When Gavin Saxer was asked to spend his work week getting paid to ride his bike to Michigan, he had to laugh.
Though the 27-year-old races all kind of bikes distances of up to 100 miles, he’d recently bought a house. With all the time he was putting into that project, he had less than 50 biking miles for all of 2017.
As part of a summer marketing campaign for Aunt Millie’s hamburger buns, the digital strategist for Fort Wayne agency Common People United wound up pedaling at least that far every single day of his recent 383.7-mile quest “to find the perfect burger.”
He endured rain and hail, heat and humidity, blisters and sore muscles. But he got back in shape in a hurry. And he discovered some memorable burgers along the way.
BIKING’S IN HIS BLOOD
Saxer, whose father, Tim, rides with time-trial world champion Gary Painter on the Fort Wayne Outfitters team, grew up racing BMX on the national circuit but gave up cycling and hockey, another passion, while studying sports marketing at IU.
He got back into riding after college, joining Team Neighborlink, where he’s known for racing everything from mountain bikes to criterion, which are lap-style races typically set up around a city block.
Though Saxer estimates he owns “six or seven” bikes, none was designed for touring. For his June 20-24 assignment, he put a road seat and a borrowed luggage rack on his cyclocross bike, replacing the knobby tires used in the obstacle-course races with wide, smooth tires for a more comfortable ride.
He began his journey at Don Hall’s Gas House, downing a massive Memphis Two-Fisted Burger stacked with bacon, fried onions and A1 sauce on an Aunt Millie’s onion bun to fuel up for his 70-mile ride to Goshen.
Though weather radar forecast rain, Saxer focused on the gaps between the storms. He got soaked anyway, periodically taking refuge under a railroad overpass, trees and finally, during a brief hail storm, in an Amish farmer’s barn.
“We chatted about my trip for a bit,” he reported in a blog entry on the Aunt Millie’s website, “and then when the rain let up I was back on my way.”
By Day Three, Saxer was noticing a definite pattern in the modern American burger.
“Does anyone have a good name for that kind of burger that has a ton of stuff on it and almost feels like it’s trying to be a whole meal of its own?” he wrote.
Burgers stacked with bacon, eggs and other hearty toppings were especially satisfying at the end of a ride. But to get in all the eateries on the Aunt Millie’s marketing campaign required multiple stops a day. The gastronomical challenges didn’t always mesh well with the riding conditions.
His toughest day of riding came on a three-burger, 89-mile day. After his second burger of the day, at the Great Lakes Eatery and Pub in Dundee, Mich., where the Great Lakes Burger comes topped with a “fried cheese plank” reminiscent of Junk Food Alley, Saxer found himself battling a merciless headwind.
“I can’t get over 13 mph in that wind, and I have this huge chunk of deep-fried cheese in my stomach,” he said.
“There were days I about threw my bike in the ditch and hitchhiked back,” he admitted afterward. “It’s not so much your body as your mind. When your mind’s out of it, you’re done.”
Never having toured before, Saxer downloaded his list of what to pack off the Internet. To keep his bag as light as possible, he didn’t bother packing an extra set of clothes.
At the hotel each evening, he’d simply wear his Aunt Millie’s cycling kit into the shower, soap and rinse it, then alternate settings on the air conditioner to help it dry overnight.
If he had it to do over again, Saxer says he would ship a box of supplies to the hotels on his itinerary ahead of time.
He’d also stick to 40-60 miles per day instead of adding miles to his would-be “rest day” in his zeal to pack more burger stops into his schedule.
“That was a fun way to spend my work week – except when it’s after 5 p.m. and you’re still riding.”
Though he wishes he’d packed larger cycling shoes to account for swelling feet and rain covers to keep them dry, at least now he knows his Chrome cycling bag really is waterproof.
And now that he’s in shape again, Saxer says he’s eager to work some more bike tour adventures into his racing schedule.
Tanya Isch Caylor blogs about postfat living at www.90in9.wordpress.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column is the personal view of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.
In his five-day quest for the perfect burger, Gavin Saxer rode more than 380 miles.
Day 1: 70 miles, from Don Hall’s Gas House in Fort Wayne, home of the Memphis Two-Fisted Burger, to Goshen.
Day 2: 52.5 miles, from Goshen to Sturgis, Mich. Burgers: Standard quarter pounder at Cindy’s Soda Shop in Goshen and the Farmhand Burger at the Five Star Dive Bar in Elkhart.
Day 3: 82.4 miles, from Sturgis to Jackson, Mich. Burgers: The Swiss Mushroom Burger at Jeannie’s Diner in Coldwater, Mich, and Scott’s BBQ Burger at The Broadway Grille in Marshall, Mich.
Day 4: 82.9 miles, from Jackson to Adrian, Mich. Burgers: The Bacon Xtra Burger at the West Point Lounge in Jackson, the Lake Superior Burger at Great Lakes Eatery and Pub in Dundee, and the ZZ Char-Broil Burger at ZZ’s Bar and Grill in Adrian.
Day 5: 95.9 miles, from Adrian, Mich., to Fort Wayne. Burger: The Henry’s Burger at Henry’s Restaurant in Fort Wayne.
Total miles: 383.7
The “Perfect Burger”: The winning burger came from the Five Star Dive Bar in Elkhart, which wasn’t even originally on Saxer’s itinerary. But after he heard about their Farmhand Burger, he made a detour, and wound up crowning the burger topped with bacon, a fried egg and an Aunt Millie’s brioche bun as the best.
To learn more: Visit www.questfortheperfectburger.com/gavins-quest.