Category Archives: Cycling

RAGBRAI 2015

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Happy to dip our tires in the Mississippi River and call it a week.

In 2011 & 2013 I wrote daily entries about my RAGBRAI experiences. This year I think I can summarize it all into one post.

First off, on Day One, Doug and I decided this is the last time we’ll do RAGBRAI. RAGBRAI is hard. It’s a lot of work for a “vacation”! And it’s not even the bicycle riding that makes it so hard, it’s dealing with the crowds, being surrounded constantly by other riders on the course, waiting in line for everything, getting up at the crack of dawn to take down the tent, get ready (including standing in line for the toilet), schlepping baggage to the truck, and trying to hit the road by 6:15 a.m. Et cetera, etc!

And sometimes the bicycle riding *is* hard. Our first day was 76.5 miles with almost 4000 feet of climb. That’s pretty hilly, and long. I actually had a good Day One, though. I felt that my hill climbing was solid, and not as slow as in years past. Day Two we awoke to rain overnight, and in the morning flew to the first town to beat more rain. After stopping for breakfast & waiting for a while, we rode in the rain for maybe an hour. I really did *not* enjoy this. I got cold, I worried about maneuvering on wet pavement surrounded by hundreds of other cyclists, and so on. But nothing bad happened & of course it got nice & hot later in the day.

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One of the many public libraries we visited.

Day Three was beautiful–good weather that was worth the price of a little rain the day before. 73 miles and not much climb, fun to ride…but at the end of the day I had no interest in riding the Karras Loop, which gives folks the option to ride one hundred miles. Day Four was the shortest day at 58.4 miles, but the entire day was a slog for me; I just never felt energetic. I had to grit my teeth and just do it.

Day Five was fun, 70.9 miles and we stopped at several small public libraries along the way. Day Six I can barely remember (wait–it was the day that a storm blew up and we camped out in a pie-serving church for an hour or two, and then we road in blustery winds until it got hot & sunny & humid & hilly again); the overnight town was Coralville, and I don’t much like the approaches into the bigger cities. They usually involve long ascents on noisy highways and finding our campsite gets more complicated… Day Seven was fun and fast (we hitched a ride to the midpoint and gave ourselves an easy day), and we got to cool off at a public pool in Davenport before being bussed back to Ottumwa.

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Pie. RAGBRAI is fueled by pie.

So that was that. The one thing that makes it hard to say we’ll never do RAGBRAI again is the friends we’ve made by joining Spoke Folk, the Ottumwa cycling club. This is the third time we’ve camped with several of the same folks, and they are the best. It’s hard to say “never again” to them.

I have concluded that if I choose to do another cycling vacation, a few criteria must be met:

  • it must last fewer than seven days
  • the mileage per day should be around 50 miles
  • the number of riders must be considerably smaller than RAGBRAI (15-16K riders per day, sheesh!)
  • beds, flush toilets, and easily-acquired meals must figure in

Rain

After posting about hills and wind, I was really hoping I wouldn’t have any reason to write about rain. Wrong!

I came out of the gym today and guess what, it was raining. Big surprise (it’s been raining here a lot lately). I had no choice but to suck it up and ride home in the rain. Well, I generally don’t mind getting wet on the way home. My hair was still wet from my shower, anyway, and I can just peel off wet clothes when I get home & change.

Today’s rain shower gave me a chance to evaluate the Da Brim Rezzo Visor which I had put on my helmet primarily for sun protection. Riding in the rain is tough when your glasses get coated with water and you can’t see, or your unshielded eyeballs get smacked with big raindrops. I am happy to report that Da Brim did a great job of shielding my sunglasses so I could see clearly all the way home.

Two comments about Da Brim. First, there’s no good way to attach my rear view mirror to Da Brim, so I had to attach the mirror to my sunglasses;  in general, I prefer attaching it to the helmet. (This is why I was wearing my sunglasses while it was raining.) Second, a couple days ago Da Brim blew off while I was riding into a wind. After I retrieved it I was able to attach it in a slightly more downward position and I haven’t had any trouble since, not even during yesterday’s windy ride.

I have the big-ass 4″ Brim, about which several cycling friends have already made light-hearted comments. I don’t care! When we’re old and your face is all wrinkly and mine is not, I’ll have the last laugh!

Fourth of July tradition

IMG_0112For the past three years a small group of us has ridden to a town about thirty miles away to attend their Fourth of July fair, then ride home. It’s a lovely, almost completely flat ride out in the Indiana countryside. There is little shade along the way but this year the morning part of the ride stayed reasonably cool, and the afternoon never got terribly hot.

Although there is a variety of food available, our group gravitates toward the fried chicken plate with fries and slaw offered by one of the local churches. They’re usually really nice about letting us fill up our bike bottles with lemonade. We listen to the band for a little while, then walk around the antique car and tractor show and flea market before heading home.

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Our ride leader explains something to us, probably about history or agronomy

Sixty miles was the longest ride I’ve done this year. I was pretty wiped out when we got home. First day of RAGBRAI is coming up fast and it’s 76.5 miles. However, on RAGBRAI we get a little more rest because bottlenecks in the pass-through towns force you to stop and walk your bike, and we’re all about taking a break, eating a snack (such as a smoked pork chop), and filling up our water bottles, anyway.

Speaking of RAGBRAI, I had been worrying a little about the hilly first day. In addition to 76 miles, there will be 3900 to 4100 feet of climb (those different altitudes are posted at different spots on the RAGBRAI website). Ack! That’s like the second day of our Annapurna Sanctuary trek, which I felt was harder than my ENTIRE first RAGBRAI. But I looked up the climb from day #1 of 2011 and we climbed just shy of 4300 feet. I didn’t walk a single hill that day, and I feel that I’m in at least as good shape now as i was then (not to mention a better hill climber). Mercy! If I could do that then, I can climb 4100 feet this year. And subsequent days are much less hilly. I guess all I have to worry about, then, is the weather!

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Rivendell Man in his natural habitat