I renewed my half-fast credentials…

on a recent ride with the Bombay Bicycle Club. It started innocently enough.

We met at a park near the edge of town. There were two options – short (30 miles) and long (70 miles). The ride leader urged those going long to head out first. There were maybe 8-10 of us. There were maybe 25 more doing the short ride.

As we headed out, we coalesced into one big group. A few folks worked their way up on the left. As we headed into more open road, the group started to spread out. A few faster riders began to disappear ahead. That was as it should be. I settled in near the back of the next group, at my usual leisurely pace for the first five miles. As we began to climb, I found myself moving to the front of that group. Another hill or two and I was in between the two groups. That was fine. I could enjoy the scenery and not look at a wheel or a back.

The fast guys must have gotten stuck in traffic at a crossroads, as I somehow found myself with them. The pace picked up to about 20 mph. Fine, as long as I was in a group. There were two guys who would ride along in the middle of the group, then one of them would accelerate up the left side and set a 25 mph pace. The next person would grab his wheel and we’d be flying along for a mile or two. Then he’d drop back and we’d settle into our usual pace. Then the other guy would do the same.

One year ago, crossing into Canada

It was exhilarating riding at a pace faster than usual. I had divided the route in my head into 7 mile segments – each 1/10 of the ride. At mile 21, my brain said “3/7 of the way. I can do this”. A bit later I said, “wait, that’s 3/10 of the way – this is not sustainable”. I drifted off the back. No way a half-fast rider can ping pong between 20 and 25 mph for another 50 miles.

One year ago – 100 is only a number. No century today.

I caught up with them when we all stopped for cold drinks at a gas station/convenience store. I had the sense to wait until they were out of sight before heading back out on my own, at a reasonable pace. I reached the MacKenzie Environmental Center, near the midpoint of the ride. The cue sheet said continue straight. The sign said “Road Closed”. The pavement said “I haven’t been maintained for 20 years.” I checked my phone for another route, but had no service.

I rode back out to the main road and picked up a signal. I began to plot a new route, when the map disappeared and all I had was a blue beacon telling me “you are here”; but there was no here there. The signal came and went. Three more riders appeared. They acted like they knew where they were going. I decided to follow them.

We rode back to the “Road Closed” sign and rode through the barricade. Garmin said to continue, according to one of them. The mix of pavement and green was about 50/50; except for the places where it was obscured by all of the fallen twigs and small branches. We picked our way through and, just as I made a cyclocross joke, the pavement came to an end. There was an expanse of grass ahead of us; nothing even remotely resembling a path – but we could see an actual road just ahead so we continued on. In retrospect, there oughta be some pictures here. I didn’t realize this was going to be a story.

Back on the road, we had about 35 miles of headwind to home. I managed to hang on.

Some days are just too exquisite

to stop and take pictures. After careful deliberation,I have to say the New Glarus ride is my favorite of the Wednesday Night Bike Rides.

The Swiss who settled here called it New Glarus because it reminded them of home. While most of the cattle are now Holsteins and not Brown Swiss, there is still a Swiss atmosphere around here.

The ride started with a long and gradual climb. I didn’t realize how steep it was until gliding back down at 35 mph at the end of the ride. We turned onto Meadow Valley Road for a downhill followed by a few ups and downs. On to Farmers Grove Road for four miles of roller coaster hills, then to Dougherty Creek (which sounds sort of like “dirty crick” in case you’re not from around here). Four miles of following the creek through the woods and it was time to head back up top. A steep climb up Prairie View Road and to the left we saw the pale green of flowering grasses; to the right the deeper green of alfalfa and the deeper still of the thick woods along water courses. Steep valleys meandered off to the right – I thought about stopping for a picture but the scents, the light, the dark recesses in the wooded glens, the killdeers careening around while the hawks circled overhead were way too much to capture with a camera.

