Saturday, November 23, 2019

Coffeneuring Challenge 2019 Ride

Perhaps the most enjoyable Fall Cycling Related Activity, the Coffeeneuring Challenge has begun.  This is a bicycle ride for coffee.  I am endeavoring to ride a different bicycle 7 times to 7 different locations for coffee during the next 7 weeks.  For a less scattered brain explanation click HERE the official page for this activity.


My Verenti Substance adventure/cyclocross/gravel bike..let's call these what they really are, heavy road bikes.  I took this on my self contained unsupported July bicycle tour.

*    DSM Brew 300 West MLK Jr Pkwy Suite 140 Des Moines, Iowa
*    DSM Brew
*    October 12, 2019
*    Pumpkin Spice Breve
*    casual ride downtown
*    4 miles

Wonderful autumn afternoon.  Woke up and the outside temperature was below freezing. Around noon we went to a friend's duplex and helped her clean as she is moving out at the end of the month.  By the time we returned home it was warm enough to ride bicycles without dressing like an astronaut and my morning coffee was completely processed by my body.  Let's get the challenge on!  I decided to ride my Verenti Substance "adventure/gravel bike which I have not rode in a few weeks.  DSM Brew is our favorite coffee shop.  Conveniently located a little over a mile from our house and on the southern edge of downtown.

Mary had her usual iced vanilla latte and I branched out to the Pumpkin Spice Latte, do not judge me, and that's what I told the barista.  To mix it up I ordered it as a breve.  Normally I order 3 shots over ice fill the rest with half and half or a dark roast coffee.  I should have ordered it as a latte as the half and half came out a bit foamy.  He apologized and said he would fix it if necessary.  I had him add cold half and half.  I like my coffee a bit cooler.  Tasty.  I normally don't add sugar or syrup to my brew nor whipped cream. 


Enjoying an adult coffee after Church.

Yeah, I have my own pint glass purchased at West-O Brewery and carried for hundreds of miles inside the panniers of a touring bicycle.

*   Jackson Street Bridge
*   October 13, 2019
*   West-O Cold Press Coco
*   short ride to Church and one of Des Moines premier pedestrian bridges
*   4 miles

My city, Des Moines, Iowa, is known as "The City of Bridges."  Two major rivers meet in my fair city, The Des Moines River and The Raccoon River.  The Jackson Street Bridge was a very important bridge for the citizens of Des Moines.  It allowed people to cross the Raccoon and go to work in downtown and return home.  It is a steel bridge that originally had a steel driving surface.  The bridge was retired from vehicular traffic in the 2000s and converted into a pedestrian bridge.  New wooden surface, fresh coat of paint, some structural safety work and a huge donation of LED lights make this a favorite bridge for cyclists, pedestrians and people walking to the nearby baseball park, Principal Park.  Despite the removal of benches, cyclists who enjoy "bridge beers" frequent this one.  For more information read HERE

I enjoyed a limited offering of West-O Brewing Company's famous CoCo Stout.  It is a chocolate stout brewed with coffee and vanilla beans.  "Canned for the Venturous."  Not just coffee but COLD PRESS COFFEE.  I like this type of beer in the colder months and it was a cool morning.  I found this beverage a bit sweet but I knew that going into to this.  As for the location, very nice and full of memories.  I recall driving on this bridge.  Now we meet friends at night and watch the fireworks after the baseball games.

Third Coffee

My 1994 Trek 2200, my first Campagnola bicycle.  Not my top of line roadie anymore but a solid bike and the roadie I pick for wet streets.  One of these years I'll put fenders on it.

The coffee mural on the building.

My excellent breakfast sandwich!

*   Plain Talk Books & Coffee
*   Plain Talk Books & Coffee
*   October 19. 2019
*   Dark Roast Drip Coffee
*   Casual ride to the Historic East Village some rain drops
*   5 miles

It was a rainy Saturday morning.  Mary rode to the farmers market with our eldest child while I completed the previous entry.  Eventually it looked clear enough.  I text Mary to meet me at Plain Talk and then set to prep my 1994 Trek 2200 road bike.  I have not ridden it for months.  Since my theme within a them was to ride a different bike for each coffee the good old carbon rod was on the list as eligible steeds.

Plain Talk does a lot of good for people with special needs and disabilities so I like to support them.  Maybe this is a another theme within a theme, drinking coffee from places sponsored from Optimae LifeServices.

Normally I get espresso from here so a dark roast was something different.  Smooth.  I also had their breakfast special, a sriracha breakfast sandwich on an Asiago bagel.  Lots of avocado!  Totally delish!  They smiled when I told them it was great.  Apparently, the idea was from one of the staff.

Fourth Coffee

My friend's Trek 520.  I became the owner of this bike after his death in September.

*    Railroad Bill's Dining Car 621  Des Moines St Des Moines, Iowa
*    October 20, 2019
*    Dark Roast drip coffee
*    casual ride to the historic East Village
*    8 miles

Railroad Bill's is a sister diner of the organization the owns Plain Talk Books & Coffee.  It is located in an old building in Des Moines that also houses a antique shop and used vinyl records.  We had a "15 minute" wait before we were seated which allowed us time to shop in the store.  I found a record that I wanted so I was happy but the wait seemed forever.  Once seated they took our order and I got an omelet and coffee.  Coffee was $2 self serve with free refills.  They have their beans roasted and labeled with Railroad Bill's image on the bag and available for sale.

Fifth Coffee

My LeMond road bike aka Century Machine.  First ride in a long time perhaps a month.

*   Chocolate Stam 2814 Ingersoll Ave Des Moines, IA
*   Chocolate Stam
*   October 27, 2019
*   breve
*   urban riding on a mix of streets, trails, bike lanes and sharrows
*   8 miles

As a cyclist I prefer to support businesses that support cycling.  A token of support is providing a secure place to park one's bicycle.  We were on our way to Zanzibar Coffee Adventure but noticed there is zero bicycle parking or a place to park a bike that would be visible and secure once we were inside.  We could have locked them a half block away or on the bench on the neighboring business but that was way out of sight.  Mary was a recent victim of bicycle theft and theives in our city carry bolt cutters so we moved on down the road.

Chocolate Stam was Mary's call.  I've never been there before.  It is a part of a chain that sells fancy chocolate.  Lo and behold they have an espresso machine!  Good call Mary. rack but we were able to lock up on their large sign and had a view of the bicycles from inside.  Mary ordered her usual, an iced vanilla latte, she does not like coffee as much as I do, but the barista said she could not make an iced latte do to the espresso machine.  I found that puzzling since I am currently gigging as a barista at work but I held my tongue.  She a hot chocolate instead and I the best breve I ever had!  The barista apologized for it being a bit foamy but the foam is what made it wonderful.  Rich and sweet to contrast and smooth the coffee.  Accident or design?

Sixth Coffee

My daughter's Dawes.  She keeps leaving it at home after I fix it up.  Nice riding roadie.  Thinking about placing a rack on it and some studded tires for winter commuting.

Eclectic decor straight outta Pinterest!

*   Java Joe's 214 4th St Des Moines, Iowa
*   November 2, 2019
*   3 shots over ice and half and half
*   street to trail and over the hump (levy) for more streets
*   3 miles

On this date we were driving to Minneapolis to see Peter Hook (Joy Division/New Order) & The Light perform New Order's 1989 Technique LP and 1993 Republic LP plus some Joy Division and New Order and the world famous First Avenue.  But we had time to kill.  This would be our first opportunity to ride bicycles downtown without the chaos of Farmers Market.  We were psyched!  Well until we saw the line.  Everyone else had the same thought.

After a 10 minute wait, maybe less, Mary got her iced latte and I my usual.  Honestly, I don't remember much about it which means it was not bad.

Seventh Coffee

HL's togo cup.  My red 2008 Trek FX 7.5 aka the Winter Bike on it's first outing since March.

*   Horizon Line Coffee 1417 Walnut St Des Moines, IA
*   November 3, 2019
*   3 hots over ice and whole milk
*   basic Des Moines urban ride
*   8 miles

This was our second visit to this coffee shop, first time this year.  Last year they messed up my order.  No room inside so we opted to sit at the table on the sidewalk despite the fact it was sprinkling rain outside.  Hence the togo cups/mugs.  These jelly jars will save us 25 cents if we return with them.  Their reduction in single use paper and plastic products should be applauded.  But being the immature dinosaur that I am I had to laugh.  I'm just a 17 y/o stuck in this 50+ old man body and I wonder if I should even visit places like this again.  There's no hope, I can't relate.  I am not hip nor..I'll keep my fingers off the keyboard for a moment and suppress my feelings, it's a special need!  Just a few notes:  no half and half.  Whole milk is their heavy.  Mary's iced vanilla latte was shaken to chill it and poured into the jar without ice.  It was a bit tepid.  The jars did not break on the way home.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Wells Fargo Bank and Bicycle Racks

The manager at this branch, 0018204 801 Walnut St Des Moines, Iowa, claims that bicycle parking attracts "unwanted people."

