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Jason McDowell is also known as Little Tiny Fish. He is the Creative Director for OnMilwaukee. Occasionally he freelances. Mostly he rides bikes.

littletinyfish.com is not a cohesive blog, but a repository of musings on an assortment of topics, such as design, art, cycling, Milwaukee, and other personal experiences.

A recent acquaintance of mine, Tim Cigelske dropped himself off in Colorado with a bike, a bottle of water, and a few power bars (as well as a kick ass Chipotle jersey) and in currently working his way back up to his home city of Milwaukee.

Having only biked 80 miles to Madison and, more recently 115 miles around Riverwest, this seems like quite the feat.

Now I’m on vacation in Iowa and since I have no significant other traveling with me (unless you count my beagle, Frutiger) I had room in the trunk in which to throw my bike. Half the family I’ve come to visit is gone and most of this morning I was alone. And since I forgot to pack some food for my lovable companion, I thought it would be good to start practicing my distance biking by making a trip out to Target.

From where my parents live, it’s only a mere 7 miles away, but since I’m in the suburbs of Iowa, the city planners only come up with plans for expansion and rarely come to any sense of completion. Roads suddenly end (they’ll put them there soon) or they’ll suddenly turn you down the opposite direction and bike paths suddenly end (you just wait, this place is gonna be great!).

Or maybe those are just my excuses as to why I got lost and overshot my goal by about 13 miles. I went back and forth down a few main roads and just as I was about to give up and find my way home, I was at Target’s front door. When I realized that I was practically feet from it almost a half–an–hour before I felt a little sheepish, but ultimately it was just exciting to take the bike around.

And it rides so much better now that I’ve raised the seat an inch.

I’ve only recently discovered the miles/calories/gas-savings site, Gas Free Commute in which you can input your miles and compete to see how green you are. Most of my trips have lately been to work, which is kinda boring. But today I win.

Archived Comments

These comments were pulled from the archives after a site failure in mid 2014. Though I no longer accept public comments on my site, I’ve included them for posterity. If you’d like to submit a comment, send one to littletinyfish@littletinyfish.com.

  1. Sorry I missed you in Iowa. We may have been biking around the same suburb the same time, crossing bike paths.

    Teecycle Tim · 2008-08-11 14:30 · #

This weekend Milwaukee was loaded and packed to the brim with things to do. There was the Downer Avenue Bike Race, Brady Street Days, a Bay View block party, The Riverwest 24, a free rummage sale on Holton, GermanFest, Critical Mass, Bar Camp Madison, Secret Chiefs 3 (with aquaintence and opener, The Demix) and plenty more that I’m unaware of. If you were bored this weekend, you’re an idiot.

As for me, I picked up a new pair of padded biking shorts and chose the Riverwest 24, a 24–hour bike race through the Riverwest neighborhood. The course was approximately five miles long and within the 24–hour time period I managed to make the circle 23 times. Every two hours new bonus spots would be rewarded. If you made it to the spot and accomplished the goal you’d be rewarded with an extra lap. For this special occasion, my friend Tracy and I designed and spray painted our team logo on the back of our shirts.“O! My taint!” Most thought it to be quite appropriate.

Things started out well as we felt out the course. The wind was minimal on the first day and tolerable the next. Our trail took us through four checkpoints and just as many block parties. It took us down the busy Humboldt Ave, across the Milwaukee River via the Marsupial Bridge, and through the side–streets of Riverwest. Neighbors often cheered, even early in the dusky morning.

During the day–long event I was mostly biking along with Tracy, and periodically with my friend Clifton. We took Beagle breaks, bathroom breaks, and breakfast breaks. At one point my kevlar tires allowed a punctured tube and difficulties patching the tube caused me to lose some time.

We left for the East Side at 1 in the morning in order re–charge with Pizza from Pizza Shuttle. By 4am we decided to take a two–and–a–half hour nap. I’m not a morning person and when I got up I was in full–on zombie mode, but we headed out to the breakfast point, where we were served up Vegan pancakes.

The next few laps were accomplished on sheer willpower alone. Just keep moving forward, I kept telling myself. Despite my weariness, I pushed myself harder, and forced a happier mood each time I stopped for a checkpoint, pretending that this was the easiest thing in the world.

After we made the 20th circle we took a lunch break for cereal and eggs. I felt better, but not for much longer. I was able to squeeze out three more laps and, just before we started the fourth lap, my body gave out. I felt sick and tired and angry and felt like I wanted to cry. I could barely walk and standing was making me nauseous. I went home, grabbed my dog, Frutiger, and headed to the finish line. I laid on the ground and passed in and out of consciousness for the next 3 hours. Tracy completed her goal of 25 laps and came back with a peanut butter sandwich and a cracker pack, which improved my mood tremendously.

After the race was over we had to leave before the final results were in (The race board noted that some teams had made over 100 laps) because we had to go lend our tired support to The Demix at the Secret Chiefs 3 show at the Turner Ballroom. The music there was loud. Deafeningly loud. I had to keep fingers in my ears at times because the experimental noise, while artistically and entertainingly arranged, was ear piercing. And even so, I was still managing to nod off.

