Anamosa to Clinton, Iowa: July 28, 2012

This was the most exciting day of the entire 7-day event.  It was probably the most exciting because it was the last day of what had been a pretty grueling week.  But looking back now, I don’t remember it that way.  I remember it was hot.  I remember I was tired.  I remember I was on the brink of dehydration.  I remember the cramps.  And I remember the aches.  But what I don’t remember is the pain.  In fact I don’t remember anything but the good parts of it all.  Years ago I read that we can’t remember pain so I guess that is why I don’t. 

I remember all the good things about RAGBRAI.  I remember the friends I met and even those I talked with either in passing or in being passed.  Today I met some special people…I’ll tell you about them shortly.

And “shortly” it will be because I didn’t take any notes for today’s ride…nothing…nada. 

I remember something else…it was coooollllddd last night (July 27th).  Going from 110° during the day to just above freezing at night…that’s a jump in just a week.  It didn’t really get that cold, but when you are sleeping without any cover, you can get chilled pretty quickly.  My sleeping bag was packed up into a tiny ball stuffed into its storage bag and I didn’t want to have to take the time to “mess with it” when I woke up.  But I was so cold and I couldn’t sleep so with just one hour before my alarm would go off, I unpacked the sleeping bag and luxuriated in its warmth for that wonderful hour.  I should have done it long before then!

As you can tell from the pictures I left early – 5:37 a.m. and there were a lot of ups and downs, hills, that is, between me and Clinton.  I knew I had a long way to go ere I laid my head to rest.  As the day progressed the line got longer stretching out for miles and miles.

But before I “lay my head to rest,” let’s stop a time or two along the way.  This brave guy is a throwback to the “old days” when almost everyone wore a costume of some sort.  As I said, I didn’t write any notes and regrettably I don’t remember his name.  I recall that he was very friendly and he told me about “the way it was.”  He was dressed as Mother Hubbard.  Some of the costumes that RAGBRAIers used to wear and a few still do were and are very imaginative…It looks like he has Mother Hubbard in his lap, but actually she was an appendage in front of him sewn into his clothes.  I can’t imagine riding over 70 miles with something like that riding along with me.  By the way, there’s a nice bike in the background with the red-taped handlebars…that would be mine.

About 10:30 or 11:00 a.m., 50 miles into the ride, I stopped for a hamburger and a hotdog and a Diet Pepsi.  I sat at a picnic table across from a nice couple from California, Greg and Jeanne, to partake of some good food and better conversation.  We enjoyed sharing stories and just had, at least for me, one of the best rest stops of the whole event.  He also blogged about RAGBRAI and had some nice things to say about our visit together.  Check out his blog:

We finally parted ways and started back on the road with just about 22 miles to go…a mere cakewalk.  Along the way some beautiful views of crops and countryside.

About 12:30, I arrived in Clinton and made my way by a lot of wonderful Iowans and no doubt a few from other states giving imaginary “high 5’s” as we rode by.  I have to say that is one of the most exciting things about riding a bike for a day-long or week-long event, having people “wave you home.”

But I had one more RAGBRAI line to wait in.  This one was a celebratory line where proud riders were dipping their front wheel in the Mississippi River on the eastern edge of Iowa.  Next week these accountants, doctors, lawyers, carpenters, waitresses, housewives, college and high school students, teenagers, elderly, men, women, boys, and girls, will be back in their other lives doing what they do, but this week, let’s just call them “riders” for they, we, have accomplished a feat few in this life ever experience.  This was another reason for my excitement today and despite my not riding a couple of days, I was extremely glad to have done the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.  I was in the saddle for 5 hours, 4 minutes, and 48 seconds.  I arrived at my car at 12:35 p.m. and dragged my leg over the seat and “lovingly” placed my bike on the bike rack. 

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Marshalltown to Cedar Rapids to Animosa, Iowa: July 26-27, 2012

As “promised” yesterday, I took the day off because of the heat…and maybe, in the back of my mind, because of the 85-mile distance.  I had another restful day.  After finding my bike in amongst all the rabble of “other” bikes, I was changed a tube which had a broken valve stem.  It wasn’t leaking, but I was afraid I would be out on the road and it would go flat.  I also cleaned my chain and got ready, my bike got ready, to roll tomorrow…early.

Most of the afternoon, I sat and talked because Tent City was in the sun…again.  I met Rick from Abilene, Texas, and Rob from Bend, Oregon.  Rob who is riding in his second RAGBRAI this year, has only been riding a couple of years; he started when he was 60 years old.  We swapped stories.  As I said, the people are what make this event such a great one; however, having said that, I have to expand it a little:  It takes a special kind of adult to want to ride a bicycle – either just starting to ride or never having stopped riding from childhood.  It is the kid in us, I guess.  Bobby used say you never have to worry about another cyclist stealing your bike…it’s all those other people.  The best place for the tents…in the sun!!

This is a shot of Janet’s bike…it has to be the “World’s Smallest Bicycle,” because Janet is the world’s smallest cyclist…except for the little people.  I think Janet is about 4’ tall…maybe an inch or so more.  She never wants for anything.  If she wants to go into Tent City before it opens, she just says, “I need to get my medication.”  If she wants to get to the front of the line… whatever line, she says, “I need to get my medication.”  Sometimes she has to be a little more imaginative and change the wording slightly like in a crowded bus and she wants a seat, she just says, “I need to sit because I just took my medication.”  Never fails…she gets there…first…I have to say it was a lot of fun being around her and as I said before she certainly helped me get through the week.