We live in an age where people are trying to correct the mistakes of previous generations.  An age when the high crimes and felonies committed by corporations are not longer tolerated.  A Time when taking care of our planet is increasingly becoming a priority.  People are becoming upset with the status quo and are taking action.  Yet there are some that do not care and scoff at those that do.  One such individual is the bank manager at the newly relocated branch of Wells Fargo at 801 Walnut St, Des Moines, Iowa, Branch 0018204.

My wife and I ride our bicycles to work year round.  We both live within 3 miles of our respected places of employment thus a 15 minute ride in the worst of times.  Not only does this give us a modicum of exercise, better parking, less consumption of resources and two less climate changers on the streets it is better for our vehicles.  Car trips less than a half an hour are bad for vehicles since they do not have time to properly warm up and eliminate all the moisture in the exhaust system.  But that is not the point.  Less wear and tear on the car and the planet.  There is no need for most people to drive if they live close to their job.
At least there are trees and poles to lock a bicycle to.

On Friday November 15. 2019, Mary stopped at our local Wells Fargo for some banking needs after work.  There are no bicycle racks at the 801 location.  There were at the old location.  There are at the Ingersoll Ave branch and there are at US Bank on 6th.  She either has to lock her bike up to a tree or bring it inside.
The former location had bicycle racks.

Upon seeing the bank manager, Mary innocently asked if they were planning to install bicycle parking at this branch.  The response was one the most rude, arrogant and unprofessional as someone in that position could ever give without using profanities.  It the the face of evil corporations, the type that Democratic Presidential candidates warn people about in political adverts.   He laughed and walked away.  Then he stopped and turned around and said that they would not be installing bicycle racks because they attract  "unwanted people."  I suppose these are people that they cannot issued fake accounts and other scams.  I guess we are unwanted.

So I tweeted this experience.  Guess what?  Wells Fargo has people that watch social media looking for such burning embers.  I got a response within minutes asking for details and promising to get back to me after a review.

I have no expectations.  Business as usual.  Time for a new bank or credit union.  But an apology and the installation of the Mary Guevara Bicycle Rack in front of the bank would go a long way.

Plenty of room for bicycle parking at the new location.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Moving On-The Great Rock n Roll Return to LA

My hero!  On Sunset Blvd, LA.  He did serveral circles in the street before giving drivers the One Finger Salute and  moving on.

Well, cool title.  All the leaves were turning brown and the skies were grey.  Nope, the weather was still decent in Iowa.  Blue skies but definitely cooler.  We did not go to California for the weather.   WE WENT TO CALI FOR ROCK & ROLL!!!!  And there I checked up on the bicycle scene and commuting life in LA.  I was there two years ago and wrote THIS.  This year I expanded my activities to using the available mass transit, Metro and Amtrak, or  trains.  No buses.  We did a lot of walking.  Taking a break for the hustle and bustle and filth of the big city, we visited Laguna Beach and hung out with a friend who is a local.  Beautiful beach city that we hit during the non tourist season.  Bliss!
Official Who tour shirt.  After leaving the venue there were many opportunities to purchase bootleg shirts ranging from $5 to $15.

We caught the last gig of the tour although several have been rescheduled for 2020.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

We, and by we, my beautiful wife Mary and our good friend Cynthia, flew out of the Des Moines International Airport and landed  at LAX.  The reason was Rock & Roll as mentioned above.  The Who were playing at the Hollywood Bowl with Liam Gallagher, Oasis front man, opening.  Mary had never been to the Golden State and neither of them have been to the that iconic venue.  The Moving On Tour of The Who featured a massive chunk of Tommy, then a set of older Who classics followed by a set from Quadrophenia and a few classics and two new yet to be released tracks sprinkled in between and after their rock opera tracks.  A 42 piece orchestra backed them up.  I was a bit leery about the orchestra but they really added to the experience and made this one of the best gigs I have ever seen.  Read the REVIEW.  Our only complaint was that Liam Gallagher's set was criminally short.  He is rock star and we were tempted to switch planes and fly to NYC to see him again.  His new lp, Why Me, Why Not, is an outstanding album in which everyone who loves rock should purchase.

But does that have to do with bicycles?  A lot.  It was the reason for our trip in LA.

I gave the girls a break and did not order the Butt Crack O Dawn flight.  But out flight landed conveniently in time for rush hour.  The 110 and the 101.  Traffic crawled.  By the time we got off the FlyAway bus it was dark.  About a two mile walk to our hotel.  FYI  FlyAway goes to many places in LA and it is a mere $8 per ride (card only, no cash).  Service begins at 5 am or so and will pick you up where they dropped you off.  Cheaper than Uber or Lyft or a cab.

So we are walking to our hotel and encountering the first bikes we have seen since leaving home.  Mostly on the sidewalk, mostly without lights.  Occasionally we saw a professional commuter.  Vest, lights, helmet.  People would bring their bikes on trains.  Infrastructure exists such as sharrows and bike boxes near some of the Metrolink (commuter train stations).  Amtrak trains had designated cars for bicycles.  Unfortunately, I failed to get a photo of that.  There were a lot more bikes on the late train headed back from Union station.  I think they were out for a good time that night.  One woman had a Townie.

We spoke to one commuter.  He had a red Cannondale racing bike in Saeco livery.  This was on the commuter train.  He said he had 3 bikes stolen from him in a 6 month period!  Now he never let's his bike out of sight unless it is totally secure.  "I carry it on my shoulder when I go into stores," he reported.  We complemented him on his nice bike.  Said he paid $500 for it in a pawnshop.  I did not have the heart to say that that it may have been stolen if it was for sale at a pawnshop.

A note about LA Mass Transit, Metro Link (not Metro Stink as Winston called it).  One needs a pre-paid Tap card.  The machines take cash or card and those awful dollar coins.  If memory serves we paid $7 for 24 hours access.  That's a bargain because the subway was fast and convenient, clean and took us from one end of LA to the other.  Refillable and monthly options are also available at reasonable price.  Get to the train and tap the turnstile and board.  Simple.

Took the subway to Union Station and made the mistake of walking to Chinatown.  Not impressed.  True we did not get into the heart of it but it looked like basic LA ghetto.  All three of of us made a "mistake."  Mine was picking the Sycamore Tavern on Sunset.  Two years ago on football Sunday it was a great place to be.  On a Wednesday during their "dojo comedy" night it was not unless you like watching sex dwarfs, trannies and other assortment of humanity walk in and out of the mysterious door near the bar.  Just saying that I could have stayed for another round or two but my traveling companions wanted to GTFO.  Grease was airing on the tellie btw.  Mary's mistake was having us take the train to Universal Studios.  The idea was to walk back to Hollywood.  Unfortunately, a mountain was in the way.  Unfortunately, the tour was $115 each.  We declined.

The Universal Studio Excursion was not a total waste of time.  These bicycle lockers are near the MetroLink stop.

The next day we were back at Union Station to catch the Amtrak to Laguna Beach.  The The Pacificsurfliner! $37 for commuter class seats.  Big and comfy.  Electric outlets for charging phones and such.  Only a few stops.  Some and fast.  Could have taken this to San Diego if we wanted to.  The only problem, ugly industrial scenery.  Not the beautiful mountain and Pacific vistas that I envisioned.  Urban sprawl, more homeless camps, dull shade of green flora and brown dusty desert scenes.  Not the rail services fault, just modern realities.  I felt like Ed Harris in Enemy At The Gates, just wanted to close the curtain until our stop arrived.  More about this later.  Great train just don't look out the window.

The Great Rock & Roll Swindle

We stand in ground zero for tourist.  Hollywood.  Our hotel was about a 10 minute walk from the Hollywood Bowl.  Perfect location.  Despite the lack of hot showers, they were cold, it was not a dump.  Walk further down the hill and it is hell.  Overflowed with tourists and homeless.  To make things more interesting, dockless E-scooters and E-bikes were all over the place.  I don't know how many locals used them but they were everywhere and after seeing this I start to understand why people do not want them in there cities.  Some people that rent them, just requites a smartphone, leave them all over the place.  People ride them on the sidewalks.  We even saw them laying on top of the homeless.

