“It is so cold out here, I can’t explain,” Kurt Seifert told me Tuesday afternoon from a Best Western near Milwaukee. “It’s ridiculous.”
Seifert had a good excuse for being cold as we talked. He had recently walked a bicycle 15 miles through snowy Milwaukee.
See, Seifert and his lifelong friend, Rick Dignus, are en route from Manassas to Green Bay, via road bike. They timed their trip to arrive at Lambeau Field in time for Sunday’s NFC championship game. Which is funny, since it turns out that game will be played in San Francisco.
What in the name of Cheddar is going on here? It’s a long story, and none of it makes much sense, but I’ll give it a whirl. Seifert is the caddie master at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Gainesville. Dignus is a caddie there, and also a diehard Packers fan. When the team offered fans the chance to buy shares in December, Dignus purchased one, and then bragged about being an NFL owner inside the raucous caddies room.
The caddies, it turns out, are also degenerate gamblers. Someone suggested a wager on whether Dignus could use his ownership share to get into a Packers game. Dignus said it wouldn’t matter, because his truck couldn’t make it to Green Bay. Seifert suggested he ride a bike. Dignus argued that the 6-foot-1, 250-pound caddie master was the one who needed to ride his bike across the country.
The other caddies eventually set 10-1 odds on whether that duo could ride bikes 860 miles from Northern Virginia to Green Bay. Which is why, on Dec. 26, Dignus and Seifert found themselves in a Vienna bike shop, paying $1300 each for two-wheeled transportation to the upper Midwest.
“You guys know how to stay warm?” the shop employees asked them.
“We’ll figure it out,” Seifert responded, without realizing there would be days like this one, which featured a steady snowfall, and unplowed bike trails, and 15 miles of walking a bike through Milwaukee.
“Our feet got really cold today,” he admitted.
But wait, I’ve gotten ahead of myself again. Because in order to take a month off of work, Seifert and Dignus needed to take their plan to the golf pro at RTJ. And in order to do that, they switched their mission from collecting on a 10-1 bet to raising money for a worthy cause. They chose several, including Thanks USA, a military education non-profit headed by RTJ member Bob Okun, who gave Seifert the ok to contact some of the club’s members for help.
The riders offered their 10-1 odds to the members. If they made it to Green Bay in 23 days (the length of the Tour de France), the donors would give $1,000 to the charity (they took Sundays off for football). If they failed, Seifert and Dignus would cough up $100 per donor. Somehow, this caught on, and as of last week, they had earned more than $50,000 worth of pledges if they completed their ride.
All that was left was for the Packers to win a single playoff game, ensuring an NFC championship game at Lambeau, where Dignus would try to use his ownership share to talk his way into the stadium, which was the whole point. They watched the Packers-Giants game in a bar in Kenosha. Dignus threw out his elbow pumping his fist while supporting the Packers. Seifert eventually confiscated Dignus’s cell phone, to save him from the abuse that poured in via text message.
The Packers fell behind, and never caught up. And now these two 40-something men were in the middle of Wisconsin with a pair of new bicycles, riding through the snow toward an empty stadium.
“Every time I looked at him, he was like ‘Get me another pitcher,’ ” Seifert recalled. “I was like, nah man, we’ve got to be on bikes tomorrow morning.”
Yes, the ride continued, NFC title game or no. There’s now a fundraising Web site — PedalThePack.com — and daily video updates — edited by a pair of caddies from Columbia Country Club — and another caddie driving an equipment van, and tens of thousands of dollars for charity at stake. They’ve learned how to draft while enduring countless fights over wakeup calls and puddles, have wrapped their feet in plastic bags and asked Ohio Mennonites for directions, and told a vet in Pennsylvania about their trip, which somehow led to all three men sharing a cry.
“We’re just two idiots on a bike,” Seifert told me. “[After that], we looked at each other like [bleep], we can’t quit now.”
To follow their progress or donate to the cause, go to PedalThePack.com.