Ridge and Valley Tours COVID-19 Response

I hope this entry finds everyone is well and safe with all of the disruptions to what was typical life prior to the pandemic. At Ridge and Valley Tours, we have had our share of disruptions, and just plain bad news, the past couple of months but we are a hardy group with a strong positive outlook.


Here is the latest on our current plan:

#1. Tours and events are postponed until further notice. We hope we can resume tours and events in the next few months. We will comply with the Badger Bounce Back guidelines put forward by the State of Wisconsin to help quash the transference of the virus. We also have the additional concern that several of our farm partner families have underlying health concerns and we want to protect them from any unnecessary risks. Our trip to the Frida Kahlo Art Exhibit has been postponed until next year as the College of DuPage has postponed that exhibit until 2021.

#2. When we resume our tours they will very likely be more of a “Group” tour at least for this year. In the past, we took any number of orders online, 4, 2, or even from a single person. When we resume operations it is very clear we will need to take family, friends, or workgroups who are already oriented with each other so we are not concerned with passing the virus from individual to individual beyond the unit they are already associated with. With this in mind, we will have to determine, to make the trip financially viable what is the minimum number required to take the tour out? Those are details we are still discussing and will determine as we move forward.


#3. We are determined to restart tours in the future. We saw in our inaugural year a desire from our participants for more tours and a strong appreciation for what we were offering. As the year went on there were some very encouraging signs of growth for events and tours of our farms, wineries, breweries, and orchards.  We also saw our participants come forward with ideas of their own, such as a progressive diner in which we transported a group of 12 to 4 different restaurants for appetizers, drinks, dinner, and dessert! We believe we learned much that will help us move forward in the future and we are patiently biding our time to connect more people with the places, people, and stories that make up our corner of the Driftless area.

#4. We are offering Gift Certificates/Cards. With our commitment to future offerings we are offering gift certificates and cards for future use. These do not expire and can be used on any event we offer in the future. If you wish to book a trip to a concert, a sporting event, an agri-tourism trip, or even your own progressive diner, they are good for any adventure with us and they never expire. To purchase gift cards click here.

We look forward to the new normal of the future and see many opportunities for our area and Ridge and Valley Tours as we emerge from the “Safer At Home” order. With our combination of Driftless Area beauty and sparsity of people, our corner of the Driftless area will be an attractive place to visit for some time to come.

Be Safe,

Marty and Teri

Don’t you take the winters off?

The Ridge and Valley Pre-Planned Tour Season is complete. We learned much, educated and entertained quite a few people, and brought some great agricultural insight to visitors from outside Southwest Wisconsin as well as local residents. There were some lessons, such as don’t try to cram 6 hours of entertainment, driving, and education into a 4 hour period. There were also some very pleasant surprises, such as the great discussion and connection that happened at every meal at the end of one of our tours. Overall it was a great experience and has served to show us some things we are doing right and some things we can improve upon.

I had someone mention to me a week ago, “So, you get to take the winter off right?”. Well, that might have been one of my original intentions but the reality of it is not proving that to be true. So far, since our last planned tour, we have taken groups to Badger and Packer games at Camp Randal and Lambeau Field, and we held our “Dinner With The Kids” night in which we took a group to hang out with the newborn kids and dinner at our new business partner The Branding Iron Roadhouse. And now we are holding the world premiere of R&V Tours Goat Yoga and Wine & Cheese Tasting!

At Ridge and Valley Tours, we are all about experiential ventures. Because we like trying new adventures we are cooperatively hosting a Goat Yoga and Wine & Cheese Tasting experience. This Saturday along with our business partners Narrows Creek Winery, dairy goat farm operators Chad McCauley and Robin Loewe, Stairway to Wellness, and Carr Valley Cheese, we are holding this event. The response has been off the charts and rest assured we will be offering this event again in the future.

