STIHL Tour des Trees, Day 4 - July 30: Stevens Point to Green Bay

“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.”


STIHL Tour des Trees, Day 3 - July 29: Ride recap / Wisconsin Dells to Stevens Point

"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. I’m 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 I’ve 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 doesn’t 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 yesterday’s 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 day’s 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 day’s 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 you’re 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, it’s 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..."


STIHL Tour des Trees, Day 1 – July 27: Milwaukee to Madison

“Hi, I’m Ben Gura, vegetation management specialist at ATC. I’ve 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 America’s 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 ATC’s Tree Line USA award and ATC’s 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 Tour’s “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 isn’t 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. It’s a commitment that I’m 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.”


Just imagine…riding 583 miles all for the benefit of trees

On Sunday, July 27, American Transmission Co. Vegetation Management Specialist Ben Gura will join nearly 100 other cyclists as they kick off the STIHL Tour des Trees. Since 1992, riders have generated nearly $7 million for The TREE Fund. This will be Gura’s second Tour.

“I’ve made a living removing and pruning trees, so when I see an opportunity to give something back to the trees I jump on it,” said Gura.

The STIHL Tour des Trees rolls out from Milwaukee and includes stops throughout central and southeast Wisconsin. ATC is sponsoring the Tour’s July 30 stop in New London. At 11 a.m. in Hatton Park, Toronto arborist and veteran Tour cyclist Warren Hoselton, also known as “Professor Elwood Pricklethorn,” will present a free kid-friendly short course in tree science. The professor will be joined by renowned Wisconsin gardening expert Melinda Myers, who will talk about the importance of trees and how to Grow Smart by planting them a safe distance from high-voltage transmission lines. The 45-minute program will focus on how trees grow, where and how to plant trees to increase their longevity and what kids can do to care for the trees. The TREE Fund mission aligns with ATC’s environmental policy ─ benefitting people, trees and the environment.

ATC is a Tree Line USA utility with environmental designations from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality. Subscribe to our blog for event updates and photos in the days to come.


ATC partners with Western Wisconsin American Red Cross to provide disaster relief

Tornadoes, severe storms, floods and fires have impacted many people and communities in our service area. June was a particularly volatile month, with storms and tornadoes causing significant damage throughout western Wisconsin.

American Transmission Co. system operators monitor the grid and watch the weather very carefully. We also have a Transmission Emergency Response Plan that helps employees effectively prepare for and manage emergencies that impact the transmission system.

In addition to a plan for responding to electric transmission emergencies, ATC has committed significant support to the communities it serves as a Red Cross Disaster Partner. The Disaster Partners program provides funds to local Red Cross chapters, which enables them to immediately assist people impacted by disasters such as hurricanes, wildfires, house fires or tornadoes. This support includes shelter, food, clothing, medications and health services.

According to the American Red Cross, every nine minutes emergencies that never make the news leave families without shelter, disconnected from loved ones and in need of lifesaving blood.

The Western Wisconsin Region American Red Cross has produced a handy checklist for disaster planning and emergency kits. Key highlights of the checklist include:

• Create and practice a family disaster plan.

• Assemble an emergency-preparedness kit.

• Have at least one household member trained in first aid and CPR/AED.

• Choose two places to meet if separated by an emergency: Right outside of your home in case of a sudden emergency and outside of your neighborhood, in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate.

Visit the Western Wisconsin Region American Red Cross website for more information on preparing for an emergency or disaster.


This weekend: Tosa Garden Tour

It seems hard to believe, but July is here and summer is finally upon us. For the gardeners and landscapers out there, the warm weather is a welcome relief from this slow growing season. Getting the appropriate grasses, flowers and plants to come up at the right time -- much less thrive -- has been a challenge, but there’s still hope!

Melinda Myers
If you’re still working on cultivating that perfect space in your yard and need some inspiration, check out what a few others have accomplished at the Tosa Garden Tour, this Saturday, July 12. If you have specific gardening or landscaping questions, renowned Wisconsin gardening expert, TV/radio host and author Melinda Myers will be on site to provide tips at the Kanavas Landscape Management booth from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

While you’re there, take home some purple coneflower seed packets, courtesy of American Transmission Co. Once these hearty perennials bloom, they’ll have no problem attracting birds and butterflies. The little gardener in your life will appreciate the "Growing Gardeners" activity booklet too, including information about the purple coneflowers, so make sure to pick up one of those as well.

Rain or shine, the garden tour is on. Sign up here and we’ll see you this weekend in Wauwatosa!