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2022 Windy 500 wrap up


“The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.” – Henry Longfellow

I ran into Lex at Colectivo a few weeks ago, and he gently reminded me that this wrap-up has been sitting in my to-do box for way too long. He’s right, but I needed time to think through my commentary like every other year. And, like every other year, there’s been a lot of “stuff” going on. This week, Mike reminded me about this wrap-up. Again.

The Windy means more to me than most people will ever know or understand, so the process of reviewing and writing about it holds a special place in my heart. Whether anyone reads this or not, my recap has to be an honest assessment and that’s a process that can take some time to get right.

So here goes… The 12th annual Windy 500.

This one was definitely in my top 3 of all time. It lacked all the stuff I’ve come to dislike about the trip but included much of the heart and soul that we’d been missing from the past few years. Short on mileage and long on experiences, 2022 was the perfect mix.

The rules of the Windy have gradually and deliberately been abandoned over the years as the ride has evolved. In fact, we’ve broken all three at one time or another:

  • Must ride 500 miles
  • Must cross a state line
  • Must be completed in 4 days

The riders have evolved (read: aged) too. Which is just fine by me, since I’m one of them. What started as a crazy idea with next-to-no planning has turned into an annual event that I look forward to almost more than any other.

When initially planning this year’s trip, we dug deep into the experiences of the past to try to (finally) figure out where the secret sauce really comes from. Is it the route? Is it the challenge? The riders? The weather? Yes to all of the above. So ultimately, the answers had to come from what the ride wasn’t.

The Windy 500 is not a guided tour. We had been slowly adding stops and “surprises” along the routes until it had eventually morphed into something as predictable as a ride on the Zoomobile. “…coming up on your left you’ll see Monkey Island…”. This year we didn’t even know where we were going on Day 2 or 3. McArdle and bc (with help from others) plotted out the next day’s route at the kitchen table before bed each night.

By the way, the kitchen table is something we never had before. This is not a ride for the pampered glamper. While we’re not carrying tents and backpacks, we’re also not going to look for bougie hotels anymore. This time, we booked a VRBO that slept a big group. And while the sleeping arrangements were not ideal after long days in the saddle, the vibe was perfect. Unfortunately, some got comfy beds while others got terrible beds/couches to stretch out on after 100+ plus miles. But everyone sharing one house was exactly what had been missing post-ride. In 2023 we’ll again go the shared house route but we’ll definitely look for better sleeping accommodations. Having everyone together at night made for some of the best brotherhood, conversations, and fun of any year I can remember.

Because our VRBO was a condo, we got the added bonus of having a bachelor party group for neighbors. While our 40-60+ year-old group was content to chill and hit the hay early each night, “Moose” and his 20-something Illinois dumbassery crowd next door provided endless entertainment for us.

The Windy is not a ride for the casual cyclist. There were a few throat punch days in years past that really tested the group. And I was a huge fan of those days, for reasons I’ll explain later, but this ride is not the time or place for appraising individuals’ mental and physical limitations. It’s a time for community, camaraderie and shared experiences. Should there be a tough climb or two? Hell yes. Should there be full days of testing the limits? Absolutely not.

The Windy is not for the solo rider. Over the years we’ve included several riders who log a lot of miles, but never in groups. They were “Windy-curious” outliers who are strong riders but couldn’t or wouldn’t hold a wheel. They never struggled to hang in, even on the toughest days, but their personalities and/or lack of group riding experience put them at a big disadvantage. They also put others on edge, even at risk, by not being comfortable riding at speed in tight groups in maybe less-than-ideal conditions.

The Windy is not something you show up for and are escorted through. Year one was a colossal disaster in some respects. While the memories of that year have been romanticized over the years and many of the bad parts have been forgotten, we just about killed one rider. We ran out of sunlight on Day 1 and rode almost 40 additional unplanned miles, testing everyone’s limits. We had no backup plan. No support. No tour guides. But it was fucking awesome. By comparison, last year was so scripted that we could have printed glossy brochures and charged a fortune to anyone that was only there to brag about it online afterwards. For me, it sucked.

