Sunday, July 28, 2019

RAGBRAI Day 7 - Burlington to Keokuk

Max has been away from home for five weeks. He mentions this to me often. He was at a 3 week Center for Talented Youth class before our two weeks of bike riding. So he is very eager to finish RAGBRAI and get an early start on the long drive home.

He was so excited to be heading home he rode the first 36 miles of the last day of RAGBRAI without a break. We were into Keokuk by 1:30, it was 66 miles.

See how happy Max is? At this point, after four RAGBRAIs, he is a total veteran. He does all the things RAGBRAI riders do as a matter of routine.

It was a beautiful day for riding, sunny, not too hot. Lots of headwinds though. Nonetheless, there was lemonade, cookies, and unicorns.

That unicorn is a sprinkler. Many people deploy sprinklers, misters, and kids with super soaker squirt guns along the side of the road to give the bike riders some cool refreshing relief.

I told one row of kids with super soakers to soak the kid riding behind me. The all blasted me instead. It's like the post-Millenial generation is one giant team.

Our first stop had this very cool rat rod parked out front. Note the GPS system on the radiator cap.

Even though we got in at 1:30, we were not on the road until 3:00. There are certain chores that need doing before we could leave, like loading the truck, organizing our stuff, and buying all the Moose Drool in Keokuk, Iowa.

Max did not consider buying all the Moose Drool to be a productive use of time.
Max: "Why are you getting a shopping cart?"
me: "I'm going to buy all the Moose Drool. It's possible we will need two shopping carts, but if we do, we can always get another one."

Sadly, all the Moose Drool is only a single six pack, so I got some other stuff too.

Max: "You don't need so much beer."
me: "It's not like I'm going to drink it all at once."
me: "I'm going to savor it."
me: "Over a period of several hours."

We made it to Champaign, Illinois, tired and happy. One more day of driving and we will be home.

Here is the Strava track.

Friday, July 26, 2019

RAGBRAI Day 6 - Fairfield to Burlington

We are all strong and happy today, and we had a very nice 70 mile ride, in lovely weather over mostly flat terrain.

The culinary wonders of Iowa have been destroying my recently installed healthy eating habits.

Yes, they had a bin piled high of strawberry rhubarb fry pies. So good. This is at a random Amish farm by the side of the road. Max had a giant cinnamon roll.

Next up, at Houghton, I took the required RAGBRAI photo of Max sitting in a giant tractor wheel. He decided to look happy in this photo, because he accepts that during RAGBRAI he must be photographed sitting in a giant tractor wheel. It's part of the event.

This was in Houghton, which was in the middle of the ride and nearly 20 miles to the next town. So we had lunch, even though it was only 10:30. I had a very tasty chicken burrito and smoothie from Garden of Eden, who have the best smoothies on RAGBRAI (secret ingredient is cantelope).

We did have a delicious lime ade from the lime ade guy by the side of the road 10 miles later, so we did not have to do the whole 20 miles in one shot. And the "town" was Geode State Park, which had food trucks by the lake in the middle of the park which was followed by a brutal climb up away from the lake.

Dinner tonight was another adventure. Our charter has several special events throughout the week. One event is ice cream sundaes. Another is when they cater dinner. But tonight was the best of all, when they have their favorite local band plan and they hold happy hour with margaritas.

I mean what could be better than having margaritas while sitting in a plastic stackable chair while listening to this?

The answer is obvious! All of the above, but the song is Rocky Top!

Watching Jim and Murray and I drink margaritas while listening to boring dad music all afternoon eventually drove Max crazy and he me get up off my white plastic chair and do something about getting him some dinner.

The problem is that our charter is out on the outskirts of town at the county fairgrounds, far from any food, except at the gas station across the street. (Max: No way Dad).

But wait, the county fair is actually going on right this minute! They have food trucks! Let's go check it out! Yes. Funnel cakes and three different trucks selling smoked meat and barbeque! (Max: No way Dad).

The boy says we are going to a sit-down restaurant with air conditioning. And he will find one with Google Maps. (Max: a mile and a half down the highway, 4.3 stars.)

So we get on our bikes, and ride down the highway to this alleged restaurant. Past Menards. Past WalMart. We get to the Kohls. Across from Kohls is a Toro commercial lawn mower dealer in an industrial park. The sign at the park entrance says there is a tenant called "Uncle Ronnie's Bar and Grill". Max says turn here.

So we head into the industrial park. Behind the mower dealer is a windowless building covered in aluminum barn siding. That would be Uncle Ronnie's. We go in.

It's a restaurant, full of regular Iowa people. It was great. No waiting in lines. Way off the RAGBRAI radar. I had another margarita!

Here is the Strava track for today.

RAGBRAI Day 5 - Centerville to Fairfield

After the 90 miles on the day before, Max and I were both feeling a little exhausted for the 65 miles for this day, which turned out to be more like 68. So we declared it to be a recovery day and we rode slow and took many breaks.

First, I had an iced coffee and Max had a smoothie in Bloomfield, after about 25 miles.

Then we stopped for a Kybo break and more smoothies in Troy, where we also got to sit under an awning and listen to the DJ play "A Boy Named Sue". Which Max did not enjoy.

But the next stop was the big score highlight of the day. Lebanon, Iowa, which is where two roads cross and an Amish family has a farm.

One of the many roadside bike shops was set up in the weedy field next to the barn.

Not expecting much, I asked them if they had a replacement for Max's failing obsolete Octalink bottom bracket for a triple crankset. Unbelievably, they did, NO PROBLEM. Spoken Wheel Cyclery. They Rock.

Here is the mechanic installing it on the spot.

Meanwhile, Max and I got some lunch, and what a fantastic lunch it was. Grilled chicken breast sandwiches, and peach pie a la mode with homemade ice cream, made right there behind the barn.

After I finished eating, I even got to go take a selfie with a horse. See what you are missing Abbie and Violet???

After our most excellent day of cycling, during which I no doubt gained 10 lbs, Jim and Murray and Max and I piled into Murray's car and we went afield to our favorite restaurant in Ottumwa, Iowa, 20 miles up the road. That would be the Tom Tom Tap in the Ottumwa hotel. Home of this amazing historic work of art.

You don't see murals like this anymore in hotel bars. Or anywhere else.

I've had dinner at the Ottumwa Hotel 4 times in the last 4 years doing RAGBRAI. Bloody Marys on happy hour special this time. SCORE SCORE SCORE SCORE MURRAY IS DRIVING.

This was a really great day of RAGBRAI. Excellent weather, all mechanical issues with Max's bike are fixed, and we are very well fueled.

Here is the Strava track.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

RAGBRAI Day 4 - Indianola to Centerville

What are some words you don't want to hear when you are riding with your 12 year old son and you are 15 miles from the finish town?


Well, that could be a problem...

His pedals are nearly 20 year old Crank Bros Candys, which are not known for being so durable. The outer bushing disintegrated, and the pedal slid off the spindle. I managed to get it put back together so the bike was rideable, and hopefully we could make it in to town.

But this is RAGBRAI.

Five miles down the road, we have a roadside bike mechanic. New pedals on the bike in a half hour.

However the mechanic pointed out that Max's bottom bracket is also shot. (Bottom bracket is the part with the bearings where the crank arms attach.) Max's bottom bracket is an obsolete standard (Octalink), for a crankset with triple chainrings (very uncommon these days). The mechanic doesn't have one, but suggests Bike World might.

So when we get in, we go into town to the Bike World vendor booth. They don't have one. So cross fingers that we can do 200 more miles without having the bottom bracket fail and getting to ride the SAG wagon.

It was a huge day yesterday. Ninety miles, not including the ride into town to visit Bike World. 3500 feet of climb. We are tired. Max crushed his record for the most miles he's ridden in a day. Max is super proud of himself.

The charter randomly decided to order pizzas. It was awesome rolling into camp and seeing a giant stack of pizza boxes waiting for us. ($2/slice, $10/pie).

Our first stop for the day was at the Iowa Conservation Tent, for a free banana.

One cool thing they do here is they hand out milkweed seed bombs for Monarch butterflies. The idea is for the people riding RAGBRAI throw them along the side of the road as they ride. This is brilliant.

We had lunch by Max's demand at Mr. Pork Chop again. Max is devouring all food he can stuff in his face now, which is great.

