Updated: Jan 30
Tristine Fleming began this journey in 2021. She was suddenly separated from her husband of 12 years and had been a stay at home mom for the majority of that time, homeschooling her son.
The shock of her husband abandoning her and her son put her in a difficult financial position, since he left her with nothing. Already in her 50's, she was scared no one would hire her. She had been out of the corporate world for over 20 years. When she left Corporate America in 2005, she became a Tour Guide at Wendella Boats and Shoreline Sightseeing in Chicago. Tristine became well known as one of the best tour guides on the Chicago River, which led her to more tour guide positions. She later wrote and presented the architectural and historical tour for Edelweiss Tours in Milwaukee, and when she lived in AZ she was a Tour Guide for The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation at Taliesin West. But she knew finding a job like that in the small town of Kenosha wasn't going to be easy.
While job searching, she saw a post for a Tour Guide position in Kenosha. She applied, interviewed, and got the job as a Pedal Pub Driver/Tour Guide. She immediately realized that this was her calling in life.
Because the owner of the pedal pub was so hands-off and uneducated in the tourist industry, Tristine pretty much ran the operations of the pedal pub. She tried to help the owner, but the woman refused to listen. Tristine believed in the business so much that she continually promoted it, and everyone thought that she was the owner. When they found out she wasn't, customers approached her about starting her own business, claiming they'd invest in her and fund the business if she operated it. Tristine realized she was basically already doing the bulk of operations and considered what owning her own pedal pub business would look like.
Out of curiosity, and a way to stay connected with her customers on social media, she opened an account on Instagram under the name Heavy Pedal. She meant no harm in it, planned no malice or spite against her boss, and even tried on several occasions to talk to her boss about it. But her boss refused to spend any time talking to, or listening to her. The owner insisted she didn't have time to deal with those things, so Tristine offered to manage the operations for her. The owner's response was, "You manage you!"
Then one day she saw she was no longer on the schedule for work and tried to find out why. When her boss finally responded hours later, she sent a screen shot of Tristine's Instagram profile. Tristine confessed she'd been trying to tell her for weeks about it but she never made time to talk to her. But that didn't matter. The owner fired her, claiming Tristine was "too good" at this job and she couldn't take the chance that Tristine would crush her business. Tristine insisted that she'd never do that. In fact, she had hoped that this woman owner, who claimed she wanted to empower Tristine after such a devastating separation from her husband, would instead help her get started and possibly mentor her. But she refused, and instead snapped at Tristine and told her that she "didn't like working with her." Tristine was not only out of a job during the toughest time of her life, but she also found herself not being able to do the very thing she had fallen in love doing.
A month later, Tristine was hired at Milwaukee Pedal Tavern and was back doing what she was so passionate about. In fact, when she told the owner, Derrick, why she was recently fired, he told her that they would be able to help her get started if she was really that interested. Tristine was thrilled that not only was she back behind the wheel of a pedal pub, but she had a guaranteed pedal pub business in the works. So she began to work hard on putting all the wheels in motion.
Tristine had been burned numerous times by countless empty promises of funding her dream before that. It was one disappointment after another. So the offer by Derrick, who was also partners with the Nashville Pedal Tavern, was an incredible opportunity!
The season ended and Tristine continued building her influence of Heavy Pedal on social media. She also partnered with Angie, owner of Union Park Tavern, to operate out of their facility. The two women met with Derrick at UPT, discussing their ideas and goals for the pedal pub. After their meeting, Tristine gave Derrick a tour of downtown Kenosha, and he was captivated by the possibilities of operating there.
In the meantime, Tristine was brewing up something unique and special for Heavy Pedal. Instead of merely driving people from bar to bar with no purpose, she wanted to offer food and brewery tours. She knew those types of tours were good business in other cities, and Kenosha had a lot to offer in that department. She worked closely with the downtown breweries, who were immediately on board for the whole ride. One brewery even offered to name a beer after Heavy Pedal Pub.
As Tristine's presence was getting bigger in the pedal pub industry, she was contacted by Sarah Howard from Visit Pleasant Prairie. She met Tristine and offered her an opportunity to operate in the Village. This was very exciting for Tristine. Her business was already expanding and she hadn't even started. However, now she was in desperate need of two pedal pubs!
She texted Derrick several times about the new opportunity, but by this point he was ghosting her. Weeks later, he texted her back and said he wasn't going to provide her with the pedal pub they promised. He had dragged her along for months and Tristine was shattered. She built her whole business on this man's word.
Then her stepdad in TN offered to build her a pedal pub and said he'd do it for free so she could get her business off the ground. Tristine began designing the ultimate machine that wouldn't require pedaling at all. She named it the No Pedal Pedal Pub. It took off like wildfire on Instagram and she built her entire Kenosha business based around that bike. She still needed another bike for Pleasant Prairie, and she just so happened to find a used bike not too far from Kenosha for only $10,000!
She contacted the owners of the bike and asked if they would be willing to lease the bike to her until she paid it off. They agreed and told her to draw up the paperwork, which she did immediately. She sent them the paperwork and the day before she was supposed to pick it up, they contacted her and told her they had sold it to someone else. She was beside herself in grief and anger, but at least she had one being built by her stepdad.
Time was slipping by and her stepdad, too, wasn't returning her texts or calls. When he finally responded, he told her he didn't have the money to build it. He never intended on building her the bike at all. He too had lied to her and betrayed her. Now she had nothing.
The day she found out the used pedal pub had been sold to someone else, both breweries that she was partnering with in Kenosha emailed her and said they were no longer able to partner with her. One brewery actually said, "we can't..."
Sarah Howard was not giving up on Tristine though. She continued to encourage her, and mentored her on how to find funding options.
The new season was getting ready to begin, and Tristine was wondering why Milwaukee Pedal Tavern hadn't contacted her with a schedule. She texted her boss to find out why, and he responded that she was not being asked back because "someone" had contacted them, claiming she made disparaging comments about the company, which she never did. She loved working there and only posted great things about the company. She asked him to provide the proof, and he never responded again. She contacted Derrick pleaing for her job, but he told her that it wasn't up to him, and that was the end of her pedal pub career.
As Tristine tells her story to one of her best friends, Eva Fox, Eva tries to encourage her not to give
up, but Tristine was already convinced the dream was dead.
Later, as Eva was going through her own personal trials, she too had to give up her dream of starting her own group home. It was hard for Tristine to watch her best friend go through the same thing she had. They cried together and Eva said, "I'm just going to give you the money to get your business started. You NEED to do this!" Tristine was surprised and asked Eva if she'd be a partner with her, knowing Eva had the perfect personality for the business. It took some convincing, but eventually Eva agreed and Heavy Pedal Tours rose from the ashes.
Today, the pedal pub is officially being built by Beer Bike Spain. And while the dream is alive again, there's still a need to get the bike finished and shipped to them. Funding is needed to help these two women get this business off the ground and beat the odds that have been stacked against them for far too long.
UPDATE: Pleasant Prairie is still happening for HeavyPedalTours, and Union Park Tavern (UPT) has partnered with her ex-boss without informing Tristine.