My RAGBRAI Team LIVESTRONG Fundraising Page

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wrap Up

RAGBRAI XXXVIII went from July 25 - 31, 2010 and was an amazing 442(+) mile jaunt across the state of Iowa.  This was my first time on the ride.  I will be back.

I want to thank everyone who supported my ride by contributing to LIVESTRONG.  I especially want to thank Robert W. Baird & Co and The Baird Foundation for their major support and sponsorship of the ride.  Thanks to my good friend, Lisa, a Director at Baird, who helped me secure the sponsorship.

And THANK YOU! to everyone else who supported the cause!  We shattered our fundraising goal for of $10/mile and raised almost $6,000 to help cancer patients and their families.  Those who contributed to this effort are:

Avery Railing/Jim Avery;   A’viands/Derek Sage;   Brad Olson;   Carol Richards;   Cathy Avery St Jean;   Chuck & Cindy Avery;   Dave VanSpankeren;   David & Golda Cohen;   Debbie Pelegrin;   Diane Pertzborn;   Erin Green;   Health Partners;   Howard & Dorothy Richards;   JA Counter/Linda Skoglund;   Jeff & Kathy Gullion;   Jim Weise;   John Gibson;   Joe Andrashie;   Karen Kucharz;   Kathy Johnson;   Keith Lucius;   Key Benefits/Linda Mont/Manal Rizek;   Larry Black;   Mario Garcia;   Mary & Harvey Avery;   Mary Timm;   Mary Johnson;   Meg Farrington;   Mike Connor;   Mike & Britt Worringer;   Nancy Anderson;   National Insurance Services/Stephanie Laudon/David Branback;   Nick & Meg Street;   Providence Capital Network/John Vonder;   Randy Rosburg;   Ranei Johnson Scholler;   Rick Ketter;   Rod Hawkins;   Ron Berg;   Sara Eichten;   Shannon Bruns;   Sue Schnorr;   Tim Patterson;   Tina Hafeman;   Trish Sheridan;   and   Woody Wiedenhoeft & Janet Rosseter 

I want to thank, again, Team WiscAwesome - Mike, Britt, Lindsey, Holly, Brandon, Rachel, Maddie, Meghan, Karen, and of course our SAG guys, Jim & Qing - for allowing me to tag along.  I had a blast that week.  I hope we can ride again sometime.

Finally, I especially want and need to thank my wife Carol and our daughter Olivia.  I work in a town 250 miles away from home during the week, so our time together when we have it is even more precious.  So, spending a whole week away on something I wanted to do for me was a huge sacrifice for you.  I appreciate your support and understanding.  I love you two more than anything.

RAGBRAI: it's not a race, it's a ride.  And an event.  There are many ways to experience it:
  • You can ride athletically, pushing yourself and riding hard; or
  • You can ride it casually, enjoying the scenery and the people.
  • You can party all week, enjoying the bloody marys during the day and the beer at night; or
  • You can ride as a family, sharing it with your kids.
  • You can attend and participate in all the sponsored/planned events; or
  • You can strike out on your own, or simply hang back with your friends.
There is no wrong way to experience RAGBRAI.  Just make it your way.

RAGBRAI XXXIX will be from July 24th to the 30th.  The route will be announced in January, but registration is already open!  Let me know if you want to go along for the ride!

Until then, maybe I'll see you on the road.

Oh, and thank YOU for reading my little story.  I appreciate the feedback and comments.


RAGBRAI is an event that anyone can do.  On Day 1, I saw riders out there, and I give them all the credit in the world for being out there, that I thought wouldn't make it up the first hill heading away from Missouri River in Sioux City.  There were families riding together.  There were "characters."  There were teams with spirit.  There were young riders.  There were old riders.  There were fast and fit riders.  There were casual riders.  Riders on road bikes, on recumbents, on tandems, and on other contraptions.  Below are some of the other riders I spotted during my week on riding across Iowa.

The Wheels 
There were actually two guys riding these single speed bikes.  I saw the other guy on multiple days and understand he rode the entire week.  He was also passing out business cards - selling these bikes, perhaps?

Because riding a bicycle isn't enough of a workout.  This is basically an elliptical machine on two wheels.  No relaxing on your rear-end here.

Not sure whether to put this pic in the "The Wheels" section or the "The Characters" section.  Tandems, regardless of who is riding them, seem faster than single rider machines.  These two were part of Team Cow.  Yes, the bike was painted with the spots as well.

Borrowed from the pic gallery at
Maybe 10% of the riders were on recumbents.  I don't know, but does it really count as exercise when you can sit back like you're in a Lay-Z-Boy?!?  Yes it is!  They're just doing it smarter!

This is Al.  Al rode this 65-lb tricycle all week.  He says it has an incredibly comfortable seat.  I didn't see Al at all during the week, but he found my blog and provided a link to his recap here, check it out.  Awesome story.

