OK, I’m finally getting around to writing a story. But, I’m gonna plagiarize Jay Spiegel’s updates as a starting point. I also plan to write a story on items to bring for RAGBRAI that are a MUST! Click Read More for Jay’s daily stories!
Daily updates by Jay Spiegel, my comments in some other color!
RAGBRAI Update #1 (to Spencer)
I am sorry that this update is coming so late, but judging by the lack of cell towers in northwestern Iowa, it is no suprise that I have spotty coverage. So, you may be getting this message the same time as update #2.
Team Members from Nashville comprised of Pat Clements, Benn Davis, Jim and Angela Evans, Jay Spiegel, and Peter Bolt. We met at Pat’s house at 7 am on Friday, and caravanned to Dubuque, IA, Phil Pscharre met friends from the Smoky Mtn Wheelmen and caravanned separately. Others from NC also joined us. We all met in the end town, Bellevue, IA, and caught about 100 busses and travelled all day Saturday across the state to the start town. Other team members such as Charlene Alcorn, our leader flew to Omaha, NE and bussed to Rock Rapids, the start town. I apologize to those team members (Big Dave) who are not mentioned in this. We are using a service called Pork Belly Ventures to transport tents, bags, get a camping location, etc., and their service is exemplary.[img_right:20070729172025602]
We camped in Rock Rapids Saturday night, found the expo, and ate and explored the downtown. Most of us were in our tents by 10 pm. We woke up around 5 am and were loaded and on our bikes by 7. Ask me about the “KYBO” experience sometime if you want to be grossed out. We ate at a cafe in the start town to avoid the jockeying for food in the next town some 15 miles away. I’m glad we did, because it was a zoo. We hopscothed and paced ACROSS the yellow line almost all day. That was an adjustment, but necessary for “safety” in the beginning of the ride. It ended up being ok…the state troopers seemed to understand the necessity, and for the first 65 miles of the 76 we rode today, I think we saw two cars other than a large farm truck that we motor paced behind for a while . In addition to the two cars and the seven or eight towns, we saw miles and miles and miles and miles and miles of corn and soy beans. If you think there is a shortage of corn, don’t worry, there’s plenty.
The terrain is stereotypically flat, but there are rollers, but not too taxing. The most taxing aspect of the ride is the unpredictability of many of the riders around you. In total, there was about 1300 feet of “climbing.”Many of us rode together throughout the day and enjoyed temperatures in the 90s. Lacking humidity, and some overcast skies, it was actually quite pleasant. The towns along the way are completely packed with people, food, souvenirs, and sights to see. It is so crowded, that you have to dismount your bike or be very careful navigating your way through. Did I mention that there are over 10,000 registrants and as many as half that many “bandits?” These end towns with 1200 population swell to 20,000 with permanent residents, service personnel, and riders each evening.
Tonight, we are camping at the fairgrounds in Spenser, IA, and we are waiting for a dinner or wine marinated turkey breast filets, sweet corn, and fixins to be served. We are sitting in a red and white striped communal tent with mist sprayers cooling us down as we wait.
A couple hilites…one rider is tackling the course on a raised unicycle….and we saw a 30 person bicycle that is as big as a bus. Others saw a bicycle bar powerd by about 12 riders.
Tomorrow is the century day. The profile shows a net decrease in elevation, and this explains why there is an optional century which most of us will take. The end town is Humbolt (I think).
For puposes of brevity, I only hit the hilites. If you want the real dirt….the stories that make RAGBRAI, you will have to buy us beers.
Other than the KYBO experience….I will plant a seed about the communal shower experience in Spencer…..just think Gulag archipeligo in 90 degree heat…..if you want to know more……….beers are necassary!!!!!!!!
Quotable quotes……”Is this heaven? No, it’s RAGBRAI.”
“I think there’s menthol in it.”Angela Evans (she’ll have to explain)
RAGBRAI UPDATE #2 (to Humboldt)
After two nights in camp, I am concluding that RAGBRAI is not a ride, it’s a state of mind. Everyone you encounter along the way (Iowans) is so engaged in this annual, nutty event. I always wondered why anyone would want to live here, but now I understand at least one reason. The people of Iowa are fantastic.
Lance Armstrong is quoted, “so, this is RAGBRAI.”. I understand what he means. You can’t know it unless you are from Iowa, or participate in it. And, since you know that he is riding RAGBRAI, you are asking……have you seen him? The answer is no, and I would be surprised if I do apart from a concert where he is speaking on Wednesday. You see, 10,000+ registered riders on these roads might as well be 100,000 milling about downtown Nashville…..there’s just no way, and that isn’t important anyway. We make RAGBRAI, not one person.