Keep an eye out this winter for other experiences that are a bit unique or unusual. One event that we have an interest in making a trip this winter is the 2020 Snowflake Ski Jump event in Westby. I went to witness this last year and it exceeded my expectations. Even I was questioning the sanity in flinging yourself off a perfectly good hillside, 118 Meters high on skis. It is a fantastic event filled with ski jumping, fireworks, live music, and yes, some pretty darn good beverages.

As much as we think we know what is interesting or exciting for people to experience, we also have learned our participants are the ones who really show us what is of interest. If you are aware of an event this winter you feel would be worth a trip, I am always interested to hear new ideas and if it makes sense, make it happen. Feel free to reach out to me at ridgeandvalleytours@gmail.com or fill out the contact form below, and share your winter experience ideas with me.

Remember, there are no crazy ideas, just crazy people who have ideas! -Marty


When I was a kid, and agreed I had too much energy for my own good, I heard this phrase repeatedly. Typically, it was by this point in the day my brothers and I had the daily chores done on the farm, Dad wasn’t in the immediate area to assign any others, and we were pulling a full-on death cage wrestling match in the living room. Mom, and probably my sister Annette too, had enough of the man-children destroying the house.

Ridge and Valley Hospitality’s outdoor patio and dining area.

This phrase has been top of mind as of late as we started our Airbnb up with not only a focus on a nice living space but also a very nice patio area with bistro lighting, a grill, and a fire pit for a campfire. So what is bugging me about this you ask? (If you didn’t ask you should have because here it comes.) Despite our best efforts to encourage guests to use the outdoor spaces more than half of our guests arrive, promptly go upstairs and lock themselves inside for hours on end, not using the fire pit, not eating outside or using the grill, or even venturing away from the property to another activity. Our latest guests, a very nice group of an adult big sister with middle school to early high school aged sisters, spent the first full 24 hours in the guest suite while the weather was perfect outside.

I can hear your first thoughts, “Well gee Marty, if they are young couples, put yourself in their shoes, what the heck do you think they are doing?” However, those who have used the outside spaces are the couples. My thoughts on this subject, most of those who have sequestered inside the property are from Chicago, Milwaukee, very urban locations. I suspect their previous habits led them to stay inside. They have marveled at the beauty of our area, and the outside of the property, but can’t break the old habit of staying indoors. Yes we have a small sample size, I will keep an eye on it and report back, but it leads me to a command for anyone and everyone who reads this.


If you are from the Midwest, you remember this past winter right? I do! I remember the 30 degrees, below zero, temps in which it was so cold I saw two dogs with jumper cables trying to jump start a rabbit so they could chase it. It was snot-in-your-nose-immediately-freezing-as-you-stepped-outside cold. That is coming back folks, January and February in Wisconsin is not for the faint of heart. We have just a few months of pleasant weather left, get out and enjoy it!

If you are visiting Richland County in the Spring, Summer, or Fall, there is plenty to do outside. You can go kayaking down the Pine River, just contact Mark at Pine River Paddle and Tube LLC https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g60233-d10594621-r566262170-Pine_River_Paddle_and_Tube_LLC-Richland_Center_Wisconsin.html

If you tell Mark we sent you he will give you a kayak that actually floats! Just kidding, Mark does an excellent job of setting you up and is a character worth meeting in his own right.

Ride or walk the Pine River Bike Trail: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60233-d10409287-Reviews-Pine_River_Trail-Richland_Center_Wisconsin.html

The trail closer to Lone Rock tends to be in better condition, as you get closer to Richland Center the elevation is lower and can be affected by floods on the river. I have ridden the trail many times and the wildlife on the trail is phenomenal.

Pier Natural Bridge Park, Rockbridge. https://parkscommission.co.richland.wi.us/county-parks/pier-natural-bridge-park/

This park is a great view into the Driftless Region of Wisconsin with some awesome rock formations and hiking trails.

Finally, and yes this is quite self-serving, check out Ridge and Valley Tours. https://ridgeandvalleytours.com

Get out on the farms, visit the calves, goats, yaks, beef cattle, and swine. Learn about the agriculture of the Driftless Area and how it is changing with the times. Come with us to visit wineries, breweries, and cheese factories of the area and enjoy a true farm-to-fork meal at the end. We only have 3 months remaining of the season and we have had many, and I mean many, people inquire about tours and comment they need to come join us before the end of the season.