This year, we finally made some decisions with our hearts, about what we wanted to spend 4 days doing. The “we” is bc, McArdle, and me, but also some of the veteran riders who have the same passion for this ride and want the same shared experiences (Lex, Mike, Finn, etc.). Here’s what we did:

Day 1: A small group again. By design. Gone forever are the days of almost 30 people rolling out of my driveway. Not my monkeys, not my circus. McArdle & bc wisely asked a few local dudes to roll with us to breakfast again. It’s awesome to share the excitement and workload for the first 35 or so miles. Once we get our bellies full at Alma’s, we say our goodbyes to the morning guys and drop the Space Shuttle booster rockets to continue our journey unaided. Speaking of “unaided”, Blake continued his tradition of giving us a terrible lead out, then tapping out a mile into it…

Obviously, not all of the Windy traditions need changing. Alma’s has become our go-to for Day 1 breakfast for years, and it would be hard to top their food and hospitality. Most riders fuel up a little before launch from my house (or their house), and then have the perfect amount of hangry 35 miles later. We crush gallons of coffee and mountains of egg sammiches and then begin the first of many eat-then-climb segments in our too-tight pants.

The Windy 500 is about 2 things: riding bikes all day long, over a long weekend, and spending time with friends I love and respect. Everything else is just details. Every year has always had some of those 2 things, but definitely not always in the right amounts. 2022 was finally just right. No stress, no drama, no rules. In fact, we didn’t even hit 500 miles, but no one cared. The Windy has now chalked up 6,0561/3 miles (so we still have 561/3 miles of cushion). We’ve also racked up 144,691 feet (27.4 vertical miles) of climbing, which puts us just shy of scaling Mt. Everest 5 times from sea level. It’s been a hell of a ride so far, literally, but there is nothing left to prove to anyone. I think that concept finally sank in this year (for me).

As much as my romantic vision of Year One was about adventure, it was also about the insanity of it. I took great pride in explaining to someone that does not ride bikes or maybe rides 3 miles on an old Schwinn once every 5 years, that we left Milwaukee yesterday, and we’re in Iron Mountain, Michigan today. I proudly wore that badge of honor/nut-baggery for all to see. It meant something to ME, even though I now realize that it meant nothing to anyone else. I had something to prove… to someone. So, in some years, we collectively challenged ourselves to go faster. To climb more. To bury the weak. And we did.

And it meant nothing to anyone. But it did alienate people, and make them wish they hadn’t chosen this stupid adventure. And for that, I’m sorry. I now realize that the Windy started as a way for me to exorcise some personal demons. To prove myself to no one but myself.

Thankfully though, this year seemed to start on a lighter note for me. Lighter physically, literally, since my broken jaw had been wired shut for 2 months until just before we rolled out. I hadn’t been able to eat, or breathe through my mouth for the entire Summer and had lost a lot of weight. But mentally, I felt like something was changing too.

This year I really enjoyed the ride. From the front, the middle, and the back of the pack. And I had nothing to prove. I was in great shape: too thin (30 pounds lighter than my COVID high), and ready to race the 153-mile Gravel Worlds on my singlespeed 2 weeks later. I didn’t need to turn myself inside out, proving how fast we could paceline to the hotel. I didn’t need to catch Bill Davis all the way from the back of the pack as he jammed up the biggest climb of the weekend. And so, as I passed everyone and got to within striking distance I finally realized the stupidity of what I was doing. So I backed off a bit and followed his lead over the top. Could I have caught him? Who needed to know? No one. Who cared if I could? No one. Not even me. And that’s when things finally clicked for me. We all rode together this year through some of the most beautiful roads we’ve seen over the past 12 years. The scenery was spectacular, and I enjoyed every second of it.

FYI: McKinney is very picky. He likes “American Food”.

Day 2: While some awoke feeling well-rested, others were still a little tired from our sleeping arrangements. I was in a top bunk on the second floor. The tiny sheets didn’t really fit the tiny mattress, and the summer heat and lack of airflow that high up made me consider sleeping in a nice, cool dumpster somewhere for night two. Meanwhile, the A/C in the basement was blasting harder than AC/DC in a ’76 Camaro. We had to open the freezer doors to warm the room up. Breakfast was whatever we had in the kitchen, followed by whatever they had at the Kwik Trip a few miles away.

From there we rolled out and found some more beautiful roads and scenery and even a little gravel.

For reasons we may never know, the day and the route seemed to really stretch us out. Maybe it was the crappy night’s sleep, or maybe we’re just too old for this. Every minute on the bikes was great, but you could feel the energy leaving the group as the day went on. The route we had picked gave us just about a Century – with options. One of those options was the spectacular outdoor pool (a Windy first), and without hesitation we all chose it. Our day ended far short of the normal 125 miles, and no one cared.

OK, maybe it wasn’t spectacular by “pool snob” standards, but it was definitely spectacular by sweaty, tired, middle-aged dudes’ standards. Note – adding “outdoor pool” to the 2023+ mandatory items list.

Once everyone dried off and cleaned up, we walked the 4 or so blocks to downtown Wisconsin Dells for another mandatory item: Mexican Food. We were shocked to find that the hottest item on the menu that night was the birthday boy – Bill Finn!

Our lovely waiter took a fancy to Mr. Finn, offering him a personalized Birthday greeting with optional personal contact information hidden on the backside… And yes, I just said “backside”.

Sadly, Mr. Finn went home with the exact same number of men he had arrived with.

Day 3, the dreaded shit-storm day: Just like Celine Dion’s heart will continue to go on, it WILL rain on the Windy. And, on Sunday, rain it did.

But, that’s just part of the ride – so we rolled out into it.

Apparently, Bill even found a place to wash his hands.

Doin’ work.

We enjoyed some of the finest gourmet race fuel any Kwik Trips had to offer during the day each day:

At night, more walking and eating. More route planning and chatting. More laughing. And less stress.

Day 4: Heading home. Aside from really bad headaches that lingered after my broken jaw had healed, the ride went off without a hitch.

For the group – a couple of flats, no major mechanicals, no distress calls. In fact, no real hiccups at all. And the best part of all of it was the absolute “unplanning” that occurred each day. Stop when we stop. Go when we go. Take it all in. “Sop it up” as Lampe would say.

Arrivée

Then it stops. We hug and begin to assemble our things, and the world begins to seem still and lonely and odd. Eventually, all of the cars cluttering my driveway for the past 4 days drive away – inevitably leaving random tubes or pumps or gloves in my garage, and the world is quiet. We all go our separate ways and melt back into the real world. Work the next day is a barrage of random text messages that no one else would understand but manage to make everyone in our group chuckle:

“Mechanical!”

“Stopping.”

“Natural”

And the planning for next year begins...

2021 Windy 500 wrap up


“Die first. Then you can go about the business of living.” ~ Ekhart Tolle

Well, here we are. Year 11. The Annual Ride of Stupidity. In the books. The riding was great, and the weather was great (except when it wasn’t). The group was great – good size, great guys. The new Door County route was amazing. So why was this year so boring to me?

I’ve waited a few months now to let the memories and feelings really sink in. After riding 5,613 total miles and climbing 25 miles (131,515 feet) above the earth’s surface (into the virtual mesosphere), I’ve become bored. 44 days of riding at least 100 miles a day, in Wisconsin, in August, and I can do it in my sleep.

For those who haven’t been there every year, I would certainly hope that it’s still interesting. Especially for those who have only 1 or 2 trips in them. On paper, this journey is amazing. And mostly because of all of the work that goes into it before we roll a single mile. Chris McArdle and Brien Christopherson literally spend 365 days a year planning and organizing. The next year’s strategizing starts the second we roll into my driveway. We eat amazing food, sometimes in the middle of nowhere. We stay in awesome hotels (usually). The quality and caliber of men that do this ride are really second to none. It’s hard to point to any negatives at all. But, sometimes too much of a good thing is still too much. Kind of like Midwesterners going to see the ocean – it’s awe-inspiring. Unless you grew up living on the ocean, then it’s normal – boring even. Same thing. The ride is a spectacular event, and I’ll do it until I die. But, as in years past, it needs some changes to keep it fascinating. So for 2022, there will be changes.

But first, 2021:

Our mandatory rollout with Captain Crocs once again doing lead-out duty. Hard to believe that Blake was only 2 years old in Year #1.

