Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bike Ride Report - RAGBRAI Day 7 - Dyersville to Bellevue and beyond

Here's the sad end of another RAGBRAI. In the background are all the people dipping there wheels in the Mississippi.

I did not attempt to get my trike down through the throng.

The last day was hilly hilly hilly, with a big plunge at the end down to the Mississippi valley. I hit 42 mph on the big hill.

My plan was to continue on to my sister Kate's in Winnetka, IL. Winnetka is a suburb of Chicago next to Lake Michigan. I got in to Bellevue, the finish town, about 12:30, and I picked up my bags from our excellent charter, and set out for Winnetka.

I decided to get a room in Savannah, IL, just over the river. It's 23 miles to Savannah from Bellevue, and you have to climb up on the bluff twice, which is tough when you are riding a fully loaded trike which weighs about 90 lbs. I was pretty wiped out when I got there, because it was sunny and hot, and I'd been doing hills all day. I'd done 90 miles at that point.

When I got to Savannah, there were no rooms. Savannah is a big weekend getaway town, with lots of bikers and fishing. Summer Saturday nights are top demand. I pressed on after having some pizza slices from Casey's (the local farm store). My plan was to stealth camp in a cornfield when it got dark.

But by the time it started getting dark, I had ridden 130 miles, and I was out of the Mississippi valley, and it was getting nice and flat. The temperature had dropped to about 70. There was a full moon, and it looked to be a beautiful night. I was feeling really good. It was only 90 miles to Winnetka. I decided to keep going. I called Kate and told here I'd probably be there in the early morning.

It was a very beautiful and serene night riding through the moonlit cornfields. I'd stop in at Casey's every 20 miles or so for a cup of coffee and donuts. The hallucinations from sleep deprivaton didn't really begin until I was about 15 miles out, but it was built up by then and the route I chose (Palatine Rd.) was so scary and dangerous it kept me wide awake. It kept turning in to an expressway for no reason.

I got in at 5:30 am, as the sun was rising.

220 miles. 22 hours and 30 minutes clock time. On a 40 pound trike carrying 50 pounds of gear for the last 160 miles. It was a great end to RAGBRAI. I think I'll be able to get off the couch in a day or two.

Here's the MotionBased page.

Bike Ride Report - RAGBRAI Day 6 - Independence to Dyersville

Day 6 was short and sweet. It was only 60 miles, on an cool and drizzly day.

However, there was very bad news. It has been rumored, but today is was confirmed! Mr. Pork Chop is retiring! Front page news on the Des Moines Register! He's 78 years old. As a tribute, I filmed my pork chop and put it on YouTube:

The lines at Mr. Pork Chop were twice as long as usual today. All the signs along the road saying how many miles to Mr. Pork Chop had added retirement announcements. Every time he yelled "POOORK CHAAAAAAAAAAAP!" all the passing cyclists cheered.

Laura rode by a couple hours later and got a photo of him selling his very last pork chop. It wasn't to her, though, she missed out! It's best not to dawdle on the route.

Next to Mr. Pork Chop today was an operation where you could get a ride in an ultralight for $20. There are a lot of ultralights in Iowa.

Here is camp. We were next to the pool and a baseball field. There was also a community center building nearby with an all-you-can-eat fish fry for $8.00. It was tasty. I ate a lot. They said they had 1000 lbs of fish. I was pretty much done after that. I fell asleep, because I had big plans for the next day.

One last cool thing, walking back from the fish fry, I came upon this homebuilt trike in the group camped next to us:

Check out the steering - the headset is under the seat, and the bottom bracket and pedals are fixed to the front wheel assembly. It's like a Flevobike.

ROADKILL REPORT: Raccoon (decorated with party hat and mardi gras beads in the RAGBRAI tradition)

Here's the MotionBased page.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bike Ride Report - RAGBRAI Day 5 - Cedar Falls to Independence

Hello from Independence, Iowa, where it is very hot.

It was a really nice ride today, only 65 miles, through a bunch of Amish farms. We are camped in a city park.

It's supposed to storm tonight, and then be cooler tomorrow. So I'm not under any trees where branches might fall off and squash me like the poor guy in Sheldon two years ago.

I did Pastafari for lunch today, it was delicious.

