This week's weather has been a fine example of what makes summers in Milwaukee so beautiful. Looking ahead to the five day forecast it appears this fine example will continue.
If you’re looking for an excuse to get outside and make the most of it by engaging in a friendly competition, doing some good for your community, and maybe even learning something, too, you might consider signing up for the third annual Amazing Milwaukee Race on Bikes (AMRoB) taking place this Sunday, Aug. 10 at noon. The starting line is Jackson's Blue Ribbon Pub, located at 1203 N. 10th St.
"We’re going to make you ride around the city and we are going to make it as much fun as possible to get to know the city," said Adam Baus, founder of the race. The AMRoB is designed similarly to the popular television show, The Amazing Race, where pairs of contestants race to checkpoints, perform tasks, and solve clues to find the next checkpoint.
Is the race an official part of the show?
"No. No. Of course I wish they could find me and give me a job, cause then I could go scout out Africa to figure out what we could make people do there. But truthfully, I just like doing this for Milwaukee."
So far the ages of currently registered racers span from 21 to 67 and teams are coming in from Chicago, Green Bay, Minneapolis and St. Louis. "We have our first aunt and niece team. I’ve never even seen that on the TV show!"
The race contains two routes. "The short route has eight check points (about 15 miles) and the long route has 11 check points (about 30 miles)," said Baus. "We have more people signed up for the long route this year, so that's encouraging." There is also a tandem class, but if winning is important, the tandem riders must race the long route.
"You don’t have to do something at every check point. Sometimes you just get another clue. Sometimes when you show up you may know what you are going to be doing, but a lot of times you probably don’t."
"You could show up at the Great Lakes Distillery and zest lemons to make the lemon vodka. Or show up at the Bike Fed and take a bike safety quiz that was printed on the route along the way." But don’t commit these tasks to memory quite yet; they’re examples from past races.
"I would never tell you what we’re going to do for the current race," Baus snarked, but through the years "we've done a good job of covering the pretty-cool businesses, significant historical landmarks, architectural landmarks, you know, as many as will allow us access. We’ve gone to maybe 85, or it could be 100 places now. I’ve organized seven events. This will be the eighth."
Baus listed more examples of check point fun: "Roman Coin has been a stop. At Landmark Lanes you had to bowl a strike. At Tamarack Waldorf in April they had to climb up to the third floor, up to a little performance space, and they had to learn the Krakowiak, one of the five national dances of Poland." The lessons were taught by the Syrena Polish Folk Dance Ensemble.
"Last year they needed to go to Kaszubes Park." Kaszubes Park is Milwaukee’s smallest park, planted in the middle of a highly industrial part of the city. "Every team that wasn't from Milwaukee, and even some who were, had never heard of it and had absolutely no idea how to get there. I mean we show 'em how to on a map and we give 'em the address, but then on the way there you just feel like you are not going to the right place...until you get to this little patch of grass and a city park sign and you're like, 'Oh, we made it. Wow.'"
As the both the Amazing Milwaukee Race and the Amazing Milwaukee Race on Bikes has evolved, Baus’ ideas of what can be accomplished have changed as well.
"My new mantra is ‘Permanent Positive Impact.’ Last year we did a food drive. We've had people give money to causes like Purple Door’s Milk for Milwaukee. We did bee pods last year to build a part of a hive. Last year we painted the mural at Trowbridge School down in Bay View, and this year -- it's no secret -- we are raising money for the broken Kilbourn Tower. It is the only historical marker that recognizes Byron Kilbourn as one of the forefathers."
These are lofty aspirations, but the event isn’t all serious: "I mean -- we used the race to our advantage, too; last stop on the April race was to make decorations for our wedding. We had a thousand feet of paper chain. I mean we did use that for our own personal gain, but hey, maybe you have a cause and we can help. I've got 150 people at my disposal to do some hard labor."
Another reason for the race: "To show the riders how to get around the city safely using the infrastructure, so they'll be using trails, lanes and streets."
"Also, I can say that this year the long route is really beautiful. There are more gems, naturally on the long route, and obviously you get to do more stuff, and go a longer distance. I think it's really worth it, if you're on the fence about whether you want a nice long bike ride or a shorter one."
Beautiful route. Beautiful day. What more could you ask for?
Jason McDowell grew up in central Iowa and moved to Milwaukee in 2000 to attend the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.
In 2006 he began working with OnMilwaukee as an advertising designer, but has since taken on a variety of rolls as the Creative Director, tackling all kinds of design problems, from digital to print, advertising to branding, icons to programming.
In 2016 he picked up the 414 Digital Star of the Year award.
Most other times he can be found racing bicycles, playing board games, or petting dogs.