Kids love the hands-on engagement with calves and young goat kids.

Time is running out, with less than 3 months left of the tour season we are well beyond half-way through. If you have a group of 5 or more, contact us directly at ridgeandvalleytours@gmail.com and we can tailor-make that tour that suits your interests. Let us know what you want to see and we will take you there, and back.

Get outside, now, time is wasting.

Why we offer tours of the Driftless Area and feature its people.

“Think about what you love to do, and do it on your schedule.”


These are the words I have shared hundred’s of times when explaining to 40 to 60 year-old public school employees in Wisconsin how one should “retire” today. First the word retire really is completely misleading as to what we do today when we leave our primary employer. What do you think of when you hear the word retirement? For many we think of our Grandmother or Grandfather, sitting in their recliner, looking out the window or reading the paper. Every now and then they probably went fishing or hunting, maybe a coffee klatsch with their friends in the mornings down at the diner, and/or possibly a nap every afternoon. This is not what initial retirement looks like today.

First off, we all have to figure out how to cover health care until we turn age 65, or our first Medicare eligibility. Back when Grandpa and Grandma retired they could afford to self-insure, or they may have had a post-employment benefit from their former employer. I could talk about retiree health care issues until the Brewers win the World Series, (I am afraid they are both insurmountable achievements), but that isn’t where I am going with this. Let’s assume we have figured out the health care issue to Medicare eligibility.

In my “scientific” study of somewhat average Americans that I have rigorously conducted across airport bars, dive bars, and hotel lounges across this great country, a large proportion of Americans do not want to work at the same pace, or in the same work that they are at 40, 50, or 60 years old. It can get mundane, repetitive, and lack any challenge. I also argue that encourages us to get old prematurely. There are many actual scientific studies (none of which involved interviewing people at bars) that have found changing work can stimulate areas of the brain that haven’t been active. Learning new tasks, performing current tasks differently, or switching employment helps activate idle areas of our brain and help prevent dementia or even Alzheimer’s.

In my experience many people want to stay somewhat active working but work on their schedule, doing what they want to do. With Grandson’s, two daughters, and a son-in-law in Spokane, and another daughter in Northern Italy, that is exactly what I decided to do. It was obvious there was no more upward mobility at my last employer, they were happy to have me out in the field, meeting with administrators and the critical public’s doing what they knew I was very good at. Without any plan to advance, remember I get very bored without a new challenge, I decided it was time to go out and find my own challenge.

What did I like best about my previous career? I was able to meet new people all of the time. Hey, I like people! Even difficult people! My favorite is to take a person who is obviously having a bad day, in a position of customer service, and turn them around to where they are smiling, laughing even, and willing to go beyond to make our experience, at whatever restaurant or attraction we are visiting, an enjoyable one. There are a couple legendary stories about this that Teri just shakes her head and wonders how I don’t get punched at some point.

I also loved presenting retirement seminars to participants, I loved the Q & A. Rapid-fire response to questions audience members may have and looking for that opening where I can make a quick joke that everyone in the group finds funny. I enjoy doing the research to learn the information about that topic and tend to retain the information in a mostly accurate fashion……..mostly. I also enjoy educating people on useful or practical information that they can go out and use in life.

When I gave my notice to my former employer back in September of 2018, we did not know what I would do next. We weren’t very worried about it, I have left other careers with less notice before and it all worked out. Teri and I were only financially responsible for each other, our children were all out of the house and college, so this scenario was much easier to manage than they day I left a steady hourly job to go sell real estate, right before Desert Storm was launched. By the way, apparently, everyone decided to stay in their own homes and watch the war on tv rather than buy a new home. There was a bit of a lesson in that decision.

