Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Day 7: Tipton to Le Claire!

Miles: 52
Feet of Climb: Who Cares? We can do it!
High Temperature: 82
Sky Conditions: Sunny and beautiful, with TAILWIND!!

This was a biking day that could go down in the annals of RAGBRAI history! Wags was on a mission, as was Donna. In fact, almost the entire group of 15,000 riders seemed to be on a mission! Everyone seemed to be pushing harder and faster than on any of the six prior days. I'm sure it helped that it was the last day, the miles were short, and the weather was perfect for biking.

I believe we were all done with the ride, and dipping our front tires in the Mississippi River by 11:00. After arriving and regrouping, Donna was able to reach our additional rider, Tim. She met Tim earlier on the ride and we agreed to give him a ride back to Missouri Valley.

All-in-all the week was good. One rainy day out of seven is great. The days of climb got easier as the week went on. Having the last day be such a great riding day works out well, as the last memory of RAGBRAI XXXVI will always be a good one, and leave us all looking forward to our next chance to ride RAGBRAI again.

Our group was diverse, our personalities vastly different, but our goal was the same, and I think everyone on the ride this year would do it again. I know I would do it in a heart beat, and in fact I will do it again. Unfortunately, I won't be able to ride again until RAGBRAI XXXVIII in 2010 as every 3 years I am involved with the National Lutheran Youth Gathering, which happens the same time as RAGBRAI.

Until then, I'm sure you'll be able to catch me casually biking the Turner County roads near Centerville, taking in the sights, sounds and smells that can only be truly enjoyed from the saddle of a noiseless human powered vehicle.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Day 6: North Liberty to Tipton

Miles: 64
Feet of Climb: [look for edit later]
High Temperature: 82
Sky Conditions: Cloudy and windy all day (headwind again!)

I could not ride this morning. I have no idea what my problem was, but I just could not find my 'wheels'. This is the closest that I've come to sagging in a long, long time. After a horribly slow morning, the bratwurst with sauerkraut at Lisbon managed to pick me up, then a long rest at Mt. Vernon (great town!!) helped to renew my spirit. The afternoon was much better. In fact, I managed to raise my average speed for the day to almost what it had been the other days.

Enough about me though! The group seemed to have a pretty good day. Chad rode in the morning, and Trish and Marilyn drove in the afternoon. We passed through 3 Amana Colonies, where some of our group took in the culture, while others of us kept on cycling.

The weather was dreary, but not too chilly, and not rainy. We did have another cornering headwind most of the day. Upon arrival at Tipton, we settled in to our host house. Our accommodations for the evening were a vacant rental property which we shared with a couple other groups. Lucky for them, and not for us, the solitary window a/c unit was on the first floor, so our digs were very hot and very sticky.

The group split up for dinner. Marilyn and Chad went to 'vendor row' and picked up vittles from vendors they hadn't hit yet, and returned to some of the favorites, since this would be our last night with vendors. The rest of us went to our favorite childhood restaurant, Happy Joe's, and had a wonderful buffet of pizza. Wags mentioned that even the smell as he entered the doorway brought back memories of us 'hanging out' at our local Happy Joe's, many years ago.

After our bellies were full, we again parted ways. Wags and Scott had very good massages, while Trisha accompanied me to a great little coffee house where I proceeded to actually work for a couple hours. In this age of the Internet, it seems one can rarely dodge work for too long, or blogging for that matter!

Wags, Scott and myself then reconnected and went to the beer garden just sure that one of us would win the Miller Lite Party Bus that we registered for earlier in the week. After waiting with great anticipation and having a couple beers the time was at hand to find out which one of us would be driving this great RAGBRAI bus home! Of course, none of us won the thing, some jerk from California did. We all hoped that it would cost him more to drive it home than it was worth!

We returned to our host house empty handed, and dreading a long hot and humid night of barely sleeping, but knowing that the last day's ride would be short and we would on our way home after a great accomplishment!


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Day 5: Tama/Toledo to North Liberty

Miles: 76
Feet of Climb: 3,123
High Temperature: 68 Degrees
Sky Conditions: Raining in the morning, cloudy and windy all day (headwind again!)

Rainy days are never welcomed when you're on a multi-day bike tour, but I have learned something about these damp, dreary days - believe it or not, they are pretty good biking days. Aside from the winds today, the ride was good.