I saw one rider on.... a UNICYCLE!  Yes, a unicycle.  He pulled up into camp on Day 2 had ridden the full 80 miles.  Amazing.  I don't know if he rode that the rest of the week or not, but just going 80 miles in a day is incredible enough.  I wish I had gotten a picture of him pulling in.  He had to be exhausted.

The Characters
The Banana Man.  He was in that costume all week.  And his recumbent was properly dressed as well.

"Shark Boy," another rider on a decked out recumbent.  He was infamous with our team.  He surrounded his bike with blue corrugated plastic board (like cardboard) and painted a shark mouth on the front.  Our beef with him was that he was a rude rider.  He would fly up on you without announcing his presence and then be upset with you for not yielding.  He also buzzed by riders fairly closely.

The Biking Ballerina
This guy was greeted riders in Parkersburg on Day 5.  I saw him again on Day 6.  I don't know if he rode like that or not.

Team Pirate only rode a few days, from what I heard.  (Something about 90 degree temps in those costumes...)  But there was a group of these swashbucklers out there lootin' and plunderin'.  Aaarrrgggghhh!

Team RoadKill would stop and pay their respects for all the dead critters we passed along the way.  OK, maybe not stop, but they would slow down and drop a string of beads on the poor thing.  Picture it, skunks covered in beads in the middle of the road.

Of course, there had to be this team from Indiana:

The Riders
RAGBRAI family style.  This was a family of 6 on a 5-wheel machine.

The youngest rider, riding solo, that I saw was probably about 10 years old.  The oldest was maybe in his 80s.

But nature calls for everybody.  And when it calls on RAGBRAI, you can rest assured that there is always a corn field around to give you cover.

The Crowds
The people of Iowa were universally nice and supportive of RAGBRAI and the riders.  They came out in force to cheer the riders on.


 In the pass-through, meet-up, and overnight towns, I only experienced hospitality and generosity.  I heard from other riders whose teams solicited and received the chance to overnight an with individual families (vs the community ad hoc campgrounds like HS practice fields and town parks) who opened not only their lawns but also their homes and kitchens.  It was an incredible experience.

One final shout-out, to Algona HS, you were awesome hosts!  Thanks for the spaghetti dinner!  It was delicious.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Day 7 - Manchester to Dubuque

Here we are.  Day 7.  The last day of RAGBRAI.  The last day of a great week. 

There are two characteristics of the day's ride.  It was the shortest route, clocking in at 47.5 mi.  And it was the hilliest.  "Highlighted" with the climb up Potter Hill immediately outside of Graf and about 12 miles from Dbq.

If you look at the elevation graph, you see a 400 ft drop immediately before a 350+ ft climb.  Looking at that graph, you'd think you would have momentum from the descent to help carry you up hill.  You would think....  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

As we had all week, Team WiscAwesome started stirring at 6:00 to get ready to hit the road at about 7:30.  The weather was great - the rain and wind from Day 6 were both gone.
Team WiscAwesome packing up camp for the last time. (Karen, Mike, Brandon, Me, Holly (L-R))
Today, riding into my hometown, I wanted to ride ahead and get there to see my family.  My wife and daughter came down from Wisconsin and spent the night with my folks, who still live in Dbq.  My goal was to meet them by 11:00.  So I said goodbye to my team and rode off ahead.
Let's Go!
I took off and rolled through Earlville on the way to Dyersville.  Dyersvile, home of the Field of Dreams.  And the Basilica of St. Frances Xavier. (A basilica is a Roman Catholic church that has been given the right to use that name, by the pope. Only some large important churches have this right. Source: Wikipedia)  You gotta give the Catholics credit, they sure know how to build their houses of worship.

Heading east out of Dyersville, riders had could take a detour to visit the Field of Dreams.  (If you are interested, the Field of Dreams is for sale, including 193 acres and 7 buildings.  65,000 visitors annually.  No price listed.  Serious inquiries only.)  Having been there before, I chose to bypass the Field and continue on to and through Bankston.

With a steady climb, we hit our peak elevation of 1200 feet west of Graf near Camp Little Cloud, a Girl Scout camp my two sisters had spent time at.
View from Girl Scout Camp Rd looking northeast.  It's only 1200 feet up, but it felt like the top of the world.

The ride into Graf was intense.  As noted above, it was about a 400 ft drop into town, with a couple of turn on the way down.  I don't think I used my brakes.  At all.  Just got in a tuck and rode.  Fast.  I was easily over 40 mph as I flew down the hill.  I tried to stay left - the usual protocol, but a couple of times came up on other riders who were on the left side and didn't hear me when I shouted.  So I passed them on the right.  That was a blast.  And insane.  If I had hit a rock on the road, I might've....  But... It... Was... Fun!