RIDING AGAIN – Cedar Rapids to Anamosa, Iowa:

What a great ride today.  The heat had abated substantially.  The mileage was a very low 48 miles.  I stopped for breakfast on the bridge which had been set up with vendors serving RAGBRAI riders.  I had biscuit and gravy…did I tell you I had gained weight…don’t know why.  I finally got a piece of pie later in the day.  You can see from these pictures how early my start was.  But don’t worry, the afternoon cometh…and it will be another day in the sun for our tents.


Slowing…Stopping…More signals riders use.

These shots below are on the bridge and one looking at another bridge across the way.  Just part of the 470-mile buffet.

Somewhere along the way, we saw the Ladies Accordion Club.  Today was probably the hilliest day and I really loved those hills.  On every downhill ride, I went blasting down, moving to the far left side of the road passing everyone…getting a jump on the climb ahead.  About a quarter of the way up the hill, I quickly retreated to the far right side of the road…watching as all those I just passed now passing me…until we crested and I would do it all over again.  That’s the most fun part of the ride…the downhill part…It was a good day to ride…The picture at the right shows a different way to ride…one I have always wanted to try.

One of the most gratifying parts of riding is when I am giving it all to pedal up a steep hill…passing others and saying quietly, “on your left”…well, actually, I was ripping by them at nearly 5 mph.  Oh, I didn’t mention…they were walking!  That’s the only time I pass anyone on a climb is when they are walking their bikes up the hill!  On the other hand one of the most embarrassing parts of riding is when someone passes me, jumps off their bike and starts walking their bike up the hill, yelling back to me, “Come on, draft on me…let me know if I am going too fast for you.”

RAGBRAI is known for its pies and its church ladies that make pies.  I stopped at one of the churches which had lots of pie ladies.  I asked one of them which pie was the best…I knew when she didn’t pick her own that it was probably going to be a good choice…and it was.  Sorry, I didn’t get a picture of the pie…or the church ladies…This rider is staying close to the ground and he’s coming through…


I chatted a bit with Anna Maria as we ate lunch.  I thought I had a picture, but evidently I was wrong.   Another rider (unknown by either of us) brought us a slice of pizza.  He said he had more than he could eat and we were glad to accommodate him.   Anna Maria rides her bike to work every day.  When I worked for the VA in Tacoma, Washington, I lived about a mile (seriously just a mile) from work.  It occurred to me that I should ride my bike to work which I did for 3 or 4 days.  I had to quit because of the long dist…No, actually, I quit due to the humidity, I was soaked with sweat in just a mile and there was nowhere to shower.  I sure wish I had started riding back then on a regular basis.  I owned a Schwinn Varsity which is considered a classic today.  I had bought it about 5 years earlier.  I doubt I rode more than 200 miles the entire time I had that bike.  In those days, late 70’s, bikes didn’t have water bottle cages and they weighed 2-3 times more than bikes today.  My Schwinn weighed 37 pounds and my Time weighs less than 15 pounds unloaded.  Still, I would have been a lot better off physically had I kept the bike and gotten serious about riding while I was still young…er.

Because the ride was so short today, I arrived at camp about 11 a.m.  Anamosa is home to a maximum security state prison, but it doesn’t appear the residents are all quaking in fear.  In fact, they used the prison garb as costumes for the welcoming committee.


When we got to camp there were, no lines for the Kybo (otherwise known as an outhouse or Porta-Potty), no lines for the shower, no lines for the lavatories outside the shower, no lines for a snack, lots of seats under the tent so I grabbed my Kindle and sat under the tent to read.

Awhile later, Harold came by and we struck up a conversation. It turned out we have lived parallel lives. His birthday is September 7th, mine is the 6th. He is 72 and I am 74. He was in the Air Force and so was I. He has three children and so do I. He has 15 grandchildren…oops not quite so parallel…I only have 7. Nevertheless, we enjoyed sharing so many similar things about our lives. If I remember correctly, we both served at some of the same air bases.

At the end of the ride, I finally got a Mocha Frappe – there was a McDonald’s a couple of blocks from the campground.  Maybe I do know how I gained weight…hmmm…

Janet wanted me to go to town with her in the late afternoon so we could see Anamosa in the afternoon, and so she could find a RAGBRAI T-shirt, and most importantly so we could eat dinner.  We went to one of the local churches and, as expected, it was great.  Then we walked the streets of Animosa looking for her T-shirt.

We got to actually see our first SAG wagon on this ride.  Neither of us believed there were any.  It appears, Janet is absolutely amazed to actually see one in captivity.

After Janet found the shirt she was looking for, we waited for a bus to take us back to the campground.  A great day on the Great Bicycle Ride…

A couple of picture I had to include, one of Janet holding court for the ladies camping nearby.  Amd the other a picture of Tom with his smile on as always.

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Webster City to Marshalltown, Iowa: July 25, 2012

After a day off – sagging this old, hot, and tired body – I am rip roarin’ and ready to go.  (I Googled it and it means what I mean, okay!)  I left before dawn today, at 5:12 a.m. and there were lots of other riders who left before me.  I have no lights on my bike – fore or aft – so I was very careful to be careful.  Actually, there isn’t a lot of danger except for running into something or more likely hitting a pothole you don’t see.  There were many other riders I caught up with so there were lots of lights around me.

