Bagged milk. Lacrosse, WI to Rochester, MN 6/18,19/2010

I love bagged milk.  Its official.  Maybe its the plastic of the bag, maybe its the price of one dollar and maybe it is the insane fat content, but whatever it is, someone somewhere blessed those bagged milk cows to make something wonderful.  Maybe there is a bagged milk species of cow.   If that is so, I plan on owning one in the future.

Our arrival into Lacrosse was an easy one.  So much so that I grabbed my running shoes and ran around town with Max, Tracy and Eamon.  Little did I know that Max and Tracy were in for a long haul.  Eamon and I wanted more or a two mile blow off run through a pretty town.  We parted with Max and Tracy about 20 minutes into the run to use a bathroom.  In the place that we went to the bathroom, I scavanged for a kitchen for some food.  I found a fridge and in the bottom drawer was a drawer full of oranges.  Heaven.  Me and Eamon enjoyed a walk home with two oranges and gorgeous houses to admire.

Lauren lined up a new Brooks saddle today with a local shop owner.  Brooks are probably the most comfortable saddles on the market for bikes.  It’s like a pillow made out of cows.  It is kind of funny that Lauren got a Brooks saddle after witnessing cow carcass being hurled in the air out of a meat packing plant that day.

The man who sold Lauren the saddle was named Scott.  News around the block says he is the best bike mechanic around.  So I brought my bike to him to test his skills.  My bike has a habit of always being the special case.  He did a fine job and taught me a lot about how to maintain my bike as well as fix it. The day before I hit 52.6 miles an hour on a downhill.  I did this without getting into my highest gear.  If I had been able to shift in the highest gear, I may have had a good shot at breaking the Illini 4000 speed record of 54 miles an hour.  Currently, with 52.6, I hold this years record.  Let’s see what the bighorns bring.

The pastor of the church we stayed at invited the riders of age out to drinks to talk about the ride and to relax.  He was so cool.  I am not of age but talked to him a little bit beforehand.  He does triathlons.  Sick.  A priest doing triathlons.  I wonder how he finds the time to train for that.  He looked at our route for the next day and offered to ride along with us and show us the Mississippi valley from a nearby bluff.

I was really excited to cross the Mississippi river!  The pastor of the church, decked out in his triathlon gear, kicked off the ride with an awesome 1.5 mile uphill to the top of the bluff. At the top of the bluff, I half joked that I wanted to do the hill again.  Soon enough, I found myself on a descent with Conor and Greg ready to climb again.  Yes, we are crazy.  As we arrived at the top a second time, we met Jordan in the van who told us, “The race isn’t over.  Catch the next group ahead.”  Our group initially reacted in a lethargic way.  Not for long.  I was determined.  I hopped to the front of the group and began to pace at 23 miles an hour.  Conor and Greg were curious to where that energy came from because I was last to finish the hill.

We chugged up hills, down hills and into a headwind at a bruising pace.  We never caught up to the front.  I had no idea why.  At mile thirty, I called the van to see what was going on.  Apparently, the team stopped at mile 15 for a rest stop that our group failed to see.  Now we were in front with a large gap between us and the team.  We continued on to the point on the route that the pastor was to part ways with the team.

When we got to mile 40, Jordan (who drove the van) told us the pastor left at mile 30.  Bummer!  There was still a very large gap between us and the team.  This was becoming a problem.  We decided to continue forth to St. Charles where we planned our lunch stop for the whole team.

The headwind and roads that we faced towards St. Charles was the worst combination of conditions.  Oh, don’t forget the rain.  The 15 miles to St. Charles were painful!  It made me angry.  That anger translated into my taking the lead again on a bad shoulder in a headwind at 20 miles an hour.  We were exhausted and hungry.  We finally arrived at a Kwik Stop in St. Charles waiting for the rest of the team for lunch.

Remember how much I love bagged milk?  At this rest stop, we gorged on food.  My menu included two fried chicken sandwiches, a chocolate chip and a double chocolate chip muffin (because I am indecisive), a bag of Lays from a friendly passerby and two bags of milk- one chocolate and one 1%.  I was doing fine until I hit the chocolate milk.  The chocolate milk brought me in a sleepy haze that was interrupted by a couple of rude Minnesota residents.

I woke up surrounded by people in Illini 4000 jerseys.  Conor, Greg and I had been asleep on bags of salt for an hour.  We didn’t even notice the arrival of the team.  I didn’t even wake up when the team took embarrassing pictures of me while I was asleep.  It took us another hour to even agree to get back onto the bike from the amount of food that we inhaled.  Not a bad sleep coma for $3.77 (no tax in MN!). Needless to say, Conor, Greg and I had to split our group up to avoid a fast pace for the last 23 miles of the ride and to keep our sanity.

The last 23 miles were spent with Eamon and Mary on a route that was totally edited on the fly because of gravel roads.  The way to Rochester was decorated with a strong headwind, a stampede of horses and a man playing guitar on the side of the road on his lawnmower.  The stampede of horses was brought on by our screams and insults to the horses as we passed by.  I couldn’t help but laugh when their graceful trot was interrupted by a huge puddle that they all trampled into.

Little did I know that our stayover was literally right across from the Mayo Clinic.  Sick.

Before dinner, the team headed to a Hope Lodge.  A Hope Lodge is a place for cancer patients and caregivers to live in to make their treatment less hectic in terms of travel, preparing food, and personal care.  Hope Lodges are funded by the American Cancer Society.

At the Hope Lodge, I had the privilege and honor to meet Rudy and Victoria Butteri, an 81 year old man with leukemia and his wife.  It just so happened that on the day that we visited the Hope Lodge, Rudy’s daughter visited him from Texas.  Eamon, Pi, Lauren, Kyle and myself got caught in a fantastic conversation with Rudy and his family.  His relationship with his wife was unmatched.  Their love for each other is completely selfless.  That is very hard to do.  He would choke up only when he talked about the love shared between he and his wife, not when he talked about his cancer.

We did a portrait interview with him.  From his interview, I found myself laughing throughout remembering experiences that I had that were similar.  He talked about being positive.  A quote that I won’t forget from him is “That it doesn’t matter what you did yesterday.  It is what you did today.”  This guy handled his chemo just like me, a jokester.  He always joked about it and continues to do so.  Midway through the conversation about cancer, his daughter mentioned a very moving quote that he stated at the beginning of his treatment (which I don’t remember but its on tape).  It was one of those statements that you would see in quotes for others to draw inspiration from; he replied to his daughter, “God.  I must have been drunk when I said that!  Did you check the liquor cabinet afterwards?!” I will never forget meeting Rudy and will continue to pray for him on his ongoing fight with cancer.

We ended the night with a rider concerns meeting.  Today’s frustrating spread brought out some emotions but we pushed past them recognizing that this day’s spread was a little unique.  I introduced the idea of setting out early some days to go to cancer clinics for more portraits.  I hope that I will be able to execute it.

I am excited to see the Mayo Clinic tomorrow.  Goodnight!

Comments (3)
  • Laura Beardsley says:

    I have a bagged milk cow that you can have.

  • Danielle Saubert says:

    Steve, this sounds like the journey of a lifetime. My prayers are with you and the team. May you have the strength you need to get you through your hardest days, and may you all feel the joy of doing something so incredibly selfless. Your hearts are so obviously open. Keep it up! (and keep the blog going! You’re a hoot!)

  • JM Culp says:

    Thanks for sharing your blog with us. We are blessed to work at the Mayo Clinic and be grateful for everything we have. Keep on biking!

Leave a Reply