We started off with a great breakfast provided by our host family, which was a great surprise! After eating, we trailered the bikes in to Tama, and started riding at the main campground. Unfortunately, we wouldn't get under way until 7:00AM, but that didn't affect us too much. The rain started almost immediately, and lasted until about 11:00. Because of the rain the temperature was cool, almost chilly, especially with the stronger than usual easterly headwind, again.

Scott Colwill had another mishap with a tire. Coasting down a nice hill, he had a blow out, and had to walk his bike 2 miles into Vining, and then wait in line for bike repair for almost 2 hours! Of course this series of events set him back for the entire day.

The day's route took us through the Amana Colonies, which are great to ride through. Some of our group went through a couple art galleries and gift shops in West Amana. The first real evidence of the horrible Iowa flooding was also noticeable on the route today.

Once our group reached the destination of North Liberty, we threw the bikes in the trailer and then headed to our hotel in Coralville, about 5 miles down the road. After a nice soak in the hot tub, we found a good Chinese restaurant and had a wonderful meal.

As I write this, we're hearing that we'll have a mostly cloudy day with South winds, and possible rain in the afternoon. Hopefully the weathermen around here get the forecast wrong as often as that goofy Trobek does back in Sioux Falls.

As a post script to yesterday's ride, there was a stretch of the route early in the morning where a surprising number of people were pulled over fixing flat tires. We found out later in the day that someone had dumped thumb tacks all over the highway the night before. The newspaper reported that well over 100 people had flat tires, but luckily no one was injured as a result of any of the blow outs. The county rushed a street sweeper to the affected stretch of highway to clean up the mess as soon as the prank was discovered. High school kids must have way too much time on their hands in Iowa.


Day 4: Ames to Tama/Toledo

Miles: 78
Feet of Climb: 2,869
High Temperature: 80 Degrees
Sky Conditions: Sunny most of the day, headwind of 10 - 15 :-(

Well, it never seems to fail. This part of the country very rarely has wind out of the east during this time of the year, but it happened today. I can't help but feel that I am jinxing the weather!! Tour de Kota was awful for headwinds this year, and now RAGBRAI is getting spoiled!

The ride today (other than the wind) was pretty good. It was a day that took an awful long time for everyone to finish. This was our first day with a host family, and I think everyone was worried about finding the house, so we all waited for each other, which caused the quicker riders of the day to do a lot of waiting.

I think for the most part, we all rode separately, which was nice for a change. Again, the pass through towns were great, the food was plentiful, as were the hills. When we finally made it to our host house, we were delighted to find that our hosts were real people! Marian and Frank Duhacheck (sp?) were wonderful hosts! There was plenty of room for all of us to sleep (including the camper in the backyard), and Marian went way out of her way to make sure we were fed with cookies, coffee, and just about anything else we wanted.

We unhitched the trailer and took the van to town, where we all found some good food to eat, and some even witnessed a good old fashioned bar fight! Once back to the Duhacheck's, we were quick to bed down for the night, hoping that tomorrow's leg to North Liberty would be less windy, but most of all, that the forecast for rain would not come true!


Tuesday, July 22, 2008


It's hard to say what is a real accomplishment on this trip... is it surviving sleeping in a tent with no air mattress? Is it working with 7 other people to get to our destination, set up "camp", and figure out what we're doing? Or is it simply moving outside our regular life routine and doing something a little counter-cultural? I'm not sure. But I do know that zipping down a fairly steep hill in the Des Moines River Valley and then climbing back up the next mile counts as accomplishment for me this year.

Coming on a trip like this is considered crazy by most. After all, who would find solace and respite in working up a sweat, climbing up and descending hills, and trusting in the good graces of communities when we are most tired - and yet here we are. I think the real accomplishment rests in the heart of these Iowa communities. They have all tried to put their best foot forward when issuing hospitality - and most have succeeded. There are plenty of food vendors, lots of churches with home made pie, and some kind of entertainment for potentially crabby RAGBRAI riders. And then there are the sheer logistics of hosting people who all need showers, mass transportation, maps, meals, and bathrooms. What a chore! But each of these "through towns" and each overnight community bids for the chance to have RAGBRAI come through their town - to display their community pride, raise a little money, but mostly to welcome strangers into their town.