A note about the homeless.  Back in 2017 in the same area I only noticed them late at night or in the morning.  Most were sleeping in doorways and near benches and steps.  Two years later they are everywhere.  99% are asleep.  It is like a virus outbreak.  A person is just walking and falls ill, clothing turns grungy, shoes disappear and they drop where they are standing and lay asleep on the sidewalk with a blanket and a few possessions.  One man apparently walked up the steps from the subway and had one more set of stairs to go but just collapsed, one shoe off a few feet away, face down on the tile without  blanket.   Just made it to the top of the stairs and went to sleep.  Others  have shopping carts and are in a shady area of a sidewalk.  Others camp out on the sides of the freeway.  It is overwhelming.  60,000 of them at latest estimates.

Mary and I walked to a coffee shop for breakfast early one morning and encountered quite a few sleeping in the streets.  The smell of urine filled the air.  Walking back along the Walk of Fame I had to warn her several times of human feces smeared on the walk.

How does this happen?  What can be done about it?  Cynthia noted that their will to live must be stronger than ours because we agreed we would not have the strength to live like that.

Up 16% from 2018

Good photos of the problem

On the corner of Highland and Franklin we noticed a small busted couch that a homeless person was staring at contemplating that it would make a nice comfy bed.  I could not resist.  Later I found a dockless E-Bike, downloaded the app and rented the bastard.  Two wheels, seat and a throttle!  DAMN, this is fun!  Look Ma, no effort!  I would like to take this home with me but I did not plan on saving money for extra carry-ons or Grand Theft Bicycle.  Thus I became the first person not only to score a California GeoCouch but a Hollywood GeoCouch.  I ended up with two and passed up on a few more.  Hollywood is literally covered with trash.

Back to the Great Rock & Roll Swindle....Earlier in the day we stopped in a record store and made a few purchased.  Upon our return to the Hilton Garden Hotel I discover that one record had a chunk missing.  Broken record.  Of course the most expensive one.  My thought, grab the E-Bike I left at the geocouch and fly all the way to the record store.  Time was tight.  We had to pre-game before going to see The Who.  Of course the bike was gone, the second problem with dockless rentals.  So I hoofed it until I found another one.  I did notice that people were laying around them recharging their phones on them.  Guess they provide another service.  Eventually I found one and I was off to the races.  The clerk at the record store recognized me and found a suitable replacement.  BACK TO THE HILTON GARDEN!!

Easier said then done.  "Low Battery" light was on.  Gotta nurse this heap home.  Glad I picked the hilly route.  It was a struggle.  Had to push it up a steep hill.  Rocket down the backside.  Stop for geocouch 2.  But I made it back.  Took a photo of the bike as per app instructions to show them that I parked it properly, $5 fine for parking like a selfish bastard.  Most importantly, made it to the Hollywood Bowl on time!

Laguna Beach

The day after the concert we traveled south to visit a friend of mine and life long resident of beautiful Laguna Beach, California.  Our plan for this trip was to visit a beach at some point.  Always good to stand in the water at the end of the continent.  It's as far as we could get from home on our budget.  The train stopped at Irvine Station which seemed to be out in the middle of nowhere but my friend Winston was there with his car to take us to Laguna Beach proper.  Red Flags were everywhere.  He explained that there was a Red Flag Alert which means that The National Weather Service has warned that conditions are ideal for wildland combustion and rapid spread of fire.  If they see you toss a cigarette butt on the ground locals will beat your ass," he said or something to that effect.  "Good, they should do that when it rains, too," I replied.  Smoking is banned in Laguna Beach except in homes and cars.  After waking up at 3 am CST, my body's clock never adjusted to PST, I watched in horror the wildfires burning up this State.

It was lunch time so we ate a local cafe to avoid the tourist scene although it was not "Clown Town" as Winston refers to tourist season.  Same prices as we would find in Iowa.  Situated on pacific Coast Highway, I noticed a few baggers, people on loaded touring bikes, heading south.  Later we would see roadies.  Automobile traffic seems a bit thick and my friend reminds me that this is the slow time of year.  I was more concerned about the hills.  Perspective.  After lunch we walked don the hill to the beach, his car parked at his residence.  Ubers from now on if we were tired of walking.

Good bye North America!  Hello Pacific Ocean!

This is the reason people live here.  That and the perfect weather.  Quite a shock stepping off that jet to 40*F in Des Moines.

The beach was beautiful and we stood in the water for photos.  Later we returned to watch the sunset and see the haze of the fires on the horizon.  Fire is not a stranger here, while my city of Des Moines flooded in 1993 Laguna Beach fell victim to a wildfire.
That is a pint glass!  Evil Chris would have walked out with it.  Perhaps I should have asked if they were for sale.  Like I need another drinking vessel.

Yes, they have sour beers at the SeaHorse.

After the beach we were thirsty for a beer so we hit a few pubs.  I really enjoyed the SeaHorse.  Dan, Winston's friend stopped in and immediately put American Beauty on the turntable.  As he said, this is real California.  Very laid back.  "Billionaires come here but you'd never realize it."  It was hard to leave.  Last stop was at The Sandpiper Lounge, a Marine bar.  We saw the unit badge his father wore and other photos of the First To Fight.  Drinks were cheap.  Finally we ended up at his place and drank a bottle of wine before the Uber arrived to take us back to the train.

VMF-311.  The Sand Piper is frequented by USMC.  Rumor has it there is a large Marine base near here.. Winston's father flew for that fighter squadron .

The train trip was uneventful.  Irvine Station has facilities such as restrooms and vending machines.  At night it seems a bit lonely.  just a few groups of people waiting.  One side for the trip to San Diego, the other LA.  A speaker system makes announcements to break up the silence.  One is a computer voice anti-suicide message.  "You are not alone...."  How depressing.  I wonder if it has actually saved anyone or had the opposite effect.

We got back to Union Station in time to watch the the Metrolink train roll north to Hollywood.  20 minute wait.  Young people on the trip back, obviously going to and fro shows and parties.  The homeless man who was asleep on the stairway at our stop was gone.  The day before it looked as if he took 5 steps after a flight of stairs and face planted, one shoe off laying 2' away.  Sadly, one grows immune to this.  In Hollywood one could not get two blocks covered in a day if they stopped to help everyone in this situation.  It's overwhelming.  In the morning we walked around one sleeping shoeless within a few yards of our shuttle out.

My Impressions of This Trip

Homelessness has hit hard here in the past 2 years.  In 2017 I did not really notice this until I had to catch my shuttle to LAX at 530 am.  Then every doorway, every set of steps, every bench had someone sleeping.  E-Bikes and E-Scooters everywhere and I have now witnessed what people complain about although I appreciate their availability when I travel.  Loved the trains, subways and Amtrak.  Easy to use and clean.  Cars still are the dominant problem here.  We witnessed a crash not far from our hotel.  We were stuck in awful traffic/gridlock. People were friendly especially those in the service industry who were most likely afraid to lose their jobs and end up in the streets.  Even people walking on the streets were friendly, mostly, an Amy Winehouse clone pushing a stroller and playing with her phone almost started an incident with us but she looked like a tourist.  On one occasion someone reminded us not to jaywalk.  Good info as it seems really easy to get hit by a car in LA.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Good Bye Eric Crabb

Ragbrai 2011, Lake Anita Park.  Joe Bridgeman is in the background repairing a flat tire and Eric is posed to pop Joe's inner tube with a cigarette.

I always thought he would be the first of my friends to pass away but it was an extreme shock when I received the news that he was hospitalized.  I did not expect this.  I thought heart attack would be the cause.  He had lost a lot of weight, over 100 lb in the past few years.  Eric was back to cycling weight.  He gave up junk food.  As usual, the optimism I possess led me to grief.  I've seen it before. Hospital scare.  Things improving.  Date to go home. And then the setbacks sandbag that hope.  Damn, I, we thought you would pull through.

I met Eric through the bicycle community of Des Moines, Iowa.  I believe it was through the early version of called CIBROC before Facebook killed online forums.  His handle was Pharoutman.  Probably met him in the flesh on some bicycle ride/event about that time.  Those memories which should have been preserved are lost to me.  It seems like we were friends forever.  If you think he was an obnoxious crude rude beast of a man in recent years you should seen him back then. He settled down.

Settled down indeed.  Tonia, his life partner, came with two children for Eric to practice his fathering skills on.  Not very often an easy feat to care for other's children yet he did.  Even assembled a Barbie Dream house for Ryleigh, and helped Dylan cope with his father's untimely death among other things.  And like most father daughter relationship, Ryleigh would call him Erica just to get on his nerves.

Eric was part of my 40th birthday celebration/ride.  At The High Life he bought me 40 tator tots wrapped with bacon. The server questioned thus and he repeated himself. No half measures in celebration.  I of coursed shared with everyone.  That was 14 years ago this month.

