Patrick Stephenson is a copywriter at Minnesota Public Radio and the director of 30 Days of Biking. Follow him on Twitter, @patiomensch, where he tweets like 5,000 times a day.

150 Miles of Amazing

Posted by: Patrick Stephenson under Transportation Updated: June 17, 2014 - 2:36 PM


On the weekend of June 6th, I biked the MS 150, a two-day, 150-mile journey from just outside Duluth, in Proctor, Minn., to White Bear Lake, just outside Minneapolis.

It was an immense, intense, amazing, awesome experience, all to benefit the MS Society’s Upper Midwest division. I was a little heartbroken when it ended, because it was a blast. I camped, I biked, I ate pancakes — LOTS of pancakes — and then I biked some more.

The MS 150 first began in 1979, when Will Munger, then Executive Director of the Society’s Minnesota chapter, rode from Minneapolis to Duluth with his son. The dad and son duo couldn’t finish the journey in a day, so they stayed overnight in Hinckley, just as MS 150 participants do now. They rolled into Duluth the next day, after which Munger realized that, if he and his son could make the trip, so could others. Bicycling across Minnesota, Munger decided, would be a cool way for cyclists to raise money for the fight against MS.

Minnesota’s first MS 150, in 1980, had 200 participants, and its success inspired MS Society chapters around the United States to stage their own bike rides. Thirty-four years later, 2014’s Minnesota 150 had almost 4,000 participants and raised $3 million. It’s come a long way since that first father-son journey.

Let’s break down my MS 150 experience, now more than a week past.


To keep ourselves accountable, and to maximize our F.U.N. 150, my girlfriend Nola and I joined Team B.A.O.B.s (the Badasses on Bikes), a coterie organized by my friend Josey Balenger.

Josey, whose mom has multiple sclerosis, has participated in the MS 150 for the past few years, and it’s a very meaningful cause to her. She rallied a team of eight cyclists, some of whom (ahem, okay, just me) were a little tardy in getting signed up and started on their fundraising. We went on training rides together. We took the MS 150 bus up to Proctor together. And ultimately, we rode our bikes Minneapolis-ward together.

My training process was pretty minimal. Back in November, I started a new job in downtown St. Paul. That means I’ve been bicycling between Minneapolis and its sister city quite a bit. Basically, that was my training regimen for the MS 150. Beyond that, between April 1 and the big ride, I biked somewhere every day, to work, to the grocery store, to everywhere else. I love bicycling, more than any other form of transportation, so participating in the MS 150, though it’s QUITE A BIT longer than my average weekend ride, was a natural fit. I was ready for it.

My steed of choice for the event was my Trek Madone 4.5, a carbon-framed beauty I’ve outfitted with comfy cyan bar tape, Continental Gator Hardshell tires (for protection from road blades), and stickers from my favorite local businesses. Team spirit.


Our first day of the MS 150 began with rain. Amidst chunky raindrops, on the Proctor High School camping grounds, we jumped out of our tents and took them down. The rain had begun with pitter-patter and then strengthened, as we laid there facing our tent ceilings, into a steady, heavy fall. We checked our phones and realized the rain wasn’t stopping anytime soon, late morning at the earliest. So what do you do when you can’t do anything else? You go forward anyway! The pouring continued as we walked our stuff (tents, overnight bags, etc.) to the MS 150 baggage trucks, and we went into the high school for a humongous breakfast. I drank five cups of not-so-good, smells-like-a-boot Folger’s and filled my stomach with ultra-delicious pancakes, flipped off the griddle by a guy in a tie-dye T-shirt.

Outside of Proctor, our bikes waited for us — laid out in a parking lot beneath the rain. I figuratively kissed my Madone, got onto its saddle, and began pedaling. Shortly before 8 a.m., Team B.A.O.Bs set off together, on the MS 150. We were soaked before we’d even started. The roads were gritty and filled with stones and potholes. The crowd before us was, at first, a slow-moving mob. We pedaled onward, and to be honest, I was loving it. Inclement weather equals adventure equals fun.

At some point in the first hour, riding side by side, Nola and I made a big decision. Charged up on Folger’s, I told her, “Let’s skip the rest stops. I just want to keep going.” Rides like the MS 150 have taught me, you understand, that time is as much of a wear-down as pedaling. I knew that each time I got off my bike at an MS Society rest stop, my legs would turn stiff and unyielding. No matter how much I wanted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, made by the MS 150 volunteers, I knew I just needed to keep going. So we did. We rode and rode, through beautiful forested areas soaked and evergreen with rainwater. Nola and I made two stops: once to remove a layer, because my faithful bright orange raincoat was heating me up, and once for a Domino’s pizza lunch. 