After another five miles of not having to think too much because there was no need to turn, we dipped down onto Holstein Prairie Road and another gradual climb with a few roller coasters for good measure. Back up on to a ridge for some great views before the next ear-to-ear grinning descent; and so it went for 30-some miles before we returned to New Glarus for pizza. New Glarus is also home to one of Wisconsin’s worst-kept secrets, the New Glarus Brewing Company. To avoid production pressures, they will not sell their beer outside of the state and, if a distributor is caught doing so, they lose their supply. I won’t say they are my favorite brewery, but I did have a bottle of their Uff-da at the end of last winter’s run and know I need to try it earlier in the season next year before it runs out.

Hats off to the unofficial Maglia Nera winner for 2019: Sho Hatsuyama of Team Nippo Vini Fantini Faizanè. He finished over 6 hours behind this year’s winner, Richard Carapaz of Movistar. Among the elite of the world, there are those who are not-so-elite. Just remember that he could still ride circles around any of us; and, in the third stage, he broke away in the first kilometer and rode a 145 km solo break until caught.

The adoption has been finalized and the results are in: 1.4 miles of highway that looked clean from a passing car yielded 22 pounds of trash. The biggest contributor was Anheuser-Busch, with more Busch Light beer cans than any other single item of trash. Add the Busch, Bud, and Bud Light cans and bottles, and they were breakaway winners.

Driving out, we passed through a serious-looking thunderstorm. Tim swore he saw Miss Gulch fly by on her bike (at 52 seconds in the video below).

The rain let up and it was a beautiful day by the time we finished. Gratuitous photos to follow.

On the way to work, looking east.
Storm on the way. A day like today, but on the way to work. Made it with minutes to spare before the deluge.
One year ago today – breakfast with Einstein, Jackson, WY.

Adopt-a-Highway

The half-fast cycling club has officially adopted a highway. This means we are responsible for keeping the roadside clean. Our stretch of road includes one of our favorite climbs and one of our favorite views.

If you guessed County Highway F at Brigham Park, you are a weiner! Officially, it is from the intersection with Cave of the Mounds Road to the end of the park (just out of sight in the background) at Danhouser Road.

Now we’re looking for volunteers. The first cleanup is planned for Sunday, June 30. If you’re interested, let us know via the contact page on this site or by any other means if you know how to reach us in other ways. If you can’t make that day but want to be on the list for the future, tell us that as well.

After we clean, we can sit on the bench (from which these photos were taken) and enjoy the view and a cold beverage.

The day after the Horribly Hilly, I had the good fortune to meet Phil Van Valkenberg, who might be considered the father of bike touring in Wisconsin. When I first discovered, at the age of 21, that I could ride my bike out of town, it was to Phil that I turned for maps and advice. He just didn’t know it until now. I dedicated the ride to him. He was in Milwaukee for the Fat Tire Tour of Milwaukee. We met at a chamber music concert; nothing to do with bikes (except that it was in a really beautiful valley for a ride).

This section of highway is no longer an orphan!

Same half-fast guy, two 200K rides, 27 years apart. Wet both times.

Horribly Hilly

Yes folks, it’s time to fulfill the promise I made to a guy in Texas I don’t even know. One year after leaving for the coast-to-coast trip, it is the infamous Horribly Hilly Hundreds (or “Death Ride of the Midwest” as I call it), not to be confused with that other HHH, the Hotter ‘n Hell Hundred in Texas.

But first things first. Last week was the Marquette Waterfront Festival, the gateway to summer around here. Four years ago, we were wowed by the appearance of the March Fourth Marching Band, as they marched, danced, and stilt-walked their way through the park to the stage for a show that was talked about for the rest of the summer. Everyone wondered when they would be back.

Two years ago, they were scheduled to close out the festival again; but they called from somewhere in the middle of Iowa. A broken-down bus on a Sunday in Iowa is not a good thing. When we heard they were coming back this year, we were ready for them and hoped they were ready for us. A new(er) bus rolled slowly down Yahara Place at 5; just in time for the 6:30 set.