The right amount of riders makes a big difference. In years past, we’ve had close to 30 guys and it becomes a real challenge to roll out smoothly on Day 1. This was by design a smaller group and by far the smoothest rollout ever. It was also the fastest Windy day on record, averaging 20.1mph over the first 133 miles to Green Bay.

Fluid Truck provided our SAG wagon this year. A brand new Dodge cargo van, which made the journey so much better. And with 2 dedicated SAG drivers, anything we needed was always 50 yards away. One thing we didn’t need? Pabst Blue Ribbon Black. The worst beer ever brewed.

And away we go!

Rolling out of Brookfield in nearly perfect conditions.

On to Alma’s, our traditional Stop #1. Egg-cellent sammiches, followed by a PBR or two to motivate us up the hill that leads out of town. Nothing like tight-fitting lycra after cramming your gut full of potatoes!

No one ever has any fun on the Windy.

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’…

Perfect temps and a tailwind all day.

Pro Tip: An easy way to meet new people is to park in front of their house in the country and lay on their lawn…

More riding in the sunshine, and finally – MEXICAN FOOD (that didn’t take long). Mr. Taco/Gloria’s did not disappoint. I picked up a staple in the road about 2 blocks away, rolling in on the only flat tire of the day. Or were there 2? Flats were fairly minimal this year, except for me. I had 3: a staple, a piece of glass, and a sharp rock while flying down a gravel road.

A Mexican restaurant, in the middle of Nowhere, WI, with delicious, authentic food and drink.
Reminder – there is no fun to be had on the Windy.

Onward and upward. Green Bay was base camp this year, and we made it there in record time.

Our Chalet for the weekend.
…and this is why we can’t have nice things.

Moving on…

Friday is the new Saturday? Friday brought us an entirely new route: East to Door County, then North, and a big loop back home. By far the best route of the weekend.

Did I mention that PBR Black is the Devil’s child?
I somehow managed to average almost 500 watts… Seems highly accurate.

So far, so good. The threat of rain every day hasn’t produced any so far and the routes have been perfect for keeping a mixed group of riders together. Rolling along at 20-22 on the flats made for a great day in the saddle.

Saturday was the first-ever “off day”. A concept we’ve thought about since the early days. The original thought was to get an Air BNB or VRBO on a lake and spend the day swimming, fishing, grilling, whatever. Tough to find a spot that sleeps X-teen guys comfortably though, so we opted for Plan B. Late rollout, shorts and T-shirts, and a total of fewer than 20 miles of “recovery” riding between spots of interest in and around Green Bay.

Overall, the concept was a hit. Riding 4 back-to-back Centuries+ can take a toll on the (old) bodies and minds, especially when the pace gets quicker or the hills get more plentiful. Most guys seemed to appreciate the recovery day, but almost everyone would have preferred a “real” recovery ride in the morning and then chill time off the bikes after lunch. The ride we did on Saturday was more like a 1-day fun ride that we’d do around Milwaukee.

Started with a quick trip over to L-L-L-Lambeau! I think Dave has to fart.
Followed by an even shorter trip to the first Brewery.
What should we talk about?
Do you think that an individual born to parents with low intelligence can develop an IQ higher than his/her parents? Explain your answer.
So… this happened. Insert your own caption here. Yes, that’s a cat.
SPD tennis shoes? Nope. The rain finally came out to greet us on Saturday. Just a teaser of what we’d face on Monday.
bc and I decided to crash a random pizza party. I thought the guy behind me had the new Bontrager TT helmet on, turns out it was just a really bad hairpiece. And American Flag Lady was shitfaced.
M. F. Fred!!! SAG driver #2 for the weekend, and one of the best guys on Earth. Found on the 2020 Windy. Now a part of history.

On to La Nostra Strada Pizzeria. The BEST pizza on Earth. Whatever, fight me. You can’t change facts. Andy Krans, an old friend of mine, and now everyone’s, is the mastermind behind this place. The pizza is amazing and the staff is equally amazing. Do yourself a favor a drive there right now. We tipped so heavily that the cook made a TikTok video of the cash.

Reetz practicing his recumbent posture for a few years down the road.

