My RAGBRAI Team LIVESTRONG Fundraising Page

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.