Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Mighty Mississippi!!

Reporting from Le Claire, Iowa, on the bank of the Mississippi River!

Wow! What a day! People were up earlier than usual in the campground this morning, us included. I think we were on the road at 5:40 AM, with 52 miles to ride. And the 52 miles just flew by! We had a slight tail wind and what seemed like a lot of downhill! At one point I was cruising along at 18-19 miles per hour and it felt great! It is a sunny day here which is a real bonus for the ending town. When the weather is bad at the end of RAGBRAI, nobody hangs around and spends any money or has any fun! That is not the case today. We arrived here at 9:45 after stopping in most of the pass-through towns. We had to wait about 5 minutes to dip our tires and have our pictures taken-the wait now must be over an hour as thousands more have arrived behind us. Bob and Sally have now left as they are driving north to visit some relatives tonight. I will stay in Moline, IL tonight and head east starting tomorrow.

We were warmly greeted by the locals as we rode into LeClaire and there were many volunteers down by the river dip site to take photos of us riders as we dipped our front tires in the Mississipppi. We then rode (uphill) back to where our cars are parked-and there was the Yellow Bettle was waiting for me! I loaded my bike on top and then we walked and rode the shuttle back to town to see about getting our luggage. The baggage truck is on the edge of town and we decided to go into town, return to the dip site, and eat some lunch-one more pork sandwich!

A few notes about last night. We ate dinner at a church and as usual, had a good pasta meal. We then wandered around the town square checking out the entertainment. We ended up sitting at one of the stage areas listening to some music. The last group, Hen House Prowlers, were a bluegrass group and were very good. While listening to them I could look across the lawn and watch a group of jugglers put on a show. After the bluegrass concert we went for our traditional "Last Night Out" beer. I say "traditional", but the tradition did not start until we started doing RAGBRAI without the kids! It was a nice evening in town.

So I will hang out here (down by the river) for a bit longer and then haul my luggage back to the beetle (hopefully, I can catch a shuttle trolley). I will then find my hotel and get settled in there. I expect to be completely wiped out by the time I start to relax in a hotel room with a real bed, a bathroom, and air-conditioning!

That's all for now! It has been a great week of riding,

Hope all is well.

Friday, July 25, 2008

No Sun, No Wind!

Reporting from Tipton, Iowa. Day 6 of riding is complete and it was another good day.

We were on the road by 5:45 AM with 64 miles to get us to Tipton. Now if you look on a map you would see that it is only about 20 miles between North Liberty, where we were last night, and Tipton. However the RAGBRAI route took a scenic, rural tour north, east, and then back south into this fine town!

One of the highlights today was our bratwurst and sauerkraut breakfast at 7:30 AM! A great way to start the day, although Bob reported that he has some reminders of that sauerkraut later in the morning! One of the small towns we rode through, Lisben, processes sauerkraut and they have a big sauerkraut festival in August. In the daily newspaper that is published for riders, the Lisben folks were promoting their brats and kraut so we decided that would be our breakfast after 21 miles of riding. It was yummy!

The wind was a non-factor today which made for much more pleasant riding. Additionally, we again rode under a cloud cover, and just now, 3:45 PM, the clouds are starting to break up. These last 2 days have been "Pam B" riding days-cloudy and temps in the low 70's! It has been great.

One sight along the route today that surprised us was as we were riding along, a pick-up truck slowly moved by us, pulling a trailer with a huge, fake cow in it. Now by huge I mean 10 tall!! Later, when were rode into the town of Mt. Vernon, there was this cow with a big sheet hanging of its side, advertising something!

We are camped in a beautiful city park and have a site right next to a shelter where we can sit at picnic tables and store our bikes under cover. That is one advantage to starting the daily ride early in the morning and moving right along-better camp choices! The new city aquatic center is also in the park so we went for a swim, did a few waterslides and took showers. Perfect!

We are in downtown right now and will go to a church dinner for some kind of pasta. Sally and I visited a vendor booth here in town where corn yarn is for sale. Interesting stuff!

Later this evening, we will have our "Last Night Out" beer in the Beer Garden, but I don't imagine any of us will be up real late.

