Warning: This is really long...
Much of Friday’s radio chatter at 4 Star was devoted to making plans on not only getting up to Minneapolis this past weekend but also staying in Minneapolis over this past weekend.
Luckily, around lunchtime, we ran into an old receptionist turned friend thanks to one of our clients, Jaclyn (AKA JC). Mike Morell and I took her to a pleasant lunch at a downtown diner and eventually got to mentioning our trip to Minneapolis that night to do this race thing. We told her we had no plans but to race and whatnot when she lit up at the idea of setting us up with her best friend who could house us all. We aren’t proud people when it comes to these things so we took her up on her offer to call her friend Rachel and see if she would be fine with hosting 4 complete strangers for the weekend on about 12 hours notice.
Mike and I shrugged a "what the hell" shrug from across the table as she dialed up Rachel and waited for an answer.
"Hey bitch, it’s JC. I was just wondering if you wanted to have four hot bike messengers stay at your house this weekend. Give me a call back." Slap! Was the sound her phone made when she hung up.
Mike and I exchanged a quick "what the hell?" glance but refrained from questioning too much because it was probably typical signs of affection between the two.
"You guys will LOVE Rachel, she’s really funny and she’s in roller derby. Her roller name is Anne E. Briated" JC assured us.
"Awesome. Roller derby girls are kickass and can really party." Cut to Augie sharing his wisdom from behind the steering wheel. I pulled shotgun while Mike and Josh Korby rounded out a rather packed Ford Focus.
"She seemed fine with having us over. She said her mom was going to be visiting Saturday night but that should be okay anyway," added Josh.
We had intentions of leaving the city by 7:00 PM. True to form, we were still in the city at 9:00 PM. It was a cramped ride but we had to make do. After 5 hours, Josh sent Rachel a text to see if she would still be okay with us arriving a little later than expected. She responded by saying she was out and would be fine with having us come.
"See? What did I tell you? Roller girls can party," Augie reassured.
We finally arrive a little after 4:00 AM. Rachel left a light on for us, a good first sign that she’s nice. When we wake her up and walk into her house she introduces herself and the house Chihuahua, Stella and then she shows us the blankets and pillows set out for us in the basement. It was late, we were tired, she had a kickass dog, a case of beer, and she made us feel welcome, this trip was off to a very good start.
The next morning we awoke to Stella jumping on each one of us in turn. Sure we only slept about 5 hours but this dog was too hyper and awesome to get upset.
"Good morning sunshine!" was the greeting we each received from Rachel’s roommate, Nikki (AKA Li'l Hellion). "My mom is coming by in a little bit so I hope you don’t mind the early rise, who wants coffee?" I never drink the stuff but it was a must for everyone. She went upstairs to the kitchen when Rachel came down to ask us about what the plans were for the day.
Mike began with, "We figured we could treat you to breakfast and then we should get going to registration for the race. The race is at 2 and registration opens some time before that. We should really check with—"
THUMP! THUMP! Was the noise made when Nikki fell down the last two steps to the basement while carrying a tray of coffee, beer and Jaegermeister. She was on the ground laughing hysterically by the time we all turned to see what happened. I quickly jumped up and picked up the bottle of Jaeger, Josh immediately reached for Nikki. Josh is nicer than I am.
I will say Li'l Hellion’s got some skills because despite not being able to handle that last step, only one cup of coffee spilled and she kept the tray upright. I refilled my coffee cup with Jaeger, Augie cracked another beer and we continued to plan out our day.
Andrew called around this time saying he has been wandering around the city since 5:30 AM. He took the Megabus on a last minute call, hadn't slept more than 20 minutes and still had nowhere to stay. Rachel and Nikki were cool with having yet another stranger come by to shower and sleep while we all went to get some food, so we invited him over.
The other three rode their bikes to breakfast. I was a bit slow-moving and figured I could keep our hostess company in her car as she drove to Legend's Café, a bar and grill that had 25 ounce Bloody Mary's. I forgot my I.D. but everyone else there was happy to partake.
We explained the whole premise behind the Stuporbowl and alleycats and how much fun these things are, how great they are for the messenger community and all of that when I saw outside that four more Chicagoans had found their way to Legend's. Trips, Nate, Molly and Ben all rode together and stopped to meet us on the way to registration.
It was awesome to see four members of the Crew could make it and it was even nicer to see there would be more people from Chicago actually there.