I pretty much rode with Laura all day, but she faded in the heat, so I lost here after a smoothie stop here in Fairbank.

I'm stealing wifi from where we are camped, and as soon as Jim and Suzanne and Murray get cleaned up, we are going to eat. Laura set off for the movies hours ago.

Here is my laugh-out-loud moment. Sometimes stereotypes are real. I'm riding along and I'm coming up on two guys on recumbents. They are riding Sun EZ whatevers, which are heavy, slow, with big fat tires and big fat seats for big fat butts. The first one is ridden by a fat old guy. He has speakers hung from the back of the seat. He's playing polka music. The second one is ridden by a long-haired younger guy, with wispy facial hair. His seat has a homemade "Ron Paul for President" sign. Yah!

That's it for today. There were antique tractors, Amish guys stacking hay on wagons, and the guy with the sail on his trike pedaling into the headwind again.

Here's the MotionBased page.

I figured out Harry Potter's secret two years ago

I just finished the final book. I more or less had it figured out after the last one:

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bike Ride Report - RAGBRAI Day 4 - Hampton to Cedar Falls

Day four was only 68 miles, but it got hot and humid about 10:00, and it was rolling hills instead of flat. Combined with being up all night last night reading Harry Potter, I was dragging.

About 1/4 of the tents in camp have a copy of Harry Potter in them. Nobody will talk about the book because they don't want anybody to give anything away.

After I got in today, I was sitting with my fellow campers in a stackable plastic chair under the tent canopies (aka "marquees", a term I've only heard Jodie use to describe a canopy, until it appeared in the last Harry Potter) drinking beer with my copy of Harry.

Across from me was a girl with her father. She was talking on her cell phone to a friend. She said "I'm up to about page 400. Can you believe [minor spoiler from Chapter 1] ? She immediately received looks of horror, fear and hatred from all around. I told her father "Make her stop that!" She finished her call away under a tree somewhere out of earshot.

When she got back, we had a conversation that went something like this:

Drew: "I think you're a little farther along than me."
Girl (looking at book in my lap): "I think I'm at about the same point."
Drew: "Have you gotten to Hermione's wedding?"
Girl (speechless)
Drew: "I haven't either!"

hahahahah. She said that was a good one, and I had her there.

Here's the campsite, with the marquees in the background.

Political hype report:
* For some reason, there were Biden signs all over the place today. Yesterday it was Ron Paul. Will it be Kucinich next?
* Somebody got a free water bottle that says "ED in '08". None of us could figure out what candidate is named Ed.

The Des Moines Register had a picture on the front page (which I can't find online) of Lance Armstrong with Mr. Pork Chop. Lance is holding a big fat juicy one in his hand. I can't believe Lance figured out this most obvious way to pander to Iowans before any of the presidential candidates.

** Special update - here's the photo thanks to the help of random people on the Internet **

(Credit Justin Hayworth, Des Moines Register, original is here)

ROADKILL REPORT: Nothing recognizable.

Here's the MotionBased page.

Bike Ride Report - RAGBRAI Day 3 - Humboldt to Hampton

Here I am after RAGBRAI day 3. It was 70 miles, and overcast pretty much all day, which made it somewhat less hot.

Our camp site in Hampton was in a very serene park next to the river. There were lots of trees and birds in the trees. I wish I had my binoculars.

All the necessities of RAGBRAI were right by the park (shower, food, clothes-washing water) except for Internet access. So I decided to eat the church ladies' baked potato bar and devoted the evening to reading Harry Potter. I'm writing this the next day.

The highlight of Day 3 was Eagle Grove. I've been to Eagle Grove on RAGBRAI before. It is very memorable. They go all out.

*They have a guy in an eagle suit in the tree waving when you ride in to town.

Then there are a bunch of people dressed as clowns handing out balloons. After that, you go through a residential neighborhood where there is a classic car in every driveway. When you get to downtown, they have antique wagons parked on the square:

Then there is the 1960's police car set up as the Mayberry scenario, with people dressed as Andy, Barney, and Aunt Bea, where they grab riders as they pass by and throw them in jail for photographs. This is all going on with a soundboard playing clips from the TV show.

