Thursday, July 23, 2015

Ragbrai 2015: Penetrating the Herd and Returning Home

We met Joe Hildreth at this watering hole.

Another successful bicycle migration across the great State of Iowa.  Despite numerous offers for ride options and SAG service Mary and I chose to load the touring tandem and set out from home.  We rode 319 miles in 4.5 days and made it home alive and sun burnt but more importantly, we still have vacation time left.

On the Trestle

The Devil Bike  Day One 43 miles

We left at 3 pm on Friday.  I had to work that day.  Joe Hildreth, worked that day, too.  He would be riding with Mary and I.  We were to meet his brother Donnie and Craig Lein in Storm Lake where Donnie had scored a house for us to use.  It was hot and sunny, the thermometer clocking in at 94*F.  Our steed was the 1991 Fisher Gemini tandem.  Originally at MTB but now a touring bike.  This bike has seen us through many a Ragbrai and touring adventure.  This year the Fisher received new wheels, cassette, chain, brake pads and panniers.  Unfortunately, due to my procrastination a proper test ride, shakedown cruise was not performed.  This became very apparent when we reached Oralabor Rd in Ankeny when the chain started skipping bad and coming off the chainring.  The middle chainring is worn down too much for the new chain.  I removed a few links to prevent the chain from coming off and rode mostly in big ring until we learned how to soft pedal it in the middle.  Fortunately, our trip was mostly flat but I did miss the middle ring.

Joe H and Mary my wife.

At the Night Hawk.  Judging by the photos, the spy camera has a dirty lenses or has had it.

Our destination Friday was the home of Heather (Peaches) and Big Jim of Joe's Ragbrai team, the Tall Dogs in Madrid.  Originally we planned to stay at the Trestle Hotel so we could not only see the bridge at night but also at sunrise.  But that idea was nixed when a/c and a shower would be needed because of the heat and humidity.  Lee, another Tall Dog was sleeping in the basement.  He said that he had been up since 130 am and needed to sleep until Jim was to drive him to Slater at 7 am.  We never saw him until 6 am.  We brought Heather and Jim a case of beer and a pizza and later we rode to the Trestle with our hosts and her young son.   On the Trestle were Randy Kramer, Matt and Meagan Riggs and Austin Gill.  Good company.  We stayed until lights out.

Matt Riggs and Randy Kramer.  Sorry for your loss, Randy, I've lost my father, too.

On the way back there was a group of people walking to the parking lot.  Of them, there was a young teenage girl in what I could only make out to be a long white formal dress.  She turned and smiled and for a moment I was thinking she was an apparition or a ghost.  At that moment i heard a young boy say "that's a devil bike."  Well, that is what it sounded like.  I am pretty sure he said "double bike."  We ended up staying up until 3 am drinking beer and listening to Heather's ghost stories about someone "crossing over."  Not a smart thing to do before an ambitious ride in the morning.

Seemed like a cool photo idea at the time.  The debris of the night.  Lee is photobombing.

Hell's Anvil Day Two 96 miles

I wanted to ride to Lake View and camp at Black Hawk Lake State Park so we would have showers and electrical hook ups.  Our route was pretty basic and one we have done many times.  Ride to the Trestle then Woodward and to Perry from Bouton.  Instead of taking the gravel road, we took highway 141 on the advice of Lee who said that there was a wide shoulder and that is the way he and his friends always take.  There was no wide shoulder and and I think he was joking us.  But we made it safely since the road was lightly traveled that early Saturday morning.  I was greatly relieved to get off of it.

Get to Jefferson and then take county roads to Glidden and roll on to Carroll and catch the Sauk Rail Trail.  Everything was fine until we left Scranton, our one and only rest stop between Jefferson and Gliddon.  It got hot.  There was zero shade and nowhere to stop and rest.  Once in Gliddon we stopped for two beers and a/c in the Rush In.  The Russian woman was not there.  Other baggers were there, too, as well as at the uptown Lounge up the street.  Of course we stopped there as Joe's nephew, Mark Hildreth, was there.  Another round or two before departing for Carroll.

First beer cooler on the right.  Carroll, Iowa.