Eric was one of millions that had issues with alcohol. He spent time at The Fort for his third OWI.  That's when he started bicycling.  He never had a driver's license since. He tried once but the State could not find the record of him completely alcohol treatment/education.  He did not pursue it. He had a bicycle.  We was a hardcore bicycle commuter first from the south side of Des Moines and later Altoona. His ride of choice was the venerable Trek 520.

Eric was a strong rider.  I recall riding with him from Richard's in Altoona to Elkhart.  He smoked my ass.

We rode a lot together.  Our most epic ride was from Newton to Grinnell at night for The Fall Equinox ride.  Highway 6 had just been repaved and freshly striped.  A huge harvest moon hung in the sky.  We stopped at a house with a large bonfire and talked to people we did not know and exchanged beer for jerky.  Later in Kellogg we stopped at a tavern and upon leaving a woman from the bar pulled her shirt up and exposed her breasts at us. Eric said it best, "it was two slices of pepperoni above a slab of bacon."  Then back on the road he engaged the turbo and left us in the dust. Show off.  Loaded touring bikes we rode.  The Human Bike In was his favorite.

The Back 40, Ragbrai 2011.  Our tandem and Eric's beloved Trek 520

Usual pose
In 2011 we hooked up on Ragbrai and ride from Des Moines to Macedonia. He had a friend that had a house there.  Starting our from are respective homes wet met up in Redfield and rode to Atlantic.  Once there he called for the airstrike and Mark Knope picked us up and hauled us to Carson, Iowa, where we loaded up on beer and rode to Macedonia, Iowa.  Mark had a rental property there and we were able to sleep in that house.  But first we spent some time in the Back Forty Bar & Grill.  I would go outside with him whenever he had a smoke and the street clock always read 3:24 pm.  Plenty on time.  Then a few more beers before and another smoke.  3:24 pm again not realizing the clock was broken.   When the cowgirls walked in Mary pulled the plug and forced us to leave before we started trouble!  Crabb later on related to me that the heat from that year killed Ragbrai for him.

And so his bicycling end.  Not sure when. His job in Altoona ended and found a new job in Ames that he held until this spring. No more bicycle commuting.  Several years of getting a ride to and fro Ames.  He hated this and was contemplating finding a job closer to home.

Trek 520

Yet the real killer of his cycling was the replacement of his 520.  A braze-on rack eyelet broke in Grinnell if my memory serves.  Could have just moved the rack to the fender braze on and lived happily ever after.  Crabb never cared for fenders, much like me, "just get in the damn way."  But it bothered him.  He took the bike in and warrantied the frame because they could not fix the braze on.  He got a new frame.  He was given the root beer colored 520.  He added a generator hub and light to it, a great upgrade.  But it was never completely dialed in properly for him.  I don't think he really took the time to do this.  Crabby would confide in me that he wish he would have kept the green 520.  Now with his favorite steed gone his desire to ride lowered.

The video below is from our SAG out of Atlantic.  Eric was explaining "off route.'

Honestly, I do not recall if we ever rode together after 2011.  I kept a fairly detailed bicycle ride log stretching back to 1994.  No mention of riding with Eric after 2011.  But I tried.  My requests to ride with him are as numerous as the sand in the seas.  Turned down every time.  Year after year falling on deaf ears.  Excuse after excuse.  Shame, really, as he lived near the Gay Lea Wilson/Four Mile Creek Trails.  Then the weight gain.  He got big.  And the weight loss, he was at riding weight.  If it was not his condition or time commitment it was his bike.  Tires need air.  Need new tires, cannot find my biking stuff ect ect.  No was always the answer.  I was not alone in attempting to get him to ride again.  Steve tried.  He even brought over a truck full of bikes and said pick one and we'll hit the trail.  No dice.  Always some excuse.  He never wanted to ride.

I would ride to his place.  It was not very far away from mine.  Before he stopped riding he'd ride to mine, usually a stop from his way back from Cumming, Iowa.  I found an entry on my bike log that noted that we rode to Cumming together and sat at the Lean To on the last Saturday of Ragbrai 2010.  Bob Moural was with us.  I remember the blue sky and noted that no matter where you were when Ragbrai was on if you were riding with friends you too were on the Brai.  Another time I forget the circumstances but he could not make it home so he slept on out back deck.  "Too filthy to sleep inside" he said.  Our last great adventure was the Tool concert at Wells Fargo.  I picked him up and we started at the downtown Hy Vee Market Grill for the great Happy Hour specials and I needed food.  He never had been there.  Then The Royal Mile for Handle Bar Happy Hour.  His first appearance to cycling community in years..  The Lift was next, my haunt and much better service than the Mile.  Finally the venue.  He had never been to The Well before!  I felt like King Farouk as HST once said.

A Cry For Help, A Hint of Anesthesia

Should have seen this coming.  His face was red and veiny last year.  Signs of high drinking.  I'd like to think that the loss of his job was the final proverbial nail but it should have gone the other way.  Must have been in April of this year.  He immediately had interviews, some places were extremely close to his home, within biking range.  But no joy, nothing worked out.  I told him he had an excellent chance to start riding again, lose more weight, clean the body and mind up.  Buy that Salsa he wanted since he hated the 520 now.  When I left my job in 2007 I took the summer off and rode like no other.  Lost weight and righted myself.  But this was a lost opportunity for Crabb.  Depression hit hard and he hit the bottle hard at night electing to sit in his garage with the door open at night drinking vodka and Fireball until he passed out.  He'd go to bed when Tonia left for work.  Like a meteor crashing into the earth he went down in flames.  By the time he sought medical help it was to late.  Irreversible damage.  6 weeks in Lutheran, Mercy and Mercy Physical rehab.  The rehab center gave him a release date.  Just had to be strong enough to walk up the steps to his home.  He never regained that strength and the liver never came back online.  In the end his blood pressure dropped dangerously low and he passed away on a Sunday.

Eric's new 520 on the High Trestle. He used this photo to sell the bike.  I'm glad he got to visit that bridge.

Even though he most likely never rode past 2013 he considered himself a cyclist.  He was on the numerous Face Book cycling forums offering advice or raising hell.  At one point he posted a photo of his new 520 at the High Trestle for a sale advert.  At least he made it there and got to see it.  Tonia asked me how we could bring up his bicycling for the funeral service.  Place his bike next to the coffin just like Logan's service.  So Mark and I set about cleaning his bike for the service.  The first thing I did was air up the tires.  rear first.  Then the tube exploded.  Eric was right, his tires were shit!  Fortunately there were  tubes available although I had to call Mark for levers.  When I resumed pumping I only put enough air in them to make the bike look proper for display.  Just here to make it pretty for static display.  It was Crabb's desire that I get the bike and in the advent of his death.  When Eric's parents brought the 520 over on the rainy Friday that he was buried, the front front tire was flat!  That's Kenda Qwests for you, good for the cheap short term but not the long haul especially when sitting in a garage for almost a decade.  I put an old rugged set of Marathons retired from my single speed (10,000 miles on them no flats but one is basically bald) on it (sing this line to the tune of Ol' Rugged Cross, Old rugger Marathons"...).  That night Mary and I rode to El Fogon in West Des Moines.  Just lowered the saddle and rode off.  How long did this bike sit?

For all his faults, for his rude and boorish behavior in life and online, Eric was among the most cherished friends I had in my adult years.  Others would attest to this as well.  He call or text every Friday night to see how I was doing, just to check up on me.  He would do this with others as well.  In a world of vapid people and false friends it hurts to lose a true friend.  Fare thee well, Commander Crabb.

After Thought: The Crabb Ride

I am planning a bike ride in his memory.  The destination will be the Haverhill Social Club.  I would like it to be from Collins to Haverhill and back.  40 miler.  Visit his grave and pay our respects and then to the social Club.  Stops along the way.  Flat ride.  Maybe the Heart of Iowa trail could be used.  Haverhill Social Club has been in our discussions for years.  He wanted to make that a riding destination or part of a ride.  Even on his death bed he mentioned it.  Mary and I scouted a potential route.  It would most likely be in September.

BRR 2011. Photo credit Catt Carr

Sunday, September 1, 2019

So We Passed Samuel L Jackson's Mother On A Bicycle

Our aborted ride to Winterset ended at the Cumming Tap.  Radar was looking promising for rain and it sprinkled on us when we left the Tap.  Time to slam it in big ring and fly home.  Tandem again.  The Great Western Trail was empty for the most part.  We counted more golf carts at the course than bicycles on the trail.  But we enjoy an empty trail.  Or was it so empty???

