It was Craig's idea. Winterset, Atlantic, the southern trek to intercept Ragbrai. The route was out and we met at CABCo to fill our mugs and stare at a map. I was surprised with his choice of busting out of Des Moines but I have praised the ride to Winterset before.
Fast forward to the second to last Thursday of July. Craig has to work so we meet about 4 pm on the Bill Riley Trail and off we go. First stop was to chat with Stephanie Shearer who happened to be outside with her dog Remi. We used her for our first "group" photo. Then onto the Great Western Trail and the usual stops: Safety Shack, The Cumming Tap for Moscow Mules, Troll Bridge and at the end the Roadside Inn. $17 for two mules.
Goodbye trail hello county road R45 to St. Marys and the Northside. South a block and then the road to St Charles. We crossed I-35 here. Once in town Craig and I fulfilled a goal of mine. Drinking beer in a covered bridge. Bridges hold fascination for my biking friends. We drink beer on them, below them and near them. But I have yet heard of anyone enjoying a cool crisp refreshing beer inside a covered bridge.
No bar in St Charles so we depart town on G50 in the dark of night toward our final destination of Winterset. Not really all that long, perhaps 10 miles or so but the lack of daylight seemed to stretch this road an extra 20 before our north turn to the southern city limits of Winterset. That climb was not long. Having enjoyed the downhill I feared that the climb would be difficult and taxing.
All the bars were closed which dictated the decision to go to Casey's General Store. A fresh case of beer, Gatorade and pizza slices. And a few stares from the locals and 3 truck loads of horse people was the dessert. Our campground was the John Wayne Memorial Park. Pulled out the thermorests and sleeping bags and declared Day 1 over. 50 miles.
|The john Wayne Memorial|
Around 630 AM Friday, Day 2, a cop pulled up and asked if we were OK. "I ain't never seen anyone sleep here before." I told him that we could not find the city park. 10 blocks away he informed us before leaving and wishing us a good Ragbrai. Back to sleep for a bit then breakfast at the Northside Cafe on the square. Omelets and toast. Good service. Good prices. Clean restroom. They let me charge my phone.
Iowa Highway 92 Blues: The Quest for Atlantic
|Bonnie and Clyde's getaway car!|
The road was not very busy. Only one person yelled at us, Dodge truck pulling a horse trailer. Mostly smooth. Shoulder most of the time. Only one problem. Headwind. At least it kept us cool. But it took forever to cover the 23 miles to Greenfield. here I decided to carry Gatorade in the cooler along with the beer. I love the 2 for 1 specials. Slam one for emergency core temperature drop and save one for the road. We ate at the bowling alley. $3.75 for a burger and fries. Great deal especially from a dirty bowling alley.
The 6 miles to Fontanelle. City park shelter then Casey's. Tour de Casey's. Free ice for the cooler and Gatorade. It was in the 90s, need to keep hydrated and core temperature at acceptable levels. At the park we met Curtis who was bagging it out on a Terratrike. He did not have a map. Rather, he took a right at the end of Martensdale and was following 92 all the way to the beginning of Ragbrai. He lives in west Des Moines and after the big ride he will be doing the triathalon. After Craig's nap he joined us until our turn off at Cumberland.
|Curtis. There were 3 of us with C as the first letter in their name!|
It was good to get off 92 even if N28 had steeper hills. We stopped at the Rusty Wire a restaurant/pub in Cumberland. Fish night although we only had 1 beer each. Fireball was not chilled. Two groups of families were seated and having dinner so we sat at the bar and overheard the manager on the phone say "get the fuck in we are getting killed!" We probably should have ate.
|Food for the jouney purchased at the last store before the Cumberland turn off. I thought of my children when I purchased this.|
|Fun photos in Norway Center|
16 or so miles to go to with vapid sunlight. 2 county roads and then up US 71. Decent shoulder on that highway. Traffic was light. Google Maps called it C630. We entered Atlantic from the south which spared us the pain of climbing hills in town if we hit it from anywhere else. Trish was in her yard waiting and we were glad to have ended that 66 mile ride. I drank 4 beers from my cooler in her driveway before going in to shower, eat and sleep. Paradise!
|That night Aaron's daughter Makayla had a baby boy. Trish and her son Parker (shown holding the baby) drove to Ottumwa the next day.|
Enter Joe and Donnie
|Joe and Donnie Hildreth bagging it.|
Almost from the inception of our riding plans Joe and Donnie Hildreth kept asking what they were and asking if they could ride with. Normally they ride with the Tall Dogs on road bikes. They also ride to the beginning of Ragbrai using Tall Dog support. This year I convinced them to bag it out with us when their support and Craig and I collided in Atlantic. After a few texts and phone calls we met at the Casey's on the eastside. Iced and beered and a few snackiepoos we rode up to US 71 and headed north to reach the T-Bone Trail. They were now becoming baggers.
