Sunday, July 30, 2006

Northern Illinois Day 1 - Muscatine to Geneseo

Here we go! The first annual Northern Illinois Bike Ride, from RAGBRAI to Chicago!

This is a supported tour. Like RAGBRAI, the organizers haul your stuff from overnight town to overnight town. Unlike the Des Moines Cycle Club, the organizers expect your bags to be on the trailer at 5:45 AM.

So here is a sight probably never before recorded: Laura awake and ready to go before 6:00 am.

It is a very very good idea to get going early, because it's insanely hot, with highs near 100 and the heat index is around 110 degrees.

Here's the state line, at the Mississippi River.

And here's Laura at the sign welcoming us to Illinois.

I wonder if our first stop town is representative of Illinois. The town is Buffalo Prairie. We stopped at what appears to be the only business in town, Reason's Meats, a butcher. I think they render.

Outside next door, there is a demolition derby car to lean on.

Inside they have tons of tasty pig ears and knuckles for the pup.

They also have jerky from about 10 different kinds of animals.

We got in to Geneseo just after 11:00, before the hot hot heat really set in. Downtown Geneseo is from around 1900, and it is very picturesque. Here is where we had lunch.

After lunch, we beat the heat by spending the afternoon at the pool.

After our swim, Laura went bowling, and I went out and had a big slab. Life is good.

Here's the route. It was flat and easy, except for the heat.

RAGBRAI Day 7 - Coralville to Muscatine

End of the Road. That's the Mississippi River.

It's pretty exciting to ride into town at the end of RAGBRAI. All the people are sitting out on their lawns like it's a parade and they cheer you.

I saw a funny spectacle at the traditional Mississippi River wheel dip. The wheel dip is on a fairly steep boat ramp. In the water it is very slick and slimy with algae. Dude comes up on a trike to dip his front wheels.

The important detail to know is that on a trike the brakes are on the front wheels and there is no brake on the rear wheel.

So as soon as his front wheels hit the algae, he slides right into the river.

Now for the sad part where RAGBRAI is over and everyone leaves. Here is the parking lot at Muscatine Community College, where the groups with box trucks load up the people and bags onto tour buses and put the bikes in the trucks and head back to Des Moines. (By the way, at Muscatine Community College, you can major in "Feed and Fertilizer Marketing". I am not making this up.)

Jim headed back to Chicago, and Laura and I are continuing on to Chicago on the Bicycle Illinois' first annual "Northern Illinois Tour". The Northern Illinois tour conveniently starts from Muscatine Community College, so we didn't have to go anywhere, which was nice because the student center was highly air conditioned and it was in the upper 90s with a heat index of something like 112 degrees.


I didn't get much sleep last night, because the dim bulbs in Coralville thought it would be a great idea to park RVs on the road right next to where they had us camp.

Bedtime comes and all the RVs are running their noisy generators and fouling the air with diesel smoke so they can sit their human hog butts inside in the air conditioning and watch satellite TV.

I decided to see if I could get them to shut down the generators so the hundreds of tent campers could sleep.

The first RV on our block shut down. This may be because they had some kids in their party sleeping in a tent next to the RV.

Here's the second RV. It was built on a tour bus, and it had a very, very loud generator. I bang on the door. An old man comes to the door. I ask him when he plans to turn off his generator. He says "I don't want to get heat stroke." I told him his noise was making it hard for me to sleep in my tent. He said you should have set up somewhere else. I pointed out to him that he wasn't there when I set up. So when are you going to shut down the generator? He shut his door in my face and I heard the lock click. He ran his generator all night.

This human hog containment facility had a bike chained to the front wheel. The RAGBRAI sign on the bike says it belongs to Art Knapp of Santa Barbara, California. It also had a sign in the front window advertising At the photobuz site, they have a contact e-mail address, which is where the link to this blog is being sent in a few minutes.