He still is mad when I take his picture, and he won't smile or give any impression he is actually having fun.

Our friend Murray has arrived from Chicago, with special treats. I am having fun.

Here is the Strava track for today.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

RAGBRAI Day 3 - Winterset to Indianola

It was a super easy day. Only 40 miles. Max and I blasted it out and were into Indianola by 11:00, ahead of the crowds. So we had lunch at a sit-down restaurant in the center of town. Wynn's Steak and Pizza. That's not two things you usually put together in a restaurant, but it worked and it was delicious. We went for the steak side of the menu.

RAGBRAI riders, here in the middle of flyover America, have a special sense of fashion. I think this guy here wins the RAGBRAI fashion award for the day.

Full kit from a couple years ago - check.
Mardi Gras beads - check.
Bike socks that look like corn - check.

While we were waiting at the light he scooted up to the Primal Wear truck next to us and was hitting on the woman in the passenger seat because he knew she would be impressed with his socks that look like corn.

I know how to dress fashionably.

You want your beer to match your bike jersey.

There were a lot of cornfields today. Here is our break at Medicine Man for Max's pickle and my free pickle juice shot.

We are camped at what has to be one of the most beautiful camp sites ever in RAGBRAI. It's an arboretum with many flower beds.

Since we were in so early we spent the afternoon at the municipal swimming pool. Every town in Iowa has a nice pool.

Our campsite was so lovely neither Max nor I had any ambition to go anywhere. So we hung out and read books. The entertainment for the evening was hot air balloons floating overhead.

My friend Jim arrived, he was tied up in Baltimore for a couple days. We went out to dinner at another sit-down restaurant, which was a mile in the other direction from the town center, and was off the radar for RAGBRAI. Electrolytes were replenished.

I also had my first sighting of a presidential campaign.

Mayor Pete had a stand set up and he was giving away free bottles of water. That lady with the Clean Energy Now sign was crashing their party I think. I declined the free bottle of water. I told them in past RAGBRAI's in campaign years, the candidates gave away bottles of water with their names and pictures on them, which make nice souvenirs. A regular old bottle of water from Hyvee just isn't special.

Then the Clean Energy Now lady jumps into the discussion and starts to talk about global warming and hands me a piece of paper with 10 THINGS I CAN DO NOW.  Thing number one is stop eating tasty delicious steaks like the one I just had for dinner. (She knew better than to say no pork chops in Iowa I bet.) I told her she made me feel bad. Farther down the list was no plastic water bottles. I pointed this out to the Buttigieg team, and then they felt bad.

Her list did have ride your bike instead of driving on it, which is something we can all agree on.

Here is the Strava track for the day.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

RAGBRAI Day 2 - Atlantic to Winterset

Long, tough day today. It was 73 miles, with lots of hills and headwinds at the start. There was a tailwind for the last 15 miles or so which helped, and it was a beautiful day with temperatures in the 70s.

Here I am, in Winterset at last. Winterset is the hometown of John Wayne.

Our first snack of the day was some delicious watermelon, from these ladies selling watermelon by the side of the road.

That's all I ate until the meetup town, when it was turkey leg time!

Like I said, this was a long day with headwinds. Usually a pickle from the Medicine Man will get Max the last few miles, but today the pickle (and a pickle juice shot for me) only got us about five miles out, which luckily was where Beekmans was.

Beekman's ice cream is churned on site with vintage farm engines.

Max was really spent. He was complaining about how far away the spot I chose for the tent was. He carries one of the bags now. While I was setting up the tent, he was very monosyllabic. He walked down to put his phone on the charger and get a Gatorade. Then he sent up his camp chair and sat down it in for about a half hour while I set up camp. He was almost going to do Brancel's once-a-week dinner, which is always yummy turkey cutlets, which he hates, but I told him we could ride into town and have a spaghetti dinner at one of the churches. I figured this would perk him up. I also needed to go into town for the ATM (Max: All The Money), and to get a new water bottle holder because one of mine broke.

So we ride into town, looking for Max's preferred spaghetti dinner, the one with the most signs by the side of the road. There were about five different churches serving spaghetti dinners. Max was annoyed that his was the one furthest away.

