2018 Windy 500 wrap-up


509 miles this year makes it 4,083 total Windy 500 miles ridden for me so far. That’s the equivalent of a round-trip ride from Toronto, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and back. For the rest of you Pop Tarts, your total Windy mileage ranges somewhere between 4,083 (McArdle) & 509 (everyone else). What matters most though is not the mileage, it’s the adventure.

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This year, as with every year, the ride rolled from my house. Day 1 is a mix of veterans and newbies, well-wishers and tag-alongs who roll to the first stop with us and then head home.  It usually takes a few hours after we roll out to find our rhythm. Some are better than others at riding 2 up in big groups. Those who’ve raced are comfortable on someone’s wheel at 30 mph, riding shoulder to shoulder. That type of confidence makes for very smooth, safe, confident riding. Others, not so much. This group is a mixed bag of experience and ability, so for some, it’s a bit of a crash course in technique (without the actual crash part). Eventually, people figure it out, and we do our best to ride as one unit for the next 3 1/2 days.

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Day 1, stop 1, ALMA’S Cafe in Allenton. They’ve treated us way too well over the years, and after 35-40 miles of riding on fumes, their breakfast sandwiches are better than peanut butter dipped in peanut butter.

Our favorite stop is always Kwik Trip, because… it’s Kwik Trip:

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I would not recommend human consumption of ice purchased at Kwik Trip. Just sayin’.

Eventually, the hills find us:

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We ride all day, and nights are dinners and renewing friendships.

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Mornings are van loading and slowly rolling out of whatever parking lot we have taken over.

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It’s riding, chatting, working, recovering and most of all, making memories that will last a lifetime:

Geez Janisch, lighten up and enjoy yourself!

“No one is dumb who is curious. The people who don’t ask questions remain clueless throughout their lives.” ~ Neil deGrasse Tyson

As always, if you weren’t there, you’ll never know.

The Windy 500 is just a bike ride, but it changes you, makes you better. The hardest day for me is always Day 5. The day when I wake up and shower and put on people clothes and drive to work and sit down at my desk. And I don’t pedal. Not once. And I don’t climb. And I don’t descend, screaming into a valley, tucked into my handlebars at 54, 55, 56 mph, with 5 guys right next to me, all doing the same, all smiling, ear to ear. I just sit.

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It has taken me quite a while to sit down and compose my thoughts about this year’s ride. The Windy 500 has become an extremely important part of my life, and I generally start planning the next ride when we roll into my driveway on Day 4. During the ride, we discuss ways to improve the experience, and I arrive home with scraps of hotel paper and bar napkins with random thoughts and ideas scribbled down on them. This year, I rolled into my driveway alone. And it was over. I showered up and sat down to a home-cooked meal with my wife and kids.  The rest of the group rolled on to Wauwatosa to celebrate Bill Finn’s birthday. I had developed some kind of sinus cold on Day 2 and once I cleaned up I was done for the day. And I didn’t think about next year’s ride until a few days later.

For 4 days on the ride, I control what I do. I control my time, my efforts, my thoughts. Well, maybe not my thoughts. But I really don’t think about manipulating Excel spreadsheets much. Or my mortgage. Or yard work. I just think about riding. And talking to my close friends. Mostly about nothing. Locker room talk and juvenile jokes. But sometimes it’s about really important stuff. Really deep stuff. The kind of stuff you can talk about when there’s nothing to do all day but move your legs in hundreds of thousands of circles.

That’s my Windy 500. I work really hard at times, not so hard at other times. I wake up, grab some coffee and wait for the hotel’s breakfast to fire up. Then I get ready and I ride. All day. For 4 days. It’s as pure as it gets.

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But this was Year 8, and I’ve done this before. 7 times before. And it was an adventure. A long time ago. In fact, I heard some of the guys who weren’t there in those early years telling the stories, and they even got some of it right.

Every year, somewhere along the route, people will ask:

“What are you riding for?”

I was recently reminded of this by my friend Dr. Long, and it stuck in my head like glue. The Windy 500 has become an event without a purpose. Without a True North. Why indeed? 

