Friday, August 24, 2012

The Amazing Milwaukee Race on Bikes!

Back in April I 'ran' with my friend Linda in The Amazing Milwaukee Race.  This past weekend my husband and I participated in the biking version of that race, and it wore me out but we had a great time.

There were two courses; the A-course was 40 miles, and the B-course was supposed to be 20 miles but turned out to be 25.  Of the 72 teams that participated only 23 finished, and of the 14 B-course teams we came in tenth.  Not bad for a team called "The Slow Spokes."  The whole thing was a lot more grueling than anticipated, but it was the kind of event where the enjoyment of it comes down to the company.  There were several moments when I was cold and wet and sore that I realized if I were with someone else I would have been miserable, but because I was with Ian it was fun.

Ian ready to ride!
Me briefly enjoying dry clothes

Here's a rundown of the whole adventure (including address locations for locals interested in the path we traveled) and some more photos:

The Slow Spokes on a slide
The race began at noon at a tavern only about a mile from our house called The Horny Goat Hideaway (2011 S First).  We were instructed to get a team photo of ourselves on a swing or slide sometime before the end of the race in order to finish.  Then after we'd listened to all the rules we were supposed to text something to get our first destination.  I think I have texted twice in my life and neither time did it go well, so that became Ian's job.  Luckily people all around us started just exclaiming "The Great Lakes Distillery!" so off we went.

At that point in the day it was sunny and beautiful out.  Perfect weather for biking and my only concern was that I might be too warm in jeans instead of shorts.  Ha.

Anyway, at The Great Lakes Distillery (616 W Virginia) we got in line to zest lemons for a batch of some kind of lemon flavored drink they make there.  Once we finished that we were offered a shot of something (we don't drink so the offerings at the various bars on the route didn't interest us) and given our next clue.

Now, the beauty of traveling with Ian is that he knows where everything is and good ways to get there.  (I swear to you, when we were in France a lifetime ago, people would ask Ian for directions and he knew where to point them!  I barely know where I am now.)  As a team we were well paired because Ian knew exactly where to go, and I was good at figuring out what to do once we arrived.  The next location was the Bike Federation of Wisconsin (3618 W Pierce) and Ian found some alternate route from the one everyone else took, and on the way we stopped to get our photo on a slide while the sun was still shining.

Partway there I started to feel raindrops, so we stopped and I put the laptop in my backpack into a ziplock bag.  I knew we'd be competing against people who own smart phones, so I'd been compelled to bring it along and just hoped it survived the trip.  I figured my camera was far enough down in my bag to be safe, and anything else in the backpack could just get wet (the tire pump, the Rubik's cube, the pencils, the cash, etc.). 

At the Bike Federation we took a safety quiz which Ian aced quickly without having to consult the booklets on hand, and we were on our way again, this time on a very pretty path that took us to Doyne Park (46th and Wells).  That was great because we got to play Toss Across.  I had to keep throwing bean bags until I got a tic tac toe, and Ian retrieved the bean bags for me.  We did that fast and hit the trail again headed for Hart Park in Wauwatosa (68th and State).

It was toward the beginning of that trip that the first thunderstorm hit.  It was no wimpy little rain shower, either.  We're talking giant claps of thunder and buckets of rain.  I was soaked through to my underwear in a matter of minutes.  We spotted other teams waiting under various shelters, but the thing is once you are completely wet you can't get any wetter.  So we kept going.  Because really, since we were already soaked, why not?

By the time we found Hart Park the rain was lighter, and it took us a while to locate the next volunteer with our clue.  I think she was hiding from the rain inside a playground log when we first got to the park and we missed her.  But eventually we saw other teams gathered at the play area and headed over, and our next location was Washington Park (44th and Lisbon).  The challenge there was to solve a letter based Sudoku puzzle.  We were thankful that the sun came out at least while we worked on that at a picnic table.  We were only required to finish the grey section of the puzzle, and had we known that the words "Best Place" in the middle were the next clue we could have gotten moving earlier than we did. 

Best Place is a bar at the old Pabst Brewery (901 W Juneau).  The challenge there was awesome.  We had to construct a small catapult out of a plastic spoon and various clips and rubber bands and sticks, and then use it to shoot a ping pong ball into a model of a castle before we could get our next clue.  There were instructions on the tables about how to make the catapult, and we slapped it together enough to make it work, but we both remarked on how great it would be to have Mona there because she would do such a better job of it.  In fact, when I gave it to her when we got home, she looked it over for a bit, and the next morning she handed it back to me saying, "I hope you don't mind, but I improved your catapult."  And she did!  Her version required fewer pieces and utilized the clips and rubber bands much better and the thing shoots much farther now.  I wish I had a before picture, but trust me, these after photos are indeed an improvement:

After that we headed to Gordon Park (Humboldt and Locust), which involved a pretty (if wet) ride along a river, and in the park itself under a tiny tent we were asked to paint bicycle rims and playing cards.

