My RAGBRAI Team LIVESTRONG Fundraising Page

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

RAGBRAI Wrap-Up for 2011

As you know by now, I was able to join the weeklong great bike ride across Iowa known as RAGBRAI for the last two days (July 29 and 30).  I was super excited to be work out the details and make it happen.

Making it work:
  1. My parents live in Dubuque, which pretty much is like the middle of an hourglass from any point in WI to any point in IA.  My 9 (now 10) year old daughter doesn't get to see her paternal grandparents, who are both in the lower 80s, very often.  So, on the way to RAGBRAI, I dropped her off at my folks.  She got to spend a long weekend with them (Th afternoon - late Sun afternoon).  I returned there Saturday evening and got to spend time w/ the family as well.  Having dropped Olivia off, I was on my way!
  2. Dropping my car off and getting it back: This actually worked out pretty well.  A friend of mine from college is now a prof at Iowa.  I was able to drive to Iowa City, pick he and his wife up and continue on to Grinnell.  At Grinnell, I unloaded, then they took my car back to their place.  On Saturday, I hooked up with a team from near DesMoines to get a ride back to Iowa City to get my car back.  Thanks again, Nick & Margaret! And thank you, Jeff for the ride Saturday from D'port to IC!
  3. Hooking up with the team.  Thanks to the team manager, Colleen, I knew where in town Team LIVESTRONG would be - on the Grinnell HS campus.  And with a big black school bus, it should be easy to find.  But, I drove right past it! LOL.  I found them after a few minutes and was introduced to Brian who was on the staff with the team.  By the time I got the tent set up and pretty much settled in, it was dark.
  4. Me in front of the bus I couldn't find.
Now... on the event itself...

Friday, July 29: I woke up in my tent in Grinnell at about 6:00.  When I poked my head out, many riders on the team had already been packing up their tents and some were on the road.  Today was college spirit day and the organizers had worked with the four largest schools in the state (Iowa, Iowa State, Northern Iowa, and Drake) to offer school bike jerseys.  My wonderful wife bought me the Drake one as a birthday present.  As a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences alum (class of '87), I was thrilled to be able to wear this.
Because Team LIVESTRONG had been riding together all week and gotten to know each other, and because I was not in Team LS gear that day, I wasn't recognized by others on the team during the ride.  (Not as in shunned, but as in not knowing that I was part of the team as well.)

I did ride with a couple of other Bulldogs during the day, though, and saw about a dozen other DU jerseys.  One of the guys I rode with was a current student, Payton.  We rode together for about an hour, through the Amana Colonies, talking about campus life, how school was going for him (it's going well, he's pre-med), family, etc.  Great kid. Wish him well.  When we got to Oxford, the last town before we reached the overnight town, we parted ways. He in search of food. Me in search of beer.

This day, we spent most of our time on US Hwy 6.  6 isn't too busy, as it runs parallel to I-80 just a few miles north of it.  But in the Amanas, US Hwy 151 joins with 6 for a short while. This is a busy road and I was surprised that we weren't redirected to a county road to the north or south. Payton and I actually passed a semi truck caught in the middle of all the cyclists for about 2 miles.  He was stuck going only as fast as the slowest cyclist. Of the days I've ridden RAGBRAI (all nine of them), this is the only one that I was surprised with the route selection.  I was also disappointed there wasn't a deputy to control the intersection where 151 meets 6 from the south.

It was a 75 mile day, from Grinnell to Coralville.  A great day for riding.  There were some rolling hills at the end and it was challenging.  I arrived at the TLS camp at about 2:30.
Rolling into Brooklyn Friday morning.
 Camp Life: Once in camp, you are responsible for finding your gear and setting yourself up for the night.  While in camp, but before I headed to the showers, I was able to witness a large group of TLS riders come into camp together.  People in the camp stood up and cheered.  Very cool and supportive of other riders, I thought.

The staff, on their own, decided to buy us all a pasta dinner that night. Pasta for about 80 riders. Plus salad, bread, and... PIE!  We ate as a group before the nightly team meeting.  This was my first team meeting. I understood them to be a time to talk logistics, share cancer stories, and support each other.  It was all that and more.  It was truly inspirational. 

