non-car-based transportation. Needless to say, I haven't been in the holiday spirit.
Well, anyone that reads this blog still or has Googled any iteration of "santa cycle milwaukee" could have predicted the inevitable -- Santa Cycle Rampage 2010 filled me with Christmas Joy just as much as the two other years I've participated.
Yes, the weather this year was atrocious and the free beer didn't flow quite as freely, but you can't ever change the absolute magic of seeing 300 Santas spread joy throughout the town by the simple act of banding together on bicycles.
Cafe Hollander. I kind of love the pre-ride, as the sight 3-4 Santas definitely confuses people more than 300. They do the double-take like "Is this part of something or are these people just freakshows?"
A little of column A, a little of column B.
My gang started to form at Hollander. Not only did my comrades, Ben and Becky, from last year join up, but Ben brought along his awesome friends Lisa and Scott. There was a bit of confusion regarding the availability of "Santa Specials," so we only managed to get one drink in -- for me it was a Lakefront White. This "pacing" likely paid off later.
Pushing 11, it was time to parade over to Lakefront Brewery. It seemed far more people were out and about on in that North/ Farwell / Brady stretch this year so the cheer began to spread. As I mentioned last year, I just love watching my friends as they experience such an incredible phenomenon for the first time. Laura, Tony, Bart, and I were a pack in this part and the three of them were just so excited about it. This part makes me believe that you could *almost* get rid of the drinking aspect and it'd still be amazing. But then it wouldn't be a Wisconsin event. Nor could you probably convince 300 people to ride around in the cold with costumes on for 6 hours. Scratch that. Alcohol is a critical factor in this joy spreading.
Learning from past year's mistakes, we grabbed an essential slice of pizza at Lakefront immediately upon arrival. I washed it down with an Organic Amber, and later sampled a Rendevous (which Monica accurately described as a "nasal" beer and I commented "just like the French accent!") and a Riverwest Stein, thanks to both the "Santa Sample" and rounds appearing. I was thrilled to have Monica round out our posse at this stop, since she was my partner in crime for Year 1.
Speaking of which, the Santa Cycle alumni community is pretty sweet. It's fantastic to chat with people you see year after year, to learn about bike geekery, to feel PART of something organic and cool. Even though the event continues to grow, the bike geeks are still at the core of it. I mean, look at the bike tree above -- there were probably 10 people surrounding it, staring in awe, and saying "that's my kind of Christmas tree." Especially with the weather being the worst I've encountered, as the day wore on, only the hardcores kept on.
Stop three was Great Lakes Distillery, of which I don't have many photos. Mainly because we were outside the bulk of this time and I didn't quite want to take off my gloves. Luckily Bart had overlayered and I got to hijack his extra warm down vest (I described as being as warm as the pelts of 10,000 bears).
A change up from years past was the routing my band of Santas took to get there. We missed the first wave out of Lakefront, so followed another group down Water St. Instead of turning on Wisconsin Ave., we rode through the Third Ward, bringing joy to the shoppers hitting the boutiques. While I missed the hustle and bustle of the Ave., since the stops didn't change, it was nice to add some variety. We then took this crazy shortcut through an industrial area and rode UNDER the Sixth Street Viaduct. The area was a bit sketch, but man, it's a handy shortcut to know. If I can ever find it again!
At Great Lakes I bought a Santa punch (no samples this year), and then connected with my co-worker and his buddy. Apparently his friend had googled the event and emailed my blog link to my co-worker...ah, small world. For this coincidence, and using my feminine wiles to get the bartender to look our way, I was rewarded with a boozy eggnog made with Roaring Dan's Rum. Actually, I'm not quite sure if there was eggnog in there. Groups left GLD in several waves, and the area down there is fairly tricky, so I got a bit turned around and almost followed some rogue Santas into Conejito's. Keeping my eyes on the prize of the impending shotski, I swung around the block and found Monica & Bart in a convoy heading up Bruce Street. I'm not 100% sure the route we took to Kochanski's Concertina Beer Hall, mainly as the pomp and circumstance of a ride down the main thoroughfares was pushed to the side for the purpose of getting there quickly as the icy rain was starting to set in.
Fairly chilled after our trek, the warmth of Kochanski's both in atmosphere and crowdedness was very welcome. The ever-present polka band provides that extra layer of awesomeness, and after filling up on some chili and tamales (yay for my decision to eat meat this year!), and being traumatized by a "peek-a-boo" incident with a Santa in hotpants, we set our eyes on the prize -- THE SHOTSKI.
Imagine my disappointment then when we were told that it was "too busy" to bring down that ski. I feel like if I ever write a Christmas episode of my life, this will be a major plot point. But in the end, after some persistence (I may have thrown some blog weight around -- I am a nerd and I'd had a few High Lifes), the bartender's heart grew three sizes that day and we were allowed our Rumpleminze off a ski.
Anyway, Shotski #1 was where the trouble started. As I was closing out the tab for it, I ended up chatting with a really cute Santa at the bar. He told me he and his friend had done the shotski with Polish Blackberry Brandy, but it'd been on his list because of a blog he'd read about last year's event. They were actually Madison residents, heard about the event, Googled it, and then read a recap presenting how super fun it is. So, right, guess who's blog that turned out to be?
Well we had to do ANOTHER shotski to toast to that coincidence. And then somehow there were more. I kinda lost count. This is probably a good thing, as the ride to Cafe Centraal was really cold and wet.
The extra layers of liquid warmth were welcome. As it was last year, Centraal is a blur. It's sort of funny because the group encounters families at the start of the day, but then also after a day of drinking. I'm sure the kids who see us at 10 a.m. dream of sugar plums, whereas the kids who see us at 5 p.m. probably have the same dreams as one would if their unsuspecting parents accidentally rented them Bad Santa.
Despite walking out into the worst biking weather ever, I successfully guided wayward Santas back downtown, peddling faster than a road race to try to get out of the rain and into any sort of warm situation.
My post-ride Santa nap was well-earned.
And no, I did not make my friend's party AGAIN this year. It was too cold and I was way too cozy.
Another memorable year of Santa Cycle, and another way Wisconsin swoops in and re-steals my heart...I simply can't imagine missing this event.