We took highway 30.  A new asphalt shoulder was added and it was a nice, smooth and safe ride into the city.  Unfortunately, the Sauk Trail was not as nice.  We hit it at sunset.  The sun was at the perfect level to blind us for many miles.  Mary passed my baseball cap up so I could exchange it for my helmet.  I could not see Joe and his bike only a matter of yards in front of me.  I could not see anything in front of me until I switched lids.  Then the beauty of the trail revealed itself.  I liked the covered/sheltered tables and the landscape although it could use more trees.  Rumor had it that Lake View was celebrating LakeFest so we decided to camp in the park in Breda.  To our great displeasure the swimming pool was closed.  No showers!  We washed up the best we could and slept underneath the stars.  Laid the tarp down, placed the Thermorests and sleeping bags on to of that and called it a day.  Too hot for a tent.  Joe slept in the dugout of the baseball diamond wrapped up in a piece of Tivek.

Clubbed in the Head at the Man Cave Day Three 53.5 Miles

We rose early and got out of Breda quickly.  Just before Lake View, we rolled past someone sleeping on the trail.  Guess he got as far as he could.  Took us forever to find the convenience store then longer to get on the wrong road out of town.  But that road led us north which was the way we wanted to roll.  Somewhere in this trip up north I discovered a broke spoke on the front wheel but since the wheel was not very out of true nor rubbing against the brakes I decided to deal with it later like at a bike shop in Storm Lake.  Absolutely nothing in Nemaha but there is a new Casey's General Store in Early, our last stop before Storm Lake.  Here we scored free ice for our coolers before mounting up and heading north on highway 71.

Barely 20 pedal strokes into to the final push to our overnight town we came to a halt.  Highway 71 was the "vehicle route" for Ragbrai.  Unless we wanted to share the road with dozens of RVs, old school bus converted to makeshift bicycle team bus and other assorted vehicles we were hosed.  Had to turn back and retrace our route until we found the next northbound road that crossed highway 20.

Donnie was sitting on a golf cart outside his new friend Todd's house.  Craig left that morning for home having enough fun and needing to get things done.  Todd and his wife were fun hogs.  They had every manner of motorized recreational vehicle.  A 4 door ATV, motorcycles, snowmobiles ect.  But he also had a huge garage converted into a man cave.  A bar, couches, chairs, restroom, huge TVs and a well stocked liquor supply.  We stayed too long.  The ride from there to our house was miserable but showers and more beer were there.  Laundry, too, as we now had 3 days of dirty ride clothing.  Dinner was at a Mexican restaurant, the Plaza, Donnie generously picked up the tab.  Back to our host's house and another night underneath the stars.

Dropping Out and the Off Route Party

Originally was planning to lay the bike down but then I realized that the cooler would leak water out.  I ingeniously leaned it on the culvert instead.  The bike held!

We woke up to rain so we covered up the bike and went inside to finish sleeping.  Even after officially waking up and getting dressed we waited a bit for the rain to subside before leaving.  Time to join the herd.  Not exactly ditch to ditch bicycles but there were plenty to around us to put me on complete alert.  The first thing I noticed was all the debris that fell off peoples bikes.  Bungee cords, a complete tire repair kit in a baggie, several red cups with green lids, a computer, bandannas, food, water bottles ect.  One woman dropped her sun glasses and stopped her bike in the middle of the route without warning and even turned her bike perpendicular to the traffic to pick them up!  By the time we got to Fonda I had had enough.  We were heading to Pomeroy anyway so we took an empty county road and relaxed.  23 miles of the route was enough.

This is not to say I did not enjoy myself.  On the contrary, I really like looking at other peoples bikes and talking with others.  One person said that his 81 year old father was somewhere up ahead and that his son was there as well.  I hope to be riding Ragbrai when I am 81.  We also talked to Scott Bends who builds frames in Des Moines.

Passed many fields of these.  3 for every 25 would be turning.  Seemed like a waste.

But we had been on the road for four days and really desired to go home.  Despite the promise of an epic day in Cedar Falls and a great off route ride down the Cedar Valley Nature Trail the two days necessary to ride back to Des Moines was not appealing.  Nor were the two days to get to Cedar Falls.  Departing Ragbrai from here would give us a flat trip home and a few extra vacation days before returning to work.  If we went to Cedar Falls and ultimately Sutliff where a lot of our friends were gathering then we would not get home until Sunday with only hours to recover before resuming our jobs.

Pomeroy was only accessible via gravel route unless one chose to go off route on a lovely stretch of county road.  I did not know this at the time until I mentioned how few people were actually here.  Most stayed on the route and avoided the gravel loop.  Riders with wrist bands were given official Ragbrai patches for their effort.  The bagger community overnighted in Pomeroy and were still there when we arrived.  The city was selling brats on a stick sans buns and the band Brother Trucker was playing live.  Cortez the Killer was the the first song I recognized.  we ran into many of our friends including Tim Fairchild, one of our RASDak friends.  He was riding a fat bike.

