Four years ago I finally got around to riding the Horribly Hilly Hundreds – or as I call it, the Death Ride of the Midwest. With 200 km of riding and over 11,000 feet of climbing, it was possibly the hardest single day I have spent in the saddle. (There are shorter options but I’m not one for doing things halfway.)

So why am I doing it again, you ask? Damned if I know. I did it the first time because my friends had done it and recommended it. I had ridden coast-to-coast the year before so I figured I could do almost anything if I put my mind to it.

I rode coast-to-coast again last summer, so maybe it was symmetry. If I ride coast-to-coast, I have to do the Horribly Hilly the next year. Or maybe it’s because I’m 70 years old now and that seems somehow significant.

Maybe it’s just because I can and that’s not something to take for granted. At any rate, I need to train, as it’s only 4 months away.

Horribly Hilly 2019 finish (wet)
Death Ride 1992 (also wet). Still about 75 miles to go. Yes, the jersey says ’91, but it was from the year before.

It also happens to be through beautiful countryside out near our adopted highway. While most of the hills are climbs I’ve done multiple times, the sadists who put the route together found a way to include them all in the same day.

The announcement arrived in my email a month ago. I didn’t throw it out. In fact, I just checked my in box and see that I flagged it to think it over. I was thinking “no”. A few weeks later a reminder arrived. I was still thinking, “been there – done that”. I’m not like Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who has done it ten times. We’ve had a few warm sunny days. I’ve been reading out on the porch. I guess the heat got to my brain. The deadline for advance registration for previous riders (with a discounted price and no lottery to get in) was only hours away so I thought, “what the hell?” and did it. Wish me luck.

The adopted highway. It’s easier from this position.

Double your pleasure

I missed Wednesday night’s ride. I was delivering my bike to Cannon Falls, MN, intergalactic headquarters of Cycle America. While there is peace of mind in knowing my bike will be delivered to the starting point of the ride (without having to dismantle and ship it, or drag it through an airport), I’m not sure I saved much money, putting $130 worth of gas in the car that day. (Not that I used it all on my 520 miles of driving.) It also rained all day here, so I’m not sure I would have ridden anyway. For the first 100 miles, visibility was about 100 yards. I was following an orange truck that I only realized was orange when the sky lightened temporarily. It was mostly a vague grey box in front of me with red lights shining out. The sun was shining in Minnesota. When I got home I realized the 520 miles I drove will take me a week on a bike.

Thursday night’s ride was in my favorite area. Since I won’t be here for the Wednesday Night New Glarus ride, and I was going to be there anyway, I figured I would do the Wednesday Night route for a warmup, then meet my friends for the Thursday route, since they start and end at the same spot. And when training to ride across the continent, 25 miles just aren’t enough.

It didn’t go exactly as planned. Retirement means not having to follow a strict schedule. The book I was reading was too good to put down so I read a few more chapters before leaving the house and only rode a bit of the Wednesday route, though still enough to turn the 25 mile ride into something more that 40.

New Glarus area ridge

Writing about favorites inspired me to stop writing and go visit another favorite. I figured I wanted to get in one more highway cleanup before the trip, so I will save this and head out. See ya later.

The highway is clean. Aside from the usual detritus, today yielded a wheel well liner. Post-cleanup we enjoyed a ride on the clean highway and lamented the many Bud Light cans on the rest of the ride.

I never get tired of this view. Good thing they put a bench here for me to sit on.


Since we’ve been cleaning our favorite stretch of highway, the most discarded item has been the Busch Light beer can, consistently through the years. Busch Light has been dethroned by Hurricane, a malt liquor from the same manufacturer, so Anheuser-Busch retains the distinction of being the most-littered company.

Music starts at about 2 minutes in .

It is a cold and wet spring; not the most conducive to training for a coast-to-coast ride…then again, we will be riding in all kinds of weather so I’d best hit the road. Last week’s evening club rides were rained out. Sunday’s ride was cold and wet and started an hour earlier than the previous Sunday rides. I missed it. After cleaning the highway I got on the bike for a “choose your own adventure” loop of unknown distance. The temperature topped out at about 50 degrees (10 C).