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Do you know what homogenized milk is, Billy? It’s bland Billy. Bland. And the Windy is pretty well homogenized. We eat in fancy restaurants and we have name tags, Billy. Name tags!

img_6692-4x6Don’t know how to change a tire Jimmy? It’s OK, we bring lots of extra wheels! img_1107And at the end of your long day, you get to swim and relax with other busy execs!img_1192

Meh. I think it’s time to shake it up again.

Don’t get me wrong – this ride is still SUPER awesome. The route, the riders, the endless miles in the saddle. But it’s become so big, such an event, that it’s not what it was originally intended to be. For me.

For many of the other guys that did the ride this year, and for those who have done it in past years, maybe it’s exactly what they want it to be. But the ride is at an intersection, and for Year 9, 2019, I need more. Or maybe less.

Here’s the complete list of rules for the original Windy 500, back from 2011:

  1. You must ride a bike 500+ miles in 4 days
  2. You must ride in at least 2 states

Unfortunately, the rules have been amended over the years to include:

  1. Hotels must have pools. And hot tubs.
  2.  Support vehicle must be stocked with refreshments, spare wheels, spare bikes, (maybe spare riders next year?)
  3. Rest stops can take as long as the anyone wants them to.
  4. Anyone can make up rules as we go…

I realize that this is not just my ride anymore. Heck, I’m barely even responsible for it now. And don’t get me wrong, I like the pools. I look forward to cooling down after the ride. But the sense of adventure that launched this journey is long gone. So 2019’s route will have 2 fully supported options:

Group 1: 

Faster guys, stronger climbers, fewer stops. NOT race pace, but it will be challenging.

Group 2:

Casual pace. Riders will re-group at the tops of climbs. More frequent rest stops. This group will most likely leave 1/2 hour prior to Group 1. Both Groups will meet at the lunch stop and at the hotel. No need for the faster guys to feel held back and no need for the more casual guys to turn themselves inside out. And having 2 smaller groups will do wonders for safety.

That’s all. We’ll probably go West again. The route is really beautiful and certainly challenging. And everyone is welcome back.

Oh, and to answer the question “What are you riding for?”  I defer to McArdle’s answer:

“AWESOMENESS.”

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Windy 500 2017 wrap-up


Yeah, that just happened. The Windy 500 just became the most spectacular thing ever. And you weren’t there.

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It was Sofa King awesome, that it may never eclipse itself. Like Leo Sayer singing with Barry Gibb AND Justin Timberlake. Or donut wrapped hot dogs. It was that good. We may as well all put on some Nikes, cover ourselves in purple sheets and drink some Kool-Aid now…

I usually get right to the point, but I honestly don’t even know where to start this year. This was by far, the best and the most challenging time I have ever spent on a bike. We have hundreds of pictures, and it’s hard not to include all of them…

For 7 years we’ve ridden. Iron Mountain, Michigan and 545 miles the first year. 45 extra miles because we were lost. A lot. 105 degrees. Rain. 4 riders. 162 miles on Day 1 at almost 20mph average speed. No sag. Epic. Me, McArdle, Lampe and Gary Johnson. A proper beat-down, the likes of which may never be duplicated. Upon arrival, just after dark, the hotel staff hands us a small box that we UPSed there. A new kit and disposable toothbrushes for everyone. Yay! McArdle and Lampe are the only 2 to have done this every year, and McArdle is the only one who’s matched me mile for mile for the past 3,574 miles. Last year our cumulative mileage surpassed “The Ultralineamentum” – the longest possible route across the US – my initial dream/goal in this stupid plan.

Year 2: 7 guys, we decided to go West. Winona. Hills, hills and more hills. 500-something miles and 17,000+ feet of climbing. Jeremy drove his own truck for sag. Holy crap, we could actually pack a bag this time. Jeremy (aka: TRJ , aka: The Real Jeremy – ask Balden) met up with us every 25 miles or so. He thought we were nuts.

Year 3: This was the Van Halen III year – great compared to sitting at a desk, but shitty compared to the original ride. 9 riders, southern route. “Southern” was Illinois to Indiana and back. Flat, urban, and full of debris. Ridiculous number of flats, a zero score for scenery and fairly forgettable.  Still, we spent 4 days riding 500+ miles, so it wasn’t all bad. Jeremy on sag again, this time rolling right behind us the whole route. Still thinking we were nuts, but now “bike-curious”.