First, we heard from Drew, a young man who is battling a rare form of cancer that has already taken his leg.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, this young man rode the last several miles of today's ride and was leading the procession of riders into camp that we had cheered for earlier in the afternoon.  He and his family spoke about his challenges and his determination.
Drew (center) with his brother, mother, and father.
Next, several team members shared their stories.  Why they ride and why they fundraise for LIVESTRONG.  Survivors. Loved ones. Fighters.  Amazing stories.  People who have ridden with the team all five years it has been together, others who participate in the LIVESTRONG Challenges in Philly, Austin, and other places.  People who have directly benefited from the work of
Sidebar: I don't care what people think about Lance.  Whether he doped on the Tour or not.  Whether he's a cheat and a profiteer (there's a whole debate about .org versus .com and how one benefits from the goodwill generated by the other).  What I do care about is the great work that the non-profit LIVESTRONG is doing.  And that meeting affirmed for me that I will stay involved with the organization as long as I ride RAGBRAI and suppoprt their work always.

Sorry for the sidebar.... *steps off soapbox*

Anyway, it was a great evening.  I got to meet some of the other riders.  We hung out afterwards and talked and rested.  And drank beer.  Ok, not beer, but Michelob Ultra.  (Yes, it was provided by Michelob.  And, shh, don't tell anyone, but the staff also bought us some Fat Tire!)

Saturday, July 30:  I was up and ready to roll by 7:30 Saturday morning.  I was also the last rider to load his/her gear mount his/her bike!  For the last day, we all rode our 2011 Team LIVESTRONG jerseys as we pedaled the 65 miles from Coralville to Davenport.

Coralville is a suburb of Iowa City, which means the Univ. of Iowa.  Our route took us into the heart of campus, though not past Kinnick Stadium.  Nice campus.  It's not Madison, but it's nice. 

It was a great day for riding.  For the most part, I stayed on the bike and kept motoring on towards Davenport.  The team was scheduled to meet up outside Davenport and ride to the dip site on the Mississippi River in formation.  That was to be between 12:00-1:00.  I arrived shortly after 12.  About half the team was already there.  We actually met up in town just a couple miles before the end point of the ride.  A good choice, as there were some hills that would have destroyed the formation ride.

While we waited to collect our team, Team Air Force came by in formation.  We cheered them on.  They cheered back.  They had well over 100 riders riding two abreast.  At about 1:15, we mounted and got in line.  Survivors in the front, the rest behind them.  We rode about 4 miles in formation heading to the river. 
Team LIVESTRONG riding in formation to end RAGBRAI XXXIX
I thought a lot about my sister who died 29 years ago, at the age of 21. And I though about a colleague from my last job: he retired last summer, was diagnosed before Christmas, and passed away this spring. 

We were cheered by people on the side of the road to watch the crazy cyclists finish a week of riding, by other cyclists who passed us on their way in, and by some motorists who tooted their horns.  It was kind of awesome. And inspiring.

And with that, we reached our end point.  We didn't dip - the site was limited due to recent flooding and the line was long.  There were hugs and goodbyes.  I rode off to find the bus to gather my gear together and hook up with my ride.  And before I knew it, RAGBRAI XXXIX was done.

One final little note: the TLS bus and the bus I was riding back to Iowa City with were about 2-3 miles apart.  I had all my gear (including a duffle bag, a tent, and a sleeping bag) to get from point a to point b... on a bicycle.  I made it.  It wasn't pretty, but I made it.

Yes, I hope to return next year.  For the full week.  For the record, Olivia is talking about riding part of the way, too.  Tandem?  And yes, I will be riding with Team LIVESTRONG again.  And yes, your donations are always welcome on my team fundraising page!

Thanks for reading.  Feedback welcome!


  1. Excellent read! And I'm not just saying that cause you are the only person that ever rode with me. Thanks!!

  2. What an awesome event. I would LOVE to ride this with you next year, Bob. :)