Back when my friend (and soon-to-be roommate) and I moved to Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood, we didn’t have the best impression of it. She took the high volume of shirtless men as a sign of it being a dirty place and I took the noise level of my neighbor and banjo enthusiast as a sign of the fact that I might not get any sleep during my first semester in Milwaukee. In Teach For America terms, we didn’t suspend judgement.
Well, we were wrong. We both like it here. In fact, this weekend is proving to be an excellent affirmation of that sentiment. Let me tell you a little bit about Riverwest 24…
Riverwest 24 is a neighborhood bike race where individuals, teams, or tandems bike around the area for twenty-four hours. In addition, some local businesses stay open for the duration of the race to support weary riders and community members congregate to cheer the riders on along the course. The goal of the race is to strengthen the community. It sounds lofty, but it really does bring people together!
My first shift was from 11-1 last night. I started out a little worried about intoxicated pedestrians and drivers, but after a little while I realized that with so many bikers on the road I could count on their support in dire straits. It was great to feel the love of the community. On almost every street there were people cheering us on! My favorite has to be the old man who was lying down in his truck bed giving everyone a thumbs-up as they passed by him. Also, it was awesome to see the neighborhood from a different perspective. Riding underneath the Holton Bridge and across the Milwaukee River as well as along various trails with other bikers was a lot of fun.
After I got off my bike, a teammate and I got a few beers and sat at the start/finish line while our friends continued for us. It was great to sit on the sidewalk at three in the morning and support our community. Even early the next morning, folks were still out with their shots of Alterra espresso gearing up for Day 2 of the event.
There were times this year when I’ve felt unsure of my decision to live in Riverwest. It feels kind of isolated at times with the majority of corps members living east of the river. But, Riverwest 24 is by far my favorite part of living in Milwaukee thus far and I’m looking forward to participating again next year!