Last year, I had a summer full of thrills on land, sea and water. I sat in the back of a custom two-seat Indy car and was driven around the Milwaukee Mile at speeds exceeding 150 mph. I rode with the Red Barons, pulling three G's in aerobatic bi-plane maneuvers that nearly made me black out. I sailed with the Milwaukee Police Department's Harbor Patrol, zipping around Lake Michigan at 50 knots looking for suspicious activity.
It's gonna be hard to top last summer, in terms of new and crazy experiences in the name of journalism. But I'm open to all invitations, including the one that started last week from Milwaukee Mile Chairman Craig Stoehr.
He invited me to drive around half of the Milwaukee Mile on Friday in something I can only describe as a tiny race car. Technically, I believe they're called "legends" cars, and mine looked like somewhat like a purple '60s Jaguar XJ. I'd say it was about 1/2 size -- so small they had to remove the steering wheel for the drivers to get in (and not just for me, thank you very much).
Then, the maintenance guys strapped us in, gave us about 30 seconds of instructions (the shifting was like a motorcycle: first gear is up, second, third and fourth are down; stay in fourth; shift at 8,000 RPM; and most importantly go as fast as you'd like).
Which I did. After getting up to speed, I think I was driving about 120 miles per hour on the straightaway, and immediately braking down to about 40 for the main turn and 10 for the hairpin turn (identified by little orange cones).
I drove about seven laps, roaring around some of the other less ambitious drivers. Though there was no speedometer, the tach read about 7,500 on my final lap. Keep in mind I was about three inches off the ground. If I was driving slower, it felt like I was driving faster. It might as well have been 200 miles per hour, who knows?
I've always thought I was a pretty good driver, but this experience was both fun and really scary. I had no sense of how well these "go karts on steroids" could corner, so every turn was a roll of the dice. I made it, however, without a single spin out -- though I had to really watch myself once I got back into my real car (imaging driving immediately after playing a driving video game, and you know what I'm talking about).
And it's not even Memorial Day yet. Anyone offering more thrilling experiences (in the name of journalism, of course), please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As long as it doesn't involve an activity in which death is an imminent possibility, I'm open to ideas.
Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.