Up in the distance around a curve I thought I saw a white jacket disappear around a bend.  We were east of the golf course heading toward the 2 mile marker if it was still there.  Sure enough, once we reached the bend, the white jacket revealed itself to be a woman on a bicycle.

I scanned ahead.  No one else on the trail and we had a clear shot around her despite being a ways back.  Pour on some coal and raise our speed.  Our tires are off road tires that I purchased for a gravel ride last year.  I kept them on because they offer a more cushy ride and that is what my stoker and wife, Mary, needs as her ribs heal from her July injury.  I also keep them on because I'm too lazy to switch them out and I've spent too much on bicycles this year to purchase a proper road set when we have a road tandem that we have not ridden much this year either.  We really do not ride this tandem very often.  These tires are loud.  Kenda Big Blocks.  Wide and loud.  You can here us coming.  They roar at speed!

Move over to the left as far as safety requires and offer a greeting to let her know our intention of passing.  "Howdy!"  And then the intent, "Passing on your left!"  Of course in the kindest and friendliest manner and voice possible.  Sufficient that both greeting and intention were audible and receive we begin our pass.  ROAR ROAR ROAR the tires growled as the tandem went by her.  We take a look and smile.

She was wearing one of those Nutcase helmets colorfully decorated with Wonder Bread dots.  She appeared to be around 70+ years old and uttered one long word slowly.


We about fell off the bike laughing.  Did we just hear that??  I waved.  Mary laughed.  WTF did we do wrong?  Maybe she was on a Bluetooth phone and was distracted until we passed her?  Maybe she had headphones on and was unaware of us?  Maybe she is deaf and our presence startled her?  Maybe it was Maybelline? Perhaps her brain was cooking in that Nutcase helmet.  Good Lord, I'd only wear those in winter.  Or maybe, just maybe she was Samuel L Jackson's mother?  We may never know.

Friday, August 30, 2019

40 Miler To Polk City and the Neal Smith Trail

One of those post- Ragbrai rides where we search for a place we have not ridden to X times this year.  Really been craving some Chichaqua Trail but there was a large organized ride on it and we rode part of it last week.  Anywhere but the Great Western Trail On The Weekend is Mary's motto given how busy that path is.  Polk City.  North and we have not been that way for almost a year.  Polk City has great bicycling amenities such as pizza, beer and coffee.  Generally a 40+ mile trip from our home.  20 up and 20 back.

It was such a wonderful day!  The temperature was in the 70s and the humidity was low.  A breeze from the south pushed us north.  It was difficult to remember that it was August in Iowa.  Perfect weather!!!  Seems that our spring was stolen by rain and hot weather early.  We were entitled to this break!

Our route was our well worn route.  Ride to the High Trestle Trail via roads north of Birdland Marina.  This eliminates the out of way curves, bumps and detours of the Neal Smith Trail.  Straight north from Birdland.  Take a left after the cemetery and a right at the bottom of the hill.  Stop at the Casey's in Saylorville if necessary and try to pet the orange cat.  Then follow NW 6th Dr to NW 16th St in Ankeny.  The Git n Go marks the spot.  Shoot up the side path on Irvinedale Dr until it intersects with the HTT (a little street action required at the very end BUT they are extending the sidepath to the trail).  5 miles to the Oasis and hang a left at the county road and two or so miles later lock the bike(s) up at Fender's Brewpub.

Mary was and still on the mend from her fractured rib incident so we decided to take the touring tandem.  Last week's expedition on her touring bike was rough as the reach was a bit too much for her injury.  As a stoker on the Fisher she has less of a reach, does not require much upper body strength and can sit up and ride one handed if needed.  That tandem is our touring tandem and thus was fitted with panniers and wide tires for a smoother ride.  Interesting to note that we rode this same bicycle to Polk City 10 months earlier, our last visit to that town.  ALSO should note that this was the second time we rode the Fisher this year.  I was a little shocked to see that it only had 7 miles on it for the year!  Consultation with the Bike Log was necessary to confirm this.  Sure enough the only outing of it was at this beginning of this month as Mary made her first ride since cracking her ribs a month prior.

First we needed breakfast and spare tubes.  I really am not a fan of riding on an empty stomach and without a spare tube or two.  Freds did not open until 10 am which gave us time to grab a bite at Fuzzy Tacos and a coffee at DSM Brew.  Back to Freds and purchased two tubes.  I felt safe!

Obstacle 1 and 2. Since it was Saturday and The Farmers Market was in full swing we had to ride to 4th St to get to the NST.  And since it was a Saturday in Des Moines some sort of "Run" was on but there was a police officer controlling the intersection so we could cross without upsetting athletes.  I believe it was the Walk To End Alzheimer's but I do not remember.  Safely across we were able to get to the trail and head north.  I guess Obstacle 3 was involved.  Never ending construction makes the Principal River Walk worthless.

We left the trail at Birdland and took Penn/Saylor Rd to Cornell and rode it all the was north until we encountered the T intersection at NE 60th Ave along the Highland Memory Gardens cemetery and took a left.  Now there is a traffic light at NW 60th and Highway 415 (2nd Ave) which makes it safer.  We used to play Frogger here.  Cross and go down the hill to NW 6th Dr and turn right, climb the hill and enter Saylorville home of a Casey's General Store and Sonny's Pizza Bistro a place we always look at and say that we need to visit.  One day we will.  Keep heading north and at the stop sign turn right.  This is NW 16th St.  At the stop sign turn right again and a Git N Go convenience store is available for your needs.  More importantly, access for the Irvinedale Dr sidepath is here.  We take this to almost where it intersects with the HTT.

NOTE.  For SEVERAL years Irvinedale has been closed for storm sewer repairs/maintenance and we were forced to detour.  Today it was OPEN.  This route saves a lot of time and avoids the Oralabor Trail and crossing Oralabor Rd and the BS required to get to the HTT.  We were very pleased.  HOWEVER, the Irvinedale Dr sidepath starts on the west side of the road and takes a tunnel to get to the east side.  CURRENTLY they are working on that tunnel near the water tower and we had to cross the road and ride through grass (OK because we had wide off road tires on) SO if you plan to take this route get to the east side of the road at the Westwinds Park at SW Woodbury Lane/SW Prairie trail Pkwy or just ride the damn road, it is not that busy.

QUICK REMAINING RIDE  The sidepath ends at NW 18th BUT they are extending the trail.  Work on the sidepath is very visible and should take about a month at Lowest Bidder Speed (3 months) to complete.  Although one could hang a right and go a few blocks over to intercept the HTT and STILL have to cross Irvinedale Dr just to continue on the HTT we just get on the road at NW 18th and go the block or so and turn left on the trail proper.  5 miles later the Oasis appears and the road to Polk City.

Once again we went to Fender's for beer and ordered a pizza from Papa's Pizzeria next door.  The beer and pizza were delicious.  We watched Premier League Football, Liverpool beat Arsenal 3-1.

Instead of retracing our ride we opted to take the Neal Smith Trail home.  We have not been on this trail this far north in years.  The roads are smoother and faster and in many ways safer.  We headed straight to the trail on S 3rd St choosing not to follow the Bike Route in Polk City since it is out of the way and hilly.  They have improved the shoulder along 415 just past the intersection that has the Casey's and car wash and automotive store.

This section of the NST is curvy and dangerous and do I dare say a bit dull?  While the curves are fun at speed the risk of collision is probably higher than getting hit by a motor vehicle if we took the roads home.  Example.  Nearing the Butterfly Garden there was a person walking on the trail reading a large book.  True this person was on the right side of the trail BUT behind were three bicycles going equally as fast as we were.  The curves and trees hid our presence from them and our presence from them.  Of course everyone was perfectly timed and lined up to meet where the literally giant was walking on the trail.  No real time to brake.  Despite our mass I elected to put the 2.1" off road tires to use and took the grass to prevent pain and suffering especially for Mary and her ribs.  We have never experience such a dangerous situation on the streets to and from Ankeny.

Afterwards there was the final downhill coming off the dam and one pedestrian to avoid and then pedal pedal pedal pedal pedal pedal.  We rode on the the section of trail that parallels I-80 not knowing that it will soon be closed for 2 years.  I hope they repave this section.  It has been rather rough for 20 years.

I like to joke that I ride the entire NST once a decade.  That is a true statement.  Hate to admit this but personally I have little use for it.  We would like to see the flowers at the end of summer at the prairie but we'll have to see what detour they create.  Taking the road is so much easier and fast and safer.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Back On The Saddle Again With Mary

1991 Gary Fisher Gemini.  It was top of the line mountain bike tandem back in 1991.  I've had it on single track a few times.  Its sister won Chequamegon one year. Removed the flat bars and added drops, racks and bags making it into a touring bike instead of a mountain bike.  Somewhere I have a photo of this bike autographed by Gary Fisher himself.  His eyes lit up when I showed the photo.  Said he too added drop bars.

