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.

Windy 500 2017 wrap-up


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

Its-all-downhill-Color-splash-1024x788

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…

img_1688.jpg IMG_1684 HipstamaticPhoto-523214178.978912

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.

IMG_1785

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.

IMG_1792

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.

FullSizeRender

IMG_1804

IMG_1796

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.

IMG_1808

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.

IMG_1828

IMG_1853

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…

IMG_1874 IMG_1872 IMG_1229

IMG_1063 IMG_1168

IMG_9022 IMG_1823

IMG_4880 IMG_1697

IMG_4543

IMG_1801 IMG_3931 IMG_8864

IMG_4998

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!

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.

Wine

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. 

IL

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.

Chi town

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.

My 9 Days as a Domestique


The 2012 Tour of America’s Dairyland has finally come and gone.  I was fortunate enough to be able to race all but the last day of the series this year, 9 days in a row.  I am still a Cat 4 on the road, since most of my racing experience has been on dirt (where I am a Cat 2).  My road experience before ToAD was a grand total of 10 races over the past 3 years, and 3 of those were this year. 

Overall, ToAD was a success for me.  I am definitely a better rider now.

Here are a few things I’ve realized:

  • I can race for 9+ days in a row.  Not every day will be my best day though.  I started the series strong, faded a bit in the middle and came back even stronger at the end.  I found myself wishing that I could have raced a few more days to see my best efforts.  Prior to ToAD I had only raced 2 days in a row once.
  • Staying hydrated cannot be overstated.  I am very conscious of this, so in addition to the recommended daily allowance of beer I added Pedialyte.  Gatorade, and most cycling specific sports drinks are too sweet and/or “chemically” and tend to give me a stomach ache.  I used plain Pedialyte before and during the Bone Ride this year, and it really helped.  So I made sure to down a bottle every evening at home during ToAD.
  • Eating enough calories cannot be overstated.  Like most cyclists, my motor’s always running.  I tend to eat something about every 3 hours just about every day.  Also, like most cyclists, I try to eat pretty “clean” – good food, high in protein and complex carbs.  Halfway through the week I realized that I was eating like I normally do, not like I was racing every day.  That night I came home and ate a whole pizza, then went to Kopp’s and ate a chicken sandwich, onion rings and a chocolate shake.  The next day, I was twice as strong as the day before.  I did go back to eating clean that day too, but filling the void of negative calories the day before seemed to help tremendously.
  • Warming up on a trainer is awesome.  I have always warmed up on the road before races.  Such a simple thing, but I will always do it this way now.  It allowed for a structured warm-up, and it was cool to talk a little last-minute strategy with teammates before we launched.  Plus, I had access to anything I needed.

Leatherman making his daily move to the front…
Photo courtesy of Nick Schwietzer
http://www.nickschwietzerphotography.com

  • Crit racing is a science and an art.  Like golf, a lot of guys buy expensive equipment thinking it will make them better.  It doesn’t.  The best crit racers are smart, patient, tactical and smooth riders.  They have the ability to ride unnoticed until the last lap or 2, then be in the perfect position to sprint to the line.  They could probably do it on a Schwinn Varsity and still kick most people’s ass.
  • Speaking of ass, there are a few guys in every category that believe we are out there to fight to the death and defend the honor of our dead grandfathers – at all costs.  I took a bad line early in one of the races.  It was partially due to excitement and partially my lack of experience.  For the next 2 laps, everyone within 50 yards of Speedy McJagoff had to hear him drop F bombs about my bad line, etc.,  etc. etc.  Really?  I hope his paycheck from Team Douchebag doesn’t bounce.  I’m still learning, and anyone around me would have realized that it was a mistake on my part, one that I did not repeat.  I even tried to ride up next to the guy and apologize, but he wouldn’t shut up, so I didn’t.
  • Speedy McJagoff was never on the podium.  Enough said.
  • I was not riding for myself, I was riding to put my teammate on the podium.  I have never played team sports in my life.  I have always gravitated toward things that were a test of myself against the clock, or someone else.  I have never had a “role” to play in sport.  WORS races are all about going as fast as you can, by yourself  (at my level anyway) until you cross the line.  Hopefully you win, or at least don’t cough up your spleen when you’re done.  I have a whole new level of respect for the no-name guys going off the front in the Tour, or the guys blowing themselves up with 5K to go to get the lead out man into position. 
  • Crashing and getting back into the race is instinctual.  I flipped into the barriers around a corner in the Waukesha race, and I was back on my bike and pedaling before I realized it.  Thankfully, it was a minor crash.  My shin caught the corner of a metal barrier and it took a nice bite out of it, the only bad thing was that there was not enough skin left to stitch up.  The allure of racing is the adrenaline rush, and I got a double dose that day.  I have crashed in mountain bike races, once bad enough to require a trip to the ER, but I never realized how fast my body automatically puts me back on the bike.  
  • The only thing cooler than going 40 miles per hour on a city street with hundreds of people watching using only your own body for power is going 41 miles per hour on a city street with hundreds of people watching using only your own body for power.

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

2012 Windy 500 dates are set!


Next year’s 2nd Windy 500 will take place from August 3rd to August 6th.

500 miles in 4 days.  Nothing but bikes and beers.   This year’s adventure left us all with some great stories as well as something to brag to our grand-kids about someday.

The goal this year will be to (at least) double the number of riders.  We’ll have a support vehicle and even more fun (did I mention beer yet?)

Bookmark the website, and check back for details:

www.windy500.com

ToAD and WORS schedules are posted, this does not interfere with either, so get it on your calendar.

I’d like to get a preliminary count of people who are interested, and we can all do the planning together in Spring.

jasonkayzar@mc2wi.com

Let my friend Chevy explain why you should “…go for it!”: