The 1997 Minnesota 1000
by Victor Wanchena
The basic premise of the Minnesota 1000 is “1000 Miles, 24 Hours”. Where does it go? Everywhere and nowhere. There is no set route. Instead, there are dozens of checkpoints throughout the midwest. You choose where you go and earn points by proving you were there.
Last year I attended the 1000 with no idea what to expect. I ran fairly well despite having to work 7 hours in the middle of the rally. This year I spent hours pouring over maps, though I had no clue where the points would be. They are a secret until the morning of the rally. I decided to head to Kansas City.
On the morning of the 1000 I sat glued to the weather channel. The cheery weather people painted a grizzly picture. To the south was big rain. All other points of the compass were clear.
I arrived plenty early at Ground Zero (Bob’s Java Hut) to register and meet Troy. He was going to the Twins game in Comisky Park. Hmmm. Chicago looked a lot drier on the weather maps.
We received our rider packets and final instructions around 10 a.m. We couldn’t quite head straight to Chicago, since we had to hit the mandatory checkpoints. So it was off to Trackstar in south Minneapolis. In and out. No problem. Troy and I headed back towards the freeway, but the entrance ramp we needed was closed.
At this point I was leading the way and decided to blaze a new trail for us which consisted of a 5 mile detour. While none to scenic it was all together a waste of time. Eventually we made our way back to the freeway, picked up the other 2 checkpoints and headed for Chicago by 11:30.
We rode and rode. The first stop was Black River Falls, WI. We fueled up the bikes, and I, having neglected to eat breakfast or lunch, tried to fill the void with a samwich and beef sticks left over from the Korean War. Three miles outside of town we hit our first points stop and first roadside repair. At the rest stop was a historical marker about how sphagnum moss was a major natural resource of the area. This discovery earned us points!
We moved on to what we hoped would be our only road side repair. Troy’s brake light switch needed adjustment. To do this he had to remove the huge tank shroud and side covers from his bike. Troy did all work, while I sat by and cheered him on. After reassembling Troy’s bike, we struck out again for Chicago. We still had 4 hours till game time.
We were able to ride through Wisconsin at a faster clip than we had expected and decided to run all the way to the Illinois border before fueling again. Fuel receipts from different states were worth fairly substantial points. Getting the Illinois stop out of the way would allow us to swing into Indiana after the ball game for our next fuel stop.
Interstate 90 turned into a toll road in Illinois. This was not all bad. The basic traffic law here seemed to be “you pay, you play”. Of course, when we crossed the city limits into Chicago we were met by a huge traffic jam. By the time we climbed up to our nose-bleed seats at Comisky, stowed our gear and flagged down the hot dog and beer guys, the Twins and Sox were starting the third inning.
Comisky was where our lust for winning a top spot in the rally began to fade. It was a perfect night for baseball in a beautiful outdoor stadium. We relaxed in the middle of the Minnesota 1000, and we lost our edge.
We still figured 1000 miles was within reach, but we decided to stow the answer sheet. Gas in Indiana? What gas? Coffee sounded good. We knew of a good coffee shop in the vicinity–only 90 miles away–the Fuel Cafe in Milwaukee.
After the game (Sox 5, Twins 3) we rolled up I-94 and arrived at the Fuel about 11:00 p.m. Greg, Andrea and Brad, the Saturday night crew, served up a couple rounds of tasty espresso and some good conversation. Troy and I opened some maps and tried to plan a route home that would put us over the 1000 mile mark. We were amazed to find that to reach 1000 miles we would have to ride to Dubuque, Iowa before going to Minneapolis. Neither of us thought much of that plan.
At midnight we finally said good-bye to the fine folks at the Fuel and began the trek homeward. We were heading straight for Minneapolis intending to make up the last miles to get a full 1000 around the cities instead of on dark, unknown Wisconsin back roads.
The first few warning shots of rain were fired across our bow just outside of Milwaukee. So, we decided to don our rain gear. Twenty minutes later we were back on the road, but the rain was gone. Not wanting to go through all that hassle again we left our steam suits on.
As we neared Madison it became apparent that we had chosen wisely. A rather fierce storm loomed dead ahead. For a brief moment it looked as though we would miss it to the south. No dice. The first couple drops hit and then the heavens opened up full force. The storm was by far the heaviest I have ever ridden through. The rain came down, came sideways, and even seemed to come up from the ground. We looked for any sort of shelter and finally found a car dealership with a large overhang. A local law enforcement official was kind enough to stop by and ask on our condition. We assured him of our honorable intentions but failed to mention how far we had come and how liberal we had been with Wisconsin speed laws.
The rain finally stopped about half an hour later, and we began to see our goal of 1000 miles slip away. We hit the road again with a new fury, trying to make up time. As we left town I noticed how the road dried up only two miles from where we had stopped. We would have missed the storm if we would have pushed on a little farther.
Now the fatigue started to set in. We made a couple of stops along the roadside to keep alert, including one where Troy thought I was flashing my lights at him when in reality I had stood up on my foot pegs to stretch.
We rolled into Wisconsin Dells around 3 a.m., fueled up and decided to try and eat a little something. Troy went the cheese and crackers with coffee route, while I dared to try yet another convenience store samwich. I believe it was made of the same sphagnum moss I mentioned earlier. While parked on the bench in front of said store we listened to a pair of state patrol officers discuss how their radar was not working. Was this the cleverest of ruses or were we the two luckiest guys in Wisconsin? The idea of 1000 miles was almost gone, but at least we would make good time for a while.
Well, we made good time for the short periods we were on the road between stops. Thirty miles out of the Dells we made a roadside stop and decided to stop again at Tomah sixteen miles up the road.
We were both tired, and Troy was a little damp because of his ancient, leaky rain pants. The morning fog had quite a chill in it, and he wanted to change into some dry pants. We stopped at a gas station, and Troy went in to change. I settled down on a bench outside the door and promptly fell asleep. Fifteen or twenty minutes later Troy woke me, and we headed to Menomonie.
Wow. The sun was up, and I was down. We had raced to Chicago like it was around the block, but the last 60 miles home seemed insurmountable. Okay, we had to go home. Next stop Bob’s Java Hut, sort of. Forty miles later we crossed the Minnesota border and took one more break at a rest stop. Come on. There were only twenty more miles.
We arrived at Bob’s by 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning–Back where we started. The Minnesota 1000. It goes everywhere and nowhere.
Meeting back up with the other riders and recounting the misadventures of the 24 hour rally was one of the best things about riding the 1000. The fatigue largely melted away, as we shared our story and listened to those of others. Maybe next year I’ll go…