4: Escanaba, MI. Fantastic Mexican food, awesome route and full blown sag support. Jeremy jumps on a bike this year and becomes a legit rider. DuWayne (TRJ Sr.) takes the helm as all-time sag driver. 18mph average on a fairly flat route for 496 miles. Veterans bank their rollover miles from previous years while rookies do laps in every gas station to ensure the 500+ mark. Escanaba is a glorified shithole, but the route is a success. This thing is taking on a life of its own…

5: Back to da U.P. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. 21 riders now up to Escanaba. Beer, Mexican, etc. It has rained every year to this point, we expect it to continue doing so long  after we are all dead.

6: Escanaba again. 3rd year in a row. Bike practically rides itself along the route by now. It’s an awesome route for a big group, but becoming a bit vanilla. Biblical rain (again). Hail. Sun. Fun. Laughs. 27 guys. bc and McArdle have become co-Directeur Sportifs, and apparently from April through July they only work part-time at their real jobs. The “Windy” has reached legendary status. The world is divided into two halves; those who’ve done the Windy, and those who haven’t.

Fall, 2016: Windy 500 2017 Planning session: Lampe’s firepit. Talking about Escanaba v4.0. Longing for the excitement of the early years. Lampe calls bullshit on a 4th year to MI. We all agree. You know what would be awesome? Some soul-crushing climbs and 55mph descents. Really riding. Not another charity ride. It was undeniable. It could not be undone.

Windy 500, 2017, year 7 – Winona, Minnesota and back. 22, 23, 24, 22? riders. Picked up another rider on Saturday on his way home from 7 days of RAGBRAI, lost one the same day to Volmonia, a new communicable disease that is apparently contracted from staying in shithole hotels.  18,500+ feet of climbing this year. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I contacted Pabst before the ride, and they hooked us up with some sweet swag and enough PBR to keep Jeremy hydrated for 4 days…

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IMG_3927 IMG_10498 O’something a.m. Go time.  The mayor sends us off as usual. Reaches VO2 max on the first climb out of the subdivision and taps out. Maybe SPD Crocs for 2018?IMG_1713.JPG35 miles from my driveway to Alma’s again for the most spectacular breakfast on Earth. Riders may believe that this kind of stuff just happens, but bc and McArdle have toiled for weeks going over the finer points of logistics, including trial runs to Alma’s. Rookies are clueless.IMG_1706

From there we rolled, fatter and happier, to Reedsburg. 136 miles. 5,000 feet of climbing. World’s worst hotel, The Voyageur. Don’t Google it, you’ll get some kind of disease just from looking at it. I’m not kidding. Most riders have checked in post-ride with some form of malady. All part of the adventure. I guess.

You know it’s a classy hotel when you see wheelchairs and organs for sale in the lobby.IMG_1743So, who wants to ride to Winona, MN? Let’s roll.

123 miles, another 5,000 feet of climbing. Seemed a lot harder than yesterday. Dozens of world-famous Bloedow’s Donuts were waiting for us upon arrival, laughs and even a little rest that night. By the way, the most spectacular weather ever. Mid-80s, sun and (I swear this is true) a tailwind for 500 miles. It has rained at least one day of the ride for the past 6 years straight. Rookies Dino, Janisch, Walls and Lex think this is the best thing since sliced bread. They have no idea that every year prior we’ve had to assume the tornado position at some point during the ride. Pop Tarts.

IMG_4882Rolling into Winona, we were all just happy to be clear of the Mississippi, avoiding eye contact with Leach, fearing that he might kill again.

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Sunday morning church service at 6:30am, courtesy of Dr. Long. This is a secret portion of the Windy that I really look forward to every year. Steve is an ordained Methodist minister and Professor of Theology. He offers it up to anyone who wants to participate. About 8 of us shared a private service, and it left me energized and focused on the task at hand. It also reminded me of how awesome this slice in time with this caliber of men was.

Breakfast and some foreshadowing – the hills await. 6 monster climbs. Inclines as high as 17%. We all rolled out. A bit nervous, a bit excited. Road was flat, but we could see what was coming.

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No way to avoid it. The first “hill” punched us in the throat. And by throat I mean balls. It officially qualifies as a Category 3 climb. Al Krueger now has the 5th fastest ascent (all-time) on Strava with an average speed of 9.1mph. Soul crushingly steep and long. We also climbed 2 Category 4s that same day. While I was praying for a swift death, I was reminded that it would be considered a relatively flat day in the Tour de France. Really glad I took the last year off of cycling… not.