It has been almost a month since Mary slipped on gravel while attempting to get on her bicycle.  A month with two fractured ribs.  A month of pain, issues sleeping, lifting things and a month without riding. A month of stir crazy.  It was her idea to try to ride the tandem.  The tandem reduces her workload and thus theoretically easier on the torso i.e. rib cage.

So we dug the touring tandem out of storage, brushed the cobwebs off and aired the tires.  As a finishing touch we added a new set of panniers to it so it would not look so emaciated.  Simply route around Gray's Lake to look at the new pedestrian bridge spanning the Raccoon River to the new development.  Then downtown for lunch.

I tried my best to communicate.  Let her know when I was going to stop pedaling, stop and to call out bumps.  No complaints but I'm bad about this.  After nearly 30 years of captaining tandems there are two skills I still have yet to master.  Communication is one.  Bunny hopping is the other.

Mary survived.  Bumps were the worst as they jarred us.  Maybe a dual suspension tandem....  She rode with one hand because using her left would have added pressure to her damaged/repairing rib cage.  I suggested that we adjust the stoker bars but failed to bring that tool along.  Plus those bars are a bit narrow and my bum would be in the way she said.

Look Ma, no air!
We took the long way home electing to ride from the school at the end of our road to our house.  After the final turn Mary said i should have put more air in the tires.  I tried to look down at the rear tire but being a tandem the captain has no easy view of the back.  One nano second after she mentioned air a man said "Hey you got a flat tire.  I can fill that for you."  I knew it was long past airing.  Our home was in sight anyway.  We thanked him for the offer but said we are almost home..  Time to walk.

Yep, totally flat.  That tire had less than 60 miles on it. We bought them for a gravel road tour last October.  First ride since them.  Exactly 50 miles on them before we started today.  Once home I never found the trouble maker.  But given the urban environment we rode on today I am not surprised the tire lost all its air.  We are glad that we were almost home when it gave up the ghost.

Good ride.  Maybe something longer next week.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

..And Then There Were Three: Alternative Ragbrai 2019

Wrong place, right time

I used to think I could do what I wanted to

Right time for me alone

Walk the streets of complete full homes

Wrong place, but I'm bound
To stick with what I intend to see through 
See you, in wrong place
Right time but there's miles in between

--Wrong Place, Right Time
The Fall
Mark E Smith lyrics

Wrong route.  Wrong part of the State.  Wrong week.  Hills, heat and headwind.  The House of Orange's motto is Je Maintiendrai ("I will maintain") seems appropriate.  Very definition of insanity.  We endured.  Pushed to our limits on the hottest week of the year.  Rode for survival rather than pleasure.  But we were in Iowa and in Danish settlements not the lands that William of Orange conquered.  And when we finished that first part the heat disappeared and everyone would have a good week on The Ragbrai.

What exactly went wrong???

...and then there were three...

Just who jumped off first is a matter of debate and interviews that are irrelevant.  Joe's second grandchild was born slightly before take off so he elected to stay home and help out with the new addition to his family.  Mary, however, was forced to drop out for physical reasons.  Early in July as she was attempting to get on her bicycle which was on gravel at the time, she slipped and fractured two ribs.  Automatic six weeks off bike.  As the start day grew closer I agonized whether I should go at all.  Cancel my PTO and the ride for a better date when Mary would be able to ride.  But her grace was given and I rode.  Just three of us, Donnie, Nick and myself.

...wrong place...
Add caption

Back when we first looked at the route there were five of us.  None of us desired to do The Ragbrai in the official "proper" manner.  No.  We like to leave early.  The start date gets earlier and earlier every year.  It's almost a joke.  One of us suggested that we leave over a week early in order to head north and stay at a friend's place near Ruthven, Iowa!  That idea was rejected but the route took part of that shape.  Somehow Carroll, Iowa, was thrown into the mix which was cool with me because of the brewpub there and we would be within range of Stacy Bellcock dropping in on us.  The first day would allow us to use the Raccoon River Valley Trail.  First night we could overnight in Jamaica, Iowa, and seriously sedate ourselves at Just One More and sleep on picnic tables.  The next day we would ride to Carroll, Iowa, and the third would see us on the T-Bone trail, the setting of an epic ride from 2013.  In fact a lot of the initial planning of this year's ride was an attempt to recreate the 2013 ride--T-Bone Trail, Audubon, county road N46 to Coon Rapids.  Overnight in Audubon or Atlantic and then make the push to The Wabash Trace Trail before turning east to intercept The Ragbrai in Winterset so we could be in Indianola in time at Nick's house since he has hosting a few teams for the overnight.  We would call it quits in Indianola.  Mary and I would ride home from Nick's on Wednesday, an easy 26 miles.  Thursday I'd rest and Friday return to work.

But we were too dumb to to think about what we were doing, where we were going.  If the goal was to get to Council Bluffs then why ride north?  Then the free tickets to the Twins of Evil, Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie in Council Bluffs fell into my lap.  This would be Sunday night.  Send Nick and Donnie on their way and Mary and I go to the gig and then ride a century the next day to Winterset in time to rejoin our team.  Then when Mary dropped out I suggested that she drive to CB and we all would go to the gig and she would drop us off near Winterset on Monday.  Solid, right?  Everyone agreed.

My 2017 Verenti Substance in full touring mode.

And then there were three.  Gathering on Water Works Bridge. Right to left: Nick, Donnie and me.

The weather turned hot and dry.  Really hot.  Temperatures would be above 90*F Wednesday through Sunday.  100*F was predicted in the area that we were headed.  These were our main riding days.  This did not deter us.  'It's always hot when we do this ride"  Donnie said.  There was even a suggestion that we head to the Root River Trail and ride up north, taking turns driving the vehicle, but I was against this since I wanted Mary to enjoy this all of us.  So a trip into the inferno was locked in.  We are experience and seasoned riders.  We were in great shape after riding across South Dakota the previous month.  Damn the heat!

We met on the bridge in Water Works Park and headed to the RRVT.  By the time we got to Dallas Center the sky was turning black.  Pop up thunderstorms were north of us and we had been watching the clouds for quite a while.  This was actually a good thing.  We were melting in the sun when we met in WW.  Now it was cooling off a bit and the clouds hid the sun from us.  Bonus:  cool breeze from the northern storm.  By DC it was time to get off the trail.  We went to the Twisted Corn, put our bikes inside the back and bellied up to the bar.  I had a chicken wrap and a few beers.  It rained hard while we were inside.

It was a bit cooler after the rain when we left.  Nothing remarkable for the rest of the trip to Jamaica.  Beer stop in Perry.  Photo op on the bridge near Dawson.  Restroom break at Dawson's depot.  We headed straight to Tojo's Bar & Grill and parked and locked our bikes in the park shelter.  The meal and beer there did us in and we slept well.  Did not have the energy to go to Just One More.  Day one complete.
The radar image at 730 am.  We are at the pink X.

Since we three were people with day jobs we arose in the pre-dawn hours and looked at the sky.  the night was fairly breezy and we were glad for the wind because it cooled us off and kept the mosquitoes away.  Now there was a light show.  Lightning to the west and north.  Check the radar on the phone.  Start packing as if we were going to flee.  Make a quick ride to the kybos at Just One More.  We were very grateful for those porta-potties.  The two mile ride to the trailhead at the Herndon turnoff may have not been possible.   

Sit around.  Still a bit drunk but not hung over.  Assess the situation.  The radar image showed a long line of rain from Omaha to Waterloo and beyond.  We were just south of it.  It was going northeast, we were going southwest.  Wait it out to see if it would stay it's course.  A few sprinkles but not much on us.  Sit around.  No coffee.  Use the water fountain across the street to clean up, brush teeth, fill bottles and refill bottles.  Yes, drink water as it could be a long day.  Dress for riding.  Watch the boys (old men) meet at the building across the way drink coffee and chat, something they seem to do everyday.  Bet we entertained them.  At least we used the porta-potties unlike some on The Ragbrai.  It may have been 8 am before we rolled.

Touring Bicycle Geek Pro Tip--A suitable place to camp must have the following.  Roof in case of rain or snow, Electricity for recharging phones and other electrical devices, Water for rehydrating, filling bottles and cleaning and finally Restrooms for answering Nature's Call.

Three Miles To Go We Have Three Miles To Go
Foggy lens on my phone.  This was my mechanical issue.