I guess the real accomplishment is that people still offer and accept pie as a true matter of hospitality and welcome...

Day 3: Jefferson to Ames

Miles: 57
Feet of Climb: 1,377
High Temperature: 85 Degrees
Sky Conditions: Sunny all day!

Ahh... this is what biking is all about. Once we had camp torn down (yuck!!), we were ready to roll out of Jefferson. This morning's ride was one of those moments; the sun was bright, the air was just a touch chilly and the crops were seemingly giving off a mist giving the appearance of a light, wispy fog.

This was a great day of biking. Knowing the mileage was short and the climb was small, we took our time. We stopped more frequently, and for longer periods of time, than we normally would have. We enjoyed a wonderful pork chop breakfast provided by Mr. Pork Chop, and were surprised to actually find Mr. Pork Chop giving his famous "PORK CHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP!!!" call, since he retired last year! Another great stop was at Peanut Butter Jam. Some of the alternative additions to a standard peanut butter and jelly sandwich enjoyed by our group were: marshmallow fluff, banana slices, chocolate chips and pretzels! It sounds weird, but it was a wonderful carb-o-licious treat when we needed it most.

We were in Ames by 1:30 and after some hunting, we finally found our hotel. We've enjoyed a fairly lackadaisical afternoon. Some enjoyed the pool while others napped. We all enjoyed a great Mexican dinner at a restaurant across the street. We're just now winding down and it won't be long now until we're renewing our muscles through much needed sleep in preparation for tomorrow's leg from Ames to Tama.


Day 2: Harlan to Jefferson

Miles: 83 (longest day this year)
Feet of Climb: 5,239 (most this year)
High Temperature: 84 Degrees
Sky Conditions: Cloudy early and late with sun in between

We knew day 2 was going to be tough. The route profile was warning us that this day had the most climb on this year's route. It was right. The profile also indicated that this was the longest day on this year's route. Check. What could make this day any worse? Knowing that when you get to the overnight town you have to stay in a tent. That's right, this day was also the only day that we had to camp. Luckily the temperature and weather cooperated, for the most part anyway.

The food along the route is one of my favorite things. When you spend all day biking, you feel like you can pretty much eat anything you want and not worry too much about how bad it is for you. The food vendors along the way help a great deal in accomplishing the task. There is Mr. Pork Chop, Tender Tom's Turkey, Peanut Butter Jam, Tropical Sno, The Smoothie Guys, The Farm Boys, Pastafari, Mrs. Raphael's and on, and on, and on.

Upon arrival at Jefferson the authorities were warning everyone about some impending weather. A storm did roll through, but we were lucky to be on the very edge. They were preparing us for 3/4 inch hail and 60+ mph winds, but we only got a brief downpour and then everything was all clear.

Some of us found a great meal at the 1st United Methodist Church. $7.00 bought a plate absolutely piled high with mashed potatoes, green beans, and the best chicken and noodle dinner, with home-made noodles, that I've ever had! All that was topped off with a great slice of rhubarb pie. Did I mention that RAGBRAI food is great?

After that big meal, and the long day of biking, I was pretty tuckered out. I went down early so I could have plenty of time to dream about the next day's route, which is one of the flattest and shortest days.....


Who would've thunk??

It's day 3 of RAGBRAI and this is my first night of posting on the blog. I'm proud to say that I've biked every single day and all of the miles (not counting the 3 hills, I walked up w/my bike - 2 the first day & 1 yesterday). Now that I've got my biking legs back in order, I'm hoping will be good for rest of the tour. It's been a wonderful experience (notice that I'm saying this after the bike riding is done for the day) :)
Yesterday, I'm not going to lie... there were ALOT of hills & some of them were a b*%! but we got through it & have a good sense of accomplishment that I was able to do it.
When people heard I was doing RAGBRAI, one of their first thoughts... "Are you crazy?" and "Man, I heard that's pretty wild." Well I must be a party pooper because I'm so exhausted at night, I drink 1 beer and then it's bed at 9 PM to be up and going at 5:30 AM. I can't be all that crazy because there is 10,000+ other crazy people out there with me.
4 days left, 200 miles down & 270ish miles left to go. :)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

sweet sweat

I am not a person who typically sweats a lot. Very seldom does water drip profusely off my head while soaking my hair. And even less frequent are the occurrences where my shorts and shirt are drenched with perspiration. Yet there is a sense of accomplishment when the salty water rolls into my eyes or drips off my nose. Miles were crossed, hills were climbed, and much food was eaten... par for the course during RAGBRAI. I saw people chatting while riding, people walking their bikes while conquering hills, lots of laughing groups, and some infrequent - though obvious tears (the heat and hills and hunger can get to any novice or seasoned rider). One thing in common to everyone: the element of sweet sweat... Maybe tomorrow we can ride like the wind:)