I was really hoping to use my momentum from the downhill to help propel me up Potter Hill.  Yeah.  That didn't happen.  First, there was a left-hand turn at the bottom of the hill.  Second, we had to go through Graf.  And, as I noted back on Day 1, you don't just go through a town, even when you want to.  You have to dismount because of the congestion.  Finally, there was about 1.5 miles from the bottom of the descent to the start of the climb.

As we started the climb, there were a couple of guys sitting on the tailgate of their truck with a sheet of plywood sarcastically wishing us luck.  There was a "smiley face" that wasn't smiling, with "x"s for eyes painted on their sign.  Yeah, thanks for the encouragement.

The start of the hill wasn't too bad.  The slope wasn't too steep for the first 1/4 mi or so.  Then we made a slight turn to the right and the climb kicked in.  I quickly moved through the gears.  Too quickly.  And found myself out of gears about 1/3 of the way up.  I never got myself into a good rhythm.  Instead, I stood up and tried to stomp it out.  This was fine... for a while.  A *little* while.  I was now stuck.  I couldn't sit back down, I wouldn't get into a cadence that I could keep the bike upright.  I pounded as long as I could.  Then I stopped.  I was just over 1/2-way up the hill.


I really wanted to make it up that hill.  I thought I had done enough hill work to make it.  I was wrong.  Nothing I did in training prepared me for that hill.  So I walked the rest of the way.  Along with about 3/4 of the riders who were on the hill with me.

Here's a pic from about 3/4 of the way up looking back down:
Potter Hill Rd.  6% ave gradient; 19% at steepest.
 As I approached the peak, I realized that if I wasn't going to make it up, the least I could do was encourage those who were still pumping.  So started clapping and cheering those still on their bikes.  "C'mon, you can do it!  Almost there!  Keep Pumping!  Way to go!"  A few thanked me for the encouragement.

At the top of the hill, a local little league had a tent for riders to take a break at, and have their picture taken (I Survived Potter Hill theme).  They also had a whole Harry Potter theme to it.  I didn't stop.  Didn't deserve to.  Instead I climbed back on my ride and got ready for the ride into Dbq.

Now, I thought that we would come into town on Asbury Rd, which is pretty flat.  But I soon realized that that was not the case.  Instead, we entered Dubuque on Middle Rd and then on Pennsylvania Rd.  There was a lot of up and downs, rolling hills, along these roads.  UGH.

But I was pumped!  I was in Dubuque!  I made it.  Only a few miles until the river.

Quick aside....  It was at a stop light as we entered the city, that I found out from a sheriff deputy who was doing traffic control that Steve Briggs had passed away. (See Day 5 post.)

The really cool thing (for me at least) of the ride into Dubuque was that it went past my high school, a block from my childhood home, and past my elementary/middle school.  As I rode past Senior (Dubuque Senior HS), I lifted my fists and shouted "SENIOR CLASS OF '83! GO RAMS!"  I think I heard some other riders chuckle at me.

We cruised down Clarke Dr past Clarke College.  About a mile from Senior, we passed some spectators at the corner of Woodworth and Clarke.  Including the parents of two of my childhood friends.  I shouted "Hi" as I passed.  But I also stopped and turned around.  It was great to see Carol and Bob again.  It has been years.  We talked for about 5 minutes before I pushed on.  Great people.  I looked to my left as I rode on and saw our old house.

We made the right turn onto Madison Hill and rode down (yes, I flew again) as we approached downtown and went past St Patrick's (which is longer a school) and rode down Main St towards our final destination.  We passed under the Town Clock Tower and turned left to go to the Port of Dubuque.

The LAST turn! (almost)
Over the bridge and to the Port. 
And to the River.  The Muddy Miss.

Arrival time: 10:50 a.m.  Goal met.

And that's it.  It's over.  A joyous celebration.  With an anticlimactic feeling afterwards.  But what a great ending to a fabulous week.  Despite the not making it up Potter Hill and in spite of the weather on Day 6, RAGBRAI XXXVIII was an amazing experience.

There will be a couple more entries, so stay tuned.  I need to thank my supporters and comment on some of the characters I saw on the ride.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Day 6 - Waterloo to Manchester

Ok.  Let's be up front about this.  Day 6 was one of the most miserable days to ride a bike.  Ever.  Ok, maybe not ever, but certainly in July in Iowa.  The thing about the day was that it was impossible to dress for without being uncomfortable.  Unless, of course, you had some fancy specialized (expensive) gear.

That morning, the temps were in the mid- to upper-60s.  It was raining.  So, we were cold and wet.  If you had rain gear on, you'd get too hot and it would cling to you.  If you didn't have rain gear, you'd be... cold... and wet.
Photo fr the Dubuque Telegraph Herald
Doesn't that look like fun?!?