It certainly was cooler at that time of the morning and today is supposed to be another hot day; nevertheless, I was looking forward to the ride 0n a 79-mile ride…my longest ride yet.

I wasn’t long into the ride when I realized unfortunately, I had forgotten my gloves.  I’m sure everyone knows these gloves aren’t to keep your hands warm; actually, they have padding appropriately placed to help, or should I say, delay your hands from growing numb.  That’s the reason you often see cyclists shaking their hands trying to get the numbness to abate.  Fortunately the first town had a cycling repair tent…there were several of these scattered throughout the route.  They are not permanent shops but the people who set them up are from regular shops.  They take a big burden off a lot of riders because without them we would have to carry a lot of extra stuff with them or else be stranded or worse yet, try to perform a repair on a device that we know nothing about except riding.

Fortunately they had one pair of gloves and they were my size.  I was happy to get them.  Unfortunately, as soon as I tried them on, I realized they didn’t have any padding in them at all…None!  So these gloves were only good for keeping a sweaty hand warm enough to produce more sweat.  I have never seen bicycling gloves without padding nor had anyone in the vicinity.  Fortunately, he took them back and refunded my money.  I rode the rest of the ride without gloves and felt like something was missing; however, my hands didn’t get any more numb than usual.  I have to wear them though lest someone think I don’t know I am supposed to.

This is Iowa and there is “Corn, Corn, Corn” and more Corn.


The heat was oppressive again today and this on my longest ride.  I started out thinking and continued this vein of thought for quite awhile that I could easily do a century today, but as the day progressed and the heat bore down, I knew this would not be the day.  I was looking for those “kids” who stood at the side of the road with a water hose ready to spray anyone who wanted it.  As I said yesterday, there seems to be very few waterways in Iowa, but here’s another small creek and the riders just keep going by.

Late in the ride, I was really overheating and there was a family out “in the middle of nowhere,” (almost everything in Iowa is “in the middle of nowhere” and I don’t mean that as a put down) who set up a couple of hoses to allow riders to run water over their head and body…what a wonderful relief.  I did it several times before I left.  They also had a dozen or so chairs around the yard for anyone who wanted to sit and rest awhile.  I did just that.  I guess that’s what makes RAGBRAI so great (that’s what the G stands for)…people helping the cyclists along their way.  That’s also the reason RAGBRAI has continued for 40 years and will for a long time to come, I’m sure.

As I said at the beginning I left about 5:15 a.m. and finally arrived at the campground…after multiple stops… and slow riding…at about 1:45 p.m.  That’s 8½  hours – which is a very long time for just 79 miles of riding.  Pictured here is part of the 470-mile buffet line.  Plenty to eat if you feel like eating. And this town even had special entertainment.

When I did finally arrive, I meandered through the streets of Marshalltown looking for the campground.  Yes, I had my Garmin GPS programmed to take me there, but I was looking for signs to show me the way or at least to confirm that I was going the right direction.  PBV posts a sign with a pig with a directional arrow; however, I didn’t know it at the time, there is a team with the name “hog” in it (Road Hogs, I think) who use a similar sign.  That’s how I went astray on my first day out following the wrong hog.  I arrived at our campground, went to my tent, laid my bike down, and started looking for the lemonade at PBV’s tent.  I found what I thought was the right place and sat myself down.  I looked around and didn’t recognize anyone.  Undaunted, I asked where the lemonade was.  A lady who looked like she was in charge, asked “what lemonade.”  Still too tired to be aware of my surroundings, I said the lemonade they furnish every day.  She said she didn’t know they did.  Finally, it came into my mind that I was not where I thought I was and I wasn’t going to get any lemonade here!  I asked…nicely, can I sit here a little while before leaving.  She was happy to let me do so and even said what a great idea to furnish lemonade (perhaps I helped some future RAGBRAIers).

Due to my being so tired and the temperature so miserably high, I decided to sag tomorrow.  As I told someone, I ride the bicycle for exercise and enjoyment…and it isn’t very enjoyable when you are miserable and feel like a heat stroke would be sweet relief.  I don’t want to make it sound worse than it was; suffice it to say…I didn’t enjoy the last part of today’s ride and for me bicycling is supposed to be fun.  There was something else working in my mind also.  I rode 79 miles today and did fine until 8-10 miles to go.  Yes, I was fighting the heat, but I worried about being physically able to ride an even longer ride the next day – at least 85 miles.  That worried me a lot, so I made arrangements to ride the bus.  And don’t forget, I live by my slogan or motto, “Pain is temporary; quitting is forever.”  Sitting here, as I type this, I have a little regret for not having tried; while, at the same time, I know I made the right decision then.  I am convinced that I can ride at least 100 miles in a day…maybe a long day, but I know I can do it; I just don’t want to do it to the detriment of my health.  I was right to not ride another day in such high temperatures.  After all, I am 74 years old!  (Hah, I can write that now even though I am 75 now, but I was 74 on that day!)

I made my way to the lemonade tent and after drinking my fill, I headed for the shower.  Remember, I learned my lesson about waiting till later to shower.  I found the shower line…the ubiquitous line…but at least it was not as long as yesterday’s line and waited my turn.

As we made our way, black clouds and thunder rolled in.  The rain was needed and I think every single rider would have been happy to ride in the rain the next day as long as this cooled off the temperatures.