Tomorrow we finish in Le Claire- I can almost smell the river now!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

%$&* Wind or No Sunscreen Today

Reporting from North Liberty, Iowa. The winds continue! 76 miles, all but 1 into those winds!

But first a note about last night because campground life is as much part of the RAGBRAI experience as the biking part. We had a nice spot next to a building that ended up being a concession stand for the high school sports fields. There were tables and chairs set up under a breezeway around the corner from where we were camped. We could not hear the people that were buying food and socializing, and we took advantage of the service when we needed a quick snack and a place to sit and read. When we got back from our downtown trip there were some late arrivals (usually that means "partiers") camped on the other side of our fence. We were a bit concerned because one guy was excited to have found DD batteries to energize their boombox and another guy reported that he had a beer supply! We thought we were in for a long, loud night. But Mother Nature intervened and sent rain-which sent everyone into their tents and things quieted right down! Now I am not one who likes to camp in the rain, but in my little tent, which has proved to be quite waterproof, I feel cozy and secure, so I slept pretty well.

We got up at our usual time of 5 AM and I got the inside of my tent packed up when the rain returned. I carried my 2 bags to the covered concession area, where Bob and I decided we would wait a bit to see if the rain would pass before we took down the tents. And that is what happened.

We were riding east by 5:45 AM, with the first town about 17 miles away. That is a long way to ride on a FiberOne bar, but I managed. This first town, Vining, was tiny but went all out to provide a wonderful breakfast selection, and everything cost $1. So here is my food list as of 4:15 PM: FiberOne Bar, Gatorade, 2 pieces of French Toast, scrambled eggs, milk, 3 snickerdoodles (over the course of the day), one piece of disappointing peach pie, more gatorade, 1 1/2 bananas, bratwurst, turkey sub, baked Lays potato chips and a fruit roll up. I will buy something else to have as a snack before bed tonight.

Back to the riding report-We rode through 3 of the Amana Colonies, which are fairly famous for their communal type of living. At one point today, I was riding down a small hill with a curve and as I came around the curve, there in the middle of the road was an enormous Longhorn Steer with 2 kids riding it! I had to yell, "On your left!" as I passed it but I'm not sure the steer understood! That was a first on RAGBRAI. We rode through some light rain for less than an hour today, but under a cloud cover all day-so no need for the sunscreen. The last 16 miles of the day were the most scenic as the farms and homes were closer to the road, so there was more to look at. Also the roads were a bit curvy, which always adds interest. So inspite of the relentless wind, it was a good day on the bike!

We walked from the campgound into an area around the Rec Center here in North Liberty. We found dinner here (my sub sandwich) and I left Bob and Sally in the Library where it is quiet and has soft chairs. I will go back there when I finish in this Iowa Telecom trailer. I may just catch a short nap as I read a magazine!

While in the shower today, I washed out my bike shorts so I had a wet towel and those shorts that needed to dry. Since it was gently misting at the time and there was no place to hang a line, I was a bit concerned as to where I could hang my stuff. Then, glancing around the campground, I saw a metal bar hanging down under the 18-wheeler trailer that hauls all of our baggage. That would be a perfect place to hang my stuff! The breeze was blowing through there, but it was out of any rain that may fall! Hopefully it will still be there when I get back to camp!

Tomorrow is 64 miles with about the same number of hills. We should continue to travel through areas that were hardest hit by flooding. Today we saw where the Iowa River had overflowed its banks and left many fields under water.

I had planned to buy a RAGBRAI shirt but by the time I finally got back to buy the one I liked, it was not available in my size. So I thought I would use that $20 at a river side casino at the end of the ride! But you Robinson boys would be happy and proud to know, that instead of gambling that money away, I bought a raffle ticket to support the fundraising efforts to build an all-weather track at one of the high schools along today's route!