At one point, two of our riders, Holly and Brandon were so misearable and cold that they were going to SAG it in, only to find that the SAG wagon had recently departed and they'd have to wait at least an hour for another to return.  Given the choice of waiting in the rain and cold or riding in the rain and cold, they chose to ride.  A lot of people gave up on this miserable morning.

Day 6 started from the 'Loo and was scheduled for 62 miles.  It wasn't raining yet when we pulled out, but the sky was grey and it didn't look too promising.  I decided to not pack my nylon rain jacket.  I figured it would get too hot with the temps in the 60s.  By the time we got about 5 miles out, the rain began.  It wasn't too bad though, a steady rain.

The first two towns were both within the first 7.5 miles of the ride, so we opted to to meet up as a team in the third town, Jubilee, just over 15 miles into the day's ride.  On the way, I had to pull off the road.  I had a bad brake rub for some reason.  So as I'm making adjustments a car pulls up and three people jumped out, one taking pictures of me as I worked on my bike.  Turns out they were with the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier.  I had a (dumb) quote in the article they published.  But I finished the adjustment and headed on to our meet-up town.

When I arrived in Jubilee, I had to ask if I was there.  Seriously.  It was literally a crossroads - county hwy V62 and Jubilee Rd.  There was a church there.  And three other buildings.  The only indication that this was a "pass-through" town was the tent posted on the side of the road.  After waiting 5 minutes (and starting to get cold), I decided to get back on my bike and ride on.  On to Shady Grove.

Shady Grove was another 8 miles.  The rain had changed to a drizzle.  The temps dropped.  It was now becomming nasty.  With rain, the bigger drops don't feel so bad.  With drizzle, it feels more like pin pricks as it hit you.  The challenge was finding a speed that was comfortable.  Too fast and the movement against the air was more like wind chill.  Too slow and you don't generate enough body heat to stay warm.

Shady Grove was not a town either.  It was another intersection.  At a farm.  Maybe the town was off ahead when we turned right.  But the stands were there.  There was a bike store selling rain gear.  For $30!  I decided to pass.  As long as I was at the right speed, it was ok.

I met up with the rest of Team WiscAwesome at Shady Grove.  Holly and Brandon were wet (surprise!) and freezing.  They decided to SAG from here and went off to hook up with the van to catch a ride on to Manchester.  So we took off for Rowley, leaving them behind.  On the way, we stopped at a farm for a bite.  I really preferred these kind of stops - at a local place where the benefit is going to the people on the route (as opposed to the corporate vendors who travel along the ride).  Great food, a tent to stay dry under and a grill to heat up by.

After a 20-minute (or so) stop, we continued on.  We rolled through Rowley and on to Quasqueton (Quasky) for our next meet up.  I pulled over to wait and while on the side of the road, a cantankerous old man was trying to drive through the route, 10,000 riders be damned.  A sheriff's deputy tried to explain why he could go the way he wanted to.  The old man wouldn't hear it.  He tried to pull out adn the deputy had to threaten him with arrest.  Finally the old man relinquished and backed up.

As we all met up, Bandon and Holly joined us.  The wait time for the SAG Wagon was an hour, and there was nowhere to wait.  So they rode on.  We walked around Quasky, had some food and then looked for shelter to warm up in.  Around the corner from the food tents was the fire house.  They opened their doors, cranked the heat and passed out blankets.  Holly and Brandon were both blue and took the blankets.  There were about half-dozen other riders in there warming up along with us.  THANK YOU QFD!

And the rain finally stopped!  YAY!

Now, on to Manchester!  The sun was out, the road was drying.  Should be a great ride into Manchester.  Did I mention the wind? Oh yeah, it picked up and was coming out of the east.  As we headed east.  It was the strongest headwind that we rode into all week.  But it was DRY!!!

The last 22 miles to Manchester were tough.  They were also closer to 30 miles.  The flooding in Iowa hit Manchester fairly hard the week before and forced ride organizers to detour our approach to town.  Only we didn't know it.  So I'm gauging my effort based on time riden since we left Quasky, thinking we're almost there.  We're almost there.  We're.  Almost.  There. 

Then we were there!  But not.  The detour took us past a residential subdivision by the golf course (if I remember right).  It turns out we were still a couple miles away from town.  I was never so happy to see town as I was that afternoon.  Our camp was on the far side of town, but that was ok, because I was there.  I was in Manchester.

I contacted Jim and Qing and was able to find them pretty quickly.  When I did, I literally wanted to just drop my bike, grab a beer and crash.  It's a damn good thing that day was Day 6 and not Day 2.  It was a spirit breaking kind of day.  But it was behind me.

