Madison to Milwaukee Trip to the Polish Moon is a Blast

I hadn’t done it since I was 23. But with a gale blowing at my back my trip by bicycle to Milwaukee from Madison to take part in the Polish Moon Ride was a blast. I felt like I pedaled once in Cottage Grove and before I knew it I was in Bay View.

It didn’t hurt that the last day in July was a gorgeous Wisconsin summer day – clear, dry, temperatures near 80 degrees, and that strong wind out of the west pushing me along. Plus the trip is almost all on trails – the Glacial Drumlin from Cottage Grove to Waukesha, the New Berlin Trail from Waukesha to Greenfield Park in Milwaukee County and then the Hank Aaron Trail right downtown. From Dousman on in it’s all paved, but the hard-packed limestone west of that isn’t bad at all.

Along the way I met a couple in their sixties who were biking from Portland, Oregon to Bar Harbor, Maine. They told me that Wisconsin and Minnesota were their two favorite states for biking so far on their trip. They were headed to Milwaukee to pick up the ferry to take them across Lake Michigan. We biked together and chatted for several miles until my lighter packing and fresh legs called me to break away. I left them with good wishes for the remainder of their trip.

For the benefit of my favorite bike shops, the trip instructed me on the inadequacy of some of my accessories – by the time I was done I decided I needed new biking shoes, panniers and a holder for my iPhone. But the basic item – my 1976 Takara touring bike – held up great thanks to some new pedals and a new rear wheel, courtesy of the good folks at Motorless Motion in Madison.

The pre-ride block party features lively Norteña music, or Mexican Polka. Milwaukee’s formerly Polish near south side is now populated mostly by Mexican immigrants, but luckily both cultures love Polka! That is why the ride celebrates both Polish and Mexican cultures.

 

Kicking off the Polish Moon Ride with the National Anthem.

And the payoff was amazing. The Polish Moon Ride was an even bigger success than last year’s inaugural event. About 700 people, including a lot of young families, rode slowly through the streets of the old South Side. It means a lot to me because my mother’s family came from those neighborhoods. We rode past the former Gimbels-Schusters department store where my mom worked and St. Josaphat’s Basilica, which my great-grandfather helped build, and many corner establishments that my grandfather helped keep in business. He used to say that he drank beer out of civic concern – because “the brewery needs the bottles.”

The family friendly ride starts just before dusk, under the always full Polish Moon, AKA the Allen Bradley Clocktower.

 

Wave to the accordion player! Here on LIncoln Avenue, a traditionally Polish neighborhood that is now mostly Latino.

 

A beautiful night for a ride ends under a blue moon.

 

More polka at the finish party inside Anodyne Coffee.

My hat’s off to my fellow Milwaukean Polish guy named Dave (Schlabowske) who conceived and organized the Polish Moon.

My only complaint with the whole day is the lack of signage in Jefferson, Waukesha and Milwaukee County. I was able to navigate my way through Jefferson and Waukesha with the help of maps, but I lost the trail in Milwaukee. In any event, a little money spent on some good signs in those three communities would go a long way toward making the experience even better.

 

 

About Dave Cieslewicz, Executive Director

Dave Cieslewicz served two terms as mayor of Madison where he set the city on a path for Platinum status as one of the best biking cities in North America. Before that he started his own nonprofit, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, which focuses on land use and transportation policy. He has been an adjunct professor at the UW Madison's Department of Urban and Regional Planning where he teaches a class called Bikes, Pedestrians and Cities. He pronounces his name chess LEV ich, but nobody else does.

5 thoughts on “Madison to Milwaukee Trip to the Polish Moon is a Blast

  1. Terrific ride! I share a lot of Dave’s sentiments about the southside. It was great to ride through the neighborhood my family helped build. Please keep this an annual event.

  2. The 2nd Annual Milwaukee Polish Moon Ride was a huge success. A wonderful turn-out of 700 people and a lovely ride route throught the streets of Milwaukee’s Southside on an incredibly beautiful Friday day where the sun set, the sky glowed and the Blue Moon rose over Milwaukee and shone down upon us. Very well organized, lots of fun and special thanks to the Milwaukee Police who monitored the ride and controlled the intersections to assure our safety. Can’t wait till next year.
    David Waters

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