It was a punishing 24 hours, but I’m very satisfied to see just how far I was able to push my mind and body. I wish I could have gone further, but I really believe I reached my limits. Before the end of the race we were already talking about plans for next year. “We’re definitely doing teams next year,” we said, but there’s still a part of me that wants to go solo again.

Archived Comments

These comments were pulled from the archives after a site failure in mid 2014. Though I no longer accept public comments on my site, I’ve included them for posterity. If you’d like to submit a comment, send one to littletinyfish@littletinyfish.com.

  1. I’m proud of you and I’m glad you didn’t get hit by a car. Yay for not being killed by a car! 😀

    Ashe · 2008-07-28 17:26 · #

  2. Yes!! Great article and I loved the shirts you and tray made!

    KeVroN · 2008-07-28 19:10 · #

  3. Man, I know exactly how you feel. Wish I could have been there. I’m in for next year.

    Incidentally, I’m typing this while sitting on your brother’s couch in Lincoln, Nebraska. Crazy!

    Teecycle Tim · 2008-08-03 17:04 · #

A friend and I may have gone out of our minds, because we decided to bike from Milwaukee to Madison, a trek more than 80 miles long. Before this trip I hadn’t biked more than twenty miles in an entire day. But when we headed out we thought positively about it. We thought we could maintain a speed of about fifteen miles per hour and that it’d take somewhere around six or seven hours. It would be a relatively easy ride, as we planned to follow the Glacial Drumline Trail, a trail that was mostly “downhill.”

However, as anyone else should have expected, it was significantly worse.

The first eighteen miles were okay. We took one of Milwaukee’s main streets, Capital over to a friend/co-worker in Waukesha, who would directed us to the trail. During this first leg we admired the cute houses and guessed whether that insurance place used to be a Burger King. We counted the J&J Catfish Restaurants (We ended at five).

After a brief stop for toast in Waukesha, which was about the sixteenth mile, we hit the trails, and that’s when the true endurance test started. Most of the trip we had the wind in our face. The one time it wasn’t was when we got turned around for a few hundred feet. At the twentieth mile my stomach was cramping horribly. My back hurt and I felt faint, but after a few energy bars and a lot more water I was back in shape. At the fortieth mile my knees were hurting, my butt was hurting and the clouds threatened to break apart above us. The wind kept blowing, and we were running out of water more frequently.

At one point the trail broke apart and we had to take to the highways again in order to get back on. We stopped at a random home to see if they could help us refill our bottles. The house we chose happened to have a frightened elderly lady, who wouldn’t open her doors more than a crack and demanded to see our bottles before she would allow us to fill up with her garden hose.

Parts of the trails were muddied with puddles, which were breeding grounds for thick swarms of gnats. We had to cover our mouths with handkerchiefs to stop from inhaling them. By the sixtieth mile, every mile marker felt twice as spaced. With twenty more miles to go, our middles were falling asleep and our palms were getting bruised. We expected, since the trail ends at a lower elevation than it started, that we would have some coasting time, but in truth it felt mostly perfectly flat. This made me slightly jealous of my friend’s variable speeds. That, in conjunction with the facing wind, meant we were constantly peddling.

We were stopping and walking more frequently, we switched our shoulder bags from one side to the other, and our sense of humor was diminishing. Diminishing, but not disappearing. When one person felt down, the other was there to offer encouragement or distraction. With ten miles left we hit Cottage Grove where the trail ended. We asked for directions to the next street but the first three people we talked to weren’t from around there. When we started on the last leg, the clouds started sprinkling, but thankfully they moved out quickly.

Through it all, there were several points where giving up seemed like a good idea. We contemplated who would pick us up, where we would wait, and whether we could afford a taxi. And whenever we agreed this was a good idea, we just got back on the bikes and powered on.

But finally, mercifully, eleven and a half hours later, we coasted down what seemed like the biggest hill in Wisconsin, down into the city of Madison. We found an Italian Restaurant and loaded up on pasta. We got in contact with a Web414 friend named 4braham, and died for 10 hours at his co-op. We woke up with sore throats, sore knees…sore everything. More water. More stretching. No more biking.

It was clear we weren’t going to make it back. We’d have the wind in our favor, but not even the softest pillows could save our butts from the punishment of those seats. We called up my roommate who, more joyfully than I would have expected, agreed to meet us in the middle of the city and haul us back to Milwaukee.

When we finally arrived at home, one of my neighbors asked if I was a biker. Wearily I answered and he told me that he’s planning a twenty four–hour bike ride around Riverwest. So maybe I should’ve considered this just a day of practice.

It may sound like the trip wasn’t worth it, but it actually was. It was a huge challenge, and for all the problems we encountered, we still took immense satisfaction for being able to get out of our element and put ourselves to the test. When I was lying in bed on Sunday afternoon, falling in and out of sleep, all my muscles ached with more achievement than pain. It felt good.