When there is thunder, there is also lightning.  And when there is lightning, they insist that you take cover in a safe place.  To my dismay as well as many others, they cut off the shower line when I was about 5th or 6th before going into the shower.  No arguing, you comply and go to a safe place.

I saw a lot of people going into a big metal farm implement storage building that someone deemed to be safe.  There weren’t any chairs, but a few of us were able to find a place to roost but most stood.  I found some boxes and set them up for myself and a couple others.  I sat there, not daring to get up lest I lose my seat. J

After several of hours – I don’t remember how many, the main part of the storm had passed through – some started cautiously leaving.  I followed pretty quickly.  Most of us were glad to find our tents were still there, but an unlucky few, including Janet – and don’t forget she is my “next door” neighbor – found their tent had blown over.  Janet actually stayed in her tent during the storm…a little frightened, I am sure; she was able to keep her things dry and to get the tent set up again.  I was really afraid my tent was going to be blown over and I had some things in the tent, had they gotten wet, would have been very expensive to replace.

I was glad to get to sleep.  I am happy to report I have not had any trouble sleeping; I hardly ever do.  I had never tent camped when I was young and I was a little worried about sleeping on a thin pad on the ground, but I haven’t had any problems at all.

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Cherokee to Lake View, Iowa: July 23-24, 2012

It’s hard to believe that it has been 2 months since I rode in RAGBRAI.  I would really like to finish posting the pages for this event, but there have been so many pressing matters that have prevented me from doing so.  The good news is I have found a house.  After looking at about 30 or more houses, it was a great relief to finally find something I liked and had those things that I was looking for in a house.  The good thing about this house is that it is new and I guess I could say the opposite is true also, i.e., the bad thing about it is it is new.  The first is obvious while the latter might be less so.  A new home requires so much more work and expense initially, e.g., window treatments and the myriad of others things that are necessary to make a house into a home.  I am not a decorator.

I am especially pleased about the location in Monroe, Ohio.  It is less than 5 miles from a bike path that joins other bike paths which meander their way from very near downtown Cincinnati and downtown Dayton.  I believe there are more than 150 miles of bike path in all.  I may end up doing my first century on this bike path.  About five miles from my new home a branch off the main bike path arcs up toward Dayton and back down toward Lebanon and then back home on regular streets about 10-12 miles from my home.  Also the streets in the area are 2-lane roads, but a little less traveled than those closer to Cincinnati.  And it is fairly close to my sons and their families.

Well, let’s talk about RAGBRAI and I am still smiling and happy even if it is hot.  The picture at the right was taken at the beginning of the ride.  For some reason, they had placed cones to keep the riders “corralled” and the result was complete stoppage as the riders had to squeeze through certain places.  It appears at least one rider wanted to volunteer to go!  Today’s ride was 67-miles long through the cornfields and soybeans of Iowa.  I really enjoyed the first 55-60 miles, but the last 8 miles just about sunk my ship.  It was another very hot day and not a cloud in the sky!  I was kinda wondering why they didn’t turn the windmills on so we might get a little breeze!   There were a few riders who were not able to complete the ride and some didn’t even start the ride again today (sagging).  I saw at least a two ambulances on their way to pick up some riders who I later heard were suffering from dehydration.  I did try to drink more today and that did help; however, when I arrived at the campground, I was just completely tuckered out.

At one stop, while I was eating a funnel cake…great nourishment…It has been a long time since I have had a funnel cake (nothing bu fried bread with powdered sugar sprinkled on top), I was talking with Saul.  You can tell just looking at Saul that he is one of the real riders…If I remember correctly, Saul said one of his parents was Jewish and the other Christian.  He said he always thought they named him Saul just to cover all the bases!  This was one of the great things about RAGBRAI and other touring events like it – you get to meet a lot of really nice people along the way.  Everyone has a story and if you are patient you can hear some really great ones.

Along the way, the flat bridges were a relief from the climbs.  There didn’t seem to be many waterways in Iowa; may have been where we were riding, but it was nice to see this river.

Janet, my tent neighbor, who has ridden in 7 previous RAGBRAIs, said it was the hottest she can remember.  In fact, she said about 15-20 miles from the finish, she asked someone with a truck if he would take her to the campground.  She told me she was sagging tomorrow and it didn’t take much for me to agree to ride the bus with her.

I’m pretty sure I have written previously about the SAG Wagon.  No one seems to know where the name originated and there are many opinions on what it stands for.  SAG refers to a vehicle which travels the route to look for any rider who has either mechanical or physical difficulty requiring assistance.  Many of the tours, including RAGBRAI clearly state the SAG Wagon is not a taxi service, but sometimes there are riders who really need that service.  I suppose because the rides on RAGBRAI are as long as they are and because it attracts a large number of casual riders, i.e., riders who have hardly ridden around the block let alone the long distances of RAGBRAI rides, there are perhaps more need for a taxi service.  Also don’t forget the aged riders…oops that’s me.  Pork Belly Ventures have started offering this service which you reserve the night before.  The bus was filled with about 150 cyclists each day and they made at least 3 trips.  I felt a little sheepish about riding the bus, but once I got into it, it wasn’t bad at all!  However, when I look back on it, I often think about my favorite saying, “Pain is temporary; quitting is forever.”  It is easy to forget how hot it was.  I do remember thinking, “This is supposed to be fun…not torture.”  That gives me some comfort about having not ridden on a couple of days.