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By the end of the day, I think everyone was smoked. We rolled into Spring Green well-done and STARVING. It was the hardest day EVER on my bike, I would have cheerfully eaten any of the various roadkill we passed in the last 50 miles. 7pm. 8pm. 9pm.  FINALLY the pizza dude showed up. At that point – no one cared. We’d have eaten a dog turd or 10. Crap-ass pizza x 15. Thanks? I know that I ate (probably) an entire pizza in about 5 minutes. I hear that there were wings too, but they were set in front of Janisch and no one ever saw them again…

  I’m excited and exhausted simultaneously. bc takes the lead on getting the fire going, and we’re in the happiest place on Earth. Again.

For the record, Ronnie James Dio once stayed at this hotel. He wants you to pull his finger.

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Day 4: Rested, humbled, ready. Just 112 easy miles, only 3,000 feet uphill to go. No real climbs, just all rollers. I could go on and on, but honestly – you had to be there.

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M.I.A. – Dave Volmmmmonia

Did we have fun? We’ll never tell, but I’m guessing by the smiles that you already know the answer…

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I think Jeremy McKinney’s second cousin Cat Stevens sang it best:

And the cat’s in the river in the afternoon
Jumped off the bridge just past that pontoon
When’s it coming back, Leach?
I don’t know when
But we’ll be in Reedsburg then, yeah
You know we’ll catch pneumonia then
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
2018 – 8th annual – Back to Winona!

The Windy 500 hits the big time


 

We’re proud to introduce our first 2015 in-kind sponsor: Pabst Blue Ribbon!

PBR

Follow PBR on Twitter and Instagram @pabst_milwaukee

I was pretty stoked when this Windy 500 care package arrived today!  PBR Racing jerseys, caps and some highly coveted head badges.  For years we have enjoyed this sweet, sweet nectar pre-, during and post-ride.  Now we’ll be flying the colors in style. 

Maybe it’s time to finally dump the Welfare/Goodwill bargain bin looks of the past and get all GQ this year…

"I say, old boy, which way to the Speakeasy?"

“I say, old boy, which way to the Speakeasy?”

OK, at least we all match in this one...

OK, at least we all match in this one…

The Original Rainbow Warrior?

The Original Rainbow Warrior?

Hey Greg, does this fat make me look fat?

Hey Greg, does this fat make me look fat?

What??

What??

Looks like we’ll have the biggest crew ever this time – stay tuned for more.

Live the Dream – Follow @pabst_milwaukee!

2013 Windy 500 report


Here we go…

Mile 0.

Mile 0.

The kinder, gentler version of the Windy rolled out on July 25th and ended up also being the easiest, shortest, best attended and record # of flat tires (20ish?) so far.  No 160+ mile days at 20mph this year.

Almost no one was immune this year (technically).

Almost no one was immune this year (technically).

Riding through the urban jungle (Racine is beautiful in July…) means riding through lots of crap on the road, so daily flats became a part of the experience.  500.4 miles and just 8,208 feet of elevation gain.

Mile 6.  We are so screwed.

Mile 6. We are so screwed.

This ride has grown a bit since its inception 3 years ago.  Back then it was just 4 guys on bikes who shipped a small box of stuff to a couple of hotels.  No support.  This year we had a full-sized Suburban full of crap, a skilled driver who always made sure the PBR was stocked and cold when we rolled in, and 9 riders.

W500 PBR logo

Speaking of PBR, this year we combined the Windy 500 with another ride: “the PBR”.  If you know the ride, consider yourself down.  It’s a slower paced 150 miles over 2 days punctuated with awesome food, lots of wine and other beverages.

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Steak

Because we would be behind on mileage for the first 2 days, we rode out to Palmyra (the “P” in the PBR ride) on Thursday night.  Mileage looked like this for the long weekend:

  • Day .5                         42.2 miles
  • Day 1.0                       50.1 miles
  • Day 1.1                       52.1 miles
  • Day 2.0                       46.3 miles
  • Day 2.1                       55.6 miles
  • Day 3.0                       110.7 miles
  • Day 4.0                       143.4 miles

We’ve gone North & West and since you can’t go East of Milwaukee without a seaworthy vessel, we headed South this year. 