The rest of Team WiscAwesome floated into town and my energy level came back.  I offered to make the beer run on a bike.  I was intending to ride Mike's as his doesn't have clips and I didn't want to be clipped in hauling beer.  Turns out I rode Holly's.  I'm about a foot taller than she is and more than 100 lbs heavier.  I thought the ride felt a little small for being Mike's bike.  It was good for a laugh after I got back.  Of course, the store was on the other side of town - about 3 miles away.  Getting there was ok.  Getting back with three 12-packs & a bottle of margarita mix in a back pack was ... interesting.  But I made it.  And there was much rejoycing.

Mike, Britt and Maddie
Maddie, Me and Jim. (Brandon in the background with his back to us.)
Are we playing Apples to Apples or Cribbage?
It was our last night together.  My last chance to be a "kid" for a while.  We had a great time.  Tomorrow would be the last, and the shortest, day of RAGBRAI.  It would also be the day of The Hill.  And then back to reality.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 5 - Chuck Town to Waterloo

Today's blog is dedicated to the memory of Stephen Briggs of Team No Name.  Stephen was doing something he loved, riding his bike, and riding RAGBRAI. On the way out of Charles City, Stephen clipped the wheel of a rider in front of him and went down.  Even though he was wearing a helmet, the injuries were catastrophic.  As we approached the scene, we could tell something went horribly wrong.  Team Air Force was off their bikes and engaged in traffic control.  First responders weren't there yet when I went by.  I found out later - actually in Dubuque on the last day - that he passed away.  R.I.P. Steven.  Our hearts go out to you, your family and your teammates.  More information is here.

Big thanks to Team Air Force for recognizing the situation and quickly taking charge to ensure everyone else's safety while also keeping 10,000 other riders as far away from the scene as practical on a two lane road. (The link takes you to a YouTube video of their 180-member team arriving at the Port of Dubuque on Day 7 in formation.)

There was another incredible memory from that morning leaving Chuck Town and this is one I want to remember.  I passed this rider while we were still in town heading out:
Truly an inspiring and inspired rider!
She was riding with two teammates - one ahead of her and one to her left.  Her teammates would give her directions and information as they rode.  She was also riding to raise money to fight polio.  Truly amazing and inspiring!

Ok, for today's route, we road pretty much straight south.  It was the longest day (not including the Karras Loop) at 82 miles.

Day 5 was also Britt's birthday.  Happy 25!
Like the Birthday hat? Britt mounted it leaning forward as a horn - for aerodynamics (she said later).  I was ahead of the team and missed this, but the others made this for her in Parkersburg.  And yes, she wore it the rest of the day.

When we broke camp in Chuck Town, I told the others I was riding ahead and would see them in Waterloo.  It didn't occur to me until I got close to Parkersburg that it was Britt's b'day.  D'oh!  Once in Parkersburg, I tried to connect with the team but missed them and couldn't reach them on the cell.

(Ahh, the tale of the cell phones.  A wonderful device that allows one to remain connected while out and about.  Works great as long as a) there are towers nearby to relay the signals; and b) the system isn't overloaded with 10,000 bikers in the middle of an Iowa corn field when it was designed to handle the traffic of only a few hundred.  I found that the best time to tweet and update Facebook was between 12:00 and 5:00... a.m.  This was much to my sister's chagrin, as she kept posting "where are you and why aren't posting?!?" messages on Twitter and FB.  [Side note: she really wanted to come back to Flyoverland and ride this year, but it didn't work out for her.  She's a NY'er now.]  But I digress from my digression.  Back to the main tale....)

I made it a goal to finish the day's ride by 2:00 - or in under 6.5 hours, including a meal stop.  I made it to the campground in Waterloo at 2:15.  But, I did cover it in under 5.5 hours of ride time.

Parkersburg did a great job hosting as a meet up town.  A local artist created these sculptures to greet the riders.

They take their tornados seriously in Iowa.  Especially when an EF-5 rips your town apart, as happened in Parkersburg only two years ago.  (The tornado destroyed 282 homes, 22 businesses, 37 living assistance residences, and took 8 lives.)  Both sculptures were made entirely from bikes and bike parts.

On the way out of Twisterville, Cliff Bar had set up a tent and was handing out free goodies.  (Love the Shot Bloks!)  Next to them was a chiropractor who was providing free adjustments.  For the first time all week, my lower back was hurting, so I thought I'd get an adjustment.  Bad idea.  Never get an adjustment on the fly from someone who has not done a thorough exam.  While it felt great at the time (but the back pain did return before the day's ride ended), I actually still have tingling on the outside of my right foot - sciatic nerve?  You get what you pay for I guess.

From Parkersburg, it was on to, and through, Stout and Dike.  Leaving Dike, and heading east on county highway D19 then south on state hwy 58, we were tantalizing close to Waterloo.  At one point, there was a sign pointing to the left "Waterloo 2mi."  But noooo, we had to continue on for another 15 miles or so before we'd hit camp.