I headed out on favorite highway F to ID (old US 151) with a plan to turn down JG to Little Norway. I was feeling good along the ridge and missed the turn, deciding I might as well ride along the ridge into Mount Horeb and take JG to Stewart Lake instead. And so it went. An unplanned ride, long enough to get some exercise, not long enough to get tired after 4 miles of walking up and down the highway picking up beer cans.

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was a middleweight boxer in the 1960s. Being the child of a boxer, I grew up watching boxing on TV every weekend. As Dylan’s song tells, Carter was wrongly convicted of murder. He was eventually released from prison and died of prostate cancer at the age of 76. He was cared for at the end by John Artis, who had been convicted of murder along with Carter but released on parole. After two dubious convictions, all charges against both were dropped eventually. Carter later worked to exonerate other people who were wrongly convicted.

Favorite Son

Busch Light can in its natural habitat. It will eventually assume its protective coloration. (The blue pigment fades to a pale green. The process has begun.)

A Busch Light can means the half-fast cycling club cleaned its adopted highway again. No further news on that front.

I never tire of this view. Sorry if you do. Look! No litter!
Madison’s Favorite Son, Joel Paterson (from a previous festival – I brought no camera this time)

Our neighborhood summer festivals were combined into one this year. We walked down to the park just long enough to see the set by the Joel Paterson Trio. Joel grew up a few blocks from here. He spent his teen years playing the blues at a neighborhood bar, then moved to Chicago where he plays in multiple bands. A self-proclaimed guitar geek, he plays swing, rockabilly, country, and blues (and a little Hawaiian guitar).

Joel on all instruments in a home pandemic recording
From his all-Beatles solo acoustic guitar album
Guitar and clarinet blues jam
The Western Elstons, his country band
And here’s a full set of his band Modern Sound, from a festival in Spain.

There’s lots more where that came from, including some Scotty Moore (Elvis Presley’s guitarist) and Chet Atkins tributes. I think he should be famous. Listen and see if you agree.

Yeah, I’ve been riding my bike a lot. Back-to-back weekends with centuries coming up in September, so 50-60 mile rides twice a week as well as daily commuting and Wednesday night rides. I haven’t ridden 100 miles in a day since 2019, so we’ll see if I still can.

Hot and humid Wednesday Night Ride

It’s tobacco season, so last week I rode past a crew out cutting tobacco, and this week rode past sheds full of drying tobacco. If you’re not from around here, you probably didn’t realize Wisconsin is tobacco country. Tobacco used to be grown here as cigar wrappers and is now mostly for chewing. It was once a major cash crop. A farmer got an allotment from the state, allowing a set number of acres to be grown. It was hard work (hand planted, hand cut, hand tied and hung, hand stripped from the veins after curing, and bundled for sale) but virtually guaranteed income. If you had an allotment, you grew tobacco. I had a friend who bought a farm with a small allotment and the neighbors thought she was crazy because she chose not to grow tobacco. The tobacco shed (a large barn with louvers that can be opened to increase airflow, and a network of framing from which to hang the poles with bundles of leaves draped over them) was used for storage.

COVID cases are on the rise again and I just finished another tour of duty on the COVID units. Most of my patients this week were not vaccinated. I was vaccinated in December and January. While it is true that I am now magnetic, that’s just my personality and I was that way before the vaccine;) If you have seen the videos of people purporting to prove that the vaccine makes one magnetic, they are either more ignorant than I think they are, or they just blatantly dishonest. The videos show people sticking non-ferrous metals to their skin and claiming it is because the vaccine made them magnetic. I have duplicated that with a penny, bobby pin, paper clip, money clip, button, and a Post-It note. Only one of those would have stuck were magnetism at play. Lest you think I did anything heroic this week, I was safer in this gear (and the sanitation process I go through as I enter and leave each room) than you are if you go into a store, restaurant, or bar (especially if you don’t wear a mask, or anyone else in there doesn’t). You don’t know if you are near someone who is positive. I do.