At Ridge and Valley Tours, we are all about telling a good story . Ridge and Valley Tours was founded by Marty and Teri Richards. Our love story begins when we were teenagers, from rival schools in the Ridge and Valley athletic conference that still exists today. In the 70’s and early 80’s Marty grew up on our farm, Willow Valley Farms, and Teri moved to the area when she was 10. We each had grandparents that farmed as well. Our history is part of Wisconsin’s heritage, small family farms dotting the landscape, cheese factories at every crossroads, and rocks in every field. Families worked extremely hard carving out a living and a lifestyle in America’s Dairyland. We both have memories of taking cows out to pasture, driving tractor, cleaning calf pens, and picking rocks out of fields (okay, maybe it is more PTSD than memories in some cases). We drank milk out of the tank, loved getting cheese curds from the local cheese factory, and picked a few weeds in the family garden.
We have been married for over thirty years, living the last 25 years here in the family farmhouse. We have experienced much in thirty years. We have 3 beautiful daughters, Holly, 29 Laurel, 25 and Leah, 23. We have hosted many foreign exchange students from Germany & Switzerland, each for 10 months: Stefan, Leona, Veronika, Hannah, Lena, and Vera. We still consider them very much family and remain in touch and visit whenever possible. For 6 summers we also had another extended family member, Quesheia, join us from Mississippi through an exchange program. We had a great chapter in our life raising children, including their participation in sports, music, art, piano lessons, and dance lessons. Marty coached high school football for 3 different teams, and also coached softball for the girls (the measure of a great game or practice, none of the daughters were crying at the end). There were proms, homecomings, and many other great family events & activities. We could write a book full of chapters.
We traveled with our girls, (sometimes even when we couldn’t afford it). We wanted them to see the diversity this country has to offer in its people, its geography, and its sports teams (not really…we are Badgers, Packers, Brewers, and Bucks fans all of the way and if you disagree…well you are just plain wrong!). Neither of us ever traveled as children, and hardly left the state as young adults. We made a decision early on that we would travel often with our children and explore this world. We taught them to read a bus schedule, take the train, find their gate at the airport and to be situationally aware of their surroundings. Together with our kids, we saw the touristy stuff and the gritty stuff of poverty off the beaten path.
We bought a tent, graduated to a popup camper, and then to an RV. We followed the University of Wisconsin-Badgers and the Green Bay Packers everywhere. Along the way, we would “collect” more children and more stories. We love young people and have tried to help direct many over the years with words of wisdom and guidance. We have jumped into different careers, explored the world, and set our girls free to find their own way. (Some would call that kicking them out of the nest. We prefer to say we liberated them).
And they have gone off to new places in this world. Holly became a flight attendant and met Chris in Seattle, later settling in Spokane Washington. Marty is partially responsible for this and now Holly is a Seahawks fan. “I have failed as a father and apologize to Vince Lombardi, but that is my cross to bear.” Holly started her own non-profit helping new moms in Spokane, Chris is a firefighter/paramedic, and they are raising the greatest grandkids ever, Russell and Luke. (They are the greatest and anyone who disagrees is also just plain wrong). Laurel joined the Air Force as a TV & radio broadcast journalist with Armed Forces Radio and Television network and is in a relationship with John. John is also a former member of the Air Force, worked for AFN, and has moved on to a career with the Veterans Administration. Marty says, “As a Packer fan I believe he was discharged from the Air Force with the highest honors possible?) Between the two of them, they have lived in 6 different countries and have extensively traveled for the military. Leah has graduated from college and is currently finishing up her student teaching to be an elementary math teacher in Spokane. She hopes to have her own classroom soon and eventually be an athletic coach like her dad. Our girls had the best upbringing in tiny little Ithaca, Wisconsin. Surrounded by family they spent their summers on the farm, and took part in 4H, church camps, church, and school activities. We think it’s a beautiful story…and it all began when 2 kids fell in love over 30 years ago.
Teri became a nurse in 1992 and worked for over a decade as an Obstetrical nurse in 2 local hospitals. She then opened her own storefront photography business, and for 8 years, photographed families, weddings, high school seniors and children. She currently does some branding and promotion work, enjoying graphic design, social media marketing, and messaging. Five years ago she became a flight attendant with a regional airline for United and 2 years ago was offered a position with Southwest Airlines. She has been to over 150 American and Canadian cities and 5 other countries as a flight attendant. Marty has definitely enjoyed the flight benefits as he has come along on about 50 of Teri’s overnights, enjoying New Year’s in Times Square, exploring downtown Toronto, eating beignets at Cafe du Monde, riding bikes across the golden gate bridge, and riding to the top of the St. Louis arch, (not the bikes, just the contraption that took us to the top of the arch).
Marty started out with a career in broadcasting in a few radio markets. He has had a few of his own businesses working in real estate and personal insurance. (He also became some sort of “dog whisperer” during a career with a lobbying organization, cold calling on members on their farms. If you wonder if you are a “dog person” just show up unannounced on a farm with 3 dogs that have the run of the farm, you will figure it out very quickly.) He began working at WEA Member Benefits almost 20 years ago. He provides retirement education to teachers and does frequent large group presentations. He has worked hard to manage relationships with some of our largest school districts in Wisconsin, including Milwaukee Public Schools. For the last 7 years, he has stayed in Milwaukee 80+ nights a year. He is widely sought after for his retirement help and engaging style. (Or it might just be the intimidation factor?)
Together, we have traveled the world, spent a lot of time in Milwaukee, and have had some excellent experiences with people and places. We love good hospitality and customer service. And we have learned that there truly is no place like home. When Marty retires this April, he wants to do something that really resonates with his personality. (There didn’t appear to be a lucrative professional football tailgate/joke telling position out there so this was the best I could do.) He has dreamed of being a tour guide for years. We have done tours all over in some of the most “touristy” of destinations, and we have hired private tours to really dig in. We have literally been on tours everywhere from New Your City to the DMZ between South and North Korea. We have an idea of what this experience looks like. We want you to be delighted with our hospitality, enjoy some first-hand outrageous stories, learn about the farm family heritage, connect to your food sources, and appreciate the ecology of this beautiful area. We are on a journey to tell our local story.