Which brings us to Hudson, home of the Pirates.
(photo borrowed from HCS's website)
I stopped at a local stand to get some Gatorade.  Turns out the proceeds were to benefit a young girl with a chronic disease.  (I want to say her name is Emily and it was for juvenille diabetes.)  So, I bought two Gatorades and a pirate flag.
Tied the flag to the underside of my seat and rode off to Waterloo.  Argh.

We came into Waterloo and they had us set up camp near a casino and waterpark on the south side.  We never got anywhere near downtown.  Hell, we didn't ride through any of the town.  I'm not even sure the camp site was within the city limits.  Oh, and I beat our support vehicle in by about an hour.  That was a little frustrating.  But, given that they had met up in Parkersburg with the rest of the team, it was understandable.

Lots of space, but the grounds were in awful shape.  Huge ruts everywhere and long grass and lots of weeds.  Jim, Qing, and Meghan had a hell of a time getting in with the RV.  (Meghan had ridden with the guys that day - her knees were not good.)  Not because of the land, but because of traffic control - they wouldn't let them through because they were in an RV and this was a camp site, not the RV site.  We finally connected at about 3:30 and were able to start setting up shop.  Once we got somewhat settled, Jim, Qing and I made a beer run into town.

I will say this.  One nice thing about larger communities is that they have the capability to run lots of shuttles.  And there are places to go.  And go we did.  To a grocery store about  2 miles away.  Worked out great.

Did I tell you it was Britt's b'day?
Earlier in the day, someone bought cupcakes to celebrate.  Here's the birthday girl enjoying one. 

After a cupcake, a beer (or three), and a shower, we all hopped on a shuttle bus to go get some real food.  But we ended up at Applebees.  It was great, even though the twelve of us got split into three tables.  Karen bought dinner for Britt and Mike.  The rest of us split the costs of dinner for Jim and Qing as a token of our thanks for their support this week.  And I must say, that was the best Applebees meal ever.  (The fact that we hadn't had real food all week didn't hurt that evaluation.)

By the time we got back to camp it was dark and time for bed.  Only two days to go.  So far the weather was awesome, even if it was a little hot.  Wish I could say that would hold for Day 6.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Day 4 - Clear Lake to Charles City

Hump Day! 

After waking up cold and wet, thanks to an overnight storm and a poorly pitched (by me) tent, it was time to ride the second shortest ride of the week.  Clocking in at 51 miles and dropping about 200 feet, this was maybe the easiest day of the week.  The fact that the storm had cooled things off from the 90+ temps of the day before didn't hurt either.

Today was also (informally), College Jersey Day.  Team WiscAwesome was representing the Badgers that day!
Herkie the Hawkeye is surrounded by the Badgers!
The ride itself was fairly innocuous and non-descript.  We had a good ride, riding as a group (as much as a group can ride together given different speeds, etc).  The picture above was from the meet up town, Rockwell.  We spent some time in town, exploring, talking to locals, eating, and meeting up w/ Herkie. 

One local said that the first riders through town that morning came through flying (doing "30") at 5:30.  At 5:30, we were just starting to stir in Charles City.  So they must've hit the road at 4:30 (and averaged 20 mph).  We hit town at about 11.

One final amuzing anecdote. (At least I thought it was funny.)  In Rockwell, I was in line at the ATM at the local bank and they had to lock us out.  Early riders had drained the machine and they had to restock the Jacksons.  We were joking about changing the taps.  Everyone who joined the line seemed to appreciate that analogy.

On our way to Rockwell from Clear Lake, we made the requisite breakfast stop that must be done at least once each RAGBRAI... The Farm Boys breakfast burrito!  YUM! 
Farm Boys travels all week and sets up each day at a farm.  It's not corporate, I don't think.  Yes, it is a business that they run, but it feels like it's family run with friends helping out.  (Of course, that could be great public image management.)  On Day 1, the line at the Farm Boys stop was insanely long.  On this day, we were "lucky" and got thru the line in about 30 minutes.  Not if, but when, you have a Farm Boys breakfast, be sure to get the breakfast burrito with the works.

Leaving Rockwell, we headed on to Charles City (aka Chuck Town).  On the way, I got separated from the rest of Team WiscAwesome, but found a rider from my home town.  I know this because she was wearing a cool Dubuque Bicycle Club jersey.  This woman was riding her first RAGBRAI as well.  We rode together for about an hour. 

Approaching Charles City, after riding under US 218 on State Hwy 14, there was a huge tree on the right and a Charles City sign.  I pulled over there, where a number of other riders had pulled over for the same reason - to meet back up with teammates and ride to camp together.  It was nice chilling in the shade and chatting with other riders.  Apparently, there was an elephant and some other attractions back on the west side of 218.  That or Brandon was making up stories again.

We rode into town and hooked up with Jim and Qing.  They found a real nice, shaded small campground for us to set up for the night.  We were able to use a tarp to create an awning.

