Riley Tavern

An illustration of a man and woman holding bicycles at the end of a trail, and the trail leads to a house in the distance

I pushed my secondhand mountain bike through the crowd, my oversized “Hier for Das Bier” T-shirt a stark contrast against a sea of Spandex. This was July 2019. My husband and I had just arrived at a Verona parking lot that claimed to have easy access to both the Ironman Wisconsin loop and the Military Ridge State Trail. Perhaps I should have felt a bit self-conscious as I made my way through the super-athletes-in-training, each unloading pricey bicycles and stretching their lean muscles before a group ride. But I was focused. I had my eyes on the prize. These cyclists filled their back pockets with “nutrition” for their lengthy ride, but we had come in search of real food. We were destined for pizza and beer at the Riley Tavern, just 6 miles down the trail. As the cyclists headed south toward their impressive loop, we mounted our bikes and headed west for our leisurely Saturday adventure.

The first 2 miles of our journey were a delight. I gushed about how lucky we were to live in a place like this, and my husband agreed. Such easy access to so much natural beauty, I told him. Again, he agreed. We pedaled along, enjoying the sound of the breeze rushing through the long grasses that flanked the trail, relishing the occasional shade of wooded stretches and inhaling the sweet smell of prairie plants.