“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!
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!
Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’…
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.
Onward and upward. Green Bay was base camp this year, and we made it there in record time.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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…
And also, this:
Now, where was I? Oh yes, killer Mexican food. This:
Back to Wisconsin, and back to the birthplace of bc:
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.
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!