Crosse. Promise is about a year ahead of its original projections, and they hope to soon spread the love to other struggling neighborhoods, and support even more La Crosse residents. “Two key areas that often have the greatest impact on an individual’s success are housing and education,” Brian says. “The dollars they will be able to invest in their education will serve them for the rest of their lives. That is a return on investment you cannot beat.”


Sara Walters is a writer and mom of two. Her girls love the awesome playground at Poage Park.


Learn more about La Crosse Promise:
lacrossepromise.org

Watch for Walking Tours of Promise Neighborhoods by liking La Crosse Promise on Facebook:
www.facebook.com/lacrossepromise/

A few moments with Dawes…

Dawes will be performing at the Cavalier Theatre in La Crosse, WI on Tuesday, October 17, 2017. Catch a ticket here if it isn’t already sold out.

Dawes is:
Wylie Gelber – bass
Taylor Goldsmith – guitars
Griffin Goldsmith – drums
Lee Pardini – keys

Interview by Benji Nichols / Inspire(d) 2017

The Cavalier Lounge & Theatre in La Crosse has been working hard the past few years to create a space that can house national shows on a regional level. Owner Jason LaCourse has poured much into the club and lounge, and caught a few breaks along the way – including an evening with West coast rockers Dawes coming up October 17. Here at Inspire(d) HQ we’ve been fans of Dawes since around 2009, catching them at Gabe’s Oasis in Iowa City, after enjoying their first Daytrotter.com session. Dawes played on 2016’s ‘Gentleman of the Road’ festival hosted by Mumford and Sons in Waverly, IA as well and continue to reach new heights as the they pound the road. They’re latest release “We’re All Gonna Die” is out on the band’s own HUB Record label. They play the Cavalier Theatre in La Crosse on Tuesday, October 17. (Click here for tickets – if they aren’t already sold out!) Inspire(d) was given the opportunity to catch up with Lee Pardini, keyboard player for Dawes, while he was en route to San Francisco for the Outside Lands Festival in Golden Gate Park. Lee has been with Dawes for the past two years and has played an influential roll in the bands growth with his tasty key chops that reach far beyond rock and roll.

Roll the tape…

I(d): You guys keep –good- company. We saw Dawes play on the ‘Gentleman of the Road’ show in Waverly, Iowa with Mumford and Sons. The band has a history with artists like Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, Robbie Robertson, Elvis Costello, and Dave Rawlings. You’re staring down tours with John Mayer and Kings of Leon this fall. What’s it like knowing you are working with some of the most revered musicians in the world?

LP: We couldn’t be more excited – and these are all really different experiences. When we do the “evening with” shows (like the upcoming La Crosse show), it is us for two and a half hours with the crowd – its really intimate, and we’re excited to bring that to the audience. When we’re on the road supporting larger tours of this stature – musically speaking, its great to be around artists of this caliber – but then its also exciting playing in front of a lot of audiences that maybe don’t know us so well – or at all. Being able to craft a 45 minute set to capture an audience is a really great challenge, and ultimately, it is all about the music first – so it’s quite an experience. We couldn’t be looking more forward to it.

I(d): We’re All Gonna Die, came out last September on your own ‘HUB records’ label. It was

produced by long time friend of the band Blake Mills. How has it been watching an album take life?

LP: Its been amazing – there were a lot of new sounds and textures on this record, and the recording process itself was a really great process. It’s a new sound that has developed – and its been exciting to see people really accepting us pushing things forward. Watching the audience in the live shows be familiar with a new record is kind of crazy too. One of the first shows we played after the record came out – like a week after, people in the crowd knew all the words to ‘One of Us’ – and that was such a great feeling. Over the past months playing the songs live really helps us grab ahold of how fans are connecting to the songs in so many different ways. Its been a great year – and we’re always trying new things, pushing ourselves to be better and make the most out of the shows.

I(d): We were checking out the “Custom Vintage Keys” trio session video that you did, and it is so tasty. Its clear you enjoy vintage key gear. What’s your jam these days?