Spencer shall be remembered as the only place I looked forward to KYBO. It was on my trips to this place that my contact with the outside world would resume. Otherwise there was simply no signal. My night reinforced my earlier conclusion that rural Iowans like the music of the 70s and 80s. RAGBRAI is scheduled in places where fairs or other festivals are occurring. In Rock Rapids, the sounds of a local band playing several blocks away would make their way to my tent. Humbolt has been no exception. The songs played were from such bands as Journey, Heart, and Foreigner, In Spencer, there was no exception at the nearby county fair. My earplugs could not drown out the music, but thankfully, in both cases, it stopped at midnight.
You may ask if anyone has seen Cali and Shawn. None of us have run across them. They are riding with an outfit called Friends All Riding Together (I’ll leave it up to you to say the acronym), and their numbers are a much smaller 25 compared to our 450 Porkers with Pork Belly Ventures. If one of us runs across them, I’ll mention the encounter in a future update.
Today was the century day…we did a 23 mile loop around and back to the 77 mile loop and earned the patch designating that we completed it. The stops included a breakfast stop in chilly temperatures until overcasts skies for breakfast burritos. They hit the spot and we were on our way on the mostly southerly route to Humbolt, IA.
Stan Bashaw took epic pulls against headwinds and cross winds that earned him kudos, beers, and margharitas. We all took our turn, but he was especially strong. The west (yes, west) bound portion of the century route involved a high speed motor pace alongside a semi travelling on the wrong side of the road. It was blocking a nasty crosswind out of the south. We easily hit 30 mph and knocked off a long road very rapidly. This is not a recommended group riding technique.
We finshed the ride in Humbolt with our now regular chocolate milk recovery drink, set up camp and found a fantastic bar/restaurant called Rustix that was serving a $5 spaghetti and meatball buffet. It really hit the spot and the restaurant and bar atmosphere was great.
We head out at 7 am in the morning and hopefully won’t feel the effects of our hard efforts today.
Quotable quotes out of context. They really did get a laugh:
“I keep hearing it click and there’s nothing in the sky.” Jim Evans
“I download the explicit stuff because I don’t want to compromise the art form.” Angela Evans
“No, I’ll have to…..read the book….there you you, I’m recording now…..I’m gettin ’em all” Pat Clements
Your’re not the only one with a domestique, Charlene.” Jay
We’re having a hangover recovery day, so were riding with jim and Angela.” Everybody
“I keep crossing my legs and my wheel’s rubbing off.” Charlene
“Icould either pay $5 to take. Shower with a bunch of women or do it free with a bunch of men.” Charlene
“Oh Charlene, kiss it.” Pat Clements
“A back sack and crack wax????.” Peter Bolt
“Angela, I don’t want you to call me at 10 o’clock and tell me that you rode with Jay.” Jim Evans
“It’s not about the riding, it’s about the conversations.” Angela Evans
“The bike is merely the mode that gets us to the next party.” Jim Evans
RAGBRAI UPDATE #3 (to Hampton)
Today was a good day. The weather was almost perfect…the riding was good. We started in Humbolt and rode 71 miles to Hampton. There was something for everyone today…the scenery definitely doesn’t change….it’s the riding and the fellowship on the road…..the towns and the friendly people that live in them…..the hospitality that they convey is heart warming. The humor they display in presenting their towns and the subtle differences in each all combine to form lifelong memories for evey participant.
Today, I rode with Stan, and Charlene. We paced ourselves well at speeds between 18 and 21 mph in between the towns. Each town is spaced between 7 and 18 miles apart and you still have to dismount your bike to see the sights. One hilite is a picture with Barney Fife and Aunt Bea in Eagle Grove, and in jail with Otis in the same town. I guess they moved there from Mayberry some time ago…..
The riding hilites included pacing with four members of the Central Iowa Cycling Club. One appeared to be a coach and the other three were very young, very strong, and very capable riders.