After breakfast, Rachel drove me home to get my gear and bike when we found Andrew was awake and working on his bike.
"Did you get a nap in?" I asked.
"No but I switched out my chainring and front tire and I’m ready to go," he replied with one foot practically out of the door.
He left and I started to get my gear together.
"So are you guys going to win this or something?" Rachel asked.
"Typically, people from out of town don’t really win alleycats. An overall winner is usually a local. They do make a category for someone who is from out of town though. They also do top woman and the best drinker. I’m kind of glad Andrew made it because I was considering the drinking race as opposed to the speed race and Andrew can do a good job repping our crew and Chicago in that manner."
"Oh, that sounds cool. Let us know about the after party and all of that when you guys are done then."
I thanked Rachel and wished her well before rolling out to find registration. I didn’t make it three blocks when I realized I was rolling halfway down an expressway exit for Interstate 35W. Good start.
When I got to One-on-One bike shop Augie was filling out a registration slip for me. I still had time but no money and he was just being nice. When he finished all of that, we walked through the coolest bike/coffee shop ever. It was full of vintage bikes, insane equipment and tons of cool people.
I was staring at a Cane Creek Carbon track wheel when out of the corner of my eye a big, grinning man who goes by the handle Shiprek popped into view to give me a nut-tap.
"Hey Rooster!" He said with a hug.
Shiprek is old school Cuttin' Crew. Since Chicago, he's been in Kansas City making a hell of a bike scene flourish (see bikeliker). We chatted a bit and I discovered he brought three other guys with him, Rob, Chris Go, and Grant. I met Grant before but I had never met Rob or Chris Go. Chris was doing an awesome rep, he came decked out in a button snap KC Royal’s Starter jacket, KC hat and Chief’s gloves.
"Are you hammering this one or what?" Shiprek asked.
"Haven’t made up my mind. This looks pretty confusing and I have no idea how to get to St. Paul."
The organizers last year had a huge, colorful map on the back of the manifest. It was the greatest map I’ve ever seen at a race and this year they did put another good map on the back but it wasn’t quite the same. If I got screwed over by direction last year, who knows how nasty this year would be.
We caught up a bit and then Andrew pulled me away to actually look at the map and figure out where we should go first and all that. Trips is anchored in MPLS so he made numbers on his manifest and map to indicate each stop. He planned out the first stop and a large, counterclockwise route for us to take to hit all the stops.
We all rode to the start as a group. It was a huge mass of about 360 bikes all rolling to some part of the river for the official start. Chicago and KC all kind of huddled together as one of the officials gave the rundown. My toes were getting a little cold and I was still wondering whether I should go for it or not.
They shouted us off and a mass of 300 some people all ran for their bikes. Trips directed us to run up a hill to get to the overpass above us. Andrew was shouting at us to hurry up as we each mounted our bikes on the street and rolled off as a few of the first people out of the park. Austin Horse and Pablo of New York were putting the hammer down as they rode the opposite direction so I shouted "Yeah New York!"
We were riding as a pack at a decent clip. KC Rob, Andrew, Korby, Mike, Augie, Molly, Ben, some other guys and I were towards the front of the group as Trips hung with us to shout directions.
"Right up here!" would be directions.
“RIGHT!” Andrew would shout to confirm.
"Right!" "Right!" "Right!" the shouts would echo through the group.
"CLEAR!" someone would say from the front of the pack every intersection we came to without a chance of getting hit.
The first stop was a bike shop on the Northwest side. The parking lot was covered with ice patches and we all had to single file to get our manifest stamped. Andrew was keeping track of Chicago as he was back out and on his bike before most of us.
Trips turned onto the street and immediately dropped his chain. None of us knew where we were so we rolled it slower waiting for him. He would shout even louder from a block away until we reached the next checkpoint, the first of many Bars.
That was a bit more congested because people were coming from another direction but this person was quick with the stamp so we got in and out in a group still. You could tell Andrew was holding back waiting for our escort who had bad luck in the Bar too.
Third stop was a mess. It was a Bar we all bum rushed and were directed by the people at the table to go to the back of the bar and buy a raffle ticket for a dollar. When we got to the back the guy selling the tickets wasn’t ready and asked for TWO bucks. Fucking opportunists. Luckily I had some cash on me but I would have been pretty pissed if I didn’t. He was taking some time with each person’s ticket and by now I was getting overly anxious. I ran back to the CP people with my ticket and they commanded me to write my name on it. More mysterious directions equals more aggravating. I write down my name and race number and hand my sheet over, thanking them regardless of my stress level.