LP: I’ve always been a big jazz fan – and studied a very broad world of jazz that I’m constantly digging into. I’ve also been listening to a particular set of Herbie Hancock records from the 70s – lots of textures. I’ve been digging into a lot of synthesizer stuff – which is something I’ve been working to bring to Dawes. You know – t’s a life long study. I know it sounds a little like a California stereotype, but I’ve been listening to a lot of Bob Marly lately as well. The keyboard work on every single one of his records is just incredible. Its economical, its groovy, and the songs are so good. From an education standpoint, the players he had on his records were so great. There’s always Dire Straits – the guys love Mark Knopfler. Allen Clark from Dire Straits is unbelieveable – and the way that band could extend their songs – really incredible. And always, there’s a decent amount of Grateful Dead that I’m listening to.

I(d): The upper Midwest is a funny place – and a lot of people still don’t give us much thought, but with outlets like Daytrotter, and the Codfish Hollow Barnstormers (Maquoketa) – we have some authentic stuff happening out here. La Crosse is right on the Mississippi River in the heart of the “Driftless” region – have you been to this area before? Any thoughts on the Midwest?

LP: Oh Yeah, absolutely. I’ve spent a lot of time in the Midwest over the years – I love it. There’s just an – its like another version of Southern hospitality. Everyone is so sweet. Take Codfish Hollow – the people there really care – they’re hip to what’s happening, and they care about being hospitable. You don’t get that everywhere. What strikes me is the amount of pride that people take, especially in the Midwest, in creating a great space for music and making people feel welcome and comfortable – its great. •

Female Mountain Bikers Rule!

Female Mountain Bikers Rule!

By Aryn Henning Nichols

Looking down at your mud-covered mountain bike tires, you wipe the sweat from your face, take a drink, and think, “Screw it. I can’t do it.”

But then, you do.

Just like you knew you could.

“Women, by definition – I feel – are not quitters,” says Josie Smith. “We constantly prove to ourselves that we can get things done.”

Josie, in addition to blogging honest and heartfelt stories about her journey to the #bikelife on josiebikelife.com, is the “first lady” of Decorah Bicycles. She and owner Travis Greentree are getting “hitched” this summer at a cycle-filled wedding in a prairie smack dab in the middle of singletrack-land in Decorah.

But not that long ago, Josie was, self-admittedly, “allergic to exercise.” She grew up on a gravel road in rural Waukon and was done biking by age 10. “I was out of shape, I hated hills…it wasn’t an inspiring environment,” she says with a wry grin.

Luckily, inspiration hit one Monday morning in 2012. “I was making a humble breakfast of toast and decided, out of the blue, that I wanted to buy a bike,” she says.

She tried out options in town, looking for a used bike “in case she didn’t like riding,” and ended up at Decorah Bicycles, where she ultimately found “Sir Richard.” That’s a bike, not a guy.

“He was my upright, ducky, knight-in-shining-aluminum,” she says. “It was a campground rental that didn’t seem too used. First I decided I wanted to ride to work…and that began my adventures in bike riding. That bike helped me get through everything – it got me out of the house… I could be in the moment.”

Shop owner, Travis, offered up tips as Josie set off riding around town and on the paved Trout Run Trail that encompasses Decorah.

“Eventually this bike opened up my mind and heart, and I found out that I needed to divorce my then-husband,” she writes on her blog. “Our marriage was over and had been over for about five years, but neither of us were strong enough at the time do to anything about it. My confidence from riding eventually gave me the confidence to make a difference in my life.”

Josiebikelife.com started shortly after an early-on, difficult ride. “I wrote about how hard that ride was on Facebook, and asked if others ever felt like quitting. Someone commented that I shouldn’t say biking is hard – it might discourage others from trying it. But I wanted to say what I thought,” she says with passion. “Sometimes biking IS hard. I want people to have a very real perspective – not every ride is going to be rainbows and sunshine.”

That was evident – once again – for Josie when she attempted some of the challenging mountain bike trails around Decorah.

“I started off with three or four terrifying rides the fall of 2013,” she says. “Then that winter – January and February – they got fatbikes at the shop and I tried it out. That fatbike made me hate it less. I thought, ‘This is kind of possible.’”

Embracing the fatbike love, Josie’s first race was a winter one: Decorah’s 2015 Pugsley World Championship.