Later that evening we (me) chose to order appetizers for everyone. Chicharrones. And when I say everyone, I mean the population of Earth. Lutz’s order came stamped with a time/date tattoo. Here’s bc forcing me to eat 1/1,000,000th of the order:

Chicharrones are good. In moderation…

Also, Wanda’s senior crush had another birthday. The waitstaff brought out a cake made of Centrum Silver and tears:

From there it was back to business as usual. Sunday meant a trip to Da U.P. Now that you know the best pizza joint in the world, let me introduce you to the best Mexican food in the world…

But first, bakery…

And also, this:

When confronted with a downed tree from the storm the night before, our brave lycra-clad men wearing cleated shoes tackled it with the bravado of a group of Karens at a LuLu Lemon sale… “We’ll have to go a different way!”

Now, where was I? Oh yes, killer Mexican food. This:

The food alone makes all the miles more than worth it.

Back to Wisconsin, and back to the birthplace of bc:

May I introduce you to the coolest little town on the map: “Shitasskiville”

After that, more bikes and beers and awesomeness. As usual. And very mild weather. Until it wasn’t. At the last beer stop, Mother Nature decided that it was time to stop F-ing around. With a little over 10 miles to go, the skies turned black and we began to ride angry for the last bit of the day. While the first group left when bc called for it, half of the group was still inside the brewery and never heard the warning shots. As much as I loved the 28mph paceline coming into Green Bay, I felt like a fat turd when the second half of the crew rolled in 10 minutes later, completely soaked by the thunderstorm.

Speaking of thunderstorms… Day 4 (5). Never Have I Ever – ridden for 11 hours straight in driving rain. No, wait… I HAVE.

From the Lands End Fall catalog…
From the “Hey, you got a dollar I can have??” Fall catalog

So, there’s rain and then there’s RAIN. Almost 11 hours of relentless headwinds and driving rain. From Green Bay all the way to Brookfield. 134 miles – 10:41:50. The same route that took 6:35:43 of moving time on the previous Thursday going North, took what seemed like a month and a half on the way home. If I had to do it all over again, I’d skip that day. 100%.

And…home! Always bittersweet. Good to be back, but sad that the journey ends for another year.

And finally… some random shots to round out the adventure:

I love this ride. I love these guys. You all make my life better.

Until next year!

2021 Windy 500 dates/routes/details…


All,

2021 will be the 11th running of the Windy (10th anniversary). After the 2019 edition, I had grand dreams of making the 2020 version into something huge. As it turns out, that is what spoiled the magic in the first place. 2020 ended up being (because of COVID) one of the smallest groups of riders AND one of the top 3 best rides of all time.

(Lack of) planning is what made the first-ever year the gold standard. We had a mission (idea), 3 planned hotel stops, and UPS boxes en route to all 3. Aside from that, any “planning” that happened prior to launch was subject to change and/or ridicule. No SAG or support, a route that was all but abandoned 75 miles in, and 4 guys with no clue what they were doing. It was spectacular!

Over the years, the ride has grown and grown. Roughly 50 (?) different riders have taken part. Some just once, some two or three times, and others lots more. Mark Lampe has participated in every ride since 2011, bc has been there since the year 2012, but only Chris McArdle and I have covered all 5,089 Windy miles together.

Over the years, the ride grew by word of mouth and at some point, it just got too big. It became more of a guided tour. It’s easy for a handful of dudes to roll into the Town of Nowhere and get an “on-demand” burger and a beer for lunch. It’s nearly impossible with 28 guys unless you have a few hours to spare. Chris and bc spent hours upon hours designing routes and stops because there were “so many people” (an ode to Chris), it became a part-time job to plan and then execute the ride.

In 2019, we came up with the bright idea of limiting the riders to a specific number by using a scoring method. Yeah – that was stupid. ‘Nuff said.

2020 was wide open, and then COVID hit. I had intended to do a “Windy 1,000” for the tenth year. After COVID, we split it into 2 separate 500-mile routes. Yeah – that was stupid. ‘Nuff said.