Hope all is well.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wind, Wind, Blow the Other Way

Report from Tama-Toledo, Iowa. After a good night's sleep after a brief fireworks show at 10 PM, we were on the road at 5:45 AM! Again, that is such a great time to ride, the temps are perfect and the wind hasn't picked up yet. Sally made a comment that she hadn't seen as many people pulled over with flat tires this year and not more than 5 minutes later we started seeing lots of people repairing tires along the side of the road! It appeared that some low-life, idiot, trouble-maker, etc., put tacks all on the road for several miles. People were getting flats left and right! We ended up riding in the other lane of traffic which seemed tack-free. We did make it through that treacherous area without picking up a tack, but it was very stressful riding.

Today we rode 77 miles, most of it into the wind! The route went mostly east and south and the winds were from the southeast! It was harder work than usual out there today. We did have some fun times in the towns and ate some good food. Here is my food list for today: FiberOne bar, gatorade (before getting on the bike), a large cup of fruit from the same vendor as yesterday, 2 applesauce cookies, another gatorade, one pork burger, 4 peanut butter cookies, one free ActiveWater, one free banana, powerade, Corn on the cob, lasagna, salad, garlic bread, lemon bar, and a small pecan sticky roll for a bedtime snack! I love riding my bike!!

We rode under sunny skies and the temps were in the mid to upper 80's. That isn't bad. We came by some flooded areas and some of the sights we have seen have been devasting. Speaking of floods, apparently there were big rains in Rochester and lots of areas got flooded, including our backyard-after the town did all that work so that the floods would not happend. Jim sent me a photo which showed the water level higher than it has ever been! Jim will be on the phone tomorrow! But back to Iowa, our route went over several rivers/streams that had receeded back into their banks, but there are many new lakes left over.

When I get home I will do a blog of lots of photos from RAGBRAI so you can see what fun I have been having. Right now I am going to hear a band called Dogs on Skis-a classic rock band!

Tomorrow we ride 76 miles, with a few less hills, but more wind from the southeast, and you guessed it, we are travelling southeast!

Hope all is well.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Aiming for Ames

Reporting from Ames, Iowa. Another beautiful day of riding! After an uneventful night (finally), we were on the road at 5:55 AM and it was a beautiful morning to be riding through rural Iowa. The sun came up silhouetting the farmhouses and barns as we rode east. There was heavy dew on the grasses and crops so things just sparkled. There was no wind at this point and we had very few hills, with one exception-more later, so we were just crusing along loving life! Because we are usually in one of the earlier waves of riders we get to enjoy these mornings with a lower volume of bike traffic.

We had 57 miles to ride today and they went by fairly quickly, as we were averaging 15-plus miles per hour. Our biggest challenge came after we had a fun descent onto the bridge over the DesMoines River (max speed, 36.1 mph), when we then had to start the climb out of the river valley. Fortunately we were doing this before noon and our side of the road was mostly in the shade! So I kept pumping along and got to the top, without the need for my lowest gear.

We have been made to feel very welcome here in Ames. There were lots of people out lining the roads as we came into town, cheering for us and yelling, "Welcome to Ames!" Bob, Sally and I were discussing how this is the part of RAGBRAI that is the best, but cannot be described. Tonight we are staying on the campus of Iowa State University and it is a beautiful campus. We got to camp so fast that it took the Register staff another hour to finish unloading the baggage trucks. We were able to secure a wonderful camp spot with shade for the whole day! Even though it is pleasantly in the low 80's, shade is a priority! Our spot is fairly close to the port-a-potties and showers and in the morning we will appreciate its proximity to the baggage truck.

My shower today was perfect-after having one be too hot, and yesterday's too cold, it was nice to get one that was just right!

We spent the afternoon walking around the campus and taking in some of the programs and sites. We listened to some jazz in one of the grassy areas and walked through the Student Union. We walked to the far end of campus where the football stadium and Field House are located. We then visited the Reiman Gardens, which is supported by ISU. We enjoyed our walk around the gardens and especially liked the tour through the butterfly garden. We are now back at camp and this computer trailer is about 100 feet from my tent so posting this blog is pretty convenient.

So what have I had to eat today? Here is my list: A Fiber One bar in my tent this morning before starting to ride, Gatorade, a cup of fruit (pineapple, grapes, strawberries-yummy), a breakfast burrito, 2 applesause cookies and a buffet with burritos and pasta. I will have a little bit more tonight, but since it was a fairly short riding day, I don't need as much food as I did yesterday.