On to the next human hog containment facility. On this one, I came upon a family consisting of a couple and two teenage/twentyish kids leaving the RV. I asked them when they plan to turn off the generator. The father figure says "We're going to run it pretty late." I told him his generator was making it very difficult for me to sleep. I asked him what made him think it why it was OK for him to disrupt all the tent campers nearby so he could watch TV. His response was "I paid the money." This just infuriated me. I went on a tirade that because he paid some money does not entitle him to make a lot of noise to disrupt everyone else's sleep and pollute the air for everyone else with diesel exhaust.

I wound up bellowing "HUMAN HOG" at the top of my lungs every time he opened his mouth to speak. Eventually he and his porcine spawn went inside. They ran their generator all night.

When I hit the road at 7:00 the next morning, none of them had emerged, which is too bad, because I wanted to ask them how well they slept.

Here is the route for the last day of RAGBRAI. It was flat and easy, I was at the river before 10:00.

Friday, July 28, 2006

RAGBRAI Day 6 - Coralville Update

It sure was hot in Coralville today.

They have a real nice pool just a short walk from camp.

This is a very fancy pool. They have this contraption that spews water all over when you twist various valves on the bottom. The valves are set at the height of a six year old.

I think normally there aren't a bunch of sweaty bikers sitting under it.

But the most amazing thing is this water slide. They have a regular water slide (purple on the right), but the orange thing is the "Space Bowl".

It's really a toilet bowl. You slide down the intestine (orange tube) and then swirl around bowl a couple times then you get flushed out the bottom. This thing is absurdly popular. The wait was about a half hour.

I called it the toilet bowl while describing it on the phone to Laura, who was on her way to the mall on the shuttle bus to see movies. Some kid overheard and a couple minutes later all the kids were calling it the toilet bowl. Maybe this is the RAGBRAI legacy for Coralville.

The pool is next to the beer garden. I was sitting and reading a book. I'd plunge in the pool every 20 minutes to cool off. I got to hear all the bands play. The bands were remarkably good. They just had an amazing Salsa band doing Afro-Cuban jazz numbers. I think Coralville is a posh suburb of somewhere, because this is way different than Van Halen covers next to the swine barn. Also the food stands had a wide variety of different foods, many of which did not involve pork.

I had brats anyway.

RAGBRAI Day 6 - Marengo to Coralville

Hello from Coralville!

Today was a short and easy day, only 48 miles and often flat. I took my first stop, which was just a Kybo break in Harwood. Here is the whole town of Harwood.

Despite the fact that the town consists of a house, church, and church hall, they had live entertainment! At 8 in the morning! These guys were really good. I heard them riding out, and I thought it was a Stanley Brothers CD, but it was a live band. They were very old-time bluegrass.

I held off eating until Pastafari at mile 38.

Pastafari is a RAGBRAI institution. They set up a pasta stand in a cornfield and blast reggae. They have nothing to do with the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

I got in to camp at 10:00, before the heat set in. I snagged an excellent spot which will be in the shade pretty soon.

Last night about 7:00 we have a bunch of hot air balloons fly over the fairgrounds.

Here they are passing over the beer garden.

It turns out our little mud pit beer garden was not the main beer garden, but a special auxilliary beer garden just for us. I felt bad for the band, because nobody who wasn't a family member wanted to stand in the mud pit to watch them play Van Halen covers. You can see the whole extent of the crowd there.

Anyway, here's the quick and easy route for today.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

RAGBRAI Day 5 - Newton to Marengo

Today was "century day" where there is an optional loop you can ride to make the day's total distance 100 miles. Regular is 77 miles. I decided for fun to see how fast I could ride the century in clock time instead of pedal time.

The only time I stopped was at mile 60 to refill water, which I made into Cytomax. All I had to eat was 4 goo packs and 4 scoops of cytomax and a bagel with peanut butter before I left.

The first part of the ride was pretty hilly, and the loop was hilly too. The loop went out in the middle of nowhere to some art. Since I was on a mission, I did not stop and photograph the art, but I should have. It was a 60 foot tower with three blades of metal wagon wheels welded together. I don't know what it's for, or why it's there, because there's nothing else there for miles around. It must be art.

