200+ Miles & 4 States on A Bicycle

Every since I first hopped on a bike, I knew that it would be a long love affair.  There is just something about the feeling you get when you know that the machine you are riding is 100% powered by your efforts.  That feeling of the wind in your face when you go down a hill.  That feeling that is as close as you’re ever going to get to flight without jumping out of a plane.

Many of you know that I race for xXx Racing – AthletiCo when I am not being daddy or handling client finances.  This team was founded back in 1999 when a group of messengers decided that it would be cool to try their hands at some sanctioned racing.  One of the founding fathers was a guy by the name of Eric Sprattling.  Eric was known for being a pretty good distance rider and one of the things he would do as part of his training would be to ride to the three surrounding states in our area.

Well, Eric passed away in 1999 after he suffered a brain aneurysm near the conclusion of a race.  In 2010, our coach began an annual 3 states ride in Eric’s memory.  2011 was the first time I participated and while it was hard (145 miles and 8 hours), it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had on the bike.  A few weeks back I got this hair-brained idea of what it would be like to ride the 4 states in our area.  That’s right – what would it be like to ride Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin all in one day?  Well, read on to find out!

The day was scheduled to be relatively calm from a wind standpoint and the temps were projected to get up to about 87 degrees.  From a rider standpoint, this is about as good as it gets during the summer, especially considering that we’ve been well into the upper 90’s for the past few weeks.  The route out to Michigan has some pretty high speed sections (45+ MPH speed limit) so I decided that it would be the portion I would ride first.  Given that I was starting at 5AM, I hoped that this would help me avoid some of the heavy traffic that would surely start as people began to get started on their days.

4AM comes after about 6 hours of sleep and I begin with a big breakfast and a final load up of all the gear I would have.  I’d have my usual tools to fix anything major that would go wrong on the bike, but I would also carry a few extras along with an extra water bottle.  I’m out the door at 5:15AM and it’s a quick 7 miles before I hit my second state of Indiana.  The sun is just starting to come up as you can see in this picture.

After my quick photo op I get rolling again and press on through the oil facilities of Whiting IN and in about an hours time I hit Gary.  Things are going okay and I am eating and drinking regularly to keep the engine room stoked.  I’m cruising along at an average of 19 MPH which is just what I am hoping for.  Once I leave Gary I hit US 12 which would take me through the Indiana Dunes, some more industrial areas and then through the Dunes Park.  The tree cover was excellent (which helped as the sun continued to ascend) and the only real hiccup came when I was supposed to take a route known as the Calumet trail.  Well, turns out this bike path is made of gravel and is more suited for mountain bikes than my skinny tired steed.  Needless to say, I just rerouted to US 12 and about 3 hours after I started I hit my third state, Michigan.

The route to Michiana MI takes you up a road called Lake Shore Drive.  The road itself is pretty picturesque with hillside villas on one side and beachfront property and the shoreline on the other.  On my cruise up this road at 8AM,  people were out running, biking and just enjoying the outdoors.  All of them had smiles and waves for me as I plodded along the rolling shoreline.  Kind of reminds you of those seaside drives of the coast doesn’t it?

The ride back to Illinois was pretty uneventful with the exception of how I felt at mile 70.  Typically I can do 100 miles without too much “discomfort” but for some reason I was starting to feel a little bothered on the bike.  The plan was for me to stop back at the house (mile 100) for a quick pasta lunch and refuel before I pushed north for the 4th state.  Thus, I just told myself to just make it home and I’d be okay.  The key to completing a ride of this length, at least for me, was to break it into small segments in which I could get a victory.  After a while, your body is going to just hurt no matter what, but it’s your mind that will make you stop and quit.

After a 30 minute rest and some lunch I pushed north up the bike path on the lakefront and headed into the burbs to play in our teams usual training grounds.  Well, this is where the ride “started” to get hard for me.  No matter how much I ate and drank, my power levels slowly started to come down as time progressed.  I would take a break every hour or so, which recharged me to an extent, but it was getting really hard to convince myself that I was going to make it back home.  Well, after 160 miles and 9 hours of riding, I finally got to my 4th state!

Well, this served as one of my milestones and gave me a little encouragement that I might be able to pull off the secondary goal – 200+ miles if I rode all the way home.  I stopped at a Subway close to the WI boarder (really wanted to eat cheese curds at Culvers, but figured it would make me sick) and had me some dinner and a quick 20 minute rest.  With the exception of breakfast and lunch, most of what I ate that day was “junk food” whose purpose was simply to give me the most calories for what I could carry on the bike.  Thus, it felt really good to eat some real food before heading home.

The ride home was slow, painful and involved me really considering hopping the first train back to the city that I could find.  I probably stopped at least 4 times over the 59 mile route, but after the last one (which was just 7 miles from my house) and a text from a teammate who was checking in on me (thanks Diddy), I found the wherewithal to power home and get ‘er done.

So what was the final tally of this insane ride?  Let’s see:

  • 4 states covered
  • 15+ townships/cities visited
  • 214 miles ridden in 12 hours 18 minutes
  • 7,179 calories burned
  • 8 liters of fluid (Gatorade included), 3 honey buns, 1 powerbar, 1 pack of cakesters, 1 lbs of orzo pasta, 1 subway veggie sandwich, and 2 fruit pies all consumed post breakfast
  • One mega suntan
  • Zero flats!

All in all, I was very happy to pull this ride off.  It wasn’t easy by any measure, but then again, that was part of the reason I did it.  A part of me gets a great deal of satisfaction of pushing myself into new realms.  What some may consider insane is what I consider proving that you can do whatever you want in this world, so long as you put your mind to it.  Would I do this ride again?  Yes (I can’t say that I felt this way immediately upon finishing) but it will probably be quite some time from now.

If you’ve ever seen my helmet after a ride, you’ll affirm that the straps are usually covered in salt.  This last pic doesn’t do my jersey justice, but let’s just say that salt was fully embedded into every fabric of it’s being.

And lastly to Eric – Kyle says that you would have thought I was crazy for doing such a ride.  But then again, he said you would have been right there along side me pushing me on.  Well, I hope I made you proud sir and thanks for the inspiration!