Jim and Qing had gone ahead and set up camp for us again this night.  They wanted to be sure that we (esp me and Maddie who also got wet the night before) would be dry tonight.  My clothes were hanging all over the place.  It was a lottle comical.  But it worked.  And it was so thoughtful of those guys and so nice to not have to deal with that.

Dinner and showers at CCHS about 1/2 mile away that night.  And, like most other nights, there were vendors set up selling wares - bike equipment, clothing, supplies, etc.  Found a few nice t-shirts for the family.  And a couple for our support guys.  By 10:30 we were all in bed.

One final note about Chuck Town.  They did a fabulous job on the social media side.  Their Twitter feed was very active - they even used it that night to help locate a lost rider.  There was minimal social media presence by the other overnight towns, either before or during the week.  Great job Chuck!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Day 3 - Algona to Clear Lake

Here again, is my blog about my RAGBRAI ride this past July.  I used this ride to raise money for LIVESTRONG.  (You can still donate there to help beat cancer!)

We again planned to wake up at about 6 and hit the road by 7:30.  Actually, that turned into the plan all week.  A good plan for the most part.

Day 3 took us from Algona to Clear Lake in just under 60 miles, the shortest day so far.

Another windy day, with the wind coming out of the south.  Not a problem, until we left Garner on our way to Clear Lake.  It was also hot.  Damn hot.

I rode w/ my compatriots of Team WiscAwesome this day.  This was also the day of going thru the towns Britt and Garner.  (Our team captain's maiden name: Britt Garner!)

This was a relaxing ride through Wesley and Hutchins on the way to Britt.  Unfortunately, at this point, I don't remember much about either of those towns.

We arrived in Britt in the last morning and took in the town.  Britt is home to the hobo museum, located in the old Chief Theater.  Guess there's not a lot of movies that play there any more....
They really played that up as well as the "every small town" feel, with a "Mayberry" squad car and Deputy Fife impersonator.  Like most of the towns, they had vendors galore.  We ate breakfast.  Britt also picked up a "Britt, IA" t-shirt w/ a hobo on a bike graphic.

It was another hour to get to Garner, but we made it by noon.  We parked our bikes at the bank (where the sign read 95F - did I say it was hot?!?). 
We found a relatively quiet bar - relative in that we found a table with almost enough chairs for us all.  We enjoyed a liquid lunch (remember to hydrate!) before continuing on our trek.

The last segment was tough.  We turn south and rode about 4 miles into the wind.  The one nice thing is that the wind did help counter the heat/humidity.  We looked for a roadside stop to get refreshments (smoothies/water) where it wasn't too crowded and passed by a few with long lines.  When we found a farm with a smoothie stand to stop at, it was... The.  Best.  Smoothie.  Ever.

Rachel and I had some fun riding hard and pushing each other to that stop.  (But, she kicked my butt when you come right down to it.)

After the smoothies, we finished the ride into Clear Lake.  As you enter into Clear Lake, from the direction we were coming from, there is a state park on the left with a beach.  It wasn't the official stop, but we stopped.  A couple other teams stopped there too when we were there.  Once we were all together, we dismounted and ran straight to the lake.  It was awesome!  Well worth the sweaty day's ride to get there.

After a short swim, we climbed back on the bikes and headed to the real meet up point - the city beach.  The beach was crowded, but we dived in again.  A few of us swam out to the pier and then jumped in.  (Sorry, no pic.)  I barely got up on the pier (too big), but made it w/ the help of Qing. 

We set up camp at the HS in Clear Lake.  I must say, that compared to Algona, CLHS was really not very welcoming.  The school was closed.  We had to use the shower truck parked on the street instead.  They also posted "No Alcohol / No Tobacco" signs and had security driving around the campus on golf carts.  Not that a) there were many smokers in our crowd; and b) anyone paid attention to the signs as they related to beer.

There was a shuttle from the HS back into downtown CL which we used.  We split up and ate at the local food vendors positioned around the square.  I had ribs and corn on the cob.  We found a local watering hole that had good beer (Fat Tire!) and relaxed.  We did miss the Spin Doctors that night.  But, apparently, they were pretty trashed and not very good, so I guess we didn't really miss them.

This was the worst night of the week.  At about 2:00 it started raining.  Hard.  Water soaked into the tent from underneath (I didn't have the tarp laid out correctly).  I hardly slept the rest of the night as I got wet and cold and wetter and colder.  The rain stopped at about 4:30.  It had been so long since I camped out, that I wasn't ready for that night and didn't set up properly.  But I survived.  Survived to ride another day.  Fortunately for me, Day 4 was even shorter (51.8 miles), so the lack of sleep wouldn't be too much of a hinderance.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day 2 - Storm Lake to Algona

RAGBRAI, Day 2 began the way Day 1 did.  Getting up at about 6:00 and hitting the road by 7:30.  Except Day 2 was scheduled for 79 mile, with an optional 18 mile loop. 

