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.