I hand someone the pen I used and grabbed a manifest from off the table and run outside. This was a huge funnel and it was becoming apparent that we wouldn’t all stick together so I looked at the map for the first time to figure out what the hell to do.
It really tripped me out when I checked the map because there were no more numbers and no stamps. Then I realized as I see people rush in and out that I grabbed the wrong manifest! I run back in hoping it's still on the table and some dude in a Minnesota hockey jersey was having the same revelation I was so I traded him, thanked him and rolled out. My guess was he was doing the drinking race. Turns out, when I saw him later on that night, he was definitely doing the drinking race.
So now Andrew, Mike, Korby and I are following some random guy who looks like he knows where he's going. We slowly get an idea of where we are and what the hell is happening.
Checkpoint four was simple enough. Now it's time to study the map and make a route. A quick glimpse indicated we needed to cross the river west, cut down Washington, hit two CPs in the west part of downtown and float out to the westernmost Check.
We were all rolling rather smoothly as I tried to glance at the map every chance I had. Besides Andrew eating it in the alley behind One-On-One we were doing just fine in navigating the unfamiliar streets. After the downtown stops I found a decent route west.
"We have to take a right on 10th and then a left on some G street!" I shouted to Josh, Andrew and Morell, the only three with me. The map had tiny print and it was starting to disappear in the creases and crumples of my my manifest. "10th! Turn Right!"
10th was a one-way. We were going the wrong way. A four lane wrong way one-way. MPLS downtown streets on a Saturday could have had tumbleweeds rolling through them when comparing them to most Chicago streets.
"G STREET! LEFT!"
G street was another wrong way, only this time it was a bridge and two lanes with little room for anything but cars. Again it was fine, a cab crowded us a little for no reason but we eventually got to a larger two way bridge and shot out west.
The next CP was a house with some girls that made us all take our gloves off so they could draw mustaches on our fingers and made us pose for a camera. It was an amusing trick but the smell of the sharpie ink was very intense for someone short of breath.
As we ran out the house, I checked the map and shouted "Back where we came. Right on Lyndale! Then bomb Lyndale until 2100 block south!"
Ahhh. Tailwind. Lyndale came up on us quickly and I directed everyone right onto what appeared to be a merge lane for the expressway. Um. Yeah.
Andrew and I were skeptical but then I was just thinking "Fuck it, let’s just keep rolling" and Candles of course was down. There were a few dicey merges with off- and on-ramps but before we knew it we were back on a normal street and just about south enough for the next stop.
Bar. Bowling alley. Cars-R-Coffins. Check. Check. Check. Next stop, southernmost CP. I remember this place last year because my toes were about to fall off and it was a rather long ride. Josh and Mike hung with us until Andrew and I started to trade pulls eastward. We had, from my estimate at LEAST 40 or so blocks to go until the next stop.
As we cut east I would improvise directions and Andrew would always question them. I was pretty certain on where we were going but we couldn’t be bothered with stopping. This one was easy enough to find, our concern was finding a way to St. Paul.
I guess I wasn't really helping out Mike nor Josh after a few blocks of waving them through intersections. Turns out they were a block back and not right on my wheel. Some screeches and horns indicated perhaps it was time to stop waving them on. They told me later they were a little pissed about it but finally just stopped heeding my advice. Wise choice.
South side Bar. Check. Next stop was, surprise, another Bar. This was a place I remember Trips saying would be a good push off for St. Paul. We still were deciding on running a gamble on getting lost or just mashing up to University Avenue and figuring it out from there.
As luck would have it, my obnoxious toss of my bike blocked someone from getting through cleanly and his pedal scraped my Brooks saddle. Dude apologized and said he’d rub it out (focus people) but I was stuck in a 'should I be a prick?' split decision.
"Do you still have to go to St. Paul?"
"Yeah," he said.
"Cool. You can make it up then. Can we ride with you?"
"Sure, where you guys from?" He asked. The two of us rolled off while Andrew was still getting on his bike.
"Chicago! The two of us are on a team. My name is Jeff, he's Andrew. Andrew? Andrew! Hurry up!"