At this point, I have to say, I was freezing.  Wet jeans are really heavy, and all my wet cotton clothes were making me cold.  We were so wet.  And the next task was at Riverside High School (1500 Park Place) where we had to ride a tandem bike around a track, and somehow that made us wetter.  Even though I know that's not possible, but still.  It sure felt that way.

People were grumbling at this point, too, because we were all huddled under a tree to study the next clue and there just really was no way to escape the rain.  The problem was we were required to photograph each clue to get credit for them all later, and one guy there just kept saying it wasn't worth ruining a $200 phone for.  I managed to get a quick picture with my camera and get it buried safely back into my bag before it could get too wet, but an umbrella would have been nice.  I didn't think to bring one since we'd be on bikes, but I should have thought ahead to locations where we'd be stopped.

That next clue was actually one we needed to think about as well (and we just couldn't do that standing there in the downpour).  There were three locations on it that we were allowed to visit in any order, but the only place we could figure out was the first one, which was Landmark Lanes (North and Farwell).

Inside the bowling alley one of us was supposed to bowl a strike before we could move on.   I put Ian to work on that while I got out my laptop and worked on the other clues.  I figured out pretty quickly that the second one was a bar called the Roman Coin (1004 E Brady), but the last one about someplace where you could "order the world's largest" (and somehow only spend $3) had us stumped.  I thought it was some other alcohol thing I know nothing about, but when we asked the volunteer working the lanes he told us to think "pizza."

Bowling Ian!

Took us a little bit of biking up and down the street to finally figure out Pizza Shuttle (1827 Farwell) was where we needed to be.  Once inside we were asked to get our pictures taken in the photo booth, which we were happy to do, but unfortunately the photo booth was not happy to take our very wet money.  It took us forever to find one dollar bills that were dry enough to work, but we got it done!

From there we took a wet trip down to the Roman Coin where I had to order a beer (which I gave away to someone sitting at the bar and made her very happy) and then Ian and I danced to a song by Prince on the jukebox before we could get our next clue.  That one sent us to McKinley Marina (1750 N Lincoln Memorial Dr).

The bike ride to the Marina was really wet, and I was feeling it in my thighs and knees having biked up so many hills.  I was sore and chilly, but we had been out there for more than four and a half hours and it's weird how you can adjust to things.  I said something to Ian about a customer who had come into the violin store "a while back" who lived in the area, and Ian replied, "That was yesterday."  But it felt like much longer ago, because the life we now led was this one.  In the rain, on bikes.

At the Marina we were originally expected to walk out to the breakwater, which would have been beautiful, but because of lightning we instead picked up our clue at the scenic McKinley Marina public restrooms.  From there we took a lovely route along Lake Michigan behind the art museum to Pierhead Lighthouse (Lakeshore State Park/Marcus Amphitheater).  The only people at the lighthouse were a young couple making out, and we decided they couldn't help us.  We biked along a bit further and found the race volunteer under a bridge, where he blissfully showed us this:

So we headed back to where we began, and the sun came out.

At the Horny Goat someone looked through the photos on my camera and checked off all the clues needed to finish, and then we headed upstairs to clock in with the timekeeper.  Official time: five hours eighteen minutes.  She looked surprised when we said we'd actually finished the whole course, and that was the first time we realized most people hadn't.  We were proud of ourselves!  And tired.  It was so nice to be out of the rain and not pedaling.  We ordered a small pizza to share which we finished in no time, collected our T-shirt prize (which was heavenly to change into, even if only half of my body was in something dry) and left before anyone's times were assessed or other prizes handed out.

Then we got on our bikes once more to head home where we were greeted by our children who had marveled at all the thunderstorms from inside the house but somehow hadn't put that together with their parents being out on bikes all day.  They started to hug me and then backed away from my soaking jeans.  I took a hot shower, then curled up with my laptop and the dog in the living room, and was eventually covered with kids who all wanted to sit on me while watching Phineas and Ferb.  It was a good end to long, exhausting, really fun, and unforgettable day.

Next race: April 2013!  Can't wait.  (And I'm bringing an umbrella.  Or two.  And rain pants.)


  1. Sounds awesome. Thanks for sharing.

  2. This sounds like such a FUN race! Okay, minus that whole rain thing. :oS I really enjoyed "doing" the race with you. Thanks for sharing the photos too. :o)

  3. Sounds amazing. And what a wonderful thing to do as a couple, someday maybe the kids will ride with you...and the sun will shine!

  4. Great recap! My husband and I were sorry to have to miss the first-ever AMROB in Milwaukee. Glad it was fun, even with all the rain. We're planning on signing up for next year's events!