Wednesday, August 4, 2010

RAGBRAI 2010 - Day 7: Manchester to Dubuque

First, let me apologize for the tardiness of this post!  I guess life got in the way upon my return...

Our trip from Manchester to Dubuque was short; less than 50 miles.  We rode into Dubuque around 9:45AM and rode for about 10 miles through town.  What a picturesque town with beautiful old buildings, winding streets and hills.  Justin and I rode together for the whole route (much to Justin's chagrin, I'm sure) so we would not waste any time dipping our front wheels in the Mississippi River and getting out of town.

My folks were there waiting to take snap shots as we rode to the river and dipped.  It was by far the shortest and fastest dipping line I've seen in my 4 complete RAGBRAI rides.  Way to go Dubuque!  We dipped and posed, then dad and I loaded up the bikes while Justin and mom went t-shirt shopping.  We found our luggage at The ShuttleGuy drop point and just like that, we were done with our 7 day adventure and thrust back into our 'normal' lives.  I believe that is the hardest thing about RAGBRAI.  One minute you're wearing spandex head to toe without a care in the world, oblivious to any news of the day, and the next minute you're back in the real world.  It feels like there should be a debriefing session to help make the transition.

Due to our expeditious dipping, I was back in Vermillion around 5:30.  Already I am looking forward to RAGBRAI 2011.  The route should be in central Iowa.  My wife has the time off on her calendar, which is great!  This is the first time I've ridden a complete RAGBRAI without Trish along and I really noticed her absence.  I'm looking forward to the anticipation of registration, route announcements, overnight community announcements, pass through town announcements and receiving our rider information packets.  Even though I just completed the ride, I cannot wait until the next one.

RAGBRAI gets in your blood.  It isn't for everybody, but once you find out it is for you, it is hard to imagine a season of riding without including the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, the WORLD'S oldest, largest, longest organized bike ride.

Don't be surprised if I try to recruit you for next year's ride   :-)

Friday, July 30, 2010

RAGBRAI 2010 - Day 6: Waterloo to Manchester

Maybe it's fitting that the day started in 'Water'loo.  We woke up to a light rain and figured this would be our rain day, and we were right!  But more on that later.  We lost Scott today.  Not that way, but he is no longer with Justin and I as a rider.  He received a phone call early this morning from Jodie that their basement had flooded over night.  After a few calls back and forth, Scott made the decision to head back to SF and help with the flooded basement.  Connie picked him up in Waterloo and I made arrangements for my parents to head back to Iowa so Justin and I could finish the ride.

After the details were nailed down, Justin and I headed out.  Yuck.  Yuck, yuck, yuck!  It rained and rained and poured and poured on us all morning.  I've been rained on harder, but not as long with such intensity.  In addition, the temperature fell to an uncomfortable 68 degrees.  I haven't come closer to wanting to quit riding during RAGBRAI, but there really isn't a choice.  You have to keep going to stay warm.  Luckily, the weather broke at noon and our cool rainy day was replaced by a brisk headwind.  The only good thing about that was that it worked really well to dry us out.

Upon arrival at our campground I found a grinning Justin waiting.  He didn't have a good day either, but both of us agree that the rest of the week was so nice that we weren't going to let 1/2 a bad day ruin our experience or our impression of RAGBRAI 2010.

We saw a lot of bikes being loaded up along the route today and the crowds in Manchester seem pretty light tonight.  I think a lot of eastern Iowans packed it in due to the weather.  The ShuttleGuy had a wine and cheese party for the group tonight, but we missed it due to a loooooong wait at a local chinese joint.  The food was great but the portions were small and the wait excruciating.

We're planning on pedaling by 6AM so we can get the 47 miles to Dubuque out of the way and get on the road back to SD!

I'll post about our last day when I can, so until then.... Thanks for reading!!  I hope my ramblings weren't too boring.  Next year Matt Dreke will be riding with us.  Right Matt?  :-)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

RAGBRAI 2010 - Day 5: Charles City to Waterloo

The forecast predicted that today would be one of the best days of RAGBRAI 2010.  I believe it turned out to be so.  Winds were light until the early part of the afternoon, giving everyone a good chance to get out and log some miles early on.  Scott and I stuck together through lunch, and Justin was out in front of us somewhere.

In my opinion, the best pass through town so far is Parkersburg, which we went through today.  They had a great setup and very friendly volunteers.  If you're not familiar with the story of the shooting of Coach Ed Thomas, I urge you to Google it.  It is truly a touching story of the perseverance of Parkersburg Iowa and many lessons can be learned from the Thomas family and their actions during the aftermath of an EF5 tornado and the subsequent murder of their husband, father and coach, Ed Thomas.