|Donnie preparing to cross I-80.|
The only issue with the T-Bone Trail is that it supposedly begins in Atlantic but one must ride several miles of shit gravel to reach the trailhead. So for the second time in my life I had to ride on highways to get there. Traffic was light. We hopped on at the I-80 truck stop which allowed us to grab a sandwich and a non-alcoholic beverage before entering the trail.
|With Team Emu on the T-Bone Trail. They were heading to Marne and almost convinced us to go there. Andy was limited to beer only after the previous night's vodka incidents.|
The other issue is that there are too many places to stop and enjoy a cool crisp refreshing beer on this trail. Let's just say we had a great time. Probably averaged 2 miles per beer, hit every open bar and had a great tenderloin in Hamlin. This was our low mileage drinking day. Fortunately, Angel arranged a motel room in Audubon, Iowa, for us. 30 miles. A new Ragbrai low for me.
|Between the bars in Audubon, Iowa.|
After a night of abusing locals we left Craig behind with Angel and hit county roads to Coon Rapids on our way to the Raccoon River Valley Trail. 12 miles of moderate hills on an empty road then 11 miles of rollers on a "rough" road to Coon Rapids. They scraped the asphalt off the original concrete road and created a surface that requires maximum attention to keep a safe line. No flats or busted wheels but once off of it we checked our bikes out. Too bad because the scenery was beautiful and I'd like to ride that road again AFTER it is resurfaced.
|Scraped surface of county road N46|
|11 miles of this. White is rough, black usually good except for the occasional asphalt chunks.|
We ate at the Coon Bowl, my second stop at a bowling alley, before hitting Iowa 141 for the trail interception. Good burger, 2010 top burger in Iowa. 141 was low traffic, relatively flat and had a few towns that had convenience stores. This was the second time I biked this highway to get to the trail. This was alos the day it rained. We had just rolled into Bagley, Iowa, and noticed the menacing sky. We found a covered picnic shelter in a park and reached it in time before the deluge. Good place for a rest before the remaining 4 miles to the RRVT. That park shelter would be a great place to camp but you would have to bring in your own food and drink because Bagley lacks a bar and store.
Finally the trail and we headed to Jamaica to reunite with Craig who SAGed to Jefferson. The bar was closed. we headed south to Yale, Iowa, where we met Team Mystery Machine and the Toe Rings. Starting to feel like Ragbrai. New store in Yale where we could purchase beer. this was good because the former store has been sorely missed.
|Mystery machine and the Die Hards were in several groups this Ragbrai. Here are some spotted in Yale the day before the Perry overnight.|
|Donnie carried both Perry Fire and Iowa Shine, corn whiskey, with him. It came down to this in Yale. Not bad but tasted strong. No measuring devices, no wonder.|
The Vortex increased strength and sucked us into Panora, Iowa. Angel said that there was a motel by the lake with a tiki bar. Reports coming north out of Panora indicated the epicenter off The Vortex. Motels, houses, boats, people having been stuck there for 3 days. Chad Leeper changing his voice. Originally wanted to camp at the High Trestle bridge but I heard the Sirens' call in Panora. Said goodbye to my friends and Mystery Machine teammates and rode to Lakeside Inn with its Port Lounge and tiki bar.
|The only use that tub got!|
Drinks were $2. Pints were $4. Leeper handed me a plastic cup with some green liquid and a straw. In a voice that reminiscent of Billy Bob Thorton from Sling Blade he said, "that drink ain't gonna drink itself." Our room had a hot tub, not that we were going to use it. We rolled our bicycles through the hotel and there seemed to be no authority here. Bicyclist, drunken baggers had completely taken over the place. we could not find anyine who worked there in the morning which was OK because I imagine that there was damage and there were incidents and that the LAW should have been involved. Or perhaps we behaved. It was hard to tell.
|Chad Leep and GYM Carson at The Port, The Lakeside Inn, Panora, Iowa.|
Jim Davis bought something like 10 seafood pasta dinners and 6 bottles of wine for us. Cici Cunningham purchased some pizzas so people would not make the dangerous trip downtown. But after we ate it was a food coma that sent us back to our rooms. Game over. I would have liked to stayed up longer but I was done. 58 miles. I walked back with my glass of a cabernet sauvignon spilling out the sides. I was a bit horrified in the morning when Angel sported a huge purple wine stain on her white shirt and that a wine glass was upside down on the patio of our room. But I found my glass mostly full on top of the mantel of the fireplace where I slept. Good thing too because I needed something to was down my Claritin and Sudafed.
