The Frozen Snot Century

Frozen Snot CenturyWell, I did it. Or, half of it at least. Actually, a third of it as it was planned this year. Saturday, I rode my bike 95 miles to Milwaukee (100 if you count getting lost downtown at the end) with four other similarly crazy guys that I’d never met before (actually, it turned out that I knew one guy from an Americorps gig a while ago). Due to a minor knee injury and general wimpiness, I took a Megabus back on Sunday while most of the other guys biked another 60 miles to the Waukeegan Metra stop and then took the train back into Chicago (no Milwaukeans made the trip to Chicago on Sunday). Snow drifts, drinking, icy roads, more drinking, weird abandoned shacks, and a run-in with the Kenilworth police (drinking-related)–all things considered, it was a hell of a lot of fun.fsc_river.jpgThey weren’t kidding when they said frozen…Here’s the description from the Chicago BikeWinter website:

4th Annual Frozen Snot Century: For the fourth year in a row Wisconsin and Illinois cyclists will unite on the Frozen Snot Century ride, connecting Milwaukee and Chicago. All are welcome on this free, unsupported, ride-at-your-own-pace-and-risk event. This year the Frozen Snot Century bike ride will have a optional stop in Madison which will complete the legendary “Bratwurst Triangle”. Here’s the schedule: Fri. Feb. 23: A dozen Chicagoans will take Metra commuter rail to Harvard, IL, and bike 70 miles to Madison. Meet at 7:30 AM on the platform at Clybourn Station, 1601 W. Armitage; train leaves at 7:38; pay on the train. Any Chicagoans interested in this option should RSVP to Riders will arrive at the Great Dane Brewing Co., 123 E. Doty in Madison around 5 PM, to meet up with Madisonians. Chicagoans crash on local couches (Housing organized by Madison Bike Winter / BFW). Sat. Feb. 24: Those Chicagoans plus any interested Madisonians ride 80 (?) miles to Milwaukee. Meanwhile, another, larger group of Chicagoans meets at 7 AM at the Hollywood Grill, 1601 W. North in Chicago, departing at 8 AM to ride 95 miles from Chicago to Milwaukee. Everyone meets up around 5 PM at Cafe Hollander, 2608 N. Downer Ave., in Milwaukee. Out-of-towners crash nearby with Milwaukeeans (housing organized by Milwaukee Bike Winter). Sun. Feb. 25: Everbody meets up at Fuel Cafe in Milwaukee, 818 E. Center St., at 8 AM, departing at 9 AM to ride 95 miles to Chicago. Meet up around 5 PM at Mercury Cafe, 1505 W. Chicago Ave. for the Critical Mass Art Show – BYOB. Wisconsinites stay with Chicagoans (Housing organized by Chicago Bike Winter). Mon. Feb. 26: Madisonians take Metra commuter rail to Harvard, IL and bike home OR take the Van Galder bus with their bikes. Milwaukeeans ride home.