“It put all my fears about racing and made them go ‘poof’!” She says with a motion of her hands. “I didn’t want to be last. And technically I was. And nobody cared. The environment was very positive. Someone asked, “Are you having fun? And I was like, ‘Are you frickin’ kidding me?! Yes!’ That’s when I realized, yeah, I actually am.”

Having the blog to record it all has offered some great benefits: From connecting with other women – she frequently interviews biking women online – to tracking her own personal growth.

“It’s amazing to see where I used to be. Mountain biking is something even in my wildest dreams I never thought I’d be doing,” she says.

It would seem other women think mountain biking is a “wildest dream” as well. Finding a group of females out riding the trails is kind of rare.

“It’s like finding a pack of unicorns,” Josie says with utmost sincerity. “It’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen and you want to find more of them.”

Happily, there are kind folks – like Kathy Mock, the co-director/founder of the Wisconsin High School Cycling League – working on that.

Kathy worked at Trek, headquartered out of Waterloo, Wisconsin, in the late 80s and early 90s, “back when mountain biking first came around.” There, she met her now husband, Aaron, also a biker, and they had one son, who, of course, was introduced to biking.

“That’s the number one reason I got involved,” Kathy says. “My son was 11, and he said, ‘I like riding with you guys, but I want to ride with kids too!’”

So Kathy and her husband launched a grassroots mountain biking club for kids in their home-base, Lake Mills area – it brought in four towns and 85 kids in the first year. Kathy and Aaron ran this club from 2013 until just recently, when they turned it over to a new group of coaches and director for its upcoming fifth season.

Knowing of this prior experience, Trek approached Kathy about starting a High School Cycling League. Kathy, knowing herself, said, “Not alone!” She teamed up with Don Edberg, the founder of the Wisconsin Off Road Series (WORS), a racing series that often pulls in anywhere from 600-1000 riders. Don was already thinking of starting a league, so the team-up made perfect sense.

Currently, there are 19 High School Cycling leagues in states across the U.S., opertating under the umbrella of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA). Founded in 2009, NICA is devoted to developing these interscholastic mountain biking programs. The sport is growing so fast, NICA had to put a cap on how many leagues can join per year.

“Middle school is the fastest growing portion of this. NICA started as a high school- only program,” says Kathy. “But we said, ‘We’re not doing it unless you include middle school.’ We found that there’s a much greater probability of reaching kids if they’re able to try a new sport early. If you wait until high school, they’re already set in their activities.”

So, although it’s called the Wisconsin High School Cycling League, it’s inclusive of sixth to twelfth grades. The WI League’s first season kicked off just over three years ago, but there are already 30 teams, 478 athletes, and 266 coaches.

There’s a reason there’s so many coaches. NICA requires a one to six ratio of coaches to athletes before they can even start a practice.

“I direct a team of 45 kids, and I have 20 coaches on my list. I think all of our teams in Wisconsin are like that,” Kathy says. “This is different than any other kind of school sport. We highly encourage parents to get involved.”

There are four coaching license levels: general volunteer, rider leader, assistant coach, and head coach, and each level has different requirements that must be met. But the most important requirement is a connection with kids.

“I don’t really care if you’re a good cyclist,” says Kathy. “I say to parents, ‘If you’re good with kids, let’s get you certified as a coach.’ Kids need as many mentors as possible.”

Roughly 80 percent of the students who have joined the WI league had no prior experience on a mountain bike.

“One of the more notable things about our program is that we draw in those kids who are not necessarily classic sports kids,” Kathy says. “Mountain biking has all the things I wish other sports had. Everybody gets to participate at every minute. Nobody sits the bench. You’re on the team, and you’re an athlete. Plus, you’re not in a gym; you’re outside.”

It doesn’t have the year-round pressure of other classic sports as well. The WI League has a five-race season. Practice – held two times per week – can start July 1, and races begin mid-September and wrap up the end of October. The kids get to choose whether or not they compete – out of the 478 WI riders in 2016, 322 of them raced.

“Many teams don’t even focus on riding every practice,” Kathy says. “ They focus on being outside, slowing down, and learning to enjoy nature.”

While NICA’s goal for every league is to be above 25 percent female, the WI League is currently sitting at 23 percent girls.