The last 25 miles or so were totally flat. The hammer was in the down position. There was no wind, and it was mid 80s and very humid. I was looking at finishing in under 6 hours, and I was happily cruising along at 21-22 mph.

Then this double pace line comes up on me and leaders say something like "We don't have and recumbents, hop on." Which I thought was a snark remark implying I couldn't keep up. So I hopped in. They were doing about 24 mph. It seems the same two guys had been leading this for the last 15 miles or so. Very impressive.

In no time we were in Marengo. They were saying "That the fastest century I've ever done." Well, GPS says otherwise. It was only 90 miles. I feel robbed. Century day should be an actual century. I did 91 miles in 5:14 clock time and 5:09 pedal time. I feel robbed.

So this is quite a setup in Marengo. We're camped at the fairgrounds, and I swear everything you could possibly need is less than 100 yards away.

Here's my tent.

That orange fence behind it surrounding a mud pit is the beer garden. I don't think I'll be sleeping much tonight, but the spectacle should be fun to watch.

Looking the other way from the exact same spot are the showers.

Just to the left is food. The grey building is selling brats with kraut. The are delicious. The tan building is the Cattlemans' association. They are having a steak and potato dinner tonight, and a pancake breakfast tomorrow.

To the left of that are the bike mechanics and vendors, and the kybos.

Is this the most incredible score for a camping area or what? Usually you have to take a shuttle bus to the food and the beer garden.

Here's the map for today's "century."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

RAGBRAI Day 4 - Waukee to Newton

Hello from Newton Iowa, home of a brand new NASCAR race track! Everything here has a NASCAR theme. There are little checkered flags lining the route into town. (There were tiki torches yesterday at the Wau-Kee-Kee Hula Party).

We had incredible thunderstorms all last night. They got 2 1/2 inches of rain in Waukee. I was safe and dry in my tent. Jim was at the beer garden when they came, and he reported on the impromptu naked slip-and-slide that spontaneously erupted. He was save and dry on his cot above the small pond on the floor of his tent. Laura fled to the emergency shelter, which was the middle school we were camped next to. It was a late start this morning since Laura was unable to hear the ritual "DES MOINES CYCLE CLUB YOUR BURNING DAYLIGHT". It took us an hour to find her where she was sleeping away under some bleachers.

Also lightning hit our camp. It struck the engine of the box truck of the group next to us and destroyed the engine. They had to go and get a new truck.

I started the day with a tasty breakfast at Mr. Pork Chop.

See the pork chops grilling? YUM!

Mr. Pork Chop was at mile 30, and the whole ride was 70 miles and pretty flat. 20 miles out I mixed up some Cytomax, and I got in here at Newton at noon. Before going to camp, I stopped by the center of town for some tacos

and strawberry pie.

Then I rode to the camp area and set up.

So today's big news at camp was the arrival of Lance Armstrong. He was supposed to ride tomorrow, but the story was that he rode some today on the spur of the moment. I never passed him, so I figured it was just a rumor.

It turns out he did ride, but it was later in the afternoon. There is a lot of excessive hype about Lance Armstrong coming to RAGBRAI, and a lot of jokes as backlash. Like the farmer who attached an old bike to the front of his manure spreader and put a stuffed dummy on it wearing a yellow bike jersey that said "Lance" on it.

After Jim got in, we went into town for some dinner. We took the shuttle bus (a school bus, today) into town and went to the Methodist? Church for dinner. Some church. Everyone said the one with the green dome.

I about had the volunteer who gives out directions on the school bus convinced the Methodists bought out the Muslims and it used to be a mosque, but Jim thought it would be a bad idea if she spread this misinformation to hundreds of RAGBRAI riders all night and straightened her out.

Dinner was excellent! Beef and homemade noodles, with green beens and two choices of homemade salad to go with.

And look at the top of the picture. That would be goosberry pie! You don't get goosberry pie every day.

After I posted last night, a DMCC member rode up to visit with her three year old in this amazing rig.

