Nepal and Bhutan trip, March-April 2015

Hi.  Long time, no post.  I recently took a four-week vacation with my friend Katy to Nepal and Bhutan.  During our seven-day trek in the Annapurna Sanctuary, I thought a lot about RAGBRAI, the seven-day bicycle ride across Iowa, and found myself drawing some comparisons, so I decided this blog is an appropriate place to write up my journal entries about the trip.

So, in subsequent posts I’ll slowly write up my notes and add some photos.  Here’s a “bird on the wing” of our plane in Delhi as we start our final leg to Kathmandu:


Still working on 2014’s mojo!

Here it is, the end of June already, and I still have been struggling to find my cycling mojo. It’s amazing the degree to which RAGBRAI–i.e., the fear of being miserable for seven days if I’m not in good enough shape–motivates me some years, LOL. But this year there is no big event to work toward, and I’ve been, well, lazy. Or, unmotivated, perhaps.

But I found enough gumption to put a weekly 7am ride on our club’s calendar, and yesterday was the first. My friend Liss showed up, as I suspected she would–she’s a faithful breakfast rider (along with my spouse). And another couple showed up, folks I’ve met before but don’t know well. We had fun getting to know them better on our 18-mile ride in the beautiful summer morning.

Afterward we had breakfast at our house, just some muffins and poppyseed bread and boiled eggs and coffee. More chatting, and plans for future rides. When folks left, I felt so good, both from the ride as well as from the socializing. As Liss said, it was a great way to start the day.

Now I’m looking forward to more breakfast rides. There is a little bit of mojo happening there.

Getting my cycling mojo back…maybe?


Well, the harsh Midwestern winter seems to have taken its toll on the best of us, and I’ve been ever so slowly getting back into cycling. But I’ve been lazy with my work commute, taking the most direct route and not enjoying the longer route through the nature preserve that I generally take during the summer.

Yesterday I joined our cycling club’s annual new rider call-out, and did the E ride (11-13 mph avg) of about 18 miles. It was nice and slow and I talked to some new folks who were trying out the club. I didn’t feel enthusiastic about it until I got to the starting point and started socializing. Then I felt happy to see folks I hadn’t seen all winter.

On the ride I noticed that I didn’t feel nearly as strong as I have felt in the past. But I also acknowledged that if I just keep riding every day, it won’t be long before I get my mojo back.

So, today I did another 18-mile ride with a friend. We similarly hadn’t seen each other since last summer, so we had a great, chatty ride. Bonuses: we saw a snapping turtle (above), and lots of great blue herons and white egrets.

My plan for the week is to start taking the six-mile ride through the Bog on my commute and just get miles on my body. No worries about speeds or mileage, just getting back to enjoying life on two wheels again.

The bitter cold

I haven’t posted in quite a while, mainly because once the weather cooled off after Thanksgiving I lost my interest in cycling to work, and started walking instead.  Last year I felt more intrepid about continuing to ride my bike in cold weather, and this year my body simply said, “No.”  So, I have been enjoying walking to and from work for the past couple months.

Lately, though, it’s been very cold,  I can’t say unseasonably cold, because after all, it *is* winter.  But, for example, today’s temp started out at 0F, with a god-knows wind chill;   just checked and at 1:30 p.m. the temp is +3F, and according to the weather man it “feels like -23F.”  In other words, it sucks.

But I have to say that when I dress appropriately, it ain’t that bad.  I had a three mile walk to work today, and by the time I was approaching my building I was pulling off my hat & balaclava, & immediately ducked into the restroom to take off my merino base layer shirt before I started sweating.  And I didn’t put that merino shirt back on for successive walks around campus.

All in all, the worst part about this bitter cold is what my brain tells me.  This morning I *dreaded* going outside…but once I was dressed and walking, I felt fine.

Winter is very, very mental for me.

Mixed feelings

I’m going on a club ride today. I have mixed feelings because, while I think it should be enjoyable, a nice day, 46 miles at 13-15 mph on flat roads, and lord knows I need to stretch out on a bike & recover from the past week….I just don’t trust that the ride leader is going to hold the group to the posted pace.

I have had some WONDERFUL slow rides in the past several weeks. Rides with small groups or just one other person, going just the right pace for enjoying nature and conversation. Relaxing. Centering. The rides weren’t even all that slow, but we weren’t trying to bust ass or hit a certain mph target.

I don’t want the competitiveness and need-for-speed of others to harsh my cycling mellow.

