Saturday, July 31, 2010

RAGBRAI Day 6 - Waterloo to Manchester

If I look soggy it's because I am. It was 65 miles, and it started raining 3 miles after I left Waterloo. It stopped the moment I arrived at camp. From then on, it was beautiful. During the ride it was all downpour, thunder, and lightning. I should have slept in.

I didn't take any pictures during the ride because my camera was packed away safe and dry.

Look what I found in the microbrew cooler:

It's from Stanley, Iowa. It must be good because it has a train on the label, just like Night Train Express. It is in fact very tasty. I had a Moose Drool today too!

I had ambitions to go to the church supper (serving 4-8) and eat a mountain of spaghetti, but I foolishly waited for my friends. I gave up on them around 6:30, and went alone. The line was a block long. So instead, I went to the legion hall.

They were serving "beef on a stick" (if you are in the American Legion, you are not allowed to eat terrorist food like kabobs.) And they were also serving up Bloody Marys. So I had my thing which I will not call a kabob, and my blatantly obvious cocktail while sitting on a picnic table in the middle of the street, several blocks from the beer garden. Some things you can get away with if you are the American Legion.

But I was still hungry. I think it's because I rode the 65 miles straight through without any stopping what so ever, because I was soaked, and if you stop, you get cold. So if I'm wet, I don't stop until I'm somewhere I know I can get warm and dry.

Anyway, I had a tasty, delicious brat, which, can you believe it, was sold to me by the Delaware County Pork Queen (2009-2010).

It's not every day you meet a pork queen.

Back at camp, later, one of my fellow campers brought forth this specimen to share with all. This is Marquette Maid "Big Red" raspberry wine, brewed in Iowa of course.

It tasted not unlike blue Powerade.

All in all, this was quite a satisfying day of Iowa in all her glory, despite the rain.

Here is the route for today.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

RAGBRAI Day 5 - Charles City to Hawkeye Community College, outside Waterloo

Another beautiful day, 85 miles, and I felt great. I hammered it, and was in before noon.

Since I was on a mission, I only took one picture, while I was eating a pizza slice at the halfway point.

So I'm happily sitting here in the student center cafeteria at Hawkeye community college, across the street from my tent, with high speed wifi, in air conditioned comfort. I can't read about The Girl Who Does Stuff, because the iPhone is on the charger at our camp site. (I'm reading it on the Kindle app.)

There is not much else to say for today. It's supposed to storm tonight, and possibly more tomorrow morning.

Here is the route for today.

RAGBRAI Day 4 - Clear Lake to Charles City

(Stieg Larsson has made me write this the day after it happened.)

The thunderstorms the night before lowered the temperature to the mid 80s and took away the humidity. The result was an absolutely gorgeous day.

Here is a picture of a town on the RAGBRAI route in the morning before the crowd hits. I don't remember why I took it.

The town of Swaledale had this magnificent contraption running. The Des Moines Register today said it was built by an 84 year old guy in his barn over the last three winters when he had nothing better to do.

Someone needs to notify the Visionary Arts Museum, I think.

Another highlight was the "town" of Cartersville. Since the railroad went away, all that remains is three houses and a farm equipment dealer.

That doesn't mean they can't be an awesome pass-through town. They dug a pit, filled it with water, built a swing, printed up a couple thousand liability release forms, and charged $5 a swing.

The Register said this attraction was "shut down by the Authorities" when the clothes started coming off.

In Iowa, you can just drive your tractor to town and park in any old parking space.

Our campground was awesome, especially compared with the misery of last night. No diesel generators, no trains, lots of shady trees.

And folks bringing their llamas by to visit.

As a special added bonus, it was across the street from a steakhouse (with bar) that also had pasta specialties. What a score! I put the whip down on my friends to get them showered and in there before the food was gone. We beat the crowd, and I had some 50 mile tortellini, a kick-ass Manhattan, and a giant margarita. That totally recovered me from the revolting prairie dog yesterday.

Here's the route for today.

RAGBRAI Day 3 - Algona to Clear Lake

(This is the report from Tuesday, but I'm writing it on Thursday because I've been obsessively reading the Swedish trilogy about the Girl who Did Various Things.)

It was only 60 miles. It was also only in the 90s with a head index around 104. In other words, a brutal day, even though I started early.

I think the next two pictures are in Garner, but Garner isn't so far from Eagle Grove (the best RAGBRAI pass-through town ever) that the crowd from Eagle Grove couldn't spend 45 minutes driving up with their props. Eagle Grove is the town where they have a guy in an eagle costume waving from the top of a tree when you ride in, and they have people play-acting the whole cast from Mayberry, RFD, and some guy working a sound board broadcasting Barney Fife quotes.