Great as all this stuff is, it was all there last time too. This year they added an Elvis impersonator:

Eagle Grove, Iowa, pop. 3455. Definitely in the very top tier of RAGBRAI towns.

I finally got a picture of the goofiest of all goofy bikes. The trike with a sail on it.

I've passed him on the road twice. Both times with a headwind and the poor guy making about 5 mph with his useless sail.

For food, it was Garden of Eden pasta alfredo on Eagle Grove, and then this fantastic sweet corn that some folks were cooking in their yard about 20 miles later.

I topped it off with an iced mocha about 15 miles from the end. I finished really strong, probably because I've been seriously caffeine-deprived.

You can tell it's election time. Obama is making appearances with the highly annoying and omnipresent Lance Armstrong. Edwards rode with him today. Hillary had her people handing out free water:

Lance Armstrong story: He had a special question and answer session just for children a couple days ago. Invite only. A sweet little girl asked him "Mr. Armstrong, what part of your body was your cancer in?"


Here's the MotionBased page.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Bike Ride Report - RAGBRAI Day 2 - Spencer to Humboldt, IA

Today was century day. Here is the "after" picture.

Here is the "before" picture.

We got Suzanne to take our picture, while she was busy packing up her and Jim's stuff.

It was almost a full century this year. It was 98.8 miles from camp site to camp site. I rode around town for a while to get the needed 1.2 miles. It took me from 7:00 to 3:30, with a rolling average of 13.4 mph. The trike is slow, the T-Bone would have gotten me in two hours earlier.

I rode with Laura for the first 50 miles. When she would stop to take pictures, I rode slower to let her catch up.

We had breakfast at Mr. Pork Chop.

There are rumors that this is the last year for Mr. Pork Chop and he might be retiring. So here are some more photos to document this important RAGBRAI institution.

Pork chops on the grill:

The corn cob compartment on the bus:

The man himself:

The century loop took us to Albert City, a town where most people are of Swedish descent. They have a huge grain elevator and an ethanol plat. You can smell the ethanol plant. It smells like mash.

This contraption of many gears and belts and wheels is an ice cream maker.

The ice cream was incredibly good. I also had some Swedish meatballs and homemade rye bread. I resisted the urge to walk around going BORK BORK BORK!

The ice cream and meatballs made me a tower of power for the last half of the century. I stopped waiting around for Laura, and put the hammer down (as far as it will go on the trike). Here is the camp site, all set up by 4:00.

Humboldt is kind of messed up for an overnight town. First, the only nearby place to get a shower was the municipal swimming pool, and the line was outrageously long. I just jumped in the pool and did baby wipes before bed.

Second, check out the beer garden. This picture is from next to the stage. The far end is four blocks down! You can't even see the end! This means it's a four block walk to cross the street. This is a very retarded setup, especially on Century Day.

So the three block walk to the happy friendly Qwest Internet booth was actally 7 blocks. The Qwest booth was conveniently located next to a BBQ stand, which was a very tasty dinner.

Laura and I went to see the Harry Potter movie. There is a movie theater right on the main street. This was more fun than standing in line for a shower. This was only the second movie Laura has gone to this week.

Overnight towns always try to have a theme. Humboldt's was "Holidays in Humboldt". It was Christmas. The had kids handing out candy canes when you rode in.

Yesterday, Spencer had a James Bond theme. When you rode in to town, there were a couple dozen kids lined up along the road handing out loaded squirt guns! Unbelievably, some of the folks on our charter were sitting around later saying how they couldn't figure out what to do with the squirt guns.

This was obvious to me. You get your squirt gun from the first kid in line. Then you ride along squirting the remaining kids while laughing maniacally. It was great.

If you have any water left, you squirt the guy on the bike next to you. When the squirt gun is empty, you toss it to a kid alongside the road.


Here's the MotionBased page.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Bike Ride Report - RAGBRAI Day 1 - Rock Rapids to Spencer, IA

Hello from Spencer, Iowa!

It was a tough day today. I'm no longer carrying my gear, it was flat, most of the time, the wind was across, and I was dragging. It was probably due to riding 90 miles loaded yesterday and skipping dinner. Today was only 80 miles, but I feel far more beat then yesterday.

Tomorrow is Century Day.

