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!


About SteveVarnum

I am 81 years old. I started riding a bicycle at age 70 and like most avid cyclists, fell "in love" with it. For a Grand Adventure, I decided to ride at least 100 miles in every state. I completed all 50 states. I did the 48 contiguous states in May - November 2010 (73) and Hawaii and Alaska 2011 (74). I have ridden > 36,000 miles in past 11 years and at 81, I still am still riding.
This entry was posted in Adventure, Bicycles, Bicycling, Exercise, Friends, Iowa, Touring, United States and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Clinton to Sioux Center, Iowa: July 21, 2012

  1. Candy Fiddes says:

    Glad to see you are goimng to get a real nest and ride on. Everything is real good here. God is faithful. I think they need another pup name Yaki..

  2. Candy Fiddes says:

    oh a Jack Russel pup – they are always smarter than their owners….

  3. Candy Fiddes says: Just very smart dogs Jack Russels..

  4. Bobby says:

    ahh finaly read it from top to bottom. Cheers

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s