First stop would be Bagley, Iowa, on Highway 141.  There is a large shelter there.  We've ducked out rain there before.  Just get there and recheck the radar.  My only mechanical issue of the week reared its ugly head.  I noticed this in the morning before we took off and stopped once to try to determine what was the cause.  The chain did not want to be pedaled backwards.  Thought it was dirty so I wiped it off.  No joy.  Just roll.  Now I could not shift into big ring.  When we got to the intersection of Highway 141 I checked it again.  Nick discovered the trouble maker.  My rear rack lost a bolt or sheared one off and the leg of the rack went behind the stay and was touching the chain.  Easy fix.  New bolt held for the week.  Chain would move backwards without protest or coming off and I could shift into big ring.  Say goodbye to the trail and hello to the highway.

But the wind now was not our friend.  Headwind.  Then the traffic.  Wrong time on 141.  This would be my third adventure riding on this highway which gave me a false sense of security.  Previous two times were NOT during morning rush hour. The Hy Vee semi threw water on us.  I almost thought it was intentional.  All oncoming trucks created an nasty wind.  It was like riding through an invisible wall.  For the first time in my life I preferred "semi back" not "semi up." To add to the fun livestock trucks were on this road.  Stinky livestock trucks recently watered by the rain and of course spraying us.  These bastards have to turn off somewhere, right, and leave us alone.  No one honked or yelled at us.  

At one point I noticed that my front tire was wet and therefore the road was wet as well.  Good timing?  It was taking forever to get to that town.  I recall seeing the sign "3 miles" and by the time we got there it felt like 20 miles.  The sky was still dark north of us and we actually moved closer to the storm.  I've used this imagery before to describe the sky.  It was like a fleet of Imperial Destroyers or cruisers or perhaps the "dreadnought" from the Star Wars saga (please Disney, let me borrow this) were lined up sending down destruction to all below.  Looking over my right shoulder I saw the darkness and rain.  To my left the oncoming storm and straight ahead was the eye of the needle we'd need to pass through to avoid the rain.  After the eternity we reached Bagley.  Another should we stay or go radar check moment.  One time we did mount our bikes only to feel the rain so we went back to the shelter.

Bayard, Iowa, was the next town.  No shelter but a Sparky's Sinclair gas station/convenience store.  Coffee and food.  Once again it took forever to cover five miles.  And I think it was here that we crossed the path of the storm.  A few sprinkles but we got past the clouds without the torrential downpour we feared.  Seven miles later when we reached Coon Rapids it was sunny.  We traded the clouds for hills.

N46.  I missed every opportunity to photograph the scenic vistas but managed to take one of the road.


Rare selfie on a hot county highway that appears to be going on forever.

County Road N46 is a beautiful stretch of asphalt.  Incredible views of the Iowa countryside.  I did not take any photos because I had momentum as I climbed the hills.  Hill after hill.  I recommend riding this road south to north.  Take that downhill all the way into Coon Rapids and enjoy a burger at The Coon Bowl.  That was the memory.  The reality was that we did it the wrong way this year.  

Another reality soon hit me.  My Trek 520 is a better climber than my Verenti (Vitus) Substance gravel/adventure bike.  The 520 has a triple.  The Substance is lacking in chain rings, just two.  The Trek stayed home this year in need of new brakes and a new wheelset.  Easier to rack and bag the Verenti and hope the cassette and small ring were adequate for climbing hills loaded.  Despite having the bike packed a week in advance I never tested it on hills.  At least the Tiagra STI shifters worked great and I did not have to move my hand away from the brake hoods to shift.

Our turn for more hills, heat and wind.


Turn on the sweat machine!!  By the time we reached F32, our turn to Audubon, it was HOT.  Not that we noticed the heat.  The headwind felt good and prevented heatstroke despite killing our average speed.  We averaged 9 mph this day.  Cresting hills at 5 mph did not help that cause.  Regroup at the substation.  Just 12 more miles to Audubon with the disfavorable crosswind under the intense sun.  No problem.  We got this.  Oh yeah, hills.

To keep my mind off this heat, hills and headwinds I thought of my dog.  He was born on a farm near here.  I looked for the turn but never saw it.  Could Fritz's parents, Dexter and Cookie still be alive?  I'd really like to know.  I really would like to see Dexter because what I remember of him he looks like his son, Fritz.  The people we purchased him from promised that he would look like his father.  Cookie, on the other paw, looked more like Heidi, our first Pyrenees, except she was a digger, something we are very happy that Heidi nor Fritz became.  

To help with the heat and fatigue we'd pull off and rest underneath trees from time to time.  About half way to our destination, Nick said he needed to lay down for about 10 minutes.  Donnie and I elected to go on.  The quicker we got off this road the better off we'd be.  Our water was running out.  The day would only get hotter.  Nick gave us his blessing so we rolled on leaving him under the tree.  Did not feel great but we'd done this before.  No way Nick would get lost.  Nick is not dumb.  He would know when to say when and pull over in shade and rest.  Roll until Highway 71 appears and hang a Louie.  Audubon and its Casey's General Store would be there.

...and I was touched by the hand of God...

The sour beer that saved me!

Guess this is where we rested.

In the beer cooler at Casey's.  Felt so good to cool off! Notice that my headband is still on.  this is a bad sign.  Normally it is removed a nanosecond after the helmet is ditched.  Wring it out and let it dry on the bike.

We stopped at the edge of town underneath some trees on the property of a New York Life Insurance agent.  We could see the gorgeous downhill that would take us to downtown less than a mile away.  We made it.  Out of water I grabbed a Big Grove Red Wedding sour beer.  Blood orange is very thirst quenching.  Rest a bit and wait for Nick.

Time to finish this day.  We got back on the road and took the 8% grade downhill to Highway 71.  Then the miracle occurred.  A Volkswagen estate with a multiple bike car appeared.  The driver rolled down his window and shouted 'HEY I'M A BIKER TOO!  GO TO THE COFFEE SHOP AND I'LL BUY YOU A DRINK!!!"  Looked legit.  Iowa "Share the Road" license plates.  I told him I'm hitting the Casey's first.  Needed two quarts of Gatorade STAT.  He saw Donnie and pulled into the convenience store.  Now we were a bit more focused.  "Forget us, please would you head east on F32 and look for our friend Nick?"  Sure enough he headed back on the road.  Donnie and I went into the beer cooler and lowered our core temperatures.  After two quarts of Gatorade and Donnie drinking Body Armor we left.  Just then the Volkswagen appeared with Nick inside and his bike on the rack.  Head to the coffee shop.

Von Ketelsen, our hero!

Three shots over ice top off with ice and add half and half.  First espresso in a long time!! Thank you, Von.

Nick said this.  He was about three miles from town laying in the shade not looking at the road when he heard a car roll by, stop and turn around.  Then a voice, "Are you Nick?" 

 He thought it was an angel.  "Yes."

"Your friends asked me to pick you up."  Nick was not the only person to SAG into Audubon during that 24 hour stretch but I'll let that person tell that story later.  Hint, not riding with us.

The "angel" is none other than Von Ketelsen, farm broadcaster and board member of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition.  He resides in Carroll but was on his way to Avoca to the fair for work.  True to his word not only did he SAG Nick in he also bought us a round of drinks at The Broadway, Audubon's coffee shop.  I recommend this place.  I had my usual, three shots of espresso over ice fill the rest of with half and half, lots of ice.  And his voice, yes, definitely a radio voice.  Thank you, Von, that was truly a wonderful encounter.

We stayed at the Blue Grass Inn & Suites in Audubon and ate at The Feed Mill, Craig's recommendation.  Set the a/c to 68*F, showered then crossed the parking lot to eat.  I had the penne pasta with red sauce and one trip to the salad bar.  None of us could finish our bowls.  Day Two complete.  It has to get better, right?

Funeral For a Viking
Please enter the Danish Countryside Winery
Obligatory bridge beer

Finally, the T-Bone Trail!  We'd been looking forward to this for months.  Flat!!!  No hills!!!  Until the turn.  First stop was on an old bridge.  See photos above.  We stopped here back in 2013.  Enjoy the day when you can.  We thought we saw a snake sunning itself in the water about 200 meters away in the creek so of course boys being boys we threw rocks at it.  None of us even getting close as the target was too far out.  We stopped because we were afraid of hurting ourselves.  What a drag it is getting old.  Another stop was where the original rail bridge was.  The bridge was long gone and the trail bypassed the area.  I do not know if this was done because they could not afford to replace the bridge or had an issue with property rights.  A scenic lookout exists where the bridge would have made landfall south of the creek.

