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.

RAGBRAI 2010 - The Journey to Sioux City

Now is the time. We will find out if the training miles have helped us or not. Are we ready? Only a few miles in saddle tomorrow will let us know.

Thanks to the Colwill's for picking me up in Vermillion and hauling my stuff to Sioux City! We arrived in good shape and found the ShuttleGuy campground straight away. More on the ShuttleGuy service later...

After getting settled, we made our way downtown. We took in the sites at the bike expo and food vendor area. After Connie and Jodie left us, Scott, Justin (Scott's 17 yo nephew) and I took in the movie "A Million Spokes". This film is a great way to 'experience' RAGBRAI without riding a bike. The documentary was filmed during RAGBRAI 2009 and highlights many of the experiences that make up this crazy 'festival of bikes across Iowa'. I highly recommend it and I'm sure Scott and Justin would back me up.

After the film, we hooked up with our college buddy Matt Kann for the SmashMouth concert, which was smashmouthy at best. Matt's dad Roger dropped us off at our campground where we didn't enjoy a restful night. I guess the area of town in which we camped wasn't the best part of town. Someone in the neighborhood shot off bottle rockets, cars kept honking as they drove by the campground, at one point there was a loud scream from a girl somewhere. I suppose when RAGBRAI starts in a bigger city, this is what happens.

We planned on starting out at 7:00AM, which will come very early with all the ruckus going on around us.

More later!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day 6 Nothing But Nets ride to Rapid City!

Well, this is it. The last day. Neener neener rain. Neener neener wind. We beat you. We made it.

The first let of our 62 mile ride from Wall to Rapid City was incredible. Tail wind, sun and really nice down hills. The views were spectacular. You've all seen them because we rode straight down I-90. Byron had a rear flat tire just as we pulled into the Wasta rest area, which we promptly fixed.

If you're familiar with the drive, then you'll know that immediately following the Wasta rest area is the Wasta hill. I didn't take note of the actual mileage of the hill, but I haven't ridden an incline that long since the early 90s in Spearfish Canyon, Aztec Hill to be exact. It was an arduous climb to say the least.

Once atop the Wasta hill, things flattened out, but by then the wind had switched and was quite a strong crosswind. I had a rear flat tire somewhere along the way, which was promptly fixed. We arrived at New Underwood short 3 riders and when they finally showed up we found out that Terry had a flat front tire. We enjoyed a lunch of sandwiches made by the women of 1st Lutheran Church of Wall.

After lunch we rode old highway 14/16 to Box Elder. I was out in front and trying to beat the rain and lightning but shelter was scarce so I waited for the other riders along a service road. They finally showed up and I found out that Byron had a flat front tire. For those of you keeping track, that is four flat tires in one day, after going the whole week without any! There is a lot of junk on the shoulder of I-90!

We made it into Rapid City and Woyatan Lutheran Church without any further trouble.

The trip is done. We will soon find out if we met our goal of raising $10,000 for Nothing But Nets. We had a great week and made great new friends. We will all sleep tonight.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for entries from RAGBRAI during the last week of July.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Day 5 Nothing But Nets ride to Rapid City!

Oh day 5. Sweet, sweet day 5. Today we rode from Philip to Wall. The terrain was surprisingly flat on day 5 and we enjoyed a tail wind the whole way! In addition, the daily mileage was a meager 31 miles :-)

Today's unique sighting for me were a pair of antelope keeping watch over us between Cottonwood and Quinn. They were pretty big for antelope, I'm pretty sure, because they were the same size as the white-tail deer I'm used to seeing on our end of the state.

Due to the short day, we arrived in Wall pretty early. Half of our group setup for sandwiches to help consume some of the copious amounts of food churches have sent along with us. The other half, myself included, were drawn in by the famous Wall Drug Cafe. I enjoyed a non-guilt ridden hot roast beef sandwich, several glasses of free ice water, a couple 5 cent cups of coffee and some hand dipped home made ice cream. A real treat after five days of riding!

After lunch we spent time people watching on a bench outside of Wall Drug. As we were sitting there, we met a young man riding his bike solo from Virginia to Oregon. We had a nice conversation with him about routes and bike adjustments and things that bikers tend to talk about. I really admire someone that sets out to do a ride like that solo! Wow, what an experience.

We're staying at First Lutheran Church of Wall, Missouri Synod. The hospitality here has been outstanding! We're sharing the church with VBS this evening, so life abounds! We're happy to be around people again as the last couple nights have been a little lonely.

Tomorrow is our last day of riding. We'll head out around 7:30 and ride 53 miles to Rapid City, arriving at Woyatan Lutheran Church as registration is taking place for our synod assembly. It looks like we'll have a head wind most of the day, so we'll have a good work out to round things off. There could also be some storms, so if we caught by hail, I better remember to keep my helmet on!

I'll have final thoughts sometime tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day 4 Nothing But Nets ride to Rapid City!

Today we rode from Hayes to Philip. We bucked a strong head/cross wind for the first 5 miles of our journey, and then turned south. By turning, we were able to use the wind in our favor for a nice 22 mile stretch into Midland. Because of the extra help from the wind, we decided not to lunch in Midland, but to press on. Unfortunately, Midland was the end of our Southerly travels and we turned back into the wind, which by now was much more of a headwind. We made 12 miles and stopped for a great road-side lunch (pics available on Facebook). After lunch we had an absolutely grueling 13 miles into Philip. Windy and hilly. Fortunately we didn't see any rain all day and the skies were mostly sunny.