We rolled into the halfway point of the MS 150 around 12:30 p.m. It felt amazing. The massage I got later that afternoon felt even more amazing.


The second day of the MS 150 began like the first one. Not with rain, you understand, as the sky was bright and sunny and blue, but with pancakes and gross Folger’s. Whatever works.

I pumped up my Madone’s tires to 100 and got my saddle adjusted by a Maple Grove repairman (thanks, bud!), then set off once again, this time all together with Team B.A.O.B.s. We’d decided to stick together throughout the Day 2, from beginning to end. We rode in a tight line, with a revolving leader. My turn to lead came 20 miles in, and I led our team of eight around potholes and other hazards, just as the other leaders had. We maintained a steady pace, and I checked back every so often to ensure that we were sticking together. The first leg of our ride was enhanced — in my opinion, anyway! — by the wireless speaker in my bike bag. I set it to Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, which scored our pedaling. Good beats.

The sights were different on Day 2. Whereas at first, we’d pedaled on paths through pure forest, on Day 2 we rode mostly on the highway, with a super huge landscape stretched out around us. Hypnotized by the landscape, by the line of cyclists before me, and by the steadiness of my pedaling, I zoned out. Continual action turns you into a robot. A robot who gets places. My butt began to hurt a little bit around the halfway mark and, at a rest stop, behind someone’s house, I took off the workout pants I’d started the day in and changed into some chamois pillow pants I’d packed in my day bag. I feel shy in spandex, but saddle pain has a way of vanquishing shyness.

Shortly after 3 p.m., Team B.A.O.B.s rolled into the finish line almost together. On the MS 150’s last hill up, I separated from everyone and gave the last bit — the last stretch, the last leg, the final skittle — my all. I pedaled as hard as I could and speedily rolled across the finish line. Again, it felt amazing.

Had it been hard? Nah, not really! Had it been fun as [heck]? Yes, yes, yes!

 That night, Nola and I celebrated our MS 150 achievement with cheeseburgers and milkshakes at Snuffy’s in Roseville, then with Edge of Tomorrow at Showplace Icon. It felt good to be home, and we’d gotten there using only our legs. Our pedaling legs. 

Thanks again to everyone who donated to my MS 150 fund and helped make this happen. I've never biked for a better cause!

