Steel is Real Ride Redux

Pee Oui leads out the Steel is Real ride.

There were too many cool bike rides over last weekend.  From Bike and Dine in La Crosse to Gnome Fest in Neillsville (also home to Chatty Belle, the worlds largest talking cow) down to the Steel is Real Ride in Milwaukee, there were fun and off-beat bike rides going on in very corner of Wisconsin.  As much as I would have liked to, I could not be at all of them.  Stay tuned as we are hoping to share reports from across the state through our Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin state coordinators.  If you attended one of those rides and want to send in some photos and an update, shoot me an email to


The crowd outside Cafe Hollander for the raffle.

Classic style, Pee Oui got these knickers came from Jerry at Rainbow.

Until then, I took some photos on the Phil Van Valkenberg’s (AKA Pee Oui Roubaix) annual Steel is Real ride in the Milwaukee area.  This year Pee Oui has taken ill, so a few friends stepped in to make sure the ride happened.  Pee Oui managed to make it to the first stop at Cafe Hollander on Downer.  A bunch of folks donated prizes and swag for the ride to have a raffle.  If you were one of the people who won a gift certificate from Ben’s Cycle, contact me to get your card.

People originally wanted to raise money for Phil, but he said he would prefer the cash go to the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.  That was super generous of him and is just one more example of how he has given so much to our cycling community, from his cool pub crawls to his guided trips to the Spring Classics in Europe.  Thanks to Phil and everyone who donated, the Bike Fed raised $105 dollars on the raffle.

Note the plates on the bicycle friendly metal grate lift bridge on McKinley.

Pee Oui gets a little help on the hill.

After the prizes where drawn, we headed west to Pabst City for our second stop at the Best Place. Pee Oui stuck with the group, styling in his vintage plus fours and leather cycling shoes. Despite being ill, he danced on the pedals of his ’49 Raleigh.  With a little help, he even managed to overcome the close ratio SA hub and the hill on McKinley to get to this historic pub at the Pabst Brewery.

From Pabst City, the ride continued west without our fearless leader, down into Piggsville and the bike friendly Valley Inn.  I can recommend their yummy bacon cheeseburgers and home-made chips. I always like Phil’s rides because he draws together a very diverse crowd of people who love bikes and a really diverse bunch of bicycles.  He also organized the Fat Tire Tour of Milwaukee.


Welcome sign

Heavy metal

So many cool bikes with cool details

Waterford proves steel need not come with a weight penalty.

Testing our metal off road.

I led the crowd out from under the shadow of the Wisconsin Avenue bridge in Piggsville and on the visit Tosa Fest and Cafe Hollander west on State Street.  Most of the crowd stuck to the Oak Leaf Trail for the ride west, but a few of us ducked into the woods in Doyne Park to test our iron horses on the single track.

From Wauwatosa we headed to a classic south side Milwaukee tavern, Dick and Gloria’s Cocktails and Dreams.  We managed to include a bit of the Oak Leaf Trail, Milwaukee’s signed bike routes and the Hank Aaron State trail on the ride over. Kathy the sharp-tongued bartender was more than a match for thirsty crowd as she served up cold, cheap cans of Pabst, Blatz and Pepsi.

Crossing to the south side of the tracks

Just four blocks west of the loneliest mile in the world.

Sticking to the South Side, we pedaled east down Lincoln, to the nation’s oldest continually operating two-lane bowling alley, Gene and Marcy’s Holler House.  Put in service in 1908, this cool little Polish tavern is often included on pub pedals (the bicycle version of a pub crawl?) because of its history, cheap Polish beer, and little Marcy’s charming hospitality.  The Holler House is a great place to plan a party.  Just call ahead so Marcy can get a neighborhood kid to set pins as the lanes are not automatic.

Sadly, I had to call it quits after the Holler House, as I needed to get to Benno’s in West Allis for the Fed Fest Twilight Ride on the Hank Aaron State Trail.  I will give a report on that ride in a post later today or tomorrow. If you stuck with the Steel is Real ride until the end, please comment below with a report on how the last two stops to Cafe Central and Hollander went. In the mean time, I have a few more photos below from more of the 2011 Steel is Real Ride.  Thanks again to everyone who bought a raffle ticket and came on the ride.  I have already penciled in the date for next year’s Steel is Real Ride and when Phil is feeling better and can take the reigns again.

Mark leads "down under" over the Marsupial Bridge

Pee Oui's message of the day

It's pronounced just like it is spelled.

The oldest two lanes in the nation, sans teenage pin setter

Classics still rolling

Fat tires and skinny tires are welcome

About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 11 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave lives with his wife Liz and daughter Frankie in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's west side.

6 thoughts on “Steel is Real Ride Redux

    • That is a reference to 1950s Milwaukee radio personality show the Czarnina Kid. Sorry for the inside polish joke. Here is the show if you want to hear the original:

  1. I was at Bike Fest at City Park in Appleton and we were led on a liesurely ride of 7 miles around Appleton, accompanied by 2 Appleton police officers who were also on bikes. I forgot my camera, but some others were taking pics, so hopefully you can get some from them. We also had subs, cake, and drinks.

  2. Dave, great weather, cool bikes, and interesting people. Plus the scheduled stops let me watch my daughter’s program at Tosa Fest. What more could a guy ask for!

    P.S. Sent the dollar to Dave this morning.

  3. Guess I was out of the loop on Czarnina Kid. Best I can do is recall that usher guy who showed
    Three Stooges and shouted “Roll ‘em Lester” to kick each reel off. Hey, that’s not a bad “start the ride” call. Lots of fun even if I was a short hitter. Great bikes and riders. Should work up an average age of each some time. Thanks for keeping it going.

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