Day 1: Missouri Valley to Harlan

Miles: 59
Feet of Climb: 3,797
High Temperature: 101 Degrees
Sky Conditions: Sunny early to mostly overcast by early afternoon

Day one was a nice short day, but what it lacked in distance, it made up in hills! We had been hearing varying reports of how awful and horrible the hills were on this segment. I usually try not to worry about such matters until I'm under way, but the talk was absolutely everywhere! Well, I'm happy to report that in my humble opinion, the hills were way better than I expected. They were hills to be sure, but nothing like what they were 'built up' to be.

The pass-thru towns were great host communities and I have to say it is absolutely great to back on RAGBRAI again! The number of cyclists is always mind numbing. As far as you can see in front of you, and behind you, the line of cyclists stretches, seemingly ad infinitum.

We saw some RAGBRAI oddities today: a gentleman riding a unicycle with a 36" wheel, another gentleman roller blading the entire route, and a family riding a five person cycle! We saw the myriad team buses, colorfully painted with bicycle cages welded atop the two decade old chassis. Team names spotted today ranged from Team Wind to Team Me-Off, Team Checker to Team Pirate, and Team Kwetchersnivlen to Team More Cow Bell. I talked to people from California to New Jersey, and passed a couple from Germany. However, we haven't had a "Lance Sighting" yet. We will keep you posted.

I should mention that we had one breakdown even before we were underway this morning! Scott Colwill's front tire completely blew out, destroying the tire, probably due to heating up while in the trailer the day before. Luckily, he was able to replace the tube and ride about 3 miles to a bike repair stand along the route where they promptly sold him a new tire.

Another problem happened with Marilyn's bike later in the day. She rode her bike to the meeting town, and then trailered her bike so she and Trish could drive the rig to Harlan. The fork mount must not have been tightened properly because when the trailer was opened at Harlan, her bike was lying down, and her fork was bent severely enough that her front wheel could not be attached. Luckily a bike stand at the main campground was able to straighten it, and gave the green light for use, at least for the rest of the week. She's only had the bike for a few months, so she is very glad that it was not worse!!

Once at Harlan, we regrouped and ate at the high school where they were serving a baked potato bar and all-you-can eat taco salad bar. We then shuttled to the main campground to check out vendor row, and the downtown area, before returning to the Forrest Inn (yes, there are two R's in this Forrest - we must be in Iowa), where we made our plans for tomorrow.

We're still having fun, and we're hoping everybody in Sioux Falls is dried out after hearing stories of an inch of very rapid rain fall on Saturday evening!!


Saturday, July 19, 2008


Honestly, I spend half my time at the beginning of bike tours just messing around with my stuff. My dad always used to say he was "tinkering" in the garage, and I guess I've adopted that practice to my outdoor activity of biking. Today, it seemed we messed with stuff to get it all loaded in our 15 passenger van and trailer while I was fiddling with things at work to wrap up details before I left town. Then on the way down, we danced in our seats while we settled into a groove before arriving at our destination.

Once we developed a game plan (imagine another hour passing...), we grabbed a bite to eat after discovering some of the sites on a tired and hot shuttle bus. Along the way, we were jostled in the crowd, scrounged for correct change, and confused along the route. But we found our way back to the hotel - no worse for the wear.

I guess the tinkering helps us to get into a groove - a biking rhythm. And once that happens, I won't be weaving all over the road while changing my ipod, adjusting my sunglasses, and searching for my camel-back. And day 1 of riding will help us to get to that comfort place where we just enjoy the ride for what it is; where the food tastes rich, the drinks are wet, and the sweat doesn't bother us anymore.