Janet, Sandy, and I had a nice restful day…sitting in the shade with like-minded cyclists.  Of course, we were there long before those who braved another very hot day on the road, but not long before Ed.  Ed rode hard each day and was usually one of the first riders.

This is Bryan who has only been riding a couple of years.  He was also one of the first riders in; he averaged about 15 miles per hour on a 67 mile ride.  Pretty good for a young guy!  This was a great day to sag, because we had a table to sit at and one of the riders (not pictured, sorry) had a sister that lived nearby so we were able to ride in her van to a local restaurant for breakfast.  The picture, above right, was just over a rise from where we were sitting.  There was plenty of shade where we were waiting throughout the day, but not where our tents were.  Somehow the tents found their way to the sunniest part of the park, ball field, or wherever we camped for the night.

Tom was one of my favorite guys to talk with throughout the week.  He was just a great listener and shared himself with others.  Anyone who always seems to have nice thing to say about others is almost always a nice person him or herself.  Thanks, Tom, for making me feel welcome.  Tom and Jim rode everyday together and were among the later group in getting to the campground.  Not because they were slow riders, but because they stopped and sat and talked to everyone they met along the way.  If they saw a farmer on his porch, they would pull up a rocker and sit and talk with him (or them).  They are a great example of what makes RAGBRAI so much different than many of the other week-long tours.  Tom said he had no idea how fast they rode Jim said they usually averaged about 17-18 mph  – when they were riding, that is.  One funny things Tom told me was that he would not ride fast downhill.  He said if he got up to about 30-35 mph, he would slow down.  In fact, he said he was terrified about riding too fast downhill.  I believe he was serious, but he may have just been yanking my chain.

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Sioux Center to Cherokee, Iowa: July 22, 2012

First day of RAGBRAI:  My Garmin is programmed for the ride.  I got up about 5:30 and went for coffee to get me going.  After all the morning routine was finished, I was ready to ride about 6:45 a.m.  Big mistake!  I should have headed out much earlier.  It was hot and destined to get hotter.  Fortunately, the ride was only 57 miles long.  Isn’t it ridiculous that one can refer to a 57-mile bike ride as “only…”  However, measured against 85 miles, it is an “only.”

Many of you know me to be detailed oriented.  I blame it on my accounting background, but I am obsessive about making sure I don’t forget to do something or to be late for wherever I am supposed to be.  To aide my memory, I make a spreadsheet with everything…and I really do mean everything.  For example is this is my entry for leaving Cincinnati for Clinton:





Fri 07/20/12

8:00 AM

Drive to Clinton, IA

1219 S. 2nd Street

Across from Clausen Company

Near 2nd St. & 13th Ave.

Load Bicycle on Truck between 4 and 7:30 p.m.

Get handlebar tag for ID’g my bike.  Put pipe insulation pieces on bike and give bike to PBV for transporting

Drive to Country Inn, Clinton, IA Country Inn: 2224 Lincolnway Street

Phone:  (563) 244-9922


6:45 AM

Drive to Bus Staging Area Drop Off Bags for Bus 6

Following the 6:45 a.m. entry, I had an separate line for 7:00, another for 7:15, and 7:30, and 8:00, and “Early Afternoon.”  I gave myself a little break for the afternoon, but only because I didn’t know what time we would arrive in Clinton.  You get the idea, right?  Some entries were important enough that I even highlighted them with a yellow felt-tipped pen.  Then after I had completed the sheet, I reread the information that had been provided us by Pork Belly Ventures (PBV) and they said the tent flaps needed to be left unzipped for them to be able to get the bags out of the tent.  I thought this was an important thing to remember and I didn’t want to re-print, yet again, my table of dates and times so I found a space large enough that I could write in yellow-highlighted large letters:  LEAVE FLY UNZIPPED.  I had to laugh out loud when I read that entry when I was reviewing my sheet the next morning.  I guess it would be okay for me to follow those instructions because isn’t that what “old men” do?

I’m finally ready to go even though most riders have already left.  This is the “start line” after the crowd is gone.  Actually there isn’t a mass departure, well, actually there IS a mass departure, but not in the sense of someone saying, “Ready, Set, Go!”  A mass of people just get up and go…earlier than I did!

I may have already mentioned that some refer to RAGBRAI as a 500-mile buffet line.  In every town of any size, at least a dozen and usually more booths sell every kind of food imaginable.  Riding in RAGBRAI is not the thing to do on a diet.  Many riders actually gain weight even though they are burning so many calories on the ride.  Oops, that’s me guiltily raising my hand…I was one of those people!

The first stop I made about 15 miles into the ride was no exception except Alton was big enough to have more than just booths; they had a wonderful bakery, Dutch Bakery.  Another line, but it was worth the wait.

On the ride, I met Janice at one of the stops, the town of Marcus, I think.

I made three stops for food and water on today’s 57-mile ride. I was hot and tired but happy to have made the first day.  Later I was talking with a couple of guys and mentioned that I may have gotten a little dehydrated in that heat today.  One of them lectured me on drinking lots of water.  He said you are supposed to drink a 24-oz. bottle of water every 15 minutes and that he had drunk 32 bottles of water on today’s ride.  I told him I had always heard you should drink a bottle of water every hour.  I should have done a little simple math.  I would be waterlogged if I drank that much water.  I wondered where he was able to find that much water on today’s ride without stopping at a lot of farm houses.