After some discussion, the initial efforts to set up a retirement consulting firm, and a trip out to Spokane, we came to the resolution that I really wanted to be a tour guide and that we wanted to bring it to an unusual location. We stopped the retirement consulting firm discussion and decided to move forward with developing an Agri-tour of the Driftless Area. In the Driftless we have points of interest equal or greater to those on other parts of this Earth. We have toured most major cities and sites in the USA, we have toured the Demilitarized Zone of Korea, we have seen the snow monkeys of Nagano Japan, we have toured Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. Why not the Driftless?

In our little corner of the world that encompasses Richland County and the Driftless Area we have, a winery with the most vines in Wisconsin, a world-class microbrewery facility, natural history in Rockbridge and Elephant Trunk rock that is unique on this earth, cultural history in Frank Lloyd Wright and the only remaining commercial building he designed with a whole unique story to itself. We also have one of the most interesting and intriguing commodities to the rest of the world in the Driftless area, great people with great stories. Probably my most enjoyable moment of each tour so far, the end of the tour where everyone is sitting around a farm-style, or large table, 8-15 people. Enjoying a meal, talking, connecting, and enjoying good fellowship.

This is why we came up with the concept of Ridge and Valley Tours. Bringing new people to visit with exceptional people and places of the Driftless Area. We would love to have you join us soon!

Father’s Day Recognition for all fathers, and a special tour discount.

Our fathers fill a critical role during our life. To be clear, I am not talking about just our birth fathers, but all important male influencers and counselors. They help us develop, navigate the pitfalls of life, and make us into better human beings. I have been very fortunate to have the influence of many great men who gave me the confidence to do what I do. They helped me reign in that “Crazy Marty Energy” (as I have heard it described in the past), brought focus to my mind, and helped me develop into a somewhat functional father myself.


My Dad, Orlen Richards, is a great man, and almost everyone who has ever met him would agree with that statement. He embodied the term “servant leader” before anyone knew what that term meant. He has shown me how to equip and support my spouse and my children, to achieve levels of success on their own that will continue to serve them well long after I am gone. He taught me it isn’t always about me, it is about guiding their lives to a level of achievement and happiness that they find rewarding and they can then help others.

I had at least two great sports coaches in high school who were extremely instrumental in my development personally. Gary Gutkenecht and Dan Rice were truly “life coaches” for me before that was a term too. Not coincidentally both men have been recognized by their state and national Halls of Fame for their successes as coaches. However, I remember Gary for teaching me to never quit and Dan for teaching me to have a plan, have another plan, and then have yet a third plan. He also taught me to make sure all 3 plans don’t suck. Both Dan and Gary were responsible for motivating me to go on to a 20+ year coaching career in high school football and girls softball. Many of the lessons I learned from them formed the basic philosophy I emphasized to my players, “be accountable to your responsibilities and to your teammates.” This works in life too.

I was extremely fortunate to have a father-type relationship with my business mentor Bill Brown. Bill and I were an unlikely pairing, we could not be more different. Bill is very analytical and pragmatic. I walked into his office one day, without an appointment or a real estate license, and talked him into hiring me as a real estate agent. However, we actually learned we worked well together. Bill taught me the basics of business, how to conduct yourself in a business setting, and how to set up different “streams of income” before anyone used that term widely. I owe much of my professional success to Bill. He is very much responsible for my insurance and retirement investment career and the work I went on to do to help literally thousands of public school employees reach a level of financial success for themselves.

These are just a few of the different “fathers” I have had over the years. We want to celebrate those fathers who have made us the person we are. For our Father’s Day weekend, East Coast Tour, we will extend a 50% discount to a father and their companion. My suggestion, invite your “father”, to go on the East Coast Tour with you. If they are your birth father, awesome, if they are a former coach, teacher, neighbor, father-in-law, even better. We simply want to celebrate all of those who have filled that role and have made us the people we are. This isn’t limited to fathers and sons, it could be fathers and daughters,  fathers and granddaughters, you name it. Just use the code FathersDay50 when purchasing the ticket for 50% off your fare and your “father”. Simply put it is a 50% discount for a father and their companion, whoever they may be.

We hope to see you soon!