The Highground Annual Bike Tour Reaches Milestone Year “40”

Tom Miller’s original bike from his first ride of 1,244 miles around Wisconsin

On Friday, August 2, riders will begin their trek to The Highground from four different locations across the state—marking the 40th anniversary of this long-running fundraiser. The history and the people behind this event are what makes it such an amazing story to share.
“Saddle up…and Move ‘Em Out” was the call to action in 1986 as the second Annual Veterans Memorial Bike-a-Thon got underway. The year before, Founder Tom Miller’s vision to create a memorial in honor of his fallen comrade came to fruition with the creation of the nonprofit “Wisconsin Vietnam Veterans Memorial Project.” Tom biked 1,244 miles around Wisconsin that year to bring recognition to the project. The miles represent the number of Wisconsin service men and women killed in action (KIA) during the Vietnam War.

The Annual WVVMP Bike-A-Thon (BAT), which has gone through several changes since then, is now known as The Highground Heroes Ride Bike Tour. With so many enthusiastic supporters, veterans, and civilians alike, the 1985 BAT morphed into a three-day, multiple-route ride.   
As the years passed, additional routes were established. During The Highground Bicycle Tour’s 25th anniversary in 2009, Veteran Tom Kingsbury rode his bicycle along the original 1985 route around Wisconsin. Tom increased his number of miles to 1,500 to include the men and women from Wisconsin who were killed in action serving after Vietnam to 2009.  His ride was known as “The Heroes Ride” and was coordinated with Gold Star families along the route in memory of the loved ones they had lost. The Heroes Ride then culminated to join the six other routes, on the 3rd day of their ride, to arrive at The Highground as one. Ten years later, Tom Kingsbury rode The Heroes Ride route again, all while remembering the fallen, honoring veterans and bringing recognition to The Highground for its support of veterans.  
Each year, the number of riders has increased to currently over 120 who join one of five routes, and the funds raised have gone from $18,000 to $95,445 in 2023. The event has seen older generations inspire the next to participate, with riders as young as 10 years old taking on the full three-day, 170-mile journey. It has seen long-time riders and friends retire from the physical aspect and it has also seen some rest in peace.

Riders take a lap around the parking lot after completing the Heroes Ride in 2023

This isn’t a one-day, six-hour event. The riders spend months preparing, training, and gathering their sponsors to endure the 2-3 days of blisters, sore muscles, fatigue, sunburn, windburn, chaffing, and of course the Wisconsin weather. They arrive at The Highground on that first Sunday of August, quietly, with only their fellow riders welcoming them. They gather on the plaza for the “Heroes Family” meal, and they welcome the short ceremony that follows, allowing them the time to return home and rest before tackling their work week. It is, without a doubt, the most understated event of the year.  
The Highground is grateful for all returning riders and looks forward to welcoming new riders every year. There is still time to join the ride this year. Supporters who would like to participate are encouraged to contact the route leader for the route closest to them as soon as possible. The Highground is thankful for the event sponsors: Teamsters Local Union No. 662; The Sports Den; American Legion Bemis-Hunter Post 379; American Auxiliary Bemis-Hunter Unit 379; Young & Harrison Inc.; New Moon Ski & Bike; Bernards Northtown Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Ram; NEI Electric Inc.; Marine Corps League McCullen Kimpel Detachment 552; American Legion Trier-Puddy Post 75; Wisconsin Veteran Farm LLC & Winery; Kwik Trip Inc.; Ready Randy’s Sports Bar & Grill; Lowe Advertising; J&L Auto Service; Benck Mechanical Inc.; Custom Heating & Cooling; Marshfield Firefighters Association Local 1021; and Stache Bike & Adventure.
For this incredible milestone, The Highground is preparing to receive these unsung heroes with the welcome they deserve. The Highground calls on you. Guests: Join The Highground and fellow supports in welcoming each rider and showing them your appreciation for their efforts in supporting The Highground’s mission. Vietnam Veterans: Please RSVP by July 31 for the Vietnam Veterans Reunion.
For more information about the Heroes Ride, visit thehighgroundheroesride.com. General event questions can be directed to Elizabeth Springer by email at events@thehighground.org or by calling 715-743-4224.

For more information about The Highground, visit their website at thehighground.us or follow them on Facebook at Facebook.com/TheHighgroundVeteransMemorial.

The Highground is located at W7031 Ridge Rd, Neillsville WI 54456. thehighground.us.