The route today was almost entirely south and packed full of nice little 'rollers'.  I arrived in Waterloo around 2:30 to find Justin waiting under the shade at our appointed campground for the evening.  After relaxing for a bit, Scott showed up not feeling too well.  He blamed the chocolate milk at PB Jam, but I had it too, so I'm not sure...

We cleaned up and headed for the shuttle buses with a destination in mind of The Red Lobster.  We finally got there after making a shuttle transfer and walking a few blocks.  We had a great meal and then began our journey back to camp.  It took a bit longer as the shuttle didn't show up for about an hour.  Once it did, we were back at camp in short order.

In a way, things begin to wind down tomorrow, but they also pick up.  We're ready to tackle the final 2 days of RAGBRAI and dip our front wheels in the Mississippi River.  It is hard to believe that there are only 2 days remaining, so things are winding down.  I also know from past years that Friday and Saturday tend to bring more riders out.  People of Waterloo and Dubuque who want to take in a piece of RAGBRAI will take Friday off and ride the last day or two.  So things are also winding up.  The bad part about this is that many of them are first time riders and haven't been 'seasoned' with the rest of us for the whole week.  That reintroduces an element of danger to the ride so we will all have to be extra careful of the new riders.

Tomorrow we head 62 miles to Manchester, the smallest overnight town on this year's ride.  I've passed through Manchester before and it seemed like a great town so we'll see what they can do as an overnight host.  There's a chance that Gary will be meeting us in Manchester if he can find a place to stay.  I hope it works out so he can experience an overnight town aside from the ending town.  There's just a different feel to the ride during the week than during the culmination at the destination community.

I'll check in from Manchester and then follow up with the last day's commentary sometime before the weekend is up.  As always, thanks for reading!!!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

RAGBRAI 2010 - Day 4; Clear Lake to Charles City

A late night thunder storm with a lot of lightning and heavy rain paved the way for a much less humid and cooler ride. We didn't even suffer any damp gear. Our tents kept us and our gear dry. Today was a short 51 mile run with pretty favorable winds.

Justin had a good ride on his test Trek bike. We were all at our camp ground before 12:30, and many of the ShuttleGuy group were in early as well. The ShuttleGuy crew was working furiously to get things setup and they were quite interesting to watch. Again, these guys are amazingly efficient, and work horses!

None of us saw any emergency vehicles running with lights and sirens today! That is amazing considering how much emergency traffic there had been the first 3 days. We were informed late tonight that no one has died yet this year on the ride, which is great news. Unfortunately, injuries are way up. Also, according to the same source, there are over 20,000 confirmed riders this year, which is a record!

So, here are some interesting things we have seen along the way. We've seen unicycles, people with dogs in baskets riding along, old fashioned bikes with really big front wheels and tiny back wheels, tandems, recumbents, tandem recumbents, bikes built for 3, 4 and even 5 people, and a really strange elliptical/bicycle mix.

We've managed to eat the assorted RAGBRAI food along the way as well. Pie of all kinds, Chris' Cakes, PB Jam, Mr. Pork Chop, Beekman's Homemade Ice Cream, church meals, Flavor Ice, Popsicles, Gatorade, sodas of all kinds and on and on and on.

As we prepare for bed tonight, we're finding that Chuck Town's younger residents are less than hospitable. They are apparently riding around in the back of pickup trucks yelling and honking at all the tent cities. It is a good thing that the owner of ShuttleGuy offered us all ear plugs last night to help dampen the loud music from a neighboring bar.

We're looking forward to the last long day of the ride tomorrow. 82 miles to Waterloo. In the past, larger cities along the route seem less organized. Maybe it's because everyone is more spread out. We'll see what Waterloo has in store.....

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

RAGBRAI 2010 - Day 3: Algona to Clear Lake

Scott and I got underway by 7, and Justin was on the road by 6 (we found out later). About 5 miles out of Algona, the tone was set for my day. My chain slipped off the big chain ring going up a small hill. As a result, I lost Scott, but was able to catch up to him and blamed him for pulling a 'Contador' on me (if you followed the Tour De France, you'll get it).

Shortly after that, I had a flat tire, and didn't see anyone from our group the rest of the day. I had an incredibly frustrating day in the saddle. I had 2 more flats after the initial one, all in the first 15 miles of the ride. I finally came upon a mechanic tent and spent $70 on a new tire, rim strip, 2 tubes and 2 CO2 cartridges.