I understand that others want to do their personal best and ride faster and/or longer. But that is NOT what I think club rides are supposed to be about. Choosing a club rides is a decision to ride WITH OTHER PEOPLE. Other people who RIDE DIFFERENTLY THAN YOU. And you all stick together.

I am probably worrying about nothing. But this is how I feel as I get ready to go join the others for the ride.

UPDATE:  I was more or less right.  The ride started off fun, but the cool kids rode a lot faster than I…and then the headwinds started, and they got stronger.  The ride became a chore.  I had worked hard all week, and I didn’t particularly enjoy working so hard today.

The fun parts included the snack stop at the work place of a cycling club friend.  His wife had food ready, and we got to see his warehouse of ~50 classic Schwinns.  And talking to somebody I know & like but see rarely, and talking to a new person who coached me to catch up with the group on the second half of the ride.


RAGBRAI’s over; now what?

I was so lazy this past week. No need to get up at 5am to break down our tent, put our gear on the truck, go in search of a toilet. No need to hit the road at 6am so we could be finished by early afternoon. I slept in, relatively speaking (feline alarm clock didn’t let us sleep too late), and didn’t do any serious riding. What a lovely week. I had some very luxuriously slow and leisurely rides to work that made me very happy. I didn’t do anything that could be considered “training.”

This morning we met up with a group from our cycling club for a ~45 mile ride that included a lunch stop. First off, it was an exquisite, crystalline August morning. Cool, low humidity, blue skies, green and yellow corn fields. What a gift from the universe. Second, the group was small and amiable. And while the group rode at a faster pace than I would’ve chosen if left to my own devices, I was able to keep up just fine. We had two appreciable hills, and I was slow. But I got up them without walking.

After lunch we split into two groups, and the faster group of four took off. My spouse and the ride leader and I were the laggards, but we still kept up a nice 15-16 mph pace. It felt good to go a little faster, to be challenged a bit.

Fall is coming. Days are getting shorter. It will become harder to do before-work early morning rides and long after-work rides. Now is a good time to savor the time, and excellent weather, for nice long rides with friends.

RAGBRAI days #6-7

Thursday night we got to stay in a church in Oskaloosa, thanks to one of our camping group members. Pro: we were indoors during the overnight rains; spouse and I had our own bathroom. Con: even with my yoga mat and Thermarest, sleeping on the hard floor of the church nursery left me very stiff in the morning. Fortunately the rain stopped by the time we all got on the road, and despite cloudy skies we never got rained on. It was a cool, cloudy ride that I now barely remember! But when we got to Fairfield, IA, the clouds blew off and it got nice & sunny.

Our camping group ended up in a park…next to the train tracks. Fairfield has a no-whistle ordinance for the trains, but apparently the ordinance was lifted for RAGBRAI. And in the afternoon trains went by every twenty minutes, even more often than our first night in Council Bluffs. Therefore, we were happy to accept an invitation from Cathy and Mike, who live about ten miles from Fairfield, to stay overnight at their house. Spouse and I got to sleep in a luxurious bed, on a night when the temps dipped down into the low 50’s. It was the best night of sleep I got on RAGBRAI this year, with bonus coffee in the morning.

Today was day #7, the last day. It was very cool in the morning, unseasonably cool, and I was happy I brought a merino undershirt. Today’s mileage was 63, with some hills, but they turned out to be longer, less-steep hills for the most part, hills that I can ride up at a goodly clip. The last day of RAGBRAI tends to be fast and furious, as everybody is keen to finish up and head home. I was doing 18-20 mph on the flats, and getting passed by more people than I passed. But we had plenty of time to get to our bus for the ride home. Had to stand in line *forever* to dip our tires in the Mississippi River, but eventually our turn came; ironically that was probably the longest line any of us had waited in all week.

Overall, I had a really fun time at RAGBRAI this year. A week or so before we left home I felt really negative, and even told my spouse I didn’t think I’d be interested in doing RAGBRAI again after this year. But now I feel like RAGBRAI is an option on the table for future vacations. Sure, there were moments I was *slogging* up hills at 4 mph. Sure, my butt is kind of sore. Sure, I had to use some smelly portajohns. I got hot, I got cold, I got some scratches from tinkling under a tree. But the fun outweighed the downers. I met some great people, and felt really at home with our adopted cycling club from Ottumwa.

Now it’s time to put RAGBRAI to bed, and put myself to bed while I’m at it. I might as well abide by my 9pm bedtime one more night. Thank you for reading!