We were not allowed into “tent city” until after 1:00, so when I started down the row of tents looking for mine, I was quickly reminded by a staffer, “You can’t go in there yet; if we let you go in, everyone will want to go.”  I wasn’t looking for special treatment; I had forgotten (I even forgot to enter that on my schedule!).  I made a hasty retreat and looked for a tree under which to lie down.  Found one.  Took a nap.  Just as i was going to sleep, I felt this big “plop” on my face…no it wasn’t that!  It was someone’s bike shorts.  I was sleeping close to a tent so I yelled toward the front of the tent, “Hey, there’s someone out here – don’t throw things outside without looking.”  No reply.  Janet who had come up a few minutes before I went to sleep, told me they had fallen out of the tree!  At that point, I was hoping they were wet from being washed!

A nice relaxing afternoon after a shower; of course, there was a very long line waiting for the shower.  The line was snaking all over the place – in the sun, until I saw some shade and coaxed and appealed to everyone to move over to the shade.  The only problem then was the line came tantalizingly close to the front of the line…so near, but yet so far; however, the shade made it more tolerable except for the standing for 30-40 minutes.  A lesson learned:  From now on, I will take my shower as soon as possible after getting in from my ride.

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Clinton to Sioux Center, Iowa: July 21, 2012

Before I get too deeply into my post, I want to write a few words to explain why my tardiness in posting my RAGBRAI experience.  (Hmmm…Have you ever known me to use a few words when many words are available.)

I have had several of life’s stressors in a fairly short period of time.  In my last post, I told you about a couple of them – (1) Not one, but two car accidents in less than a month and (2) moving from Georgetown to Cincinnati.  In addition to those two, I have experienced a couple more:

    • I sold my motorhome
    • I moved in with one of my sons (that’s a bit of a reversal)
    • I am looking for a house to buy

I sold my motorhome at a ridiculously low price.  Selling a home is traumatic to begin with, but to lose so much money on the sale makes it even worse.  I have been told that two of the happiest days in one’s life are the day you buy a motorhome and the day you sell it.  I was glad to sell it because of the varied problems that arise when living in one.  Of course, with winter coming on, I could not imagine living in a motorhome in Cincinnati in the cold weather.  There were nights that I thought I was going to “freeze to death” in Georgetown, Texas, but being this far north with nights and days that are sometimes bitterly cold, I feared “freezing to death” in Ohio would be a very real possibility!  So, yes, I was glad to sell it, but there was a lot of stress associated with the sale.  The night I received the offer and realized I was going to have to do a lot of things to move out of the motorhome in about 10 days just overwhelmed me.

Before and since I sold my motor “home,” I have been actively looking for a “stationary” home to buy.  Admittedly, I am much more active now than I was then.  I am staying with my son and his family…in their basement.  They let me come out from time to time, but when I do I am usually trapped in the kitchen because of the barriers they put up to keep their new dog (puppy) on floors that are easier to clean than carpet.  Of course, they are training Suki, and they have a learned new way to train pets.  The idea is that if you scold (also known as yell at) a puppy it scares her instead of encouraging proper behavior.  For example, if Suki barks, Charlotte, my sweet daughter-in-law (she reads my blog sometimes), will sit by Suki while she barks and say nothing.  When Suki stops barking, Charlotte starts praising her for being a good dog.

Now translate that into what the proper action for me to take when I limp up (bad knee and worse back – with greater sensitivity in the morning) from the basement, bleary eyed and open the door to this cute little bundle of Jack Russell Terror biting my feet and toes.  This morning Charlotte told me to “not let her do that.”  I said I thought I was supposed to let Suki bite me and say nothing until she stops when I can then start praising her.  Nathan, my wonderful and understanding son (he “always” reads my blog plus he is operating under antiquated rent control rules that require him to keep my rent low) said he wishes that we (his parents) had been more aware of this new training method when they were growing up – “say nothing when doing wrong and praise when doing right.” 

Oh, by the way, don’t worry about my aches and pains (knees and back)…the only time I don’t have aches and pains (soon be 75) is on the bike.  I am always amazed that my back nor my knee don’t hurt at all when I am riding.  I guess I should ride more.

Well, I do go astray, but maybe you can understand why I have been so late in posting my rides on RAGBRAI.  I actually wrote the following paragraph on August 7th which was just about a week after the ending of the event:

This morning I drove off in my rented car on my way to Clinton, Iowa, to participate in the 40th Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, RAGBRAI.  I go with a little excitement and a lot of trepidation.  Why you might ask?  Let me count the ways:

  • On July 7th, just 2 weeks ago, I rode 64 miles and was very tired at the end of the ride.  Of course, in my inimitable way, I made excuses for it and even convinced myself:  “I rode out too hard and too fast at the beginning of the ride.”  It may even be true.  I had planned a 50-mile ride for that day but because I was feeling so good at the halfway point, I decided to extend it to a longer ride.

I don’t recall what other ways I was going to say to account for my trepidation.  I do know it was very hot here and throughout the rest of the country…and that did have a major impact on my riding as well as everyone else’s.  It was miserably hot this year for riding such long miles or even sitting in the shade as many Iowans did as we passed by.  I kept wondering, “are they waving” because they are happy to see us and appreciate our celebrating this annual event or…”are they waving” and thinking all the while, “are you cyclists crazy riding in this extremely hot weather”?

