I could be going to hell. If so, my wife and a bunch of racer type cyclists from Milwaukee are coming with me. Woo hell! The most extreme epic ride ever! I’ll wear my helmet with the horns. We’ll have a Papal Peloton! I grew up Catholic, went to Sunday school, received a coupla sacraments, know the Lords Prayer and Hail Mary by heart and in all my worldly Theological studies I’m certain that drinking Holy Water at least gets you a few whacks from a Nun’s yardstick. I’m almost positive that somewhere in the bible it says “Drinketh the wine and thou be seateth at the right hand of the Lord. Guzzleth the Holy Water, and thou gets few jabiths in the keester with a hot rusty pitchith fork.”
This is a re-run from a year or so ago, but it feels fitting to repost on Easter weekend. While on vacation in Wisconsin last year, we tagged on to the Holy Hill Ride, Milwaukee’s regular Sunday morning pilgrimage to a spectacular spired church perched on a scenic hill 35 miles or so out in the sticks from downtown. Superweek, aka The International Cycling Classic, also features a stage through Holy Hill country. This is the second time I’ve done the ride. I grew up in Milwaukee, but my passion for road cycling didn’t arise till I moved to Cincinnati. Therefore the only times I visited Holy Hill were on Christmas and at 1am with a six pack of Mickey’s big mouth beers during prom. The Holy Hill ride ranks right up with Cincinnati’s covered bridge ride, skinny farm roads leading to a place that’s always better reached by bicycle. Like most cities and their Sunday ride traditions, this ride has been going on for a long time. From what the peloton of 30 or so said, the Holy Hill ride has been going on probably before the Green Bay Packers won their first Superbowl, but after Harley met Davidson.
Milwaukeeans will try to fool you to thinking that the topography is hilly, mainly by calling people from Illinois “flatlanders.” Since I’ve moved away to a place that actually is quite hilly, Milwaukee for all practical purposes is as flat as a pancake with a few thick ripples of syrup on top and running down the side into Lake Michigan. But. But. But, for some reason that only a geological genius can explain, there are a few areas that were not smooshed by glaciers. Holy Hill sits on top of one of them. The wooded hill probably rises 300ish feet above the farmland below. Not quite Cincinnati high, but definitely tall enough for a 3-4 minute climb with a couple of soft switchbacks capped off by two steep stabs to the cornerstone of the church. Of course, King of the Mountain points are in full effect every Sunday. While, I did not win the surge to the top, I think I certainly made a few locals fear that the out of town guy may spank them on their own hill.
At the top, we stopped for a natural and to fill up the bottles. The temp was tickling its way toward 85 degrees. The group split up. Some stopped at a small out-building with a restroom and bubbler (Wisconsin speak for “drinking fountain”). The rest of us, stopped in front of this little grotto with what appeared to be a natural spring watched over by a statue of the Virgin Mary. In plain English, the sign next to the spigot said, “Holy Water.” Now, I’m no Theological expert, but I’m pretty sure this would lead most god fearing people to believe that this water was meant for blessing and quenching the thirst unfortunate souls and not for guzzling in 28 ounce quantities. Despite Mary’s furrowed brow of disapproval, everyone filled their bottles from the tap and made holy water jokes in the shadow of the colossal cathedral. H. E. Double toothpicks.
Regardless of our apparent sin, none of us were struck by a bolt of lightning from the cloudless sky. However, someone did get a flat tire right there at the grotto. Coincidence? I dunno. Regardless, no one wrecked on the way home. Maybe it was blessed. We went on to have a wonderful vacation in Wisconsin. Who knows? They say the body is 70% water. For a few days, maybe ours was Holy Water. Is that doping?