Sunday, December 13, 2009

milwaukee props: santa cycle rampage 2009

There are some events in my life that I've been afraid to recreate, worried that the magic will have worn off the second time. I am terrified of going back to Rome, weary of partying until dawn in Chicago, and until yesterday, a little nervous about riding in Milwaukee's own Santa Cycle Rampage again.

I admittedly had a different experience this year. I talked the ride up to several of my friends, including relatively novice bikers, Ben and Becky, who I spent most of my day with. Last year, I'd lost Monica and Joe on the ride and met and partied with lots of randoms. I seem to get more trouble when I'm unleashed on my own, so maybe it was a good thing the Bs kept me in line. :)

Ben and I met up at U.S. Bank early so we could get some cash for the day. It turned out we didn't need much of it, as Santas get some sweet drink deals. This first stop was handy in realizing that somewhere on my ride up to North Ave. I'd lost my flimsy Santa hat. I think it was karma from blowing off the two guys on Farwell who asked me to take a picture with them. I'd been running late, so I said no. Santas who say "no" lose hats. A stop at CVS on Downer became necessary, so I as not to be shamed by the other Santas. I picked up the number above in part because the dangling snowballs notified me that the hat would be staying on. They also provided much amusement throughout the day...because there's never too many "dangling snowballs" jokes.

While waiting for Becky to arrive at Cafe Hollander, we filled out a raffle ticket for the Bike Federation of Wisconsin and grabbed a Fat Tire from the keg--ah, the first beer at 10 a.m.

We also scoped out some of the decorated bikes, like the one above. I think that this is a goal for 2010 for sure.

Maribeth decided not to do the ride with us, but stopped over to check out the excitement. Hopefully we can convince her to come along next year.

Becky made it in the "Saint Nick" of time before we headed out on the road. I had the bright idea to put a refill of Fat Tire in my water bottle holder, and we were off.

The magic for me this year came in the form of seeing the absolute joy on my friends' faces as we began riding through the Eastside spreading cheer.

Down Farwell to Brady and then over the Marsupial Bridge, we traveled to the next stop at Lakefront Brewery, where a contingent of Santas who had ridden in from Wauwatosa awaited us. The numbers were now 200-250 strong, and the Santa population dwarfed the civilians there for an early tour.

My friend Virginia (in elf-green) had met us at Hollander, but we got to sit for a bit (and warm up) with her at Lakefront. Massive props again to Lakefront for providing one free beer for each of the Santas. I was hoping they'd have their new brew, Local Acre, on tap, but in a pinch, I went with the delicious Pumpkin Lager.

We headed out around noon for the downtown part of the ride. 250 Santas strong, we went up Water Street, passed the Red Arrow Ice Rink (we stopped the skaters), up Wisconsin Avenue (some folks threw candy canes at pedestrians), and over the 6th Street Viaduct. This truly is the best part of the ride, as people just love seeing that many Santas .... on bikes!

Things definitely started getting a wee bit fuzzy after the next stop at Great Lakes Distillery. Again, a super awesome local business supporting this fun event. Wisconsin recently passed a law allowing them to have samples, and they are rocking that like nobody's business. They had free Santa punch or Candy Cane Vodka Coffee, as well as sample tastings of their liquor. I tried the punch, which I believe had their artisan grappa in it as well as a whole lotta deliciousness. Ben and I also sampled their two types of Absinthe - vert and rouge. I have to say the green fairy did it for me more. I also got to try their Pumpkin Seasonal at long last.

I ended up with a rogue group of Santas heading from the distillery over to the next stop at Kochanski's Concertina Beer Hall. While we had a fun little side street detour, we did miss the highlight of many Santas' day...

... a police ESCORT! Definitely in contrast to last year's traffic stop, these cops were awesome and treated the Santas with respect. My friend Tim has more about this over at his Beer Runner blog.

The house polka band greeted us as we packed into this tiny Southside tavern. I grabbed a $2 pint of Point and stood in the food line, forgetting that there was nothing I could eat.

I made due with my four saltines, and made a note to pack a lunch for next year. Those saltines didn't really prepare me for the next great idea.

Do the people in the photo above LOOK like they need to take a shot of Rumpleminze off of a ski? Well, this is Wisconsin, my friends. And since when I blogged about it last year, I neglected to provide photo evidence, I enlisted Virginia to capture the beauty of the SHOTSKI on camera.

We still had one more stop after this too! After polkaing and another point, we grabbed our bikes to head to the last stop at Cafe Centraal. Somehow I lost the Bs, who ended up halfway to Tosa following some westside Santas. Whoops. In the interim, I filled my stomach with some vegetarian chili and some WATER (brilliant), before grabbing another Fat Tire off the Santa keg.

Despite grand plans to bike with an illicit pack of middle-aged Santas down forbidden routes (for which we'd risk $250 tickets), I ended up riding good old reliable KK home. I somehow lost the Bs again, keeping up with my friend Jeff's well-lit bike, as my front guppy headlight got snatched in Bay View. Totally bummed about that. It's gotta be bad karma to steal from Santa! This put me in a salty mood, and I passed out at 6, hoping to make it to a Christmas party later that evening.

I woke up at 3:30 a.m., bummed I missed the party, but glad I spent another year Santa cycling-- even if the "magic" shone through in different ways.


  1. O.M.G. How did I NOT know this happened? And thanks for the recap of Great Lakes Distillery. I've been meaning to get over there and now have the motivation of a great review.

  2. We missed you at Abby's, but I can totally see why you weren't there. I want to do this next year. It sounds like so much fun!!


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