Ride safe. And don't worry about the tinkering... your rhythm is right around the next corner.

Preparations and Traveling

Well, the planning phase of RAGBRAI is over. Sometimes the planning is the best part. Thinking about actually getting out there and pedaling is a little daunthing, but having ridden Tour de Kota already this year, I know I can do it physically, I'm worried about the mental part a little bit though.

We made it to Missouri Valley around 4:30 this afternoon and immediately found our hotel. The Rath Inn is a nice little motor lodge with very friendly owners. After figuring out our plan for the evening, we set out. We walked about a mile to a shuttle stop and waited. Once the shuttle finally arrived, we boarded a very packed, standing-room-only, very illegal and unsafe, shuttle. We took our dangerous shuttle to the 'Celebration Garden' where we had our choice of the usual suspects wherever food vendors gather. Some of us enjoyed a couple beers at the beer garden as well.

We then boarded the shuttle again and headed for our home for the night. After figuring out some last minute details with the bikes, Wags, Scott, Trisha and Kyle went next door the bar sponsored beer tent and enjoyed some more adult beverages ;-)

Meanwhile, Donna decided to lay low and stayed in the room, while Marilyn and Chad waited for Dennis to return from the expo area so they could take him to his pre-arranged housing location. Along the way, they got a preview of the first 5 miles of the ride tomorrow, and all reports seem to suggest that the hills are not nearly as daunting as we have been led to believe. That is great news, but we'll report our actual findings on the matter tomorrow after the ride.

5AM wake time and riding by 6 is our plan. 59 miles to Harlan. Ready or not, here we come!!


Friday, July 18, 2008


Well.... we are leaving for Ragbrai tomorrow morning & I am quite nervous about the new adventure. I am excited about the experience but am a little nervous on the biking. I haven't been on my bike at all for about the past month so am hoping I can complete the whole thing. I DO NOT WANT TO SAG! Everytime I think about the bike ride across Iowa, I think of the movie Bucket List. I will be able to cross this off my list but am hoping I don't kick the bucket along the way.

It will be a great adventure & I'm sure ALOT of fun but the nerves are kicking in. It will be pretty cool since the route is going close to my hometown and having helped with the flooding in Cedar Rapids last week, it may work to hook up w/some friends I made there as well.

Beautiful sights & wonderful people..... do we have to do all that pedaling though?

See ya on the road!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

weeds or wind?

It is a new season of wind and blowing dust, of sunshine and weeds, of summer schedules and camping gear. Although I didn't do the scheduled bike ride today, Kyle went out with a group and faced the wind head on - and later enjoyed the wind-powered energy that pushed him home. I couldn't help but notice red stripes on his head when he removed his helmet. That, and the familiar clean burn lines from his shorts as the sun bites REALLY set in. I'm reminded that bike riding can be fun and social. Biking also requires the necessary precautions of taking care of one's self. Water is essential, and on really challenging days, a couple of packets of 'goo' or a salted nut roll can go a long way to pick me up. And there is the all important sunscreen as well...

I must admit, I would rather have been riding than pulling the weeds out of our garden!

Friday, May 16, 2008

The "spokin" word

Last night, I started thinking about how little time we have to prepare for our summer rides. It put a pit in my stomach... Although I love tours, the getting ready for it can sometimes seem like a job; once started, it is a great job. But getting back into shape after a long winter and wet spring has been no easy task. I don't know if anyone else is experiencing a sharp learning curve right now, or if it is just my body that forgets how to be active over a long hibernation period. Good luck with all your training! And I'll wish a good mindset for you as well. Let's RIDE!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hi. My name is Kyle. This is my blog. But I won't be the only one posting here. This blog is called 'The Spoke Easy' [credit to my very clever wife for the great name idea] and will primarily cover organized bike rides, and training rides leading up to the 4th annual Tour de Kota, and RAGBRAI. There will be photos posted, stories posted and thoughts posted.

Don't be surprised if the content deviates from time to time, as I do have interests other than biking. You have been warned.

Tour de Kota begins June 8th, so there is very little time left for training! My friend Mark Wagner (Wags) and I will be riding the 7 day ride which winds around eastern South Dakota this year.

I'll be attempting a training ride of about 55 miles this weekend and will post some photographs of the people and sites I find along the way. Stay tuned...