MarchFourth (they shortened the name) is one of those bands that everyone says you have to hear live. Everyone is right. But I did find a video that gives you a flavor of their work. If I had to describe them in a word, it would be “steamfunk”.

We had seats near the front, right behind the dancing section. The seats were not used.

MarchFourth

A year ago today (Saturday) I was waking up in a motel at the SeaTac airport, then shuttling to the starting point of the coast-to-coast ride. Sunday we dipped our tires into the Pacific Ocean (and I sealed up a vial of Pacific water) and started east (more or less).

Yes, the Horribly Hilly Hundreds is horribly hilly (but also breathtakingly beautiful). When it was a mere 100 miles, it was just the “Horribly Hilly Hundred”. Now there are 100K, 100 mile, and 200K options. 200K includes an alleged 10,700 feet of climbing spread over “40 significant rises”. While the Death Ride includes 15,000 feet of climbing over the same distance, it is confined to five major climbs. Spreading the climbing out means you can’t just psych yourself up for the passes and it is tempting to see the top of the rise and power over it…until you realize somewhere along the way that doing that 40 times will reduce your legs to jelly.

And jelly is what my legs are now. I left home at 5:15 AM. Heading out Verona Road, many of the cars had bikes on the back. Turning off to head up to Blue Mound, the traffic became bumper-to-bumper, and everyone had a bike on the back.

Traffic coming into the park as I rode out.

Start line

We reached the park and got ready for the day. The first 1.6 miles didn’t count, as we rode into the town of Blue Mounds for the oficial start. The road out of the park was steep. In the back of my mind was the knowledge that we would have to ride back up that hill after 120+miles of riding.

Start line

The route was divided into 5 “stages”, roughly 20% of the miles each; except that the 4th stage was over 30 miles and contained some of the toughest hills of the day.

Enchanted Valley. Note tiny bikes on the road.

The day started cool and sunny. All week the forecast had been for scattered showers throughout the day. This morning it changed and called for later afternoon rain. Around noon it was bordering on hot, when clouds rolled in to cool things down. The clouds looked ominous at times but the rain held off – until about mile 110, when it let loose. I put my jacket back on and tried to scrub rainwater off my rims on a long downhill. The rain stopped in time for the final climb up the infamous Mounds Park Road and the even worse final climb to the park.

I overheard a guy in a “Triple Bypass” jersey telling someone that the HHH is harder. She asked, “even with the elevation?” He said yes, because the mountain roads are only 5-7% grades and the HHH has many stretches of >15% and “you have to go anaerobic to get over them.”

I was thinking that this was harder than the Death Ride for the same reason; though I can’t make a fair comparison since I rode the Death Ride more than 25 years ago. Maybe if I were to ride it again next summer I could compare. I will say this was the hardest single day experience I have ever had. Being 66 years old could have something to do with that;)

Finish line.
Food by Friends of Blue Mound State Park.

I stayed in the saddle for all climbs for the first 30 miles. In the last 30, I got over them any way I could. A friendly farmer’s offer of rhubarb water got me over one climb. (Rhubarb water: a lightly sweetened infusion of rhubarb, seasoned with cardamom.)

My calves started cramping at mile 25 – a bad omen with 100 miles to go. Bilateral quad cramps and a left sartorius cramp followed. Lots of pickle juice as well as electrolyte drinks and Clif Shot Bloks (the extra-salty margarita flavor) helped stave off the cramps. My triceps are not happy – but I am.

The free post-ride beer was a raspberry radler. I don’t know about you, but I like fruit and I like beer, but I like to keep them separate. When I was a teen (in the era of the 18 year old beer drinking age) there was a product called “Right Time Malt Liquor”. I referred to it as “training beer”. It was an attempt to market to teens, to get them drinking even if they didn’t like the taste of alcohol. (Sound familiar? Just like the tobacco industry making fruit and candy-flavored vaping products as training cigarette to hook kids on nicotine; though I don’t recall the beer industry was “shocked” to find kids drinking.)