So here is Barney on a trailer, putting RAGBRAI riders in jail with Otis the drunk.

And here is Aunt Bea with a fresh pie, in front of Sheriff Taylor's police cruiser.

And here is where I got some incredibly good ribs for breakfast.

I was to busy wilting in the heat to take more pictures until I got to our campsite. Our charter, Brancell, usually does an exceptional job getting prime camping areas in the overnight towns. Well not this night. We were way far from downtown, behind the school bus maintenance garage, on a lumpy field that had just been mowed for the first time this year. On one end was a railroad track. The train came through just after midnight. On the other end was this:

It's a temporary cell tower just for RAGBRAI, powered by a diesel generator. Which ran all night. Thanks, ATT. You could at least have set up a temporary tower with 3g so I could get on the net with my iPhone.

When it's in the 90s and humid you know what's coming. The thunderstorms were quite severe. I watched the lightning in the distance for about an hour before bed. It was pretty spectacular. The storm hit Clear Lake about 2:00 am. I'm pretty sure lightning hit the temporary cell tower. I did not sleep much between the diesel generator, the trains, and the storm.

I also didn't eat well, because I waited for Jim and Suzanne to take the bus into town for food. By the time we got there all the church suppers and restaurants were out of food. So we ate food from vendor booths. I had this amazing thing called a "Prairie Dog". They take a brat, wrap it in dough, and deep fry it. The thick dough keeps any of the grease from the brat from escaping. It's really something.

Here is the route for today.

Monday, July 26, 2010

RAGBRAI Day 2 - Storm Lake to Algona

Today was Century Day. It was flat, with a strong tailwind for about half the route.

I did it with jut under 6 hours of pedal time. I feel great.

Here are Suzanne and Laura back at Storm Lake, first thing in the morning. Laura insisted on taking a bunch of pictures.

I stopped for a pulled pork sandwich in Pocahontas. I'm way ahead of the pack here. It's about 8:30 at this point.

The Century Loop is an optional add-on you can do on top of the regular route to have a hundred mile day. The Century Loop will typically pick up another town. This year it was Rolfe. Rolfe has a grain elevator on the railroad tracks. There were no signs of life.

On my second pass through Plover, I stopped for a smoothie at old favorite Garden of Eden. This is after 66 miles.

I suspect this is the youngest rider on RAGBRAI. I forget the town. I didn't see him on the century loop.

I got in about 1:00, set the tent up, showered, and relaxed all afternoon.

The park we are camped at in Algona has a terrific playground. Max is missing out.

The easiest way to get a shower is to go to a shower truck. This is a semi truck with showers inside. They have a big natural gas heater to warm the water, which they get from a fire hydrant. The shower truck is a better option than stuff like showers at the high school or pool, because they don't run out of hot water.

I asked the lady selling showers what the shower truck does when it's not RAGBRAI. She said it goes to Sturgis, and similar biker rallies.

Here is the obscure beer selection of the day. "Supper Club" from the Capital Brewery of Middleton, Wisconsin. If you look close on the right side of the label, it has the slogan "Not Bad".

Here is the route from today:

RAGBRAI Day 1 - Sioux City to Storm Lake

Here is the end of a pretty hard day 1, in beautiful Storm Lake.

It was 71 miles of nonstop rolling hills, not what you would expect from what has been billed as the third flattest RAGBRAI ever. The rest of this must be on a salt lake bed.

Here is a picture I took, but now I don't remember where. It doesn't matter, almost every town in Iowa looks like this. You have your grain elevator, your half-abandoned main street, and lots of bikes hung on a steel cable strung between two tractors.

I had lunch at Pastafari, an old favorite. It was as delicious as ever, penne pasta with spicy red sauce and a slab of Rosemary-encrusted salmon.

Since I rode by myself, Pastafari was for breakfast, around 9:30.

I got in to Storm Lake just after noon. Our camp site was on the lakefront, it was spectacular.

The water was terrific, no need to wait in line for a shower.

The temperature was in the upper 80s. I wound up with some pain in my ankles, which I decided was probably because the boom was extended too far. I moved it in a half inch.

Here is the Garmin Connect link for the map:

RAGBRAI Day 0 - Blair, NE to Sioux City, IA

(This is actually being written two days after the fact due to lack of Internet access)

RAGBRAI has begun!