"Cool man, my name is Andy. Welcome to Minneapolis. Oh, yeah. Turn left here."
"Sorry. I’ll give you more heads up next time."
"Haha, thanks," I replied as I waved a thanks to the van that yielded to us.
We started just chatting and he was explaining the route as I kept looking over my shoulder for Andrew. Andrew wasn't talking. It looked like he wasn’t even seeing. His eyes were sunken in and he wasn’t looking directly at anything. I’m thinking the overnight bus ride with no sleep is starting to get to him.
I drop back a bit from Andy’s pace to try to help Candles but, try as he could, he just couldn’t find the right gear to settle on my wheel. I felt a need to help my teammate yet also get up and move. I decide to leave him and reel Andy back in.
"This next intersection is kind of dicey. The Checkpoint is that bar with the white sign," was Andy’s update.
We cut through cleanly, in and out and we’ve got four more stamps to get.
On the way back west there was some headwind that reminded me of home. I offered to pull for Andy and eventually he just wanted to ride side by side. Everyone going the other direction shouted out to him and I gave a holler back even though it wasn’t intended for me.
We arrived at Witch’s tower and it was a steep hill of packed snow that turned to ice. I was pathetically bear crawling up the side of it hoping not to break a hip. I’m irony’s number one target so I was going to be damaged if after all I’ve been through I was going to be done in by walking up some icy hill.
Andy and I rolled off together and I was getting a good second wind. I was thinking about how shitty it would be if I just bailed on him after he showed us the way to St. Paul when he started to take a wrong turn. I stopped him and we looked at the map and it turned out I had my Magellan on right. He apologized and we rolled back on path.
Karma served. We both helped each other so it’s time for me to take it up a notch. Only problem is, I noticed too late that I had overshot the next stop. I was still in line for it but I went four blocks too many north and had to cut back. I stayed calm and found my way to the sign-your-name-with-opposite-hand CP.
I turned onto the street I was supposed to take, Como, and started with the map. I knew Andy must have nailed it because I couldn’t see him anymore. I started improvising and hoped to cut the river so I could get my two last CPs on Cedar.
I'm looking at streets and making up turns here and there when I recognize a street name, "Hennepin." Fuck. I have no fucking clue where I am but I know Hennepin is definitely NOT where I want to be.
I ask two pedestrians how to get to Cedar and then ask them to point out to me where I was on the map. Turns out they were from Chicago and started talking about it all. "Rogers Park? Great! I used to live in Uptown! Good ol' hood at Wilson/Sheridan! Thanks and all. Gotta run!" was the extent of my exchange. Kind of dick move but I didn't want to be DNF again because of faulty directions.
I was pissed. I crossed the river and found Washington. I hammered down Washington and passed the finish to see Pablo's bike outside of the finishing bar. Damn, that must have been 1st out of town. Fuck it. I start mashing at the pedals and grabbed a cargo truck and start spinning out until my turn onto Cedar.
Nomad. Stamp. Triple Rock. Stamp.
I glanced up and it’s a table of Chicagoans holding up they’re drinks at a booth in Triple Rock. I remember Ben’s big-ass grin as I shout "LAST CHECKPOINT AND THEN I'M DONE!"
I jump back on the bike to ride pissed off again. This time I get hold of a pick-up truck and he spins me out after a block. Given the seams in the concrete and not wanting to overshoot my stop I let go and roll up onto the sidewalk in front of Bolt.
I grabbed my manifest and wrote my name and Chicago on it. Then I grabbed it back and wrote "Cuttin' Crew" after Chicago.
I asked if anyone else from out of town finished yet.
"Nope. I don't think so," said Nick, one of the two main organizers.
Kickass. All I have to do now is worry about whether I missed a checkpoint. Whatever. What’s done is done and I was fucking starving.
Nate from Chicago and myself grabbed some grub and made it back to the bar to wait for people. I remember walking into Bolt and seeing huge screens playing music videos with half naked men dancing to some sort of house music.
Um. Interesting. I think I need a drink. Nate and I grab a beer and wait for everyone else to join when I see Austin and Pablo of NYC.
"How'd you guys do?" I asked.
|The tights were a hit|
"I think we could have won it all but we missed a checkpoint that was really simple and I had to go back for it," answered Austin. Pablo looked bummed. I know that 'could have done much better but fucked up' feeling and I felt for him. This time it actually wasn't me feeling it and it worked in my favor.
