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Thread: RAGBRAI! - long

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
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    Nebraska
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    RAGBRAI! - long

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    OK, here is my long-overdue RAGBRAI report. I'll try to keep it shortish.

    You've got to keep in mind that my idea of an organized ride up to now has been a ride where DH & I agree upon a destination, and maybe actually go there.

    The whole adventure started when I decided that this year would be the year we experience RAGBRAI. DH wasn't quite sure what I'd signed him up for, but he's a good sport and went along with the buying, testing and packing necessary to get our poop in a group. Then, one week before we were to leave, he had an argument with a car, dropped his bike, and messed up his foot. No contact with the car, just a scare, but I called him Gimpy for a few days. (Med report: Bike fine. DH went to doc after RAGBRAI & he just had a nasty sprain)

    The real adventure began Saturday, when we drove to Omaha to gather for the bus ride to Rock Rapids for the start. The bus ride was a hoot, we kept seeing cars, busses and mobile homes, all heading toward Rock Rapids, and all carrying bikes. When we got to the city, I was overwhelmed. There were bikes everywhere - including lampposts, roofs, and decorating dumpsters.

    Found our bikes, unboxed them and put them together, ate dinner, and went to bed (rather, tent)

    I'm not going to try to give a mile-by-mile ride report, there was just too much, but here are my impressions:

    Leaving Rock Rapids was fun. Everyone was happy, ringing bells, calling back & forth ("Are we there, yet?"), and generally having fun.

    I was unprepared for the first town. Everything just suddenly slowed to a walking pace because of bike congestion, so everyone got off and walked. That was pretty much the way all the pass-through towns were.

    My bad day was Monday, the second day. For some reason I was really struggling. DH took off ahead with the tire-changing equipment, and the inevitable happened. Thankfully, people are nice, and I got back on the road with help from a nice couple with a pump & patch kit. That was also the day that my big gears decided to go on strike. Good thing I didn't need them. I really appreciated the mechanics, though, when we got to the campsite. They straightened the problem out in no time. This was the day of the optional century. I'm glad we didn't attempt it.

    Fireman's breakfasts are good, but they can be over-large. Discretion is advised.

    It really is true, if you miss the stops, you miss the ride. I was not expecting a mock Hawaiian volcano in Iowa.

    Make a point to read the road-side signs. "You, on the bike!" "Concert tonight by the Army Ceremonial Brass Quintet" followed by signs with time and place. Yes, the musicians rode the ride, and gave a concert every night.

    Local people sit in their yards, driveways, porches, anywhere there is shade, and wave at you. They might as well, they aren't going anywhere when RAGBRAI passes their door. Some sell things, and others give away wine and venison.

    I brake for watermelon - there were plenty of opportunities.

    We saw almost every kind of bike there is, including unicycles, trikes, and various types of kid carriers. We didn't know there were that many bikes on earth. This led to geeky speculation on what the dollar value of the bikes was, how many total spokes there are, and other pseudo-mathematical problems.

    My smile muscles stopped hurting after the second day. I really should have worked on those more.

    Speaking of hurting. The Terry skirt's pad hits me in just the wrong place. Between it, and the back of my recumbent seat, I rubbed a hole in my tailbone that bothered me the rest of the ride. But hey, I had one week to ride, and 51 weeks to heal, I rode. Neosporin with Lidocaine is my friend.

    If you raise your arm when the kids on the side of the road hose you as you ride past, you can get much wetter. This is good. The fairing keeps much of the water off you. This is bad.

    Eagle Grove really gets into RAGBRAI. I'm not too sure how it happened, but my fairing is now sporting a "I (heart) Eagle Grove Iowa" sticker. Actually, I think I DO heart Eagle Grove, come to think of it.

    Winds were generally from the South, except for the day (Friday, Day 6) that we had a long North run. That day the wind was from the North. (sigh)

    One has great conversations on the road - not all limited to "On yer LEFT!" People do not hesitate to add to a conversation in progress as they ride past.

    I'm slow. (But I knew that.) Except on downhills where I was keeping up with (and passing!) the big dogs. Except Lance. He passed me like I was going backwards. (Hey! I've ridden with LANCE ARMSTRONG!)

    We only had rain one night.

    The final day was a bit stressful, as we had a time frame. We had to get to Bellevue and get the bikes broken down and us on the bus before it left. I sent DH ahead so he could get started on his bike, and I would come in later. This worked.