The Windy 500 will always be the Windy 500. There were a few rules (guidelines really) that we used initially. After a few years, it became clear that spending a few days riding all day with friends and covering (+/-) 500 miles was spectacular. No rules or guidelines needed. This brings us to 2021…

For the 11th ride/10th anniversary, we are still discussing the details. What we do know is:

  • The ride will be 500 miles. Ish. Not 1,000. Ish.
  • The ride will take 5 days. Thursday, August 5 to Monday, August 9. This year, we will be enjoying a celebratory 5-day timeframe with a first-time-ever Saturday “rest day”. Hanging out somewhere all day; swimming, beers, jamming tunes, recovering, grilling out, bonfire and bourbon.

  • Limiting riders to 18-ish. Simply the first dudes with deposits in will ride. Judgment free zone.
  • Rolling hills, no pride-busting Categorized climbs.
  • Probably headed North. Looking to do an Airbnb on a lake for the turn-around day.

More to follow. But if you know, you know. Find the link, pay the deposit, you’re in. There are a few dudes who’ve never done it that would be fantastic to ride with. There are a butt-ton of veterans who’d be awesome to ride next to. Don’t get left behind.

2020 Windy 500 Wrap-up


This is what 51 years old looks like.

More specifically, this is what it looks like at the halfway point of this year’s ride, with 2 days, 260 miles, and 11,000+ feet of climbing in.

In fact, this is exactly what 51 looks like after the tenth year of this ride.

5,089 total miles. So far.

That’s roughly Milwaukee to Los Angeles, then back to Milwaukee, then back to Los Angeles…

123,162 total feet of climbing (23.3 vertical miles). So far.

That’s the equivalent of Felix Baumgartner’s jump from space back to Earth – but going straight up, not down. Or climbing all 42 floors of the US Bank Center, the tallest building in Milwaukee…

205 times.

This is what this year’s crew looks like, including the breakfast crew and Johnny Croc, our lead-out man:

Let’s face it, 2020 might go down as one of the shittiest years ever in our lives. But this ride might be the only “normal” thing right now, and there was no way I was cancelling.

Ten years after dreaming this up, it’s just a part of life now. For me, and everyone that continues to make it happen. So it had to happen this year.

Day 1

It was weird having such a small crew. Weird, but really good. We normally roll out about 30 strong, including a few dudes that just roll to breakfast with us that first day. We normally have a full-sized Sprinter van, loaded down with bags, bikes, wheelsets, beer, you name it. This time, it was just an SUV with our gear and the bare essentials.

Weather was spectacular, the rollout was uneventful. Unlike having a giant peloton, we quickly found our rhythm this year, and it was on.

Just outside Beaver Dam (home of the Golden Beavers…), bc flatted (1 of only 3 flats on the entire ride) and we rolled into a driveway to get out of traffic. As soon as we stopped, out walks Fred Kaping. Retired Navy Vet, realtor, jack of all trades, and phenomenal home brewer! We offer PBR as payment for blocking his driveway, he returns the favor with Fred Brew – a deliciously smooth 14% ABV homebrew.

THIS is what the Windy 500 is all about. Random acts of kindness. Meeting new people and seeing new things you’d NEVER otherwise experience. We all roll out from Fred’s agreeing that his grandkids are some of the luckiest kids on Earth.


From there, it was a fairly regular roll the rest of the way to our home away from home for the weekend, the Spring Valley Inn. If regular includes a “biker” in a leather vest and boots on an E-bike playing Pantera through his phone…

We did what we always do, offered him a PBR, and listened to his stories.

Then food, drinks, fire & bed.

Day 2:

Rolling hills are supposed to be rolly… Right?

We had some beautiful scenery and some modest climbs, but apparently, Chris thought the best birthday present of all for me (and all of us) was a kick in the nuts:

6,300 ft of climbing with (7) Category 4 climbs. Really? And no receipt with this gift, so I couldn’t even return it. Asshole.

Fast forward to Saturday night – where a bunch of very tired riders enjoyed a delightful 5-star meal of deep-fried fat under the too-bright fluorescent lobby lights of the hotel.

Without Janisch, we all had pizza AND wings!

Day 3:

Another long day in the saddle, but nowhere near the soul-sucking climbing of the day before. Tapped out the day at an easy pace, dodging a few raindrops and falling temps along the way.

What would the Windy be without Mother Nature imposing her will??

More bike riding, PBR stops, etc., etc., etc…

Day 4:

Locked and loaded for the trip back home. Could not have done it with the Brothers Sag – Nick and Jon. You guys are AWESOME. Thank you so much.