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Indiana

Chicago and Northern Indiana don’t really offer much in the way of beautiful scenery, so the vibe was markedly different from years past.

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The route did offer lots of places to stop (although some were in areas that you couldn’t have paid us to stop in) and lots of “local color” as Chris McArdle pointed out.

All in all – another successful long weekend of nothing but riding, eating, drinking and smack talk.

Smack

We ended up on a lots of Rails to Trails segments, usually a better alternate to the Ghetto Ride.

We ended up on a lots of Rails to Trails segments, usually a better alternative than the Ghetto Ride.

2 dead soldiers.

2 dead soldiers.

Sausage Party!

Sausage Party!

Better Sausage Party!  Real Chicago dogs fueled the final leg.

Better Sausage Party! Real Chicago dogs fueled the final leg.

I changed a lot of flats.  All on Lampe's bike.

I changed a lot of flats. All on Lampe’s bike.

Many times we helped change flats by taking pictures, talking smack and drinking PBRs.

Many times we helped change flats by taking pictures, talking smack and drinking PBRs.

There were MANY flats.  Therefore, there were MANY PBRs.

There were MANY flats. Therefore, there were MANY PBRs.

1 of 2 times we saw the sun and temps above the low 60's.

1 of 2 times we saw the sun and temps above the low 60’s.

Gravel.

Gravel.

Sophisticated Cobbles?

Sophisticated Cobbles?

Another flat/PBR break.

Another flat/PBR break.

Best.  Ride.  Ever.

Best. Ride. Ever.

As the rookies said, count me in for next year!  Already planning for 2014, when we may head back to ‘da UP again…

You might even be invited this time.

Potential 2014 dates:
July 25 – 28
August 1 – 4
August 8 – 11

9 Reasons Not To Miss The 2013 Windy 500


164 days until the 2013 edition of the Windy 500 rolls…

This year, we’ve added a new twist: those in the know will know.

Why should you ride your bike 500 miles in 4 days?  Here are 9 reasons:

Sky

This is what you’ll see. Every day. For miles and miles and miles…

1 man's meal

All that riding will make you hungry and thirsty. So you’ll eat. And you’ll drink. As much as you can.

Flat 2

You’ll experience quality time with your friends while you learn the fine art of bicycle maintenance.

Farmer

You’ll sip from the finest wells in America. We called this one “Fart Water”.

Sign language

You’ll learn new languages and/or how to make PBR soup with your thighs.

Shots

Not enough Tequila in this town to make that woman pretty. But enough to make Jeremy wander around aimlessly for a few hours…

Hallway

Deluxe Super 8 accommodations

Flat 1

Friends, bike maintenance, blue skies, blah, blah, blah…

Ride

In the end, it’s really about the people and the ride.

WINDY 500 planning meeting (with beer) on February 2nd!


Note: February 2nd is the correct date for the planning meeting. I originally posted the wrong date (Feb 7).

The 2nd Annual WINDY 500 dates are set!

The 2nd annual 500 mile, 4 day bike ride (not to be confused with the Trans-Europe “piece-of-crap-only” car rally taking in 22 foreign countries over 23 days) will be held on August 3-6.

Breakfast of Cham-peens!

Details are still sketchy, but we have at least 100% more riders, AND a support vehicle!!  Having a sag wagon will make this a legit contender.  I would not be surprised if both the Schleck brothers and Cadel sign on for 2013.  

Lunch of Cham-peens!

Now the planning begins.  Where are we going??  Last year, we set some informal route guidelines in stone:

  • Round-trip route must be a minimum of 500 miles over 4 days.
  • Route must cross at least 1 state line.

Do we go back to the UP?  If so, do we make the same stops, or head to a different destination?  Do we go West (Waterloo, IA?  Rochester,  MN?)  South (Saugatuck, MI?  Danville, IL?)   Straight through the Earth’s core (Beijing, China?)  Which route do we take?  Who’s in charge of the map this year (NOT me)?  

Dinner of Cham-peens!

You don’t even have to be a participant to take place in the planning.  We welcome all input!  Just show up at:

Cafe Hollander

7677 W State St, Milwaukee, WI 53213

February 2nd @ 7:00pm