Day 2's route - downhill!  (Yay!)

After riding solo on Day 1, I opted to ride w/ Team WiscAwesome for the first half of Day 2.  That's a little of a misnomer.  We rode together for parts, but usually it was more of riding in the area of the others and stopping at the towns to collect the group and then to proceed from there.

Our first town of Day 2 was Varina.  It wasn't actually on the route.  And it wasn't really a town.  More like an unincorporated hamlet just off the highway.  There was a right turn you had to make to go into town and ride a couple blocks.  This created some confusion about what to do and where to go on the highway.  Result: the only traffic jam Varina will ever see.  And not with cars.

Ok, where's the town?!?

Many riders decided to bypass the town and rode straight.  For one block.  Where the riders who went into town came back out.  Such it is in small town Iowa.

The town itself was about 12 square blocks total.  Maybe.  We stopped for a brief break before continuing on to Pocahontas (aka Pokey).  In Pokey, you could dance the Hokey Pokey or have your pic taken with a local young woman dressed as the native American princess. 

When we pulled out of Pokey, I decided to ride on ahead.  I was going to ride the "Karras Lopp" - an optional 18 mile loop in the middle of the day's ride.  I bypassed Plover on the first pass, but wanted to be sure to stop in the second time by.  The RAGBRAI pre-ride report commented on the hamballs that were being sold in Plover to help raise money for a new roof for their church.  It was a recipe that had been retired but was brought back just for us!

The first thing I remember about the Karras Loop is that when you turned south to head to Rolfe, the wind out of the south was nasty.  I felt like I was going backwards.  And I was, relative to every other rider near me.  I was passed by young and old alike.  I started to wonder what the hell I was doing.  I had thought that I was ready for RAGBRAI.  On this day, I wasn't so sure.

The second thing I remember, is that a number of riders were cheating to get the Loop Patch.  Some rode in the exit way, turning east south of Plover, to Rolfe, then heading north back to the main route.  Others rode south after Plover but were just going to get their patch and turn around and head back north.  Why?  What's the point of getting the patch?  Who the hell else will even know what the RAGBRAI Karras Loop patch is, let alone care?  And what, when you look at it 10 years from now are you going to think - yeah, I remember short-cutting that Loop?  Eh, whatever.

The coveted patch! (Sorry it's out of focus.)

My final recollection is that the loop is that it wasn't set up to be a Century Ride.  79 miles + 18 = 97.  If I was going to do it, I wanted it to be a Century.  The course made that easy to accomplish.  There was a small loop around Rolfe that I figure was about 4 miles (4 one-mile sides).  I rode that section twice.  97 + 4 = 101.  That, for me, was worth it.

After the loop, it was back to Plover for one of the hamballs on a stick.
Meaghan enjoying a Plover Ham Ball on a Stick

To be honest, I was underwhelmed.  For one, I was expecting something that was a big as a tennis ball.  It was the size of a golf ball.  And it was supposed to be thickly covered in a brown sugar glaze.  Not so much.  But, it was for a good cause, so I enjoyed a couple.  Besides, it was nice to support truly local vendors as opposed to the traveling official vendors.  If RAGRAI is intended to showcase and benefit the communities of the state, then I'd rather support those local mom & pop food/beverage stands where there's a choice.

After lunch in Plover, it was off to West Bend.  West Bend is a decent size town.  One thing West Bend has is the Grotto of the Redemption.  The Grotto is pretty amazing.  Here's a pic.  If you find this intriguing, you should check it out in person.

Mike checking out the Grotto

Aided by a tailwind from the south (the same wind that killed me when I started the Loop), the ride to Whittemore was fast.  Someone I was riding near said we were cruising at about 20 mph.  That was fun.  Through Whittemore, and on to Algona, our next overnight town.  I don't remember a lot about that last leg. 

I do remember pulling into the HS campus in Algona.  Jim and Qing had camp set up and Lindsey and Brandon were there already.
Qing, Lindsey, Brandon, Jim and I

It felt great to have done the additional mileage and still beat some others that did not do the Loop into camp that day.  (Ok, I guess, I'm being a little too competitive about the riding.  Still feels good though!)

I will say, that the folks at Algona HS did it right.  Not only did they have the building open, but they opened up the kitchen and sold spaghetti dinners to anyone who wanted it.  And they mounded the food on.  They kept the building open all night.  As well as the concession stand.  And had pastries there in the morning.  They certainly made us feel welcome and wanted.  And they made a buck or two for their programs there, too.  And they were all so friendly!  I could go on and on, but you get the idea.  They did the BEST job of school sites we stayed at overnight.  So, THANKS, Algona HS!