That one time when Dino forgot he wasn’t at ToAD…

Finally some Mexican!!!! Beef tongue with habanero sauce. Least calories consumed ever on this year’s ride, but I still managed to gain 6 pounds??

We’re all getting older, but I’ll do this until I die. It’s become such a part of me, that I can’t imagine NOT doing it.

The beauty of the Windy 500 is not the ride. It’s not the “500 miles in 4 days”, although that’s always fun to tell people – especially non-cyclists. That’s just the road map. The true joy is the journey – all the moments in-between. There have been countless memories over the past 10 years. Sure, a few of them involve Mt Kickintheballs Hill, and wanting to heave up your spleen, but almost all of them have nothing to do with bicycles.

For me, this was never about riding bikes. It was about adventure. It was about people. And the ride has never disappointed. Yes, some years have been better than others, but after 10 years I wouldn’t change much.

I can’t wait until next year, and I can’t thank every single friend who’s ridden next to me enough for all of these memories.

You guys are the best.

See you in 2021.

 

Another canti to disc conversion…


Just like my FrankenBike,

The Fetish has been many things, and can do all things:

Beauty…

Beast.

But it’s never been a disc-equipped rig. Until sometime between now and later:

Goodbye cantilevers…

Winter project – complete tear apart, sand, file, obsess, re-paint, rebuild…

Progress is slow and painful…

To be continued…

After what seemed like an eternity (the 2020 riding season), I’ve finally gotten back to this project. Hoping to now have it built up in time for a ride in 2 weeks…

Canti bosses are gone. Not a perfect surface, but I didn’t want to compromise the metal. Good enough to get going.

Finally gave up on trying to sandblast the hardened paint off of aluminum and had the frame acid dipped. Now she’s RAW like Monday Night. Paint is next.

That looks REAL nice Clark… Real Nice. Now you just need some pieces/parts.

And finally, this:

Reflections on the 20 year anniversary of my death


On August 17, 1999, I was run over by a van.

I was on a motorcycle doing about 50 mph, and then I was on the ground in a pool of blood doing 0 mph. My femur was sticking through my leg, my hip was shattered and I was bleeding to death in the middle of a 3-lane highway.

It’s been 20 years, so I was feeling nostalgic a few nights ago and I pulled out the old manila folder full of “stuff” from the accident: photos, police reports, mountains of medical bills, and a thank-you letter that I had written after the accident. The letter was what I was after.

I have almost no recollection of what actually happened in the few minutes after I saw a van pull into my lane and I hit the brakes. I remember laying down and feeling wet (blood). I remember hearing sirens and then I remember seeing the hospital ceiling lights flashing past my eyes as my gurney was wheeled down a hallway. Then 3 days of mostly morphine-induced stupor. Most of my “memories” are pieced together from what I read in my own drug-permeated, fog-filled police reports, and stories I heard after the fact. The thank-you letter was my way of telling everyone what happened at once, rather than 1,000 times over and over, and also thanking the people that helped me through everything. The thank-yous were directed at the people closest to me; my wife, my Mom, a few good friends, and then there was a stranger I thanked named Tim Stalbaum.

So, because it’s 2019,  and I can, I Googled “Tim Stalbaum”, and this popped up:

MOTORCYCLE RIDER HURT IN NORTHWEST WICHITA CRASH

20 years later, the stranger that came to my rescue after I was in a life-threatening motorcycle accident, was in a life-threatening motorcycle accident in Kansas.

I’ve searched for the word to describe it – it’s not ironic and it’s not coincidental, it’s weird, it’s eerie, and it sucks. I’m really not sure how to process the information either. If he was still in WI I’d visit him and we could ruminate on the coincidence.

I wouldn’t wish my experience on my worst enemy, and certainly not on someone who selflessly helped a stranger the way he had. I hope and pray that he is able to recover the way I have, and someday he’ll have to pull out a dusty file to bring the memories back.

2020 Update – this story did not end well. Tragically, Tim passed away on Feb 3, 2020:

https://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/wichita-ks/timothy-stalbaum-9029968

2019 Windy 500 wrap-up


511 miles.

10,613 ft of elevation.