Back in Rock Rapids, we were camped across the street from Central Lyon High School. They have a cement lion in front. It's a landmark.

It's also anatomically correct.

I can't believe those bad boys haven't been painted fluorescent orange yet. What does Albert the Bull have on the Rock Rapids lion?

The first town was George, IA, which presented an excellent opportunity to address the nutritional deficit.

It's cherry. Would you believe they were out of rhubarb by 8:30 am?

This was just a holdover for the real breakfast. What could all these hundreds of people possibly be riding towards?

That's right! Mr. Pork Chop! He's alive and well, and a pork chop hot off the grill is *still* only $6.

That did me for 35 more miles, to the fabulous town of Hartley.

In the park, they had whole food court deal set up. I had a Garden of Eden smoothie and a brat and pie!

Strawberry-rhubarb, purchased for $1.50 from a church lady wearing mom jeans. Thus fueled, I got to camp by 2:30.

I got the tent set up, got hydrated, got showered, and pursued the Heffe-weisen electrolyte replenishment therapy until the spaghetti dinner opened up next door at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

And now I have nearly completed my last activity of the day other than beer, finding Internet access. The RAGBRAI special supplement showed the Iowa Telecom trailer was located just north of the Swine Barn in the fairgrounds.

Iowa Telecom is missing in action, so it's Quest for me. I'm glad we're camped next to the spaghetti dinner instead of the swine, for sure.

Raccoon, cat

Here's the MotionBased page.

Bike Ride Report - Pre RAGBRAI - N. Sioux City, SD to Rock Rapids, IA

Here's the story of our last day of riding to the start of RAGBRAI. I'm writing this the next day in Spencer, Iowa, under the Quest tent using the free wi-fi. That's because we faced many challenges yesterday which made it impossible to make a blog entry before the Iowa Telecom trailer packed up at 11:00.

We started out by heading north on the beautiful and scenic Iowa Route 12, which was also devoid of traffic because it was closed.

But not for us.

Lunch was in Hawarden, at a convenience store where they had tasty pizza bites. Laura and I spent some time there waiting for Jim. He was dawdling behind us and he had a flat tire. It was an omen.

At Hawarden, we turned east to go to Sioux Center, where there was a Wal-Mart, where I accomplished my birthday mission of acquiring the new Harry Potter book.

Laura and I rode in to town for a late lunch at Taco Johns, and waited for Jim. He was dawdling behind, and he had a flat tire.

But it's worse. He fixed his flat again, and was out of tubes, and he got another flat. He limped in to Wal-Mart, and I rode back with one of Laura's extra tubes.

But it's EVEN WORSE. When we were fixing he wheel we noticed that there were cracks on most of the points where the spokes come through the rim. And there was one point where the sidewall was cracked open. Basically the wheels that came with his year-old Trek are utter crap. And he had a broken spoke on his front wheel, which was wobbling all over.

Jim got to spend some serious time at the Bike Expo getting his bike road-worthy. Suddenly, with his opportunity for visiting the Beer Garden in jeopardy, Jim becomes the Tower of Power, and leaves Laura and I way behind. (Total damage: new rim, two new spokes, wheel build on original hub, $120. Done by 10:00 pm. Iowa rocks.)

Jim's girlfriend Suzanne had ridden out with his friend Murray from Chicago, and they brought Laura's camping gear. Since I carried my own camping gear, I got all set up, no problem.

But Laura doesn't know where Jim or Murray or Suzanne are, or where her tent is. She addressed this dilemmma by going to church for Saturday evening mass, and praying that she would be able to figure out how to set her tent up.

Mass gets out, we look all over for Jim and Murray and Suzanne and her gear. No luck. It's getting dark, so she decides to ride downtown to the beer garden where Jim most likely is. I go take a shower. When I get back, Jim is back, Laura is not. Jim and I set up her tent. It is now 11:00.

Bottom line, Laura gets no shower or dinner, but does get here tent set up. I get no dinner, but Laura gives me a bag of goldfish and a stuffed frog doll that croaks when you squeeze it for my birthday. Jim, whose crap Trek bike is the cause of all this, is just fine, because Suzanne set his tent up and he spent the time they were working on his bike partying in the beer garden.

Raccoon, cats