I think the former because they were a great source of encouragement and were so cheery as more than 10,000 “crazy” cyclists went riding by.  All along the route, we would be greeted by the friendly folk of Iowa – in towns and way out on a black strip of tar in amongst the cornfields.  Sometimes they were selling food and drink and sometimes they were giving it away.  One of my favorite offerings was someone holding a hose and spraying us as we passed by.  Of course, if you rode away from them they understood you didn’t want to be sprayed.  Once though I was seeking any kind of comfort I could find from the heat and humidity and I saw up ahead a hose pointed out into the roadway and someone happily providing a bit of cool.  I wanted it desperately and even rode over to the left where the sprayer was standing.  I was frantically waving to indicate…please, please, please spray me.  Unfortunately, he misunderstood my frantic waving to mean don’t you dare spray me.  For the remaining rides, I was much more careful to let them know I wanted to be sprayed.

On Saturday morning with a little bewilderment, (1) I dropped off my bags amongst a couple of hundred or more others who had already done so – and I thought I was early, (2) I parked my car and walked two blocks back to my bags while looking everywhere for the place to pick up my pre-paid breakfast and lunch box, and (3) I waited for the buses to take us to Sioux Center, Iowa, where the ride begins tomorrow.

After looking all along the way for the meal pickup, I discovered it right where I had left my bags, seriously.  I ate a cold bagel and drank some orange juice and wondered how I was going to keep my Pepsi cold for lunch.

I had read several times that if you don’t like to “wait” then don’t do RAGBRAI.  Well, here we were, on the first day – the day before the first ride, waiting.  I was happy to see that I wasn’t the only one that found a patch of grass to plop down on while waiting.  Finally the buses arrived and I, along with a lot of others, dragged my bags a block to board our bus.  I believe there were six buses to transport those who had registered with Pork Belly Ventures (PBV).

The ride was relaxing, kinda – I couldn’t get my armrest down – but other than that, I read and talked.  I met several people in the immediate vicinity, but best of all, I met Jack Oppel, who had helped me out tremendously for the first night of lodging.  Jack had made reservations for a group of guys that ride every year but someone couldn’t make it so rather than release the room, he asked Tammy if she knew anyone who needed a room.  Tammy knew I didn’t have one yet so she contacted me and voilà I had a room.  I really appreciated Jack’s thoughtfulness and he continued to impress me throughout the week his hospitality and cheeriness.  Others in his group were Ed, Joe, Jack, Eddie, and Mark.

I talked quite a bit with Mark and Eddie who are business companions and ride regularly together on RAGBRAI.

When we arrived, we had to get our bags off the bus, get our bike, and get in line…for more waiting.  Standing in line was to register while being nervous about the next day.  Of course, it did give me an opportunity to talk to others who are crazy enough to want to ride a bicycle 471 miles in the summer heat.  Finally, I was checked in and heading to my tent with my bike.  Next I went back to get my bags.  I unpacked my duffel bag and set up my sleeping bag on top of Nathan’s and Anna’s Therm-a-Rest pad (hereinafter known as TAR).  Nathan and Anna, my granddaughter, loaned me their TAR, easier to set up and at least as comfortable as an air mattress, so I didn’t have to buy one.  That’s a good thing, because while I enjoy biking, I am not that much into camping in the raw.  Can you really call it camping in the raw when you are being hosted by a tour company that sets up your tent before you arrive (unless you are fast like me J) and has your bags already in the tent waiting to be unpacked?  I say yes, even though I didn’t have to struggle with the onerous task of setting up a tent, I did have to unpack my duffel bag (also borrowed – from my son Nathan) everyday because there is no way to pack a TAR into a duffel bag (Army issue type) with anything in the duffel.  So every afternoon I dumped the duffel and every morning I packed it.  That counts as part of the roughing it I don’t like.

Also, for you uninitiated, you have to pump up the TAR by using your own lung power?  Oh, and don’t forget, this is after you have just ridden 50-80+ miles when you are already winded from riding up Mt. Everest on a bike…over and over and over again.  Again, for you uninitiated, you need to know that Iowa is not flat!

Somewhere about this time, I met my tent neighbor.  Janet was in the tent next to mine who is doing her 8th RAGBRAI.  Her husband used to ride with her on RAGBRAI, but his health now prevents his doing so.  I could not have had a nicer person as a neighbor…she was always helpful and generous with her “stuff” like a folding chair that I came close to using nearly as much as she did.

I saw Jack and Tom a little later and they invited me to go to the Bike Expo with them.  That is the best place to get something to eat because they are the closest place to get something to eat.  We all got a deep-fried pork tenderloin sandwich which was pretty good.  While walking through the myriad of booths with many different offerings, I saw a booth selling frozen drinks, e.g., Frappe’s.  I got one to wash down my sandwich and was wishing for something to wash down the drink.  It was just short of awful.  And right after I took a drink the vendor, a young man who was trying to start a business (I think), asked me, “How do you like it?”  What is one to say in such a circumstance?  In my defense, I only had a small sip; but, I did not tell him what I really thought of it.

I was really glad to meet Tom who I talked with several times through the rest of the week.  Tom told me that Jack and Joe and Janet (who was also a part of the group I mentioned above) were really nice people.  This from one of the nicest guys I met on the ride.

