My RAGBRAI Team LIVESTRONG Fundraising Page

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!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Let's start at the very beginning

A very good place to start....

Sioux City, IA.  Nowrthwestern Iowa, on the banks of the Missouri across from South Dakota.

After arriving Saturday evening, after a looooong day of driving, we set up camp, found some food, had a couple beers, and retired to the tents at about 10:30, with a plan to rise at 6:00 and hit the road by 7:00.

By 5:30 I could already hear other riders packing up their tents and getting ready for the road.  We were next to a large group - I think they were with an agent because all 40-50 tents were identical.  They were long gone by the time we were ready to roll and the support folks had half the camp packed up.

At 7:20, we started to meander over to the dip in site.
RAGBRAI tradition - dip your back tire in the Missouri and your front tire in the Mississippi.

I had Mike take my pic:
Then he gave me my camera and I turned to do something.  When I turned back around, they were all gone!  Great.  Ditched before the first mile!  Turns out there was a Dip In Site sign to the right and they went for a group shot over there.  I thought they saddled up while I was dinking around, so I figured I'd catch up with them.  I never did, as they were behind me the whole day.

We rode 68.5 miles, officially to end in Storm Lake.

Lots of rolling hills climbing out of the river valley.  The first town, Leeds, was barely outside of SC.  Just outside of Leeds was a right turn with a crossing over RR tracks.  You had to stop and get off to cross them.  10,000 riders all stopping leads to this near Leeds:
(looking back)
(going forward)

As you can see, people of all shapes and sizes ride RAGBRAI. 

From Leeds, it was on to Kingsley.  You couldn't ride through town - any town - as it was a veritable traffic jam of bikes.  You had to dismount - maybe grab a bite to eat or get a drink, have adjustments made to your ride, or just hang out with the locals - before you could continue on to the next town.  It was that way in every town.

I passed through Washta, but did stop in Quimby.  A bloody mary sounded good.  And tasted great, too.  They were serving them up in the Quimby Fire House.  I ran into two guys from Minnesota there who were 10-15 years older than I.  They invited me to join them, as they too were on Team LIVESTRONG.  Turns out we each knew people who knew each other.  We talked about the Cities and Madison.  Weird.  Small world.

After the 30 minute break, I headed on to Storm Lake, our destination for the day.  I got in about 1:00.  And I beat the RV in.  They stopped in Washta, the meet up town, to connect with the others.    And, (in-)conveniently enough, my cell phone died shortly after arriving.  Good thing we had already established that we'd leave a note on the message board that RAGBRAI uses.  Except, being the first one there meant there was no message for me. 

I talked to some welcome people and found out that teams were being sent to the HS to set up camp.  So off I rode to the HS, and checked out other locations on the way.  I easily added 10 miles to my day back-and-forth and back-and-forth.  By 2:45, Karen had made it and she posted a message asking where we were.  I caught up to her shortly thereafter and the two of us waited for the others to come in.  By 4:00, there were a handful of us and someone had communication with Jim & Qing.  They were parked behind an old elementary school - a block off the path I rode to-and-fro on the way to the high school a couple times.

HINT: establish clear communication links between everyone on your team, and if you're relying on cell phones, a) make sure they're charged and b) make sure everyone exchanges numbers.

By 5:00, the stragglers in the group pulled into camp.  Day 1 done.  We all made it.  He grilled some food and headed to the HS to get showered.

HINT: bring $ for showers - average of $5 to shower, plus a towel fee (or at least deposit).  You WILL want to shower at the end of each day.  It is so bloody refreshing, even if it's cold and with a bad showerhead.  So worth it!

By the time we were done eating and showering it was well past 8.  We hung out, enjoyed a beer or two and called it a day by 10:30.  Tomorrow: 79 miles lie ahead, plus, for those that couldn't get enough, the Karras Loop through Rolfe, an optional 18.4 mile loop to make it a "Century Ride."  Well, not really, but close, since 79+18 = 97.

Friday, September 3, 2010

More about Team WiscAwesome

I'm not quite sure about the unicorn on Bucky (but ironically, it's a great personal fit for me, given that my sister Julie had a fascination with them).  That's a "laser cat" in Bucky's hand - there's some story there.  I don't know what it is.

In retrospect, I don't think I did an adequate job introducing the crew that allowed me to spend the week with them.  And as I think back on the week, I wish I had spent more time getting to know each of them more than I did.  They are all wonderful people.

And the network of connections between them, between us all, is like a web.

Let's start with Britt and Mike.  They got married last August ('09). 

They live on the eastside of Madison and both graduated from the UW.  Mike works in the media world, Britt in politics.  For a long time, she worked for Rep Tammy Baldwin.

Mike's dad is my wife's uncle.  So, I guess we're cousins-in-law.

Britt's mom, Karen, rode, too.  (She and I were the only non-20-somethings on the team, or 30-somethings for that matter.)  Here's a pic of the two of them from Thursday at the end of the day in Waterloo.  In addition to being the longest day of riding, it was also Britt's birthday that day.

The cone became more of a horn (less wind resistance, I guess).  And yes, she wore it all day on the ride.

Funny tidbit about the ride.  On Day 3 (Tuesday), RAGBRAI took us through the towns of Britt, IA and Garner, IA, consecutively.  Britt's maiden name... Garner.
Yes, we stopped in both towns.  Britt picked up a t-shirt in Britt (aka, the Hobo capital).  In Garner, we stopped for a celebratory drink for lunch.  Cheers!

One of Britt's bridesmaids was Rachel.  Rachel and Maddie are sisters.
Maddie (L) and Rachel (R)

Both are UW grads.  Rachel now lives in Boston.  Maddie is starting med school here in Madison.  After they finished RAGBRAI in Dubuque, they were met by John (Maddie's beau, I think) and drove to Colorado to ride in the mountains! 

Lindsey is another UW grad.  She's a teacher in Sun Prairie now.  She started there shortly after I left SP for Wis. Heights.  She and Britt are close friends.  Brandon is her older brother (and the first to turn 30, about a week after RAGBRAI, or was it 13?!?  He is a kid at heart!).  Both are runners (1/2 and full marathoners).  Brandon was stuck with me for several hours in the U-Haul on the way to Sioux City.  Poor guy.  He is not a Badger alum, but did attend a UW system school (Eau Claire).  Great guy.

Lindsey's long-time friend is Holly, another runner.  Holly is a Marquette grad and lives in the Milwaukee area. 
Holly is tiny (about 5'0"). And I'm kinda big (6'0", 215). On Friday, looking to ride a bike w/o clips to go get some beer for the camp (didn't want to be clipped in, in case there were any balance problems), I thought I was taking Mike's bike. I rode Holly's. I may as well have been riding Olivia's (my 9 y.o. daughter)! My knees were almost in my chin.

Our last rider is the one I got to know the least, Meghan.  A really nice girl, and very quite.  She and Qing are married.  I believe both are Badgers as well.  Qing was one of our SAG guys - the unsung heros of the group.
Finally, there's Jim.  Jim was our other SAG guy and the driver all week.  Jim was Mike's best man.  And, yes, he's a Badger, too!  (BTW, did you figure out where we got our team name?!?)  Jim's another great guy.  He and Qing busted their humps to make sure camp was good to go for us.  Thanks guys!
"Give me the damn beer, Jim!"
So, there you have it, Team WiscAwesome.  The folks that made it a great week across Iowa.