It was 84 miles of flat riding right into a stiff headwind. I rode with Jim, Suzanne, and Laura, which means it took forever. We left at 9:30 am and got in at 8:30 pm.

Here is the T-Bone, loaded and ready to go at the Super 8 in Blair. I have everything I need on there for self-contained touring, including camping gear.

Nebraska is looking pretty green.

We stopped at lunch in Tekamah, Nebraska, which is only about 20 miles from Blair. But it was lunch time due to the need to shop at Walgreen's in Blair for nearly an hour.

Here is an artistic portrayal of Jim unpacking his bike through the window.

Our plan was to eat hearty, and not stop to eat again until Sioux City.

20 miles farther up the road, we had to stop for another hour for no apparent reason at Decatur, NE. There were lots of bikers out that day.

The bridge to Iowa was right after Decatur.

After 5 or six hour of headwinds, and another lengthy stop, we finally reached the campground, and had just enough time to get set up before it got completely dark.

So it's 9:00 pm (Central Time) and we haven't eaten. As it happens, fortune smiled upon us. We walked out of the park into town, through the parking lot of what appeared to be a public housing high-rise, and there was a neon beer sign!

Alas, it was only a convenience store. False alarm. But a block over, there were more neon beer signs in a building with a giant iguana on the roof!

That can only mean good things. There was a takeout window with Mexican food, and picnic tables in front to eat it at.

But the food was separate from the bar, and they were having a $30 all you can drink special. I explained to the lady at the door that we I didn't need to drink $30 of drinks, so she accommodated me and brought me out a Margarita!

Lesson: you can't go wrong if there is a giant lizard on the roof.

The Garmin Connect map for the day's ride is here:

Friday, July 23, 2010

RAGBRAI Day -1 Omaha to Blair, NE

It's so nice to be riding the bike. Even if it's 90 degrees out and humid.

I am ensconced in the Super 8 in Blair, Nebraska, which is a favorite stopover on the way to RAGBRAI.

The first trauma of the trip was when I was packing last night, Debra couldn't find her camera, which she was going to let me bring. This was at 10:00, after the stores were closed. So I was shopping for cameras online, and figuring out where there was a Best Buy in Omaha or Iowa near my route.

But look what was right next to my gate at BWI!

It's a Best Buy vending machine with cameras! There was a nice Canon Powershot SD1300IS Digital ELPH, and a quick call to Debra established that it cost just $20 more than what it cost on Amazon. Sold!

There were some nice clouds we flew by on the plane. Check it out, Max! Here is a cumulus cloud right next to the plane, with some cirrus clouds above it.

Later on, there were lots of cumulus clouds way below, over some farms in Iowa.

(Max is obsessed with weather.)

I took a later flight than my traveling companions Jim, Suzanne, and Laura. They had to get up in the wee hours of the morning. Not me. But on the other hand, my flight was delayed, and they rode on ahead without me.

Here is the bike ready to be put back together in the Omaha baggage claim area. Usually nobody cares about this, except maybe a nerdy security guard, who intrigued by the recumbent. This year, though, there were lots of security guards, who were very concerned by this, even though Jim, Suzanna, and Laura had put their bikes together and rode off two hours before.

And perhaps because of my outlaw image created by these security guards, lots of women wanted to talk to me about RAGBRAI, and help put the bike together. Go figure. This has never happened before. At dinner, we came up with an alternate theory that in previous years, Jim and I would both be putting our bikes together, and maybe it was Jim acting as a babe repellent. Suzanne thought that was plausible.

And perhaps because of my outlaw image created by these security guards, lots of women wanted to talk to me about RAGBRAI, and help put the bike together. Go figure. This has never happened before. At dinner, we came up with an alternate theory that in previous years, Jim and I would both be putting our bikes together, and maybe it was Jim acting as a babe repellent. Suzanne thought that was plausible.

Eventually the security guards banished me to the sidewalk outside. Here is the T-Bone, ready to go.

Because Google Maps has awesomely added a bike option, with lots of trails, I discovered this terrific riverfront bike trail leaving Omaha. There were lots of Indigo Buntings along it.

Blair is a small city on US 30, with the railroad running through it. They have a nuke plant and an ethanol plant. They look pretty prosperous.

Jim and Suzanne were hanging out at Kelley's Fish House waiting for me while Laura went to the movies.

We all met up at the Mexican place downtown for Electrolyte Replenishment Therapy.

Here is today's route. It was 24 miles, with some nice bike trail, which costs one climb and three miles of chip seal.