It was almost as if Mother Nature herself was on our side. Really, this spring and summer, she hasn’t been too kind. The week leading up to our second annual Gran Fondo Hundo was fraught with rain and even sketchy weather predictions for Sunday, July 12th.
As it was, gentle storms blew through while all of our Hundo participants were still sleeping. It was just enough to wash away any debris on the roads. By the time everyone got on the roads – driving from as far north as Green Bay, Wisconsin and from so far west “you may as well be in Iowa, “as Pepe joked – any hint of the rain was gone.
The clouds were kind enough to stick around to provide just enough cover to let us capture some great photos before we set off for our ride. Then, as we weaved our way north and to the westernmost point on our route, the clouds broke to reveal sunny skies that would stay with us the remainder of the day.
The pre-ride cloud cover certainly didn’t damper our spirits. Our Saturday Morning Group Ride regulars mingled among those riding with us for the first time. Team Higney came out in force today with three of the Higney siblings riding this year, including Caroline on her new bike. Also joining us for the day was Team Schroeder, armed with their matching smiles and completely decked out in Specialized. Among the mix were old friends, new friends, friends of friends and those whose friendships would be forged on the route.
There to see our Hundo riders off were those who couldn’t join us for Sunday’s ride, like Graham Ikler, Harry Grace and Jeff Kopiwoda. Theresa Waldbuesser, who would assist us throughout the day, was there to check rider’s gear bags.
The morning pre-ride festivities were a demonstration of what Higher Gear rides are all about: friends, food and fun. The ride may have even gotten off a little later than we had planned that morning, but it was okay. We had plenty of time and we were just having too much fun catching up with everyone – and enjoying the pre-ride feast.
Pre-Ride Photos (Click on an image below to open gallery)
Ride Start Photos (Click on an image below to open gallery)
Pepe led us out of Plaza del Lago. A few red lights early on thwarted our efforts to stay together as one group for very long, but it all worked out. Everyone seemed to be grouped according to their abilities and everyone fell into a grove with their “pace group,” perhaps just a bit earlier than we anticipated.
Along the Route Photos (Click on an image below to open gallery)
Our route took us up Green Bay Road north and then back over to Sheridan. Once through the Fort, we headed west. After the round-about on West Everett Road, we headed into our first rest stop at North Park in Lake Forest. There, “Mrs. D” and her team treated us to that diner-style “service with a smile” that she’s known for.
Riders, eager to get back on their way, typically make their first stop a quick one. Sunday was no different. Water bottles topped off, Clif Shot Bloks, orange slices and other goodies in their bellies or jersey pockets, riders set back out.
We had only a little farther west to go before we caught up with St. Mary’s Road. We took that as far north as Libertyville before turning back east (into the slight wind) to Sheridan Road and hugging Lake Michigan for the rest of the route. Along Route 176, we hopped on the North Shore Bike Path where we encountered our first bit of crushed limestone path. As if on cue, one of our group ride regulars and favorite runners flatted. Fortunately, Brandon Olson was on hand to make quick work of a flat fix. (And there were plenty present to document it.)
Rest Stop #1 Photos (Click on an image below to open gallery)
The route then took us north through the Naval Station Great Lakes, North Chicago and the historic downtown of Waukegan. What was noticeable about Sunday’s ride was the lack of traffic. For long stretches, we felt like we were the only ones on the road. Farther north, we picked up the Robert McClory Bike Path until we headed towards the lake and into Illinois State Beach Park for our second rest stop, where were were greeted by none other than Lucie the Elephant!
Feeling pride for having the bulk of the ride behind them and confident that the remaining miles will be a breeze, riders tend to relax a bit more at the second rest stop of the day. We lingered a bit longer to enjoy the full spread laid out for us, including refreshing watermelon and Flavor Ice. Some of us waited for others who were behind us before heading out again. Soon enough, all of our riders were through and on their way back north.
Rest Stop #2 Photos (Click on an image below to open gallery)
On Sheridan Road, there was no big sign to announce our crossing over from Illinois to Wisconsin. There were no cows at the border or even any rolling hills to climb. Rather, the transition was made without fanfare. Instead, Wisconsin took us in silently and graciously when we hit the border of Pleasant Prairie.
Once in Pleasant Prairie, we headed as far east as we could go. Lake Michigan looked inviting and some of the beaches we passed en route were calling to us. But we knew we had beer, burgers, bratwurst and a baseball game ahead of us. So, we ignored the siren song and headed into Kenosha, where we wound our way to Historic Simmons Field.
In the parking lot, Theresa rang each of us in with her cowbell. Andrew and Angela were quick to whisk our bikes away and onto the RaceTime Transport truck. Waiting under the Higher Gear tents was ice cold beer and plenty of seating. The hot showers could wait just a little longer.
Ride Finish Photos (Click on an image below to open gallery)
Once showered up (How about those shower trucks? Amazing!), riders and their families made their way into the ballpark for Jockey Super Hero Night. We donned our capes and headed to the boxes, where the food and drink was restocked more quickly than we could consume it!
In addition to the game, the festivities at the ballpark included a hilarious dance-off, Elvises singing to Back Street Boys and an amazing assortment of characters. Kiddos had fun playing games and trying to win prizes. Tom Ahern had the play of the game when he managed to snag a fly ball.
(Click on an image below to open gallery)
After a fun afternoon at the ballpark, our riders loaded up into the bus, where Mike (“Mike, Mike, Mike”) treated us to some tunes and we jammed all the way back to Wilmette. Brendan made sure everyone on the bus had their beverage of choice. Anyone who didn’t make the journey back with us in the bus missed out on a good time, but they also manage to miss out on “the fart smelled around the bus.” (We take the bad with the good.)
In Plaza del Lago, riders were reunited with their bikes and gear bags, safely returned to us by RaceTime Transport. We lingered just a little bit longer than we needed – to make sure we got enough hugs to last until our next group ride, this Saturday morning.
Return Home Photos (Click on an image below to open gallery)
It’s difficult to sum up a day or an event like this, but the one that repeatedly comes to mind is “fun.” Indeed, the Gran Fondo Hundo, in its second year was again “too fun to fail.”
Special thanks to EVERYONE who made our day the best and our event the best ride of summer. Thank you to all who participated, volunteered, donated and came out to support us.
Together, we have reached our goal of raising $30,000 (200 Buffalo Bikes) for World Bicycle Relief. Collectively, we’ve help WBR provide over 200 bicycles to students in Kenya. But we’re not done yet!
You can still assist our efforts and help us deliver Buffalo Bikes to students in Kenya through World Bicycle Relief.
And riders, it’s not too late to compete for the top fundraiser prize of a dream bike! The fundraising deadline has been extended to 11:59pm Friday, July 17th. For those who have not yet fundraised or donated, there is still ample time. There are several in contention for the Dream Bike, but there is no clear winner yet – with plenty of time still to get in on the action.
All participants, volunteers, contributors and friends are invited to the Post-Ride Party + WBR Fundraiser this Saturday, July 18th!
A shout out to all who captured the day in photos and shared them with us, including Aaron Sherrick, Tom Renaud, Ruth-Anne Renaud, the Higney family and Andrew and Andrea of RaceTime Transport, among others.
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