I had to grill her about hauling kids in trailers. It turns out she had a recumbent before she got the trike, and she said it's much, much easier to haul the trailer on a trike. She said the super-low gearing on the trike is incredibly helpful, and it's very nice that the trike is wider than the trailer. She said the company that made the trailer is out of business, but the hitch on it broke and she replaced it with a Burley hitch.

She also said she started hauling her son around when he was six weeks old, by mounting a car seat inside the trailer.

Stick-on Sandal Update

I'm wearing them right now. I peeled them off last night with some effort. I left them out in the rain, figuring the rain would clean them. In the morning they would not stick at all. It turns out that was because they were wet. I threw them in my bag, and when I put them on this afternoon they stuck just fine.

But they got wet again when I was cleaning out my Camelback bladder, and stopped sticking. I washed them off and set them in the sun to dry while I went to take a shower while wearing my old flip-flops. When I got back, they were hot and dry and super sticky.

So they seem to work just fine unless they are wet. I walked about a mile around Newton while wearing them.

Also, at least six women asked me about them because they wanted some. I am popular with the ladies when I am wearing stick-on sandals. I am so cool.

Here is today's route, which was flat and easy except for the 15% climb going out of Colfax.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

RAGBRAI Day 3 - Audubon to Waukee

Today I did not start the day at Mr. Pork Chop, because there was a good-sized town two miles farther along. That town was Guthrie Center. At 8:30 they had the beer garden going, which included liquor, and the guy on the PA was encouraging folks to have shots. Nobody who is going to drink shots on RAGBRAI would be awake at that hour, so he wasn't getting any takers.

Guthrie Center also had a fake Mr. Pork Chop bus! This is a mean pig bus, not a nice one like Mr. Pork Chop.

I got a black bean burrito and a smoothie from Garden of Eden, who are in one of those booths there.

I got to Waukee around 11:30. At Waukee, they are having a Wau-kee-kee Hula Party, so I got a lei on the way in from a cute teenage girl.

It was a pretty easy ride today, but I'm feeling a bit under the weather, so I was kind of plodding along. The wind was a crosswind, and only the first half was hilly. My head is stuffed up and I was feeling a little feverish. I bought some aspirin in Guthrie Center, but I haven't taken any yet.

We are set up next to the middle school. It's supposed to rain tonight, maybe I will be sheltered next to the building. That's also the flattest available space.

After I got a shower I went over to the very extensive vendor area. Waukee is a suburb of Des Moines, and they have abundant food and interesting vendor booths.

Here for example is an anti-war activist booth that have done amazing things to a Honda Element just like Debra's!

And most amazing is this local Iowa business who has invented stick-on flip-flops!

They really work!

I bought them from the girl above wearing a coconut bra. She also lei'd me. Now I don't just go and spend $10 on any ridiculous product pitched by a cute girl in a coconut bra. I asked her lots of questions first. She says they come right off, and they are guaranteed to stick back on for a whole year if you wash them off first.

I also asked her if I could wear them to work, or if I would get in trouble. She said "No problem! We wear them to work all the time!"

I am so damn cool.

So I'm hanging out inside the middle school next to the volunteers who are recharging cell phones (awesome idea!) while wearing my stick-on flip flops and enjoying the air conditioning and open wifi connection. My feet feel like they are stuck in fly paper. But it's worth it to be so cool.

Back in Audubon, I went back into town with Jim in the evening to eat more and hang out in the beer garden. In the middle of the beer garden was a nice statue of John James Audubon.

Being an admirer of John James Audubon, I quickly spotted many inaccuracies and anachonisms in this statue. None of them are as bad as making Babe Ruth with wrong handed glove, but still, the sculptor should know that Audubon himself did not paint the backgrounds in his paintings, he sketched them lightly and had an assistant finish them at his engraver's, so there should not be a completed background on the canvas while he works on the Ring-necked Duck. Also, Audubon shot most of the birds he painted there should be a dead duck nearby wired into a lifelike position.

Here is the route for today. Hard at the start, easy at the end. All morning there was lightning ahead of us, but we had no rain.