Me: Well it probably won't be crowded then.
Max: Why does this town need so many churches?
Me: Church is all about loving your neighbors, so they don't get along and everybody has to have their own church.

Anyway, he was a very happy boy after spaghetti, which he thought was fantastic. (It was not.) Also, there was no pie for dessert, it was all cake and cookies. Back at camp he was all proud that the ride into town would make today a tie for the most miles in a day he has ever ridden, 77. "I feel pretty good now!" Wednesday is an 85 mile day. We are ready.

I really like our camp site. It is under this Kentucky Coffeetree, in a lovely city park. There was a Wood Peewee catching bugs from the branches all night. I think it was worth dragging the bags a bit farther.

Here is the Strava track.

Monday, July 22, 2019

RAGBRAI Day 1 - Council Bluffs to Atlantic

The heat broke the night before, and there were thunderstorms in the early morning hours. We hid in the tent until the rain let up, and we were on the road at 7:30. Max complained about this. A lot.

It rained for about half the ride, but I'll take temps in the 70s with some rain over 95 and humid any day. We got in to Atlantic around 2:00. By then the rain was pretty much done.

It was really nice to be showered and settled in.

I also availed myself of one of the charter's add-on services. I had my knee massaged where I broke my leg last year. It is much less stiff now than normal, and the massage is totally worth it.

Lunch was at Mr. Pork Chop. Max is displeased because he thinks 9:30 is too early for eating pork chops. And I made him get in the picture.

Mr. Pork Chop had a pie vendor for dessert. I was so happy to see the rhubarb, I didn't notice they also had gooseberry. There is always tomorrow.

We did our usual stop at the Medicine Man 8 miles from the end so Max could have a pickle. Max always has a pickle to fuel him for the final stretch.

This picture has so much RAGBRAI in it. There is the Medicine Man and his daughter selling pickles, cookies, and asperin; camp chairs under a tent;  bikes riding by; with windmills in the distance; across the street from the hog barn.

We went into town for dinner from the food trucks. Pizza for Max, authentic Mexican shrimp tacos for me.

All in all, it was a really great first day. We did 58 miles, plus three for our jaunt into town.

Here is the Strava track.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

RAGBRAI Day 0 - Council Bluffs

It's 6:30 in the morning of the first day of RAGRBAI. It is pouring rain, with thunder and lightning all around. Max and I are hiding in our safe dry tent for now, watching the weather radar.

The last two days have been travel and hiding from the hot, hot heat.  Friday we drove all day from Ohio to Keokuk, the finish town. We checked in with Brancel (our RAGBRAI charter), put our bikes on their truck, and hid from the heat at V's taproom, and then at the YMCA next to our camping area.

Hanging out by the outlets to charge devices, wedged between the exercise equipment is a fine way to spend the evening.

Saturday, we rode on the Brancel tour bus to Council Bluffs. Here we are waiting for the bus.

It was still brutally hot when we got to Council Bluffs. We set up our tent, and went to check out the RAGBRAI expo.

Check out what I saw at the Expo!  LUST LUST LUST WANT WANT WANT.

This is the first Bachetta carbon trike to be delivered to a customer, who is doing RAGBRAI. I talked with him for awhile. He says 10 of these have been made so far. It weighs 28 lbs. (my old Trice S trike was around 50 lbs). It has a storage compartment built into the seat and bosses in the chainstays for mounting racks. This would work for light touring and commuting. This one has a super compact double crankset and an 11/34 Shimano mechanical drivetrain.

I want one of these very badly, but I don't really need another bike.

After the expo, we hid from the heat for a couple hours at the "Quaker Steak and Lube" restaurant next to the campground. The campground is in an area reminiscent of Arundel Mills. There is a Bass Pro Shops, a casino, and an arena nearby, and a bunch of not-yet-developed lots that are RAGBRAI campgrounds. It looks like our campground used to be covered with tall weeds, and they mowed it with a bush hog a couple days ago. It's very rough.

Anyway, this Quaker Steak place has a race car theme. There is a dragster hanging over the entrance.

But are race cars hanging from the ceiling what really matters?

Yes that is a Slim Jim in the Bloody Mary. It is hollowed out so you can use it as a straw.