|Donnie, Missy, me, Craig and Ramona in Yale. Here I am giving the overnight addy to the Die Hards.|
Time for my shortest Ragbrai day ever--25 miles, Panora to Perry, Iowa. The Official Route went through Yale our first stop town stop. We did stop at a bench fro a beer. Finally we were officially on The Ragbrai. We ran into the Die Hards and others as we watched the circus unfold in Yale. I did purchase a $2 can of Busch Light and a $3 pork sandwich to help out the town. Inside just Ethel's bar I proved to randy Kramer that Cher did have bad songs when I selected Bang Bang on the jukebox.
|Scoobies and Die Hards|
Rolling onward to Jamaica, Iowa, I stayed long enough to drink 1 beer and left my teammates at the pool underneath the palm trees so I could meet my wife and daughter in Perry. A quick beer in Dawson, Iowa, and another pool with the Honey Badgers and T-Bone Schmid before with 5 miles to go.
|Joe and Craig at the beach in Jamaica, Iowa.|
|The Pool in Dawson, Iowa.|
Mary and Dora were in the courtyard of the Hotel Pattee drinking bike beers with a group of Mystery Machiners and my sister. Dora found a drumline to play with. Brad Overholser and Clayton Mudge also were there. But after a while I felt the need for A/C, a meal and a shower. We rolled south to accomplish that.
|Tents up!! Bring on rain!!!|
Jane Arpy had friends that live in Perry. They were looking forward to hosting on Ragbrai. Angel told us about it. I told Missy Kipple Gullion and the Die Hards and soon we all converged. Shower, food, nice place to set up two tents. This was the only time I set up the tent. Sure enough it rained hard for a bit. That's life. we needed rain anyway. I really did not want to sleep inside with a bunch of people anyway. We could have but it's good to be alone. I drank most of the night with Jeff Gullion who is from my home town and prolly a few years older. He brought quality craft beer and I woke up with the first hangover of the ride. Thank you!
The Last Day: Bike Swap and Team Swap
Mary and Dora rode from home to Perry on our touring tandem. A veteran of many Ragbrais the Fisher tandem is one of my favorites. Dora was on her first Ragbrai as the stoker of this bike. Breakfast was mainly dessert items because around 3 or 4 AM the Toe Rings arrived and ate almost all of the breakfast casserole that Sharon our hostess had prepared. I do not think it was fully cooked yet. I did have a scoop of the remains to counteract the sugar.
We had three choices for the trip home. The first was to ride to the High Trestle Trail and come in from the east to avoid the crowds and see the trestle. Joe and Donnie took this way. The second was to take the official route and allow Dora a full day on Ragbrai proper. But we chose the third option because Dora was anxious to get home and take a babysitting job, her main source of income. Located 2 blocks from the new extension of the RRVT we decided to trail it home. Yes, we we two blocks from a trail that would take us to 1/2 mile from our home! Ragbrai does not get any better than that! Or does it. My entire time in Perry I thought that the numbers of riders on the ride was down. This was not so.despite BRR seeming bigger to me from where we were. Dora had to use a restroom. When we pulled into Minburn, Iowa, for her to use one we collided with the Horde. Yep, numbers were quite high and everyone we never saw were there at that moment. A bank of kybos, maybe 15 of them had lines 50 people deep. I did see Brick, a friend and biker from Mullets here.
Back on the trail to Dallas Center, Iowa, and its decadent wrestling entertainment. Some of our friends actually spent the night here just to see little people wrestle. Yes, they wanted to see midgets wrestle. Mystery Machine and Die Hards were present here. We also did see and talk to did see Bruce Woodard here. He is an old biking friend and an endurance rider who was on Breedlove's star and did Paris-Brest-Paris. He completed RAID (Ride Across Iowa in a Day) and may be up for this year's event. We stayed for 3 matches, two normal one with little people. GYM said the funniest thing ever when he shouted "GET INTO MY BURLEY!!" at the two small women wrestling. The last match featured a man in lucha libre regalia. He was the favorite and all the kids lined the mat for hand slaps when he did his victory lap.
Then the trail all the way home. strange riding my work commute as part of Ragbrai but familiarity makes easy riding and I annoyed Dora with mileage updates. Tacopocalype was set up at 51 and I wished we had not ate in Waukee, Iowa, but it was nice to see Sam. Within 2 miles from home our son Quin was with a Mullets employee using chalk to get bikers to go to that establishment. Greeted by family! we did stop at Mullets to talk to Wayne and Ed. The Tall Dogs were going to camp there.
Once home Dora left for her babysitting gig. Mary and I set up the tents to dry and unpacked the bikes, started laundry and hit the store. A fabulous chicken dinner and early to bed. 39 miles. Game over. Until next year....
I was proud to have corrupted Joe and Donnie. they had a great time and lamented that their brother Sam was not with us. I also enjoyed riding with Craig. last year we rode thousands of miles together but this year we did not due to rain and life. Dora made her first ragbrai appearance. Mary's job prevented her from being with us and everyone missed her. She would have really enjoyed it especially Panora. It was great to see my old friends again. Seems like ages...