Rob’s Sugar River Ramble features a scenic paddle and bike ride through the rolling countryside west of Madison (Angie Lucas photo).
BY MIKE IVEY
Few events celebrate the spirit, closeness and caring of the Midwest silent sports community like Rob’s Sugar River Ramble.
Scheduled for Sunday, June 3 in the countryside just west of Madison, the 4th annual “Ramble” features a bicycle tour in the hills of western Dane County followed by a paddle on the shady and secluded Sugar River.
Then It concludes with a locally-sourced feast and craft beer sampling with live music at Grundahl Park in Mount Horeb. Great fun, if not great spring weather, is guaranteed with all proceeds benefitting the Upper Sugar River Watershed Association. You can watch a PREVIEW VIDEO on the event.
What makes the event so unique, however, is that it honors the memory of Rob Lucas, a father of three, a school psychologist and a well-known figure in the close-knit cross-country skiing and paddling world.
Those who knew Lucas were shocked when he took his own life at age 59 in July 2014, just days after bicycling with friends near his home near Fitchburg. Few realized he had been fighting depression.
“Rob was always up for an adventure big or small,” says his widow Angie. “A rich paddling, biking and skiing community is part of what makes it so much fun and so beautiful to live in this part of Wisconsin. Rob was part of the glue that held these communities together – always so friendly and welcoming, quick with a joke, willing to step up to help everyone, or volunteer and was generous with his talents at teaching.”
Looking for a meaningful way to remember Lucas, friends and family in 2015 came up with the idea of a combination charity bike ride and river outing to help the Upper Sugar River Watershed Association (USRWA). The small non-profit works to improve water quality in the little river that originates in Dane County and flows 90 miles southwest to the Pecatonica before reaching the Rock River.
“Rob just loved messing around in the Sugar, especially since it was so close to his house,” says Bill Coady, an avid paddler who served with Lucas on the board of the Madison Nordic Ski Club. “He’d be proud to know we’re helping the river in his name.”
The Ramble does double duty: It has raised over $25,000 in three years for the USRWA while introducing more paddlers to the Sugar, which for decades suffered from contaminated runoff from adjacent dairy farms. Downed trees and man-made snags had also slowed the flow rate to a point where the Upper Sugar River was literally choking to death.
But today the Sugar is running faster and cleaner than ever, in part due to the event named after one of its biggest fans.
CLICK HERE for more details on Rob’s Sugar River Ramble.
Advance registration is required by midnight May 31 and is capped at 250 participants.
Mike Ivey is a writer based in Madison and a past participant in the Ramble.