Tomorrow's ride is to the side-by-side towns of Tama-Toledo, about 77 miles away. That will be challenging because I think I may be starting to get tired. But I have all day to do the miles.

Hope all is well.

Monday, July 21, 2008

100 Miles

Here it is 7:00 PM and I have ridden 100 miles today and I feel great! Those 1,000 miles of training are paying off. More on the day's ride in a minute, but I need to tell you about last night.

The rumors were flying around the campground that severe weather was headed our way and would arrive in the middle of the night. The skies were clear as we climbed into our tents around 9:30 PM, hoping to get a good night's sleep before our Century Day. I woke up about 2:15 wondering who was talking so loud outside of my tent, only to realize that it was a police cruiser driving through the campground with the officer making an announcement to seek shelter because of severe weather bearing down on Harlan, Iowa. So I grabbed my fanny pack and rain coat and we went to stand in a shed that was quite near our tent. We were crowded into this shed for almost an hour as the wind blew and the rain came through, but the biggest part of the storm went to the north. We didn't get the hail that was predicted, but several big gusts of wind blew through, breaking several tents. I was back in bed by 3:20 AM, hoping to get some more sleep, which I did.

We were up at 5 AM and on the road by 5:45 under cloudy skies. After 6.7 miles of riding, bikers needed to decide if they were going to ride the Century Loop or just continue on for the 85 miles to Jefferson, Iowa. This was our longest day of riding even without the extra loop. We rode under mostly cloudy skies most of the day which made it very pleasant. The first 67 miles were very hilly, but the reward for climbing all those hills is that there were some magnificent down hill runs. We stopped at all the little towns we went through to re-fuel our bodies. The best treat out on the roads today was a delicious fresh peach. It was perfectly ripe, and the juice was dripping off my hands onto my biking gloves! It was heaven!

We got to the campground by 3:30, feeling quite pleased with ourselves! I then took a cold shower, which actually felt better than the hot, humid shower I had yesterday.

Shortly after getting back to my tent, the thunder and lightening that had been in the distance, moved over the campground and we got some rain. I just laid in my tent and read my book while the rain fell on my rain fly. It was quite restful!

We are grazing at all the food vendors who are in the town square around the courthouse. Jefferson, Iowa has a huge bell tower that we were able to go to the top of for some photos of the area. That was interesting.

I had a nice rib-eye steak sandwich for dinner and some free french fries that were fried in soy bean oil. Before we head back to camp I am going to buy a cinnamon roll that is made by the woman who has won 2 blue ribbons at the Iowa State Fair for her cinnamon rolls. Do I spend a lot of time talking about food? I am burning a lot of calories with all this riding!!

Yesterday I forgot to mention that July 20th was the one year anniversary for this blog. Thank you to all of you who read and comment on my ramblings. It is a fun and learning experience for me and I plan to continue writing The Empty Nest!

That's all for now. We are going to walk around and look for our friend, John K.

Hope all is well.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Wonderful Day One

Reporting from Harlan, Iowa. Our route today was 59 miles long and we went through Beebeetown, Minton, Shelby, and a couple of other towns whose names I cannot remember. The temps were OK since we were done riding by 11:15 AM but they are heating up now, must be in the 90's.

Last night was pretty sketchy for sleep but I managed a few hours. As I went to bed, Mother Nature put on quite a light and sound show with the threat of a good storm but the storm went to the north. We got lots of wind, but no rain. The trains are the biggest sleep disrupter as they roll through Missouri Valley at least every half hour, sometimes more frequently. And of course they are blowing their horns!

In typical RAGBRAI fashion, I enjoyed a homemade cinnamon roll early this morning and had a great smoothie near the end of the ride!

We will wander around the main downtown area where the courthouse and vendors are located. I think spaghetti may be in order for dinner tonight.

Tomorrow is an 84 mile day with an optional 16 mile loop to make a Century ride. I'll see how I'm feeling tomorrow and what the weather is doing before I decide whether or not to do the extra loop.

I guess that's all from Iowa right now. Of course, storms are in the forecast again for tonight. They are scattered, but very intense.

Hope all is well.