4 days of awesome.

That’s the facts. Now the fluff…

The Windy 500 (AKA: “The Windy”) is now 9 years old. In total, we’ve covered 4,594 miles (New York to Los Angeles and back) and climbed 105,704 feet (20+ miles straight up). For reference, the “Death Zone” begins at about  26,246 feet above sea level. At that elevation, unassisted from compressed air or oxygen, severe altitude sickness sets in, debilitating the human body and eventually resulting in death. I have certainly felt like death at the top of some of those climbs over the years… and we’ve gone 4 times the Death Zone height in total.

2019 finally marked the “return to form” (credit to bc for that term) for this adventure. For the past few years, the vibe of the ride has been “off”. For me, this is a mental checkout, an escape from the pressures and responsibilities of daily life: being a Dad, a husband, a breadwinner, a home remodeler, a boss, etc. Just my chance to do physical work all day long and then chill with friends at night. Then get up and do it again. No spreadsheets, no sports schedules, no meetings, no homework, no bills to pay… just pure work. And all of that pure work leads (me) to internal purity. Which leaves me with serenity, joy, strength, harmony, happiness, patience and magnanimity. Or it should.

For me, and a few others, the last few years have lacked that reward. This trip had become an organized Tour – more about the rest stops and KOMs than the journey. We ground people to dust with big dick contests on legit Category 3 climbs, and we raced to hotels to end the rides faster and faster each day. We yelled at each other to “Hold our lines!” and “Ride two up!” We took guys who normally ride at 16 mph and asked them to hold a wheel at 24 mph.  And we were genuinely pissed when they couldn’t. And we called it a “vacation”.

This was not the ride that many of us needed anymore. To use a Lampe term, it had been “Kayzared”. You take something really good and turn it up to 11. Until it sucks. Oh, and to make matters even worse, I sent out invitations this year. Yeah. So, some people were not invited. Because I’m super cool. And I had to pick and choose people based on bullshit criteria because I had invited everyone I knew, which made the ride too big and unmanageable. Now I was barely looking forward to riding because I had pissed friends off, the ride sucks, and life was way too busy this year to even take 4 days away. I was feeling uber magnanimous indeed. And also like the world’s biggest fraud.

Fast forward to August 2. The day after my 50th birthday. The launch of the 9th Windy 500. I was excited, but my expectations were low.

Fewer of us than last year, by design. An almost on-time launch. Zero drama. All smiles. Things felt different already.

After a much shorter than usual amount of time, the group fell into a smooth rhythm. By the time we had crushed another delicious all-you-can-eat Alma’s breakfast, we were functioning like 1 unit.

We spent time on roads that were very familiar and roads that we had never seen before. McArdle, our perennial RouteMeister, never disappoints and this year was no exception. Roads were rolling, beautiful and virtually traffic-free.
  

bc treated us to his usual round of surprises and delights by piloting us to the only authentic Mexican place within 100 miles, after lowering the bar by announcing that we’d be eating at fast food joints that day.

We made our way to the 1 and only hotel stop – a first for the Windy. Green Bay became our hub for 3 nights, which was a welcome change from schlepping bags of dirty kits back into the van every morning. From GB we rolled West into Central WI, North to the UP and finally back to Brookfield.

The pictures always tell the story better than words ever could. Suffice to say, the Windy is alive and well. We came, we saw, we made friends with retirees and biker gangs… and we were serenaded by the always entertaining Bill Finn. We received cake and medals to keep us safe, and smiles and warm hospitality everywhere we went. Except when we went past the laundromat. Do not go past the laundromat.

And suddenly, it’s over.  Everyone says their goodbyes and we wake up in our own beds the next day and go to work and start thinking about next year.

I can’t describe what this event has become to me, for me. I can’t describe the level of gratitude I have for everyone that has participated over the years. This has truly become far greater than I had ever hoped, despite my best efforts to screw it up over the years. The funny thing is, everyone always remembers the Windy differently. And that’s OK. Everyone is free to pick and choose their own highlights, their own greatest roads or their favorite conversations. I am humbled to have created the vehicle to provide those memories.

The only way to make it better for the upcoming 10th Anniversary in 2020 is to make it 1,000 miles… and so we will.