At one point after a town, the road narrowed and the crowds were a little unnerving. I grabbed on to a line of three strong riders from East Tennessee and we not only had things to talk about, but we were pretty full of ourselves with how well we were riding until four triathletes from a northern Iowa club came upon us. They obviously understood riding in groups, so I was comfortable joining them in a small peleton. Not only did they demonstrate how strong they were, there was one rider who was clearly superior. I was fortunate enough to grab his wheel with everyone else in tow. He methodically stepped up the pace to 30 miles per hour on a flat road with a slight tailwind. One of his buddies complained that it would have been easier for them if they stayed in a peleton, but noone (least of all me) was strong enough to stay on the front with him. He was so smooth and so strong, that I had to keep my front wheel an inch off his rear wheel. I knew that if I got out of his slipstream, staying on would have been very painful…….
After that experience, I waited for Stan and Charlene in the next town, Clarion and we spent about an hour and a half eating frozen fruit, laying in the grass at the courthouse, and enjoying the sights and sounds of RAGBRAI. This was one of the hiltes of the week for me so far. So simple, so colorful, so many smiles, such good times.
When we reached camp, our average speed was 17.4 despite walking our bikes through seven towns today. We set up our tents and explored the nearby downtown area of Hampton. Our camp is on the property of a local historical landmark that is being restored. It is an absolutely beautiful prairie mansion with sweeping grassy lawns that now contain about 400 tents.
We enjoyed a HUGE pork chop, potato salad, and cole slaw dinner listening to the tunes of a wonderful Celtic band called the Elders. It will be an early night and hopefully a restful sleep for all the riders of Pork Belly and RAGBRAI. You see joyful fatigue in the faces of those that are here. This is an experience that I hope you consider having some day.
I am compiling more “quotable quotes taken out of context” for the next updates.
RAGBRAI UPDATE #4 (to Cedar Falls)
Thanks for all of the notes expressing appreciation for the updates. If I misunderstood any of them, it’s because I’m kinda tired in the evenings…..I apologize for the typos and syntax errors. Doing this on a blackberry makes my thumbs go numb!
Yesterday morning, little did I know that it was on…..a sarcasic comment came to bite me in the backside. You see, the last few mornings, our leader was getting up later and later. As a result, Stan and I found ourselves carrying her bags to the pork belly trucks and helping take down her tent in keeping with our team name of “Charlene’s Domestiques”. That comment lit a fire, and she creamed us in the process of tearing down the tent and getting bags on the truck. It was all in good funon all sides. Stan and I saw her ready to go by the floor pumps that Pork Belly puts out each day with her hands on her waist as we did our final preparations. We were redeemed when others in our party were running late. At any rate, I wanted to hammer and catch some of the trains I caught the day before…it wasn’t happening, so while we had a decent average speed, we ended up pacing with some normal humans and got into Cedar Falls at about 11:30.
We ran into Cali and Shawn at a large breakfast stop and spent the rest of the day riding with them. They are staying with another team, but sort of do their own thing when riding.
There were rumours of Lance sightings, but it never materialized. There are descriptions of him pulling pacelines for miles at a time with a double paceline behind him. Hoping to get a chance to catch on to this phantom line, we hung around the final pass through town, Stout. No worries…we just kept riding on in, and Peter and I had out usual chocolate milk recovery drink.
I have a ticket to see Blues Traveller play at the Unidome preceded by a speech by Lance Armstrong and the opening band, the Nadas. The concert was very well attended, the music was nice, and Lance gave a speech about his upcoming moderation of a cancel forum with all major presidential candidates. BTW, if you saw Hard Ball with Chris Matthews last night, you may have seen yours truly lurking behind Lance’s right shoulder.
After the concert, Peter, Shawn, Cali and I went to a local college bar, and enjoyed the Tour on tv (WOW, what’s going on with that!!!???), some air conditioning and a nice meal.
This morning, we left Cedar Falls for Independence where we are camped out behind a local elementary School. The terrain is becoming more rolling, and all of us are dealing with some of the effects of riding 60 + miles every day and camping out. Despite this, I don’t want to end the experience–it is a cyclists’ dream.
Tonight, we are buying something to grill out and put with the fixins that Pork Belly has arranged for us. I am laying low this evening just so that I can recharge my batteries for some hard efforts riding to Dyersville. I am told that this is where Field of Dreams was filmed, so a trip to the still preserved set is in order. This movie had quite an effect on me when it came out, and just seeing the place is not to be missed.
I’ll check back in with the next update tomorrow.
RAGBRAI UPDATE #5 (to Independence)
Last night, it rained. A lot. It’s a great day today–15 degrees cooler—yeah! We’re in line for Belgian waffles in Withrop now–the smell is amazing!!!!
RAGBRAI UPDATE #6 (to Dyersburg)
“Is this heaven?”
There are two answers to that question…..