At one point along the way, I was riding alone and passed by a herd of cattle eyeing me with great curiosity. As I have been known to do while riding, I gave them a couple great 'Moos' which to my surprise started a mini stampede! The cattle began running straight towards me and I didn't think the measly 3 foot fence was going to do anything to stop them! I had several thoughts racing through my mind, but luckily they stopped at the fence as abruptly as they starting running. I should really rethink my roadside antics ;)

Philip is a bustling town of 800, and the people at the church have treated us well. A great meal of Indian Fry Bread Tacos and homemade brownies made the ride seem like a distant memory. We had great shower facilities at our disposal at the local ambulance garage and I was able to launder my smelly cycling clothes at a local laundromat.

We are anticipating tomorrow's ride to Wall. A very short 30 miles with the wind predicted to be a very brisk TAILWIND! C'mon weather guys, come through for us!!

A huge THANK YOU to my mom and dad for driving the support vehicles all the way from Madison to Philip!!! We will meet our new driver tomorrow morning, and I'll check in again from Wall Drug U.S.A!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Day 3 Nothing But Nets ride to Rapid City!

What a great day for a ride! Our 35 mile ride from Pierre to Hayes was very smooth, thanks to a wonderfully smooth black top surface. In addition, the weather cooperated! We had a decent tail wind, overcast skies and cool temps.

We didn't leave Pierre until 10 as we received reports that arriving in Hayes too early would make for a long day. As we left Pierre we saw a sign that read 'No Services For 67 Miles'. That is not the kind of sign you like to see on a bike, but we are well taken care of with our roadie crew.

We had a nice long lunch stop along the way. The rancher whose land we stopped at came by to see if everything was OK. He pointed out the original wagon ruts from the Deadwood trail and let us know that some of the Dance With Wolves scenes were filmed 4 miles straight north of our lunch stop.

We arrived in Hayes pretty early and confirmed the reports. The atlas claims a population of 40, but I highly doubt it. We are staying at Grace Lutheran church, which is only one of maybe 6 buildings and about 4 houses. On the east side of town is the Hayes International Airport, so the signage claims.

A peaceful rain shower moved through after our homemade spaghetti meal and left a beautiful double rainbow in it's wake. Out here with very few obstructions, the rainbow was magnificent!

My sightings from the road today included a HUGE spider which I thought was a mouse as I came upon it! YUCK! I also saw my 2nd dead rattle snake on the shoulder! I hope that's the only variety of rattle snake I see!!!

As I post this, we are bedding down in anticipation for tomorrow's ride into Philip. At this point it looks like we're going to get wet, I will let you know...

Day 2 Nothing But Nets ride to Rapid City!

One word best describes the second leg of our trip to RC, 'grueling'. We departed Wessington Springs at 6AM into a brisk headwind that didn't let up all day, in fact it got worse as the day wore on. Our elevation change from Wess Springs to Pierre was severe, in the upward direction. And, our total mileage for the day was 103 miles. It was probably the hardest single day ride I've done, or at least a tie with day 2 on Tour De Kota 2008 (Wags knows).

The facilities and hospitality at Lutheran Memorial church in Pierre made up for the difficult time in the saddle. We were welcomed with a hearty meal of taverns, awesome potato salad and other treats that help nourish our starving bodies. We all crashed pretty early in anticipation of sleeping in a little bit as day 3 will be much shorter, registering only 35 miles. We'll need it after this day.

The most interesting thing I saw on the road today was a deer that came upon our group. There were four of us riding together, and spread out a little bit. I was in back and saw the deer coming up to the road. I started shouting a warning because I didn't think the lead rider saw the deer coming. The deer paused, sized us up, and the proceeded to bound onto the roadway. This is the moment where things could go either way. I held my breath as the deer bounded onto the roadway, passing cleanly between the lead rider and the second rider. Thankfully there was not a deer vs. bicycle accident! Quite a sight indeed.

As a side note, BlogSpot was down while we were in Pierre, so this post was a day late. I'll post day 3's ride shortly.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Day 1 Nothing But Nets ride to Rapid City!

One word sums up today's ride from Madison to Wessington Springs; RAIN. The first 50 miles of our ride was very wet. We rode through some very heavy rain about 15 miles after we started. So heavy that it was difficult to see anything at times. My shoes never did dry out for the remainder of the day.

We logged 76 miles and pulled into Wessington Springs around 3:45. Our Saviours prepared a great meal for us of lasagna and all the fixings, which was welcomed whole heartedly!

After dinner we took a side trip to The Shakespeare Gardens in Wessington Springs which is a wonderful attraction! If you're ever in, or driving past, you really need to stop.

We're all wondering about tomorrow's ride to Pierre. It will be our longest day at 104 miles, and it sounds like there is only one town along the way. The wind forecast doesn't sound too good either so we'll have to see what tomorrow brings.

Thanks to everyone who has donated to Nothing But Nets!! If you haven't yet and would like to, follow this link:

I'll check in tomorrow...

Friday, June 4, 2010

Nothing But Nets!

OK, here we go. The day before the Nothing But Nets ride across South Dakota. I have the usual questions. Am I prepared? Probably not, but that won't stop me. How will the weather treat us? We won't know until we know, but it is South Dakota so I'm expecting wind, rain, wind, sun and wind.

Tomorrow morning 12 of us will set out from Madison and make the trip westward to Rapid City in 6 days. We're raising awareness and funds for the Nothing But Nets initiative. You can find out more information, and even donate online here:

Marilyn and Chadman have graciously volunteered to drive support vehicles for the first 4 days of the ride! It will be great to have family around :-)

I'll attempt to post a daily entry, and maybe even some shorter entries from my phone directly from the route, depending on signal availability.

I am most looking forward to riding the western side of SD. What a beautifully stark landscape to experience from the saddle! It should be amazing, exhilarating and humbling all at once.

More to come ;-)