La Crosse, Wisconsin’s Ella Shively is part of that percentage. The 17-year-old, rad and inspiring-in-every-way Central High School senior has been exposed to mountain biking pretty much her whole life. Her dad, Josh Shively, is an avid mountain biker in the Driftless, and Ella started attending his races when she was just a baby.

“I was twelve years old when I went on my first real mountain bike ride with my dad. I had to step off a lot, like all beginners, but I don’t remember ever feeling particularly scared or frustrated,” Ella says. “I loved being out in the woods for extended periods of time, and the challenge of learning how to maneuver around a new obstacle. Every time I fell, I learned something new from the experience.”

Josh Shively started the La Crosse middle/high school team (within the WI League) in 2015, when Ella was a sophomore.

“I had been riding mostly with my dad, and occasionally with some riders who were a few years older than me (and much faster!), so it just made sense for me to be part of a larger group experience,” she says. “My favorite part of being in the league is definitely traveling to different race venues and camping out with the team. My teammates and their families are all really fun people. I remember playing a lot of ghosts-in-the-graveyard in the campgrounds with my teammates that first year. We always pre-ride the night before, and then stay up way too late talking around the campfire.”

Indeed, the social side of a sport is often what draws people to it. And it might be part of what keeps women from joining certain sports – when there aren’t as many females riding, others are less likely to try it out. The fear of not fitting in, or “slowing down” the other riders can hold some females back.

“To combat this,” Ella says, “those of us women who are already experienced riders need to be vocal about our existence. Other women need to know about those who have pedaled successfully before them. We can grow the number of women in mountain biking by introducing our friends to the sport, and encouraging young riders.”

That’s been Martha Flynn’s goal since the launch of the Minnesota High School Cycling League in 2012.

“The disparity between the number of girls and boys participating in mountain biking was painfully evident from the start,” Martha says. “To attract more girls to the sport, Amber (Shult) Auer, created the Crank Sisters, a program within the League focused on getting girls on bikes. The vision is to empower and build confidence in young women through mountain biking.”

Martha herself has been mountain biking for about 15 years, having started in her late 30s and working up to a pretty intense racing schedule in her mid-40s. But her focus now is all about getting more girls on bikes.

Because of the MN League’s program, they are already seeing more girls participate in off-road cycling.

“Our priorities are threefold: To introduce girls to the league, retain them by building confidence and camaraderie, and create a community of female cyclists and supporters –in coaching and other leadership positions,” Martha says. “The girls are able to connect to female role models and become a part of this growing sisterhood.”

The Wisconsin and Minnesota Leagues are employing similar techniques to get girls involved. Basically, an opportunity to “try it out,” separate from the male riders, to help reduce nerves and make it more fun. Kathy Mock offers a “Try Out Party,” where girls can invite their friends to come and learn a few basic mountain biking skills. With the MN League, they call them “Try it Out” Sessions.

“The very first singletrack ride is a very important moment for girls and mountain biking,” Martha says. “It’s a make or break chance for us to help them realize their potential through a positive experience.”

The women volunteering at these try-it-out sessions work to help reduce an often-female tendency towards perfection. “We tell our stories of times we ‘messed up’ or were nervous,” Martha says. “And of course, we make it fun, not competitive. Our hope is they come off the trail with a smile and want to get the details about joining a team in their area.”

The MN League also sets up a tent at races where girls and women hang out, share stories, and connect with other riders.

“And it’s for everyone,” Martha says. “We welcome the guys, and younger sisters hang out at the tent too. We talk with them about riding and how much fun it is, so that they grow up thinking why NOT mountain bike.”

In 2017, Martha will be moving her focus to getting those younger sisters on bikes. She’ll be working with a program separate from the League called Little Bellas, for girls ages seven through 13.

Little Bellas doesn’t have a competitive element – it’s purely to create a community that will empower girls through mountain biking. “We emphasize the importance of goal-setting, promote healthy lifestyles, and recognize the positive effects of strong female bonds,” Martha says.

For women outside of that age group, Josie Smith has set up a different program called FWD: Fearless Women of Dirt. FWD is for women passionate about mountain biking and helping others find their bike life. Ambassadors can start a FWD group based off Josie’s template virtually anywhere – there’s even a Stratford, Ontario group. It’s as simple as setting up a Facebook group and putting the community out there.