See below for pictures and a long boring recap, but the most important thing I got from this whole deal was a good sense of yet another ‘scene’ here in Chicago. That’s ‘scene’ in a completely positive sense, by the way (not like, say, “the indie rock scene”). ‘Scene’ as in a bunch of people who get together over a common interest, and (in my experience at least) are completely welcoming and excited to share it with someone new. These guys and gals love bikes, know an unbelievable amount about them, and most importantly, they were a blast to hang out with for the weekend. There are a ton of rides going on all the time in the city (like the critical mass rides every last Friday of the month), and I’d definitely recommend checking one out. There are even still a few left that are part of BikeWinter.Anyways, it’s nice to see and experience something new with people who are really passionate about it. Just one more reason why Chicago is the coolest city in the world.Why in the crap would anyone do something like this? At the end of last summer, a good friend and former bike mechanic built me a really cool bike. I ended up using it to do almost everything, from commuting back and forth to work, to getting groceries, to hauling my Dobro around to various practices and gigs. I had planned to toss it in the closet when it got too cold to ride, but I loved riding it so much that it never seemed to be too cold. The simple act of riding back and forth to work earned me at least a 25% Quality Of Life improvement. At some point, I saw a BikeWinter sticker on a bike rack, checked out the website, and saw the Frozen Snot Century. I’ve never been a very athletic guy, and I’ve never set an athletic goal in my life, but for some crazy reason, I thought that it looked pretty cool, and I decided to get in shape to do it. I trained for it, because I didn’t have any idea who was gonna show up, and I didn’t want to get left behind on the ride. Crazy messenger guys? Hardcore racers in condom-suits (as a friend of mine likes to call the full-body spandex)?fsc_bike.jpgMy Cool BikeSo I showed up at the Hollywood Grill on Saturday morning not knowing what to expect other than freezing rain. I was a little late, but I guess bike-time is even later, the first guy, Paul, showed up about 10 minutes later. Turns out I worked with Paul for about a month when I was doing an Americorps program up here a few years ago. I hadn’t seen him for years, and it was great to see him again, and a relief to see that someone that wasn’t a complete stranger. Over the next half hour, Steve, Jordan, and Rubani showed up. Everyone had cool vintage racers, and Rubani had a really cool orange fixed-gear. Yep, he rode a fixed gear the whole way up to Milwaukee and back. It was pretty amazing. I guess there were around 20 people starting from Chicago last year, but we left the Hollywood Grill at 8:30 with just us power five.We all started out together and rode up through Evanston, got on Sheridan road, and continued into Kenilworth. Steve had come well prepared with, among other necessities, a canvas sack full of Miller High Life attached to his seatpost. He had one in-hand as he all of the sudden got stopped by a few of Kenilworth’s finest. We all stopped and waited while he talked to the police. After a few minutes, an officer came over and started lecturing us on the rules of the road, and if we were riding in the street we have to obey the same rules as blah blah blah blah blah… and then he lightened up a little and told us that while he was running Steve’s ID, he was talking to one of his Chicago cop buddies:Kenilworth cop: “Wow, it’s not every day that you see a guy on a bike with an open beer in broad daylight!”Chicago cop: “Yes it is.”Thankfully, he let all of us go on (beers and all). I guess he was just excited that something interesting happened; I can’t imagine that a Kenilworth cop’s day is usually very exciting.After another 10 miles or so, we all stopped to take some pictures and eat some stuff. Luckily, Steve had also packed a full bundt cake. No, I’m not kidding, and no that’s not innuendo for anything else. It was a bundt cake. And it was damn good. A nice break from my steady diet of Fig Newtons and Gatorade. I went through about 3.5 stacks of Fig Newtons on the way–just thought thought of them now makes me nauseous.fsc_wisconsin.jpgMe at the Illinois/Wisconsin borderfsc_shack.jpgRubani (foreground) and Steve (background) at some weird abandoned shack in WisconsinWe rode a bit on a bike trail (not sure which one) until it got too icy, and then we were back on Sheridan road, where we stayed for most of the rest of the way. We went at a pretty leisurely pace, and we stopped often enough that the first 50 or so miles felt really nice and relaxed. I stopped to take some more pictures at the Wisconsin border, and we continued on Route 32 (Sheridan turns into 32 at the Wisconsin border). Around this point, Jordan dropped back. Paul and Steve stopped at a boat house a little later to check out the ominously choppy Lake Michigan, and Rubani and I pressed on to Milwaukee. We stuck together the rest of the way, and ran into some snow drifts right around the town of South Milwaukee that continued the 20 miles to the city itself. Rubani didn’t seem to have any problems on his fixed-gear, but I was sliding all over the place, and I hurt my knee trying to stay upright with about 5 miles to go. Nothing too bad, and I finished the day with no problems, but it was pretty stiff the next day.We decided to meet up first at a bar called the Palomino before meeting up at Cafe Hollander with the Milwaukee contingent and the Chicagoans who had come from Madison. Rubani and I got slightly lost, and after a detour of a couple of miles, arrived at the Palomino just as Paul and Steve were locking their bikes. We all went in, got started on some much-needed drinking, and waited for Jordan, who showed up about a half an hour later. We did it! Little did we know that the hardest part of the day was yet to come.fsc_palomino.jpgFrom L to R: Me, Rubani, Steve and Paul at the Palomino in MilwaukeeOff to Cafe Hollander to meet the other guys. We stepped out of the Palomino into a blizzard. For the 5 or so miles through downtown Milwaukee, we fought freezing rain, slick roads, and ridiculous wind. The wind drove the rain against my face to the point where each icy drop felt like a needle, and it was blowing so hard that it literally blew us directly sideways where the road was icy enough. For me, this was the scariest part of the whole trip.Relieved, we arrived at Cafe Hollander, and met up with everyone. From there we went with Shea and Jessica (both project coordinators for the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin) to their houses to sleep and drink some more. Steve and I stayed with Jessica. She was an excellent hostess; we felt welcome and at home the whole time, and she makes a killer Hot Toddy (many, in fact).After a surprisingly good night’s sleep, we all met again in the morning at Fuel cafe (which was awesome enough to give all of us Chicago riders a free yogurt parfait and cup of coffee) to check out the weather and decide how we were gonna get home. Steve and I opted for the Megabus, Jordan for the Amtrak, and the rest of the guys toughed it out for another 60 miles to the Waukeegan Metra stop in yet another snowstorm.Whew! Thanks a ton to Jessica for the hospitality and John Greenfield for organizing the event. Overall, an awesome trip, and I met a ton of great people. Come along next year!

2 Comments so far

  1. nikkos (unregistered) on February 27th, 2007 @ 10:24 am

    Dude, I always thought you were a little crazy but this is excellent confirmation.

  2. Meghann (unregistered) on March 6th, 2007 @ 9:49 am

    dude-I’m very proud of you and just glad you didn’t die-which is the original reason you joined this ride in the first place….don’t deny it. :-)

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