    The final day also had the most climbing - though the shortest mileage, and I'm proud to tell that I didn't walk a single hill the entire ride. Yes, I took them slowly - at one point I was drafting off someone who was walking (!) or would have been if it were possible at that speed - but I never put a foot down. My stubborn just kicked in, and I kept winching myself up the hills.

    The final day was also the day with the best downhill. I reached 44.6 mph, and loved every bit of it. DH said later that as he was going down that hill he was sure I'd take it too fast. He knows me.

    There really cheering crowds in Bellevue, and somehow I had a beer in my hand almost as soon as I got off the bike. I needed it.

    DH & I got the bikes apart and boxed then found out that there was a mix-up and the bus company sent one too few busses. I didn't have to hurry so fast, after all. (sigh) Actually, it probably was a Good Thing, as we got to dip our little toesies in the Mississippi (bikes were already boxed, remember?) and experience the steam-letting-off by other people. (Ride your bike down the ramp into the river, anyone? We saw it.)

    We did get a bus, without waiting far too long, and rode back across Iowa on a bus. It was a long bus ride.

    ----------

    So yes, I suggest RAGBRAI. As far as I'm concerned, everyone who is at all serious about their bike should do it at least once. I've never had so much concentrated fun that lasted so long in my life. DH was talking about doing it again by the second day.

    Pictures are titled, in order, "Where's Wanda?" "Dummy" and "End of the Trail"
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    Give big space to the festive dog that make sport in the roadway. Avoid entanglement with your wheel spoke.
    (Sign in Japan)

    1978 Raleigh Gran Prix
    2003 EZ Sport AX

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
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    I'm the only one allowed to whine
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    Oh, wow, that sounds like fun!

    (especially the beer at the end )
    "If Americans want to live the American Dream, they should go to Denmark." - Richard Wilkinson

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    San Francisco
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    This sounds like such fun!

    I really want to do RAGBRAI. Two friends just moved to Ames and I keep threatening to camp out in their back yard! I LOVED the RAGBRAI for DUMMIES sign...Welcome to Denver?

    I want to do ALC and RAGBRAI next year...I gotta win the lottery!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Middle Earth
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    What a great narrative, Mom...

    You really have a way with words, and although a several day organised event is not something I have had in my goals, your story makes me think I should reconsider!

    Its the one-liners you write so well:

    Fireman's breakfasts are good, but they can be over-large. Discretion is advised.

    My smile muscles stopped hurting after the second day. I really should have worked on those more.

    My stubborn just kicked in, and I kept winching myself up the hills.


    I just have one question...
    Some sell things, and others give away wine and venison.
    Really? Wine? In bike bottles perhaps? Topups instead of water? And is the venison cooked or do people have deer strapped to their handlebars? Sorry, but my mind is thinking up all sorts of weird images!

    It sounds like a fab few days. Thank you so much for writing it so well


    Courage does not always roar. Sometimes, it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying,
    "I will try again tomorrow".


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Posts
    191
    I've often wondered about RAGBRAI, though after talking with a few people that have done it, it seems almost impossible to do it without first being a part of a large group doing RAGBRAI and having a place to camp set up in each town.

    I tried the Tour de Kota this year, there's only maybe 3-400 week long riders. There's space for everyone in the campground without having someone come along as designated support/tent setter-upper. Plus there weren't bad lines for the showers, food, toilets.

    How are the logistics on RAGBRAI really? What did you do?

    Thanks!!

    Melissa

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Nebraska
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    Thanks for the good words, guys. I'll try to answer the questions, more or less in order.

    Yep, Denver, Iowa. It was a pass-through town on the 5th day, about 18 miles from Cedar Falls. As I recall, it called itself the ""Mile-Wide" town. (As opposed to the more famous Mile-High City of Denver, Colorado)

    Thanks for the good words, Road Raven. I enjoyed writing it up. Yes, it was offically a wine tasting, so we didn't get very much, but it was very good wine. Or I think it was good, I'm not sure I was much of a judge at that point. The venison was meat the guy had in his freezer - probably deer that had feasted on his corn fields. He cut it up in small chunks, rolled it in seasoned flour and deep fried it. Corn-fed venison is pretty darn tasty.