Fellow RASDakian Tim Fairchild on his fatbike in Pomeroy.  great to see him here since we missed RASDak this year.  Later that day we saw other Dakota veterans, Dr Fun, and Pam and Rick at the off route party.

About 4 or 5 Ragbrai teams were celebrating 20 or 25 years of existence so they organized an off route party at the country club at Twin Lakes.  For entertainment there was a DJ who sounded like every DJ in the beer garden of the last town out on every Ragbrai I have ever been on.  the music was the same two and that Strokin' song was played two or 3 times.  A large water/beer slide was set up as well and people may have taken their clothes off before sliding down.  One person may have or may not have had a black two headed dildo when sliding down.  Beer was available if you had tickets and a $3 ticket could yield a you 2 Coronas with lime.  Yes, $1.50 beers.  $6 meal ticket got you a steak sandwich and chips.  Needless to say, the crowd ate all the food and drank all the beer.  Hamburger meals were sold for $5 when the steaks ran out.  My last two Corona runs were sans lime.  Eventually all that was left was Miller Light and Mary overheard someone in charge say "here is $500, get more beer quickly!"  We departed about that time with just enough wherewithal to make it to Rockwell City.

The first thing we did in Rockwell City was eat at Pizza Ranch.  Because it was Monday no bufffet.  That probably was a good thing.  then we set up camp in the city park and showered for free at the swimming pool.  No one bothered us and even the cops left us alone.  The campgrounds are located on the other side of the park but we were content underneath the large shelter with two rows of 5 picnic tables each.  joe was the first one asleep.

The Long Ride Home 113 miles

Jefferson was 40 miles from Rockwell City.  We knew if we reached the Raccoon River Valley Trail we would be able to make it home.  It was going to be a century.  To cut some miles off we opted for the north loop to get to Waukee.  we had two lunches, the first in Churdan at the Sinclair station.  Excellent gas station food btw.  the other was in Jamaica at Tojo's.  Tojo's was just as smelly as ever, the mens room still had non-flushing toilets and the solar shower was still hanging in there.  The hoods need to be cleaned and grease was dripping onto the sidewalk.  But the food was good.  there soda system must have broke down since Mary got a can of Diet Mnt Dew.  I had ice tea hoping that the tea brewing system was clean and remembering that the last fountain soda I had from there tasted bad.  Joe and Donnie got there first.  They took off before we did because they had an extra 15 miles or so to go.  Joe had to work on the next day.  as for me, I was feeling like shit from miles 25 to 85, slow but steady.  I could not get any speed from Jefferson to Jamaica.  Jamaica was mile 60.

Minburn, Iowa, at the restored depot.  Sam Adams never tasted so good!

Just a slow ride on the trail with stops in every town.  In Perry we stopped at the Kum&Go and phones  started going off like a space probe waking up.  We had service again and thus communicated with our children.  After a 44oz of Life Water I started feeling better and speed picked up.  Minburn was the next stop.  I enjoyed a Sam Adams at the depot.  Dallas center was a kybo stop.  In Waukee we weighed the bike at the Multch Mart.  134 lb once we subtracted the weight of our bodies.  No wonder the spoke broke!

Clive started resurfacing the Greenbelt which forced us to take Urbandale's Douglas trail system.  Many short hills on a sidepath but we were about to safely cross over I-80/35.  Should have taken the road but by the time we reached the gas stations it was safer to be on the sidepath since there was much more traffic.  The trail goes under the ramps and over the freeway.  When we hit 100th St we headed south and got on the open section of the Greenbelt.  It felt like being home.  Just had to watch out for people without lights which became an issue the closer we got to Mullets.  I had to yell at a woman who lacked lights and dangerously went around us without warning.  "I ALMOST CLOCKED YOU, MISSY!!"  The last thing I wanted or needed was a collision with another bicycle so close to home.

113 miles.  Joe and Donnie had 110 since they had their wives pick them up at Orlando's.  I don't blame them.  Donnie would have had 119 and Joe maybe 125.  110 is great and enough for someone riding a loaded touring bicycle.

Subtracting rider weight the tandem weighed 134 pounds.  42 lb of that was bike sans racks.  No wonder the spoke broke!

No comments:

Post a Comment