At last, I was back in my tent reading my Kindle and relaxing.  I normally go to bed about midnight, but I was pretty tired and shut off the lights (okay flashlight) and tried to go to sleep about 10 p.m.  For the next 2 hours, I struggled to try to sleep with a very loud band who decided to set up their stage right at the front door…flap…of my tent.  They played until midnight.  I doubt there were more than a couple of hundred (okay, I fibbed about their being right outside my tent, but it sure sounded like it), people there.  The other 9,800 campers were trying to do the same thing I was…sleep.

Tomorrow we ride!

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Cincinnati, Ohio: June 2012

With some reservations, I moved from Georgetown, Texas, to Cincinnati, Ohio.  My qualms were not that I didn’t want to move to Cincinnati, but that I didn’t want to leave all the great riding roads in the Georgetown area.  I have wanted to make the move for sometime because I like being close to my sons and their families…or should I say I want to be close to my grandchildren and their parents!

I am still in my motorhome; however, it is my intention to buy a home and hopefully sell the motorhome.  A couple of weeks before I moved, I totaled my car – 2000 Toyota Camry.  I wasn’t injured and it was my fault since I rear-ended another vehicle.  One driving a Toyota shouldn’t do battle with a big pickup truck.  On the upside, I received a very good settlement from State Farm and was able to use it as a down payment on a new 2012 Toyota Camry.

My new Camry didn’t have all the necessary equipment to tow it behind the motorhome so I had to use a U-Haul auto-transporter to tow my car to Cincinnati.

About a month later, I was creeping along in an exit lane on the Interstate in Cincinnati, when without warning, I heard a terrific noise and it sounded very close…like from the doorpost of my car to the rear of my car!  Yep, another crash, but this one was definitely not my fault.  The other driver was on Oxycodone and should not have been driving.  He caromed off my car and hit another car which drove the second car into a third car.  He was traveling at a pretty high rate of speed.  Fortunately, there were several witnesses who saw everything that happened and waited for the police to arrive.  Again, I was not injured.  On the other hand, my new car – 2,600 miles on it – was very damaged.  I thought it was totaled; however, it is being repaired.

I am settled nicely in a beautiful, but somewhat primitive, campground which belongs to the Hamilton County Parks Department.  The picture to the left is the entrance to the park.  To the right is a view of the east end of the park.

These pictures are of my site and the view in front of my motorhome. Also a view from inside my motorhome.

There are three “essentials” in camping as far as I am concerned:  City water, electricity – preferably 50-amp service, and on-site sewer service.  As I say the campground is “somewhat” primitive because the electric service is only 30-amp service which requires making sure you don’t run the air conditioning at the same time as you run the microwave.  More importantly there is no on-site sewer service.  This requires the campers to haul away their “waste” in what is called a “honey wagon.”  I have no idea why it is called that but that is what it is called everywhere.

About once a week, I have to empty the gray water tank (sink water, shower water, dishwater) and black water tank (you don’t want to know) into a 40-gallon container on wheels.   The motorhome tanks are about 80 gallons each so it takes 3-4 trips to dump both tanks.  This is where we dump the honey wagon.Fortunately for me, the dump site is near my motorhome, but the “wagon” is pretty heavy when filled and difficult to pull – at least for me.  I need a companion to handle that chore for me.  I can use my trailer hitch to pull the wagon; however, while my car is being repaired I don’t have a hitch.  I’m trying to figure out how I can charge the insurance company for this chore!

To more pleasant things:  I have been preparing for RAGBRAI which has required me to make long rides and lots of them.  RAGBRAI stands for Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.  Register refers to the Des Moines newspaper which is the sponsor for the ride.  This is the 40th anniversary for this annual event.  As you can surmise, the ride is across Iowa.  The 7-day event moves all over the state and this year’s event is 471 miles with lots of hill climbing.   The picture above right is Steamboat Bend Road which leads into the campground.  The picture above right is U.S. 52 looking west and the other is looking east.  As you can see there is a wide shoulder which allows for safe riding and there is very low traffic on the road.  I have ridden at least one 50-mile ride along this ride, but only about 20 miles has the wide shoulder, the rest of the road is one-lane in each direction with no shoulder.

I will be using a tour host, Pork Belly Ventures or PBV for short, which takes care of all of the drudgery, e.g., setting up the tents and carrying the baggage.  Since I have never set up a tent – unless it was during my military service; therefore, a tour operator was essential in my case.  I can’t imagine riding 80+ miles on a bike and then wrestling a tent to an upright position.  Unlike most tour operators, PBV takes our bags from the tent to the next night’s tent.  I couldn’t get them to pack my bags for me so I did have to do some of the drudgery!

Pork Belly – I have no idea where they got the name; however, I did notice we had pork every night cooked in different ways.  PBV, the largest and oldest tour host at RAGBRAI, is owned by a brother, Pete, and sister, Tammy.  I communicated by email and phone, frequently with Tammy in preparation for RAGBRAI and she was so organized and helpful in so many ways.

Actually, I think everyone should ride RAGBRAI at least once.  There are more than 10,000 cyclists each year plus friends and relatives of the riders plus workers such as the tour operators, etc.  I will be writing posting blog pages on this event as soon as I can.  It has already occurred from July 22nd – July 28th.  Unfortunately, I won’t have time to post or even write much during the week; however, I will takenotes.  Maybe you will enjoy this event more than usual since the posts will be short!

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