    Hammer, you can do RAGBRAI on your own, and many people do, but it really is easier to use a charter company. We went with Pork Belly Ventures. (Drat! their website doesn't seem to be responding, but they should Google up nicely.) They really helped during the week. They scouted out campsites, had evening events, including a concert by The Elders, had mechanics available in the evenings, and just generally made life easier. We didn't go with the option, but they have a tent service, where you can rent a tent and they'll set it up and throw your duffel inside. They also do your laundry in the middle of the week. We're glad we spent the extra money.

    Other people rent/own a bus/RV/whatever, and have someone drive support for them. We met a Dad who had been conned by his son into driving support. As far as I could tell from him, support drivers have a bunch of fun, too. At any rate, he was a great dinner conversationalist.

    As for lines, well, lines happen, especially with 10 thousand or so people needing the same thing at more-or-less the same time. They aren't all bad, some of the more interesting conversations I had were in lines waiting for toilets. Pork Belly has a device they call a Shower Thingy which is basically a table with shower heads on hoses attached. You haven't LIVED until you strip down to pants and bra and take a cold, open-air shower with a bunch of men you don't know. More (ahem) civilized showers, with towel rental, were also available. I kind of preferred the Shower Thingy. DH definately did.
    Last edited by MomOnBike; 08-12-2007 at 04:48 PM.
    Give big space to the festive dog that make sport in the roadway. Avoid entanglement with your wheel spoke.
    (Sign in Japan)

    1978 Raleigh Gran Prix
    2003 EZ Sport AX

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Sierra Foothills, CA
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    801
    I already REALLY wanted to do this ride, but now I REALLY REALLY REALLY want to do it! Sounds just amazing. What a great experience! MomOnBike - what a wonderful ride report...thank for sharing!!!

    How was the weather? I would be very worried about the humidity since it's quite dry where I live. We do get the heat, but dry heat is so much different than humid heat. That's the one thing that would be most likely to scare me away from RAGBRAI!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
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    Quote Originally Posted by MomOnBike
    The venison was meat the guy had in his freezer - probably deer that had feasted on his corn fields. He cut it up in small chunks, rolled it in seasoned flour and deep fried it. Corn-fed venison is pretty darn tasty.
    OK... now I'm hungry - we have a leg of wild venison in the fridge - but I don't think I can get it sorted for breakfast before i leave for work

    Quote Originally Posted by MomOnBike
    They also do your laundry in the middle of the week. We're glad we spent the extra money.
    Most excellent idea - I would have spent the extra too.

    Quote Originally Posted by MomOnBike
    Pork Belly has a device they call a Shower Thingy which is basically a table with shower heads on hoses attached. You haven't LIVED until you strip down to pants and bra and take a cold, open-air shower with a bunch of men you don't know. More (ahem) civilized showers, with towel rental, were also available. I kind of preferred the Shower Thingy. DH definately did.
    OK... this is brave and sensible... think I would rise to the challenge of a shower thingy too!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    Nebraska
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    Yes, there was heat and humidity. BUT if I can handle it, anybody on earth can. I just don't like the feeling of wet skin, it feels dirty to me. I almost let the humidity scare me away, but I'm glad I didn't.

    There are lots of other things to think about, and kids on the side of the road to hose you down, and water to drink, so the humidity is just kind of there. It's best not to go into air conditioned places, your body forgets that it has adapted to outside conditions far too quickly.

    Staying hydrated is a challenge, though. I had a hard time drinking enough.
    Give big space to the festive dog that make sport in the roadway. Avoid entanglement with your wheel spoke.
    (Sign in Japan)

    1978 Raleigh Gran Prix
    2003 EZ Sport AX

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Iowa
    Posts
    898
    MomOnBike.

    So glad you enjoyed RAGBRAI!! It is an awesome experience, isn't it? Hard to explain to anyone who has not done it, but you did a great job, writing about your experience! Just a warning -------- it is addictive! Very addictive. If you loved it, you'll want to come back, year after year. I've been on 21 now - I think. I know it's over 20. Just can't remember exactly how many. Easier for me than some, since I live in IA. Again, I am very happy you enjoyed your visit to IA. Hope you come back again. And bring friends!

    Annie
    Time is a companion that goes with us on a journey. It reminds us to cherish each moment, because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we have lived." Captain Jean Luc Picard

 

 

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