Had I stayed with Andy, however, I would have found myself in top 3. I found my guide and discovered he got 2nd.
Damn. I got 8th and was still wondering if I fucked the manifest at all. I went over to organizer Andy as he was tallying final results. There was a mountain of manifests that were apparently incomplete around his feet. He would glance them over for every stamp and if they had them all he would stack them in on pile and as soon as he saw one missing he just chucked it. I was really hoping mine wasn't on the floor.
"Hey dude. Sorry to bother you but do you have top out of town figured out yet?"
"No," said Andy.
Bummer. I'm pretty antsy to see if I got it.
"Oh wait," he corrected. "Yeah. It was some guy from Chicago."
Fuckin' A. Chicago got it. Cuttin' Crew got it. I got it. It was time to enjoy the stupor part.
|Race organizers: Andy and Nick|
|KC Rob and XGo|
|Grant from KC (far right)|
The basement area of Bolt was surprisingly large and actually perfect for hosting all of the participants. It really worked in well the scenery of burly, shirtless bartenders.
"Jameson on the rocks." It's always gotta be Jameson on the rocks.
Uh oh. That was my perfect price for a full glass of Jameson. It must be done. I was looking left and right for people to buy some drinks for, knowing this crew, whiskey would be in high demand. We were relatively in control until this girl Kelly (AKA Minx) decided to become all intimidator and get the ball rolling on shots. Jaeger was her call. Downed that and then it was my turn to buy. Back to Jameson. What the hell, get Augie a shot and a glass!
Augie had been drinking since about 10 this morning and he had his huge smile and glazed over look. Come to think of it, Augie always has a smile and glazed over look, judging by the size of it you can tell how drunk he is.
"This is Augie, he’s original Cuttin‘ Crew," was my introduction. "If you know of anyone still doing anything worth a damn in this whole scene, they are probably close friends with Augie."
We went on to talk about what it was like in Chicago and inquiring about biking in Minneapolis and whatnot when the organizers were all ready on the stage announcing results.
Andrew missed his call to come up and receive his goodies for 3rd out of towner. Austin was up and ready for 2nd prize. 3rd place overall was called for Super-Rookie. 2nd went to my man Andy. They retracted back to 8th place to call top out of town.
I got up on stage to Augie’s drunken shout for "ROOSTER! ROOSTER! ROOSTER!" the team’s drunken shouts for "CUTTIN CREW! CUTTIN CREW!" and some "NACCCs!" were shouted as I grabbed the mic to say something.
I don’t remember exactly what sort of crap I babbled on about but I was glad I got the chance to plug the NACCC. A lot of people seem to be in the dark about what is going on here and it was a proud moment to be able to put some spotlight on Chicago. I snagged some nice swag: a new Chrome bag, Surly chain tensioner and t-shirt, Peace Coffee, Twin Six socks, and a water bottle.
Then they announced male Stupor champ. Top drinker went to Zito. Female Stupor champ went to this other girl named Kelly. Then the moment came that blew everyone's world. Numero Uno, grand champion of Stupor Bowl XI was a WOMAN! SUSAN LEE! If you’ve ever heard a record skip in your head you know exactly what happened when I saw Miss Lee jump up onto the stage for top prize.
It was an awesome sight to behold. She had the biggest, proudest smile you could ever see and she deserved it. While it was humbling I could not have been happier for a stranger. It was a rather significant moment we all witnessed and she deserves every bit of credit. Turns out she could drink and was really cool too.
|Montage made by nanobiker. (L to R) Champ: Susan, Stupor Male: Zito, Stupor Female: Kelly|
After everyone got to know each other, we decided to move around and drink more. In the midst of making plugs for the Stairmaster, talks on the industry and slapping the shit out of each other, I’m pretty sure we found our way to Triple Rock. There is where we met our hostesses, had more whiskey and horrible mixed shots. I'm pretty sure we ended the night with Augie flicking off cars in the middle of the street at 4:00 in the morning because Trips tacoed his wheel when he fell onto his bike.
Whatever the case may be, Augie said it best. "Guess what happened at Stuporbowl…I got really drunk and I’m pretty sure I had fun…"
Thank you so much Minneapolis, Rachel, Nikki, MBMA, and their sponsors for making this all happen.