“I see this as a gateway for women who would otherwise not create their own mountain biking tribe,” Josie says. “It makes it less daunting, and then you have a network of awesome FWD to connect with via social media. I suppose I felt this was a good thing to do because I, myself, have felt like a loner as I was learning to ride.”

Josie plans to keep blogging about her #bikelife adventures on josiebikelife.com, always highlighting both the good and the bad. And this is good, because nobody is perfect.

“Don’t let the fear of falling keep you down!” says Ella Shively. “Women often feel pressure to be perfect, but perfection is not conducive to improvement. You will fall at some point. Then you will pick up your bike, ride off, and realize, ‘Oh! That wasn’t so bad after all!’ Mountain biking is not the dangerous sport it is sometimes made out to be. That said, don’t let anyone pressure you into riding faster than you are comfortable with. The less anxious you are, and the more you look forward to the next ride, the more likely you are to stick with mountain biking for good.”

And sticking with mountain biking is not only good for your physical health, but your mental state as well – being out in nature, deep in the woods on a singletrack trail, is one of the greatest experiences there is.

“If there are raspberries growing on the side of the trail, stop and eat them,” Ella says. “If the change of seasons has embroidered the forest in red and gold, stop to take in the view. Mountain biking can make you see things you’ve never seen before. You will never regret taking a moment to enjoy the experience of it all.”

——————————————–

Aryn Henning Nichols is super excited about becoming a better mountain biker this spring, summer, fall… forever! She is grateful to all these awesome women for their awesome inspiration.

 

For all those women (and men!) out there thinking of joining the mountain bike community, Ella Shively would like to say:
“Welcome! May your rubber side remain down, and may you ever shred gnar (that’s mountain biker for ‘have an awesome ride!’)

Here are some tips to get you going:

  1. First step: Visit your local bike shop! Many will have options for renting mountain bikes, and even offer led-rides to get you acclimated if it’s your first time out. They will definitely have suggestions on gear, where to start, and the best beginner trails.
  2. Talk to other people who ride. See if you can join up with them!
  3. Once you’re into it, remember you don’t have to be on a trail to improve your technical riding. “I taught my friends about cornering by setting up cones to make a slalom course on a grassy hill,” Ella Shively says. “In seventh grade, I learned how to ride no-handed, lift my front wheel, and corner smoothly during my daily commute to school. To this day, I commute by bike as much as possible throughout the year – riding over chunks of snow on the sidewalk imitates the challenge of riding a rooty mountain bike trail!”

Martha Flynn’s top 5 reasons for loving mountain biking:

• Connecting to nature
• Being able to push myself to my limits or just ride casually – whatever I need that day
• Meeting so many amazing women and men through the experience
• Being brave and tackling things I never thought I could do… riding a big drop at Spirit Mountain in Duluth, making it through a gnarly rock garden or finishing a 100 mile single track race
• Finishing a ride completely sweaty, dirty, scratched up and thinking there is nowhere else I’d rather be right now

Ella Shively’s favorite places to ride:

“The Human Powered Trails (HPT), now called Upper Hixon Forest, is a wonderful place to ride in La Crosse! The difficulty level ranges from the mostly flat Prairie Loop for beginners, to a little more challenge and some fun turns and obstacles on Twister, to more descents and climbs like Obi Wan/The Dark Side. There are no user fees, and the trails are well-maintained. You can even ride up the Vista Trail to the HPT to maximize time spent on dirt instead of the road. If you’re up for a day trip from La Crosse, Black River Falls and (of course) Decorah also have challenging trails in beautiful natural settings. I’ve also enjoyed long weekends in the areas of Chequamegon and Copper Harbor (favorite trails in Chequamegon and Copper Harbor: Gravity Cavity and Daisy Dukes, consecutively).”

Online Resources:


ellacyclingtips.com
(like them on Facebook, too, for regular tips and stories about female cyclists)
YouTube (tons of demos on bicycle maintenance and handling)
decorahbicycles.com
www.nationalmtb.org
www.wisconsinmtb.org
www.minnesotamtb.org
wors.org
www.littlebellas.com
www.facebook.com/fearlesswomenofdirt/