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Denver 28 FINAL
Cincinnati 37
Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
New England
Carolina 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Dallas 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Detroit 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Green Bay
Jacksonville 12/28/14 12:00 PM
San Diego 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
NY Jets 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia 12/28/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
New Orleans 12/28/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Arizona 12/28/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
St. Louis 12/28/14 3:25 PM
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
Denver 82 FINAL
Charlotte 110
Portland 95 FINAL
Houston 110
Utah 97 FINAL
Memphis 91
Toronto 120 FINAL
Chicago 129
Atlanta 105 FINAL
Dallas 102
LA Clippers 118 FINAL
San Antonio 125
Sacramento 74 3rd Qtr 1:12
Golden State 89
Ottawa 1 FINAL
Washington 2
Nashville 5 FINAL
Columbus 1
Pittsburgh 3 FINAL(SO)
Florida 4
Arizona 1 3rd Prd 9:32
Vancouver 7
San Jose 2 3rd Prd 8:34
Anaheim 1
Calgary 1 3rd Prd
Los Angeles 3
Ark-Little Rock 64 FINAL
Bradley 54
Brown 67 FINAL
Central Conn St 55
Stetson 59 FINAL
Florida State 63
Ill-Chicago 46 FINAL
Northwestern 63
Ohio 49 FINAL
George Washington 77
Southern Utah 61 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 70
Elon 67 FINAL
Kennesaw St 65
Dartmouth 49 FINAL
Penn State 69
Green Bay 70 FINAL
UC Irvine 72
DePaul 68 FINAL
Colorado 82
Lewis & Clark 49 FINAL
Portland 71
SC State 59 FINAL
Abilene Christian 65
Manhattan 71 FINAL
Fordham 57
Truett-McConnell 57 FINAL
Ga Southern 90
Citadel 56 FINAL
Michigan State 82
Miami-Ohio 55 FINAL
Ohio State 93
Gardner-Webb 89 FINAL
Purdue 84
Idaho 68 FINAL
Northern Ky 81
Fairfield 66 FINAL
Albany 77
North Dakota St 61 FINAL
Alcorn State 50
UT Martin 37 FINAL
Butler 64
SE Louisiana 65 FINAL
UCF 70
Oakland 60 FINAL
Clemson 70
Florida A&M 57 FINAL
East Carolina 75
Eastern Ky 66 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 69
IUPU-Ft Wayne 43 FINAL
Illinois State 68
Norfolk State 74 FINAL
James Madison 71
Binghamton 68 FINAL
Mount St Marys 69
Towson 56 FINAL
Navy 61
Long Island 73 FINAL
New Hampshire 72
Northern Ill 66 FINAL
Notre Dame 91
William & Mary 62 FINAL
Old Dominion 69
Liberty 47 FINAL
Princeton 65
Delaware 81 FINAL
Robert Morris 84
MD-Eastern Shore 82 FINAL
St Bonaventure 80
Colgate 43 FINAL
Syracuse 78
Kansas 52 FINAL
Temple 77
Mercer 54 FINAL
Tennessee 64
East Tenn St 60 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 84
Va Military 74 FINAL
Virginia Tech 87
Bucknell 53 FINAL
Wake Forest 60
Alabama A&M 62 FINAL
Western Mich 71
New Orleans 59 FINAL
Indiana 79
Columbia 65 FINAL
Connecticut 80
Long Beach State 49 FINAL
St Johns 66
Wofford 44 FINAL
West Virginia 77
Southern U 66 FINAL
Baylor 70
Chattanooga 83
Char Southern 54 FINAL
Colorado State 75
North Florida 70 FINAL
Iowa 80
NC Central 67 FINAL
Jackson State 64
Rice 72 FINAL
Lamar 79
Central Mich 89 FINAL
McNeese State 56
Coppin State 56 FINAL
Michigan 72
Furman 76 FINAL
Minnesota 86
SE Missouri St 51 FINAL
Ole Miss 82
Weber State 51 FINAL
Oklahoma 85
Grambling St 39 FINAL
TCU 80
Loyola-Chicago 62 FINAL
Texas Tech 44
Incarnate Word 47 FINAL
Tulsa 76
Penn 50 FINAL
Vanderbilt 79
Chicago State 38 FINAL
SIU Edwardsville 63
Simpson 62 FINAL
Drake 84
Tenn Tech 81 FINAL
Murray State 83 FINAL
Southern Ill 71
Oral Roberts 45 FINAL
Missouri State 52
Jacksonville St 65 FINAL
Air Force 66
Milwaukee 54 FINAL
Arkansas 84
Wisconsin 68 FINAL
California 56
Coll of Charleston 47 FINAL
LSU 71
North Dakota 54 FINAL
Marquette 67
Northern New Mexico 39 FINAL
New Mexico St 78
UC Santa Barbara 78 FINAL
Oregon 82
Miami-Florida 62 FINAL
Providence 76
Northeastern 68 FINAL
St Marys-CA 72
Kent State 75 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 78
UC Davis 73 FINAL
Northern Colorado 63
Lewis-Clark State 81 FINAL
Eastern Wash 87
Walla Walla 52 FINAL
Portland State 94
Cal State Fullerton 82
Marshall 55 FINAL
Nevada 83
Boise State 57 2nd Half 3:53
Houston 55
UC Riverside 14 2nd Half 16:58
San Diego St 27
Tulane 29 2nd Half 15:49
Washington 35
Loyola Marymount 25 2nd Half 17:16
Wichita State 45
Nebraska 12/23/14 12:00 AM
Memphis 55
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
West Virginia
Oklahoma 12/29/14 4:30 PM
(18) Clemson
Arkansas 12/29/14 8:00 PM
UMass Lowell 63 FINAL
Holy Cross 78
Temple 59 FINAL
Villanova 64
Georgia Southern 68 FINAL
Southern U 52
Xavier 60 FINAL
Kennesaw St 61
Eastern Michigan 52 FINAL
Michigan 81
Brescia 56 FINAL
Marshall 127
(21) West Virginia 54 FINAL
Ohio State 96
MD-Eastern Shore 78
Cornell 79 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 61
St Bonaventure 70 FINAL
Georgetown 64
New Hampshire 63 FINAL
Northeastern 62
Eastern Washington 67 FINAL
Florida 56
Rice 63 FINAL
Texas Southern 69
Butler 72 FINAL
Illinois State 60
UC Davis 59 FINAL
(16) Stanford 71
Washington St 87 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 60
Sacramento St 94 FINAL
San Jose St 97
SIU-Edwardsville 74 FINAL
Oakland 92 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 84
Belmont 43 FINAL
(14) Georgia 62
George Mason 83 FINAL
Longwood 61
Kansas 81 FINAL
Creighton 84
Abilene Christian 53 FINAL
Kansas State 68
UT Martin 65 FINAL
Missouri 74
Hampton 67 FINAL
DePaul 86
Florida State 65 FINAL
Tulane 54
Murray State 44 FINAL
Illinois 64
Fla Gulf Coast 74 FINAL
Arkansas State 68
Utah State 58
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