1-“No, this is Iowa.” Kevin Costner’s character in Field of Dreams
2-“No, this is RAGBRAI.”
I understand both answers.
We are camped in Dyersville tonight. It is our last night in tents before we dip our tires in the Mississippi tomorrow in Bellevue. This town is exceptionally beautiful. It is nestled among rolling hills of many different shades of green with the gold hilites of the tops of corn stalks.
Today, we took a bus to the Field of Dreams where the movie of the same name was filmed 20 years ago. I know, I know, it’s just a movie…but it was quite an experience just seeing the place…it was more of an experience taking pictures of everyone emerging from the corn as the ghost players did in the movie, taking a turn at bat, or throwing a ball in the outfield. If you are ever near Dyersville, you must see it.
Let’s see…..we left Independence this morning a little after 6 am after having packed wet tents into our bags and loading them on the Pork Belly trucks….the day on the bike was close to perfect. The first stop was for Dad’s waffles…and what an operation that was…one waffle cook (Dad), and 40 waffle irons. And the waffles were amazing….we got our fill and hit the road again. We stopped for a while in Manchester where I had to buy a new set of tires because one had a pretty large sidewall cut. We then went to a pub and drank a couple of ABs while watching the Tour. We then left and hit a beer garden about 8 miles from Dyersville. I have no idea how fast we were going because my speed sensor broke off my fork going over some rumble strips yesterday.
We will head for Bellevue and the conclusion of RAGBRAI 2007 early tomorrow…I’ll send a final update sometime afterwards….
Quotable quotes taken out of context:
I write more more colorful stuff…..I think…..” Angela Evans
“I don’t need another road to mash up my ass….” Pat Clements
RAGBRAI UPDATE #6? (7 – to Bellevue)
I lost track of the number of updates, so whatever this is…that’s what it is.
We concluded RAGBRAI yesterday with a 56 mile ride from Dyersville to Bellevue. When we arrived at the finish, we gathered and took photos dipping tires in the Mississippi. Total mileage for the week for the Tuesday century loop riders–500 miles. We followed that with chocolate milks and funnel cakes in the downtown area and watched as rider upon rider made the finish.
At any rate, we were all glad the week had concluded. We were glad that we wouldn’t have to settle for the shower thingy when the shower trucks, etc were too far away, we were glad that we didn’t have to set up camp again, we were glad that it was the time of our lives. Now, it’s on to the real world of real beds, showers, jobs, bills, and club rides. Oh yeah….unpacking and drying out the tent.
Many of us will do RAGBRAI again for the experiences this event has to offer such as the music, the colors, the endless (I mean endless) fields of corn and soy beans,the easy riding (with some challenging tempos sprinkled in), the people of the towns and the food…..
The hilghts for me have been the pride people take in their communities, the kids setting up lemonade stands, the couples watching the spectacle go by from chairs in their front yards, the unbelievable hospitality of Iowans, the shades of green, the four seat CO-Motion, the recumbent tandems, Stan, Matt, Oak, the recumbant banana bike, the sail bike, the Knoxvile crew from the Smoky Mtn Wheelmen (Leigh, Patty, Tony, and the others), the Field of Dreams, bike trailers with igloos converted to stereos, the cow people, the diaper men, the pig men, getting cuffed by Barney Fife, being put in jail with Otis, watching the Tour at Stokeys drinking Guiness, the shower thingy, the cellphone charging tower, the 200 yard kybo walk at 3 am, avoiding tent stakes, the endless sea of tents of all shapes, loading the truck every day with bags and tents, brushing teeth with a bottle of water, the morning dew, the rainstorm on Thursday night, the pacelines at 28 mph on the left side of the road for miles and miles, Mr Porkchop, Dad’s Waffles, Rustix, pancakes, breakfast burritos, *censored*tails from the back of the truck,, the morning dew, the Elders, the conversations at the gathering tent, the cooling fans, the laughter, and the smiling faces.
The riding is only as challenging as you make it. There are all kinds of riders from racers on high end road bikes, to big box store Huffys, mountain bikes, comfort bikes, recumbents, hybrids, etc. Some riders were even walking up the hills on the last day…I was curious about that because of all the fitness these people built up over the week, because nothing was steeper than 5% and nothing lasted longer than a mile…..
The things mentioned above only scratch the surface. We are returning with rich memories and photos, and hopes for more fun times like this ahead. There are many accounts of the week that you will hear from those who were there. There’s no way to convey the experience unless you do it yourself. So, if you have an inkling in 2009, join us for the return trip. Next year, it’s the Tour of Colorado. Preliminary plans are already underway………
Thanks for reading…….see you Tuesday.
