March 26, 2012

Frozen Snot Century 2012: Mission to Madison

by Peter Herreid 

On Saturday morning, March 17th, about a dozen cyclists met at the central Chicago Metra station, where they boarded a train with their bikes and took it to the end of the line in Harvard, IL. From Harvard, they rode about 75 miles to Madison. John Greenfield, author of the book Bars Across America and co-author of, organized the ride through, a Chicago online bicycling network. 

Arriving at the Great Dane in Madison

The group spent just one night in Madison, but stretched it out by staying up late chatting on an East Isthmus porch. After a hearty breakfast provided by Becky, the host, the group departed for the return trip to Harvard with me in tow. When I heard about the ride a few weeks before, I was naturally apprehensive about riding long-distance in cold weather, but the weather turned out to be bizarrely summer-like on St. Patrick’s Day Weekend 2012 and the name of the ride was adapted to be the “Molten Snot Century.” That Sunday morning felt like the beginning of a beautiful June day as we biked the Capital City Trail along Lake Monona headed out of town.

I enjoyed the mix of people and bikes on the trip. Only one guy was rocking some bare spandex shorts. Bikes ranged from stylish touring rigs to budget bikes with a milk carton zip-tied or backpack bungeed down to a rack. Some bikes had step-in pedals, some pedal cages, and others just plain flat pedals. I had a decent bike, fresh legs, and was not hungover, but was still struggling to keep pace at times. However, it wasn’t competitive - the group would wait up at the next stop or crossroads for anyone lagging behind.  

A strong south wind alternated roles between headwind and crosswind as we made our way south and east towards Harvard. For some stretches that afternoon, the forceful wind slowed us down to an 8-mph grind with riders tucked against gusts sweeping across the large expanses of bare field.

We stopped in several small towns along the way, such as in Cooksville, where we found shade next to “the longest running general store in Wisconsin” (until it closed recently). In Indianford we watched people fish the turbulent, muddy brown Rock River below the dam. We lunched in Milton, rested in a Darien park, and then again at a gas station in Walworth, where a beer fairy deposited a New Glarus Spotted Cow in my pannier for later on board the train.  

Riding in a group makes everyone more visible and aids in spotting cars. (“Car back!”) However, we were behind schedule because of the wind and hit a stretch of road with a crumbling shoulder and higher traffic volumes just after dark. I hope this section of Illinois’ Hwy 14 leading into Harvard will soon be made into a complete street with a wide paved shoulder and thereby fill the gap in a direct, bikeable road route from Madison to Harvard.  

Thanks to all those who shared pictures linked from

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