Bike Warrior: When Good Enough Isn’t

By Kurt Gering, Project Manager, Information Technology Services & Adjunct Instructor, College of Professional Studies –  It was a hot, steamy midsummer’s day in August. You know the kind that makes you run outside and start your car to let the air conditioner run for ten minutes before getting in and going on your way. Yet, despite such conditions, at 7:00 AM on a Saturday morning I found myself geared up on my bike, sitting in the parking lot of Wrigley Field. Although the day’s ride to Miller Park involved a little over 100 miles, a distance I had previously done many times, the ride itself was a first for me and only the second year for the charity event to benefit the World Bicycle Relief. As my riding partners and I set up at the starting line, the air was filled anticipation and the assembled riders were brimming with excitement over what was to come. While waiting for the starting gun, I took a moment to look around and size up my fellow cyclists. Judging from the European cut bibs and jerseys, I could tell that this was an experienced and well-travelled group. Gone were the mountain bikes and super-hero costumes of RAGBRAI (an annual bike ride across Iowa) replaced by clusters of professional cycling clubs and endurance athletes. I raised my eyes towards the heavens and whispered a silent prayer to the gods of cycling to not embarrass myself.

At the sound of the starting gun we began our journey northward, including a short ride through the inner concourse of Wrigley Field. It was pretty amazing and thought for a moment of all the historic figures that had walked through these hallowed halls of sport, even though it wasn’t Miller Park.  As we made our way out of the stadium, we were treated to a police escort for the journey to the Chicago city limits. As you can imagine, there was quite a bit of traffic and although we had started at 8am, it took nearly 90 minutes to travel the 13 miles to the edge of the city. Along the way we were greeted by homeowners who came out to watch us ride by and there was even a lemonade stand or two operated by some teenage entrepreneur ready to help quench our thirst.

The route eventually took us through less urban areas and once we hit Lake Forrest the ride was filled with fewer traffic interruptions.  Unfortunately after the urban congestion it was not smooth sailing the rest of the day.  We were subjected to a brutal headwind the remainder of the ride. Weather Underground listed the wind at 17mph gusting to 25mph, but I am wondering if those numbers were a little low. There were times when the wind almost knocked me over, especially those sections along the lakeshore.

In spite of the wind, the ride was quite scenic and I hunkered down, settled into the drops and began to enjoy the ride. Unfortunately, just as I was finding my cycling groove, trouble struck me at mile 52 in Kenosha in the form of a flat tire. Luckily there were several vans perusing the route for breakdowns, and once I called SAG (support and gear), they had me back on the road in a jiffy. Sadly though, the entire process cost me 45 minutes, so instead of spending a bit of time enjoying a fabulous lunch catered by Harry Carey’s along the shores of Lake Michigan, I scarfed down half a turkey wrap in five minutes and was once again on my way.

After we reached Wisconsin, we wound our way up scenic route 32 amongst various tree-lined parks before turning onto Lake Drive in Cudahy for the final 20 miles. This is a path along Lake Michigan that I have ridden many times before, so I really began to feel like I was nearly home. I met many interesting people along the way, including a few Marquette graduates and several of the organizers from SRAM and the World Bike Relief organization.

As wound through the hipster streets of Bayview, we could see the stadium off in the distance and after battling the blustery winds all day, our reddened faces looked with contemplative relief at the sight of our journey’s end. However, it would seem the gods of cycling had not exacted their full measure yet, for at mile 97 I suffered yet another flat tire.  Curse you gods of cycling! It was so close to the end and I was certain most of the SAG support had already gone ahead to the game. I could see no point in waiting another 30 minutes, so I called a friend who came by, picked me up and took me home. Sort of my own personal SAG. I quickly showered and then the two of us headed out to meet up with the rest of the cyclists at Miller Park and enjoy the game.

Once at the stadium we were treated to free beer and pizza at the Palermo pizza factory before walking over to the game. When we entered Miller Park we searched for our seats and were all surprised to see our seats were along the third base line and only a few rows from the field! After kicking a few seat poachers to the curb, we settled in just in time to see Corey Hart hit his 20th home run of the season.

As the evening drew to a close, a Brewers win topped off the evening and we headed to the parking lot for the drive to my downtown home. On the ride back though, I could not help but be a little overcome with guilt as I had ended three miles short of my century.  I was so close! I just needed a few more miles to make it 100. So while my friend tried to persuade me that 97 miles was good enough and had set our sights on a few cocktails at some swanky alfresco venue, I was having none of it. Sometimes good enough just isn’t.  I insisted that before we engage in the evening’s revelry I needed to do a quick three miles on my trainer, which would put me at my 100 miles for the day.  I know. It sounds a bit scrupulous. Perhaps even a bit punctilious. But that my friends, is the way of a Bike Warrior.

Since January 1st, 2011 Kurt Gering has ridden his bike every day.  If you would like follow his journey as he attempts to reach 500  miles of cycling every day, please “like” his page on facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Bike-Warrior/179104322119069

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