RAGBRAI REPRISE (Post-ride)
I would be remiss to fail to include an acknowledgement…
On behalf of all the Harpeth team in Iowa, I would like to thank Charlene for leading the group. She left no stone unturned in preparing her group for the ride and this made the experience so rich.
She also kicked some butt on the bike…..
ANGELA EVANS’ RESPONSE!
After returning from RAGBRAI and reading Jay’s updates, I thought I would give everyone a non-hammerheads perspective of RAGBRAI. There was a small group of us, mainly consisting of myself & Jim on our tandem, Pat, Phil, and sometimes Tony from Knoxville, who rode every day at a moderate pace of around 17 miles per hour, but also made frequent stops to “experience” RAGBRAI. We were no slouches when it came to our riding, as we sat in the far left lane the majority of our ride in a pace line to block the treacherous headwinds and cross winds, and were only occasionally passed by faster pace lines. Jim said that our continuous riding in the far left lane was good training if we ever decided to do a ride in Europe. In addition to our riding, we stopped a lot, lounged in the shade, ate a ton, people watched, and even went swimming in a kiddy pool one day.
With 10,000 registered riders and 5,000 “bandit” riders, there were bikes EVERYWHERE! Most of the towns we went through had populations of less than 2000, so you can only imagine seeing all the bikes propped up against every available wall, light post, and trash can in town and covering every inch of grass as people stopped to fill up water bottles and get something to eat. You would think that with that many riders, you would never see the same people twice, but it seemed that we passed a large number of the same people every day. People stood out because of their funny team names and themed outfits to match. We were the odd balls dressed in normal cycling gear. Next time we go, we will definitely have some sort of theme and maybe even a solar powered stereo made out of an igloo cooler on a trailer to motivate us with tunes along the way.
Memories I will take from RAGBRAI include Pat yelling, “Hey, where ya going?” to most all bikers riding in the opposite direction (we still don’t know where they were going), literally gagging from the stench while riding past chicken houses, using the bathroom in cornfields because they were cleaner than the KYBOS (port-o-potties), choking on my Gatorade when Pat told a guy with a bone zip tied to his bike helmet, “On your left bone head!”, Phil wanting to stop and eat about every 10 miles, Jay doing a pole dance on a tent pole in one of the beer gardens, Pat helping me get all the soap out of my hair at the shower thingy, eating my weight in breakfast burritos, eating spaghetti in a bag (kind of gross), talking to three ladies in lawn chairs that we called “The Three Aunt Bees”, chatting with Team Bad Boys who had a full bar, generator with stereo, and a grill strapped to the backs of their bikes as well as all of their camping gear (we have pictures), the weird kid in our tour group who we always seemed to see dancing or cart wheeling and who wore the same shorts and no shirt all week, Mr. Porkchop, Dad’s waffles, Smoothie Guys, and soooo much more! I wish now I would have kept a daily journal because I know there is so much I am forgetting that I know everyone would love to hear about.
Phil said it best when he described RAGBRAI as a traveling circus. It was like a carnival every day, complete with freaks and fair food! With so much going on, it was hard to take it all in. We rode hard, we ate a lot, and we drank mostly in moderation (really!). It was a week I surely will never forget and something that I will definitely do again.
Man, it was a pretty unbelievable experience. I have to summarize: imagine camping with 20,000 people, eating food all week that you’d likely find at a fair or other outdoor show, all just outside the walls of an outdoor rock-and-roll concert. The riding – you can look in either direction and see miles of cyclists less than 20 feet from each other, for miles. Roads are flat
After a few of Jay’s comments in his updates (some obviously written after a few drinks), I guess I’ll have to post a few videos of his drunken antics around a kybo.
Future RAGBRAI Riders take heed! Be absolutely sure to bring all your normal camping and riding stuff, plus:
- Earplugs, and good ones. Make sure you test them out at home a few times. Every night the music and partying goes to early in the morning.
- Chair – it’s nice to have something to sit on around your tent.
- Lots of sunblock and a riding hat – you’re riding straight into the rising sun every day. That little visor really makes a difference to your face.
- One of those Kelty sun shades is important, particularly if you don’t go with an outfitter. There’s not a tree around camp for a mile.
- Low expectations! Plan for the worst, hope for the best!
Maybe something will come up that I’ll add later!