I have to shout out a HUGE Thank You to team Air Force. Part of their mission while riding RAGBRAI is to assist riders who need help. They gave me 2 tubes and used a can of fix-a-flat to get me in to the mechanic. Those guys and gals were awesome!!!

The ride today felt like a series of 5 mile rides. I never felt like I got into my groove completely. And the heat. It was darn hot today. 91 degrees with a heat index of 103. Add to that a swift wind from the south, which has a head-wind for a 6 or 7 mile stretch, and you've got a pretty challenging day in the saddle.

Justin however had a great day. He made it to Clear Lake by 11:30! I'm not sure when Scott got in, but I didn't get in until 3:30. Mom and Dad showed up around 4:45.

The ShuttleGuy was setup at a UCC church and Clear Lake is hopping. There aren't many roads around the lake, so we were battling more vehicle traffic than usual, which was interesting. But most importantly, Justin got his bike. Tomorrow he will ride a carbon fiber Trek Madone and he is looking forward to it. I suppose the only down side is that it is one of the shortest days of the week at 51 miles.

We are planning on walking down the road to a Chinese restaurant after showering up. As I type this latest post, my battery is giving out so that will be all for today. I'll charge things up and continue posting tomorrow. We're looking forward to another light day tomorrow, 51 miles to Charles City. The wind is forecast to by NNW at 10-20, which should suite the day's route well...

RAGBRAI 2010 - Day 2: Storm Lake to Algona

Our 100 mile day was a good day. Favorable winds, nice weather, not too hot. Justin, in his quest for a test bike, opted not to do the 100 mile loop in favor of pushing on to Algona in hopes of getting a test bike for the next day.

Scott and I got to the loop in good time, but had to battle a head wind into Rolfe, the town on the loop. Once there, we were back in favorable winds and pushed on. We stopped in Plover, which rhymes with lover, where the men are good looking, and the grandmas have balls (ham balls that is). So, we had to try the ham balls. They were similar to meat balls made of ground beef and very good.

The weather looked liked it was going to rain, so we pushed on. We made it to Algona in good shape and found the ShuttleGuy campground behind a Catholic high school waaaaaay on the other side of town. Luckily, Algona isn't that big, so we made it just fine. We found Justin, who once again didn't make it in time for his test bike. He will try again. We also found my parents waiting for us! They are riding the next day and had already checked in to their hotel and made their way to our campground.

We all took a shuttle bus to vendor row and enjoyed sweet corn, spam shish ka-bobs, pizza, chocolate covered bananas, fajita grill gyros, you get the idea. We were again pretty hungry after our ride.

We know the wind is going to pick up for tomorrow's ride, and the humidity was bordering on stifling, so the sleep will probably not be good quality. Scott and I plan to leave after we get up, with no alarms set, and Justin plans to be on the road by 6 to try again with the test bike. We're looking forward to a short 59 mile day to Clear Lake. Here's hoping...

RAGBRAI 2010 - Day 1: Sioux City to Storm Lake

Well our 6AM wake up time did come early. After a short and fast night's sleep, we did get on the road around 7. The route wound through the north end of Sioux City for awhile before really getting 'out on the road'. The early morning fog was still hanging around and as the sun burned it off, reveled a beautiful cloudless morning. Pam, from LA, whom I met later on the ride, said the early morning day brought tears to her eyes. She's not used to wide-open spaces and is loving her first RAGBRAI experience.

Justin did great the first day. He wanted to 'test-drive' a carbon fiber bike for a day, but they were all spoken for in Sioux City, so he will try again in Storm Lake. He said RAGBRAI was pretty much what he expected, but some of the teams, buses and weird bikes, etc. were a surprise.

We got to Storm Lake in good shape and found our campground easily. The ShuttleGuy service, for those who don't know, is a full service luxury cycling tour operator. They provide the tents, which they setup and take down. They provide air mattresses, which they inflate. They fill your camp shower bladder and let it heat in the sun. The provide towel service, air pumps, complimentary snacks and beverages after each day's ride, and camp chairs, which they put away. They are 'uber' organized and provide an amazing service. Highly recommended!!! There are 76 tents on this year's ride and the 15 or so employees work very hard to keep us happy and oblivious. In Storm Lake our campground was setup at the middle school, which was an easy shuttle bus ride to the main action.

I don't think any of us took in enough calories on day 1, so we sought out a baked potato bar at a local church. Unfortunately after spending over a half hour in line, they ran out. As we were walking to vendor row, we saw another sign for baked potatoes at the historical society and we got there just before the line grew. It was a good cyclist's meal.

We slept wonderfully Sunday night in preparation for our 100 mile day on Monday.

More later.