Look, Ma, no bridge!

Nick on the scenic look out where a bridge once existed.  Back in 2013 we found a stack of Busch Light beer cans, crushed, here.

Looking downhill at Exira, Iowa.

We turned off at Exira, Iowa, to go to Elk Horn.  This avoids the trail quitting north of Atlantic in the middle of nowhere.  Why is this trail not completed all the way into Atlantic??  Ludicrous!!  F58 would be the new hilly road to ride.  And the wind, it did not take the day off.  And the heat, it intensified.  The usual ride three miles and find shade routine.  the Donnie stopped at a gravel driveway with and arch and sign indicating that a winery was at the end of the drive.  "It will be an adventure!"  I think he picked that up from me last year when we stopped at every brewpub and winery we could find..

Their vineyard.  All their wine uses these grapes.  Waiting for the Marshall Foch to be bottled.

Loren Christensen playing Fleetwood Mac on an acoustic guitar.  Mary and I drove here the following weekend and talked to his son who said that he is a much better guitar player than his father but cannot sing as well.  Loren is pretty damn good so that is saying a lot!

Donnie took this photo of me from the upper level.
Purchased this for Mary.  Sweet Caroline is in my glass.  I recommend this as it is one of the best dry reds from Iowa.

Had to walk it up the driveway for a bit.  Then ride and eventually the winery appear.  Danish Countryside Winery.  Loren is the current wine master and he was waiting inside.  We had the place to ourselves and got the tour.  The place was an old cow barn renovated for the winery.  Nice and clean yet rustic looking.  Upstairs set up for gatherings and special occasions such as weddings.  Loren is also a Lutheran minister and veteran having been deployed in Bosnia.  Better yet, an excellent guitar picker.  Three guitars were against the wall.  He picked up the acoustic and played and sang You Make Loving Fun be Fleetwood Mac.  THEN he strapped on the Fender Telecaster and played Brown Sugar by The Rolling Stones!  I go to the wrong church!!!

As for the wine...I enjoyed two glasses of their Sweet Caroline.  The name is a misnomer.  It is a dry red.  He explained that his father in-law named all the wines after songs.  Apparently, and they were out of stock, they got a phone call from Tom Jones attorney about Crimson & Clover.  "You cannot use that name for your wine because we have a trademark."


"Why are you laughing?"

"Tom Jones attorney is calling me about a wine my wife's father named!  Who would have thought?"

"OK kid, just change the name and we will leave you alone."

"What if we replace the letter 'C' with a 'K' in Clover?"

"Sure kid, that would work."

Lucky that they did not use John Denver song titles!  Run2 v Jet Plane

I could have stayed there all day.  Everything we needed but food.  Electricity, flush toilets, water, a/c, places to unroll the Thermarest and sleeping bag and, oh yes, wine.  But we had to continue riding.  We had a place to stay that night in Hancock, Iowa.  Nick's brother in-law's house and they were busy at the fair so getting there in a timely manner was paramount.  But first we had to ride two and half miles to Elk Horn, Iowa, now visible to the sunglassed eye.

Danish Museum & Gift Shop

Outside The Danish Table restaurant in Elk Horn.

Elk Horn is a town of Danish immigrants and their descendants.   Too many wars in Europe and Denmark being torn apart on the map by Germans, Norwegians and pummeled by the Royal Navy.  Advances in medical and agricultural technology and the cold nights of the Mini Ice Age greatly increased the Dane population and increased poverty.  Come to Iowa!  It's far away from the American Civil War.  160 acres they will give you if you sign the intent to become a US citizen.  Most were farmers.  Even a farmhand made twice as much working Iowa fields then they would have made in Denmark.  Many of these could buy their own farms in 10 years.  So they came and populated bringing their historical pride like all immigrants do.

First stop was at the Danish museum to purchase the Viking shirt we saw at the winery.  I took a photo of a Viking ship and posted it on Twitter for my New order friends (NO fans are known as Vikings because Funeral For A Viking from that Kirk Douglas film used to be played as their walk on stage music).  One friend enlarged my photo and circled a bottle that was next to the ship. 

Gotta love friends that have attention for detail!

"Get that bottle and chill it for next weekend!"

"What is it?"

"Viking Blod!  Tastes good but it will take two days to drink it."

Yes, a mead that is 19% alcohol, will take two days to finish unless I feel like kneeling before the throne shouting VALHALLA!  Mary and stopped here on our road trip.  As hot as it was on the bike trip it would have boiled in my panniers.

We had lunch at The Danish Table.  Nice place and they honored our request for a pitcher of water to be brought to our table.  Then it was time to ride to Marne, Iowa, the town that got totally fooked by The Ragbrai and Jim Green.  Perhaps when the route was changed at the last moment it did the town a favor as it is a popular destination for baggers.  But now the hell of Cass County.  Some roads here had the worst shoulders.  Does Cass mean 'Cares less About Safe Shoulder?'

Let's Finish This Day

Last break before crossing I-80

That was the highlight for my week.  Elk Horn.  now it was time to move on.  Obligatory stop in Marne and then to our overnight where we would shower, eat and sleep but most importantly sit around in a/c!

Highway 173 our new road.  The shoulder was decent until we hit Cass County.  It was afternoon now and the hottest part of the day.  We rested in the shade near the Interstate 80 overpass.  Then more miserable miles into the wind and heat.  I think the hills calmed down a bit.  But chunks of tires were everywhere.  I rode and wondered if they were from the same tire.  Black chunks of rubber with tire piercing wires and cables sticking out of them.  Miles and miles of this.  And miles of looking in my mirror to see if there were cars and trucks behind us.  Highway 83 could not appear fast enough.  Turning west I managed to pick up speed and fly into Marne, Iowa, until I ran out of momentum and walked it up the hill to the Roadhouse.  Time to cool off with a beer!

Hancock, Iowa, was finally within reach but Avoca was closer by a mile or two.  Steve, Nick's brother in-law was at the fair in Avoca.  His daughter was showing a steer.  He could place us all in his truck, bikes and all, and take us to his house in Hancock.  But phone service was sketchy at best and words were lost and our speed was not reliable.  We were supposed to be there at the fair at 5 pm.  It was 427 pm now.  "Hate to tell you this, Nick, but at our rate it will take us two more hours."  Finish up and head to Hancock.

I think we rolled into The Station, Hancock's only bar, by 815 pm.  Two beers and done.  But the ride had a few good moments in between the relentless hills.  One such was a stop I made at the point where we would change roads to go to Hancock.  Here we rested under the shade of trees at a house that apparently was not occupied.  I suspect that Mom or Dad passed away and the children were taking a break from cleaning and fixing it up.  It did not look like anyone was living there.  Not that it was in bad shape but the large roll off dumpster was a clue.  However, two residents appeared in the form of orange cats.  And they fulfilled our hopes when after time they approached us.  One was an avid hunter by the way he stalked around.  The other was about to give birth.  Both shed fur on us but it was nice to pet a cat.

Find my bike.

Our next stop was at the final turn for the road that would take us into Hancock.  During WWII large bombers trained for war near here.  Unfortunately for one aircrew, a collision during formation flying sent a Consolidated B-24 Liberator to a fiery death in the cornfield near the intersection of M47 and G30.  Nick knew about this and gave us a heads up.  Someone built and erected a small scale B-24 replica and sign marking this tragic event.  More airmen died in training than in combat.  The price of freedom.

Last rest before Hancock.

More hills.  More wind.  Stopped at a farmhouse about four or five miles outside of Hancock and when the residents returned home Nick recognized them.  They gave us water so cold that some of us had brain freezes!  Of course the final push would warm us up.

We eventually crossed a set of railroad tracks.  "The town is at the bottom of the hill," Nick said.  We saw nothing but trees.  But trees do not make money so it had to be a town nestled in the woods down there.  With an exhilarating downhill Hancock appeared.  First stop was at The Station for two beers.  I was wrong about the two hours.  It was over three hours now.  Two and done and then a ride to the edge of town and a mile or so of gravel to Steve's house before the sun went down.  Shower, laundry and burgers.  Day Three complete.

Doubts Even Here

Those steps that seem to take a lifetime
When eyes stop and stare
The day begins collapsing without warning
you fade from sight, there's nothing there

Our hosts were most gracious.  They even took an interest in the route we planned to take in the morning.  Rested, refueled, recharged and with clean clothing we were ready to push on to the Wabash trace Trail.  Then the telephone thingie.  Mary and I were texting.  She said that she really did not want to drive out to Council Bluffs and meet us.  Rib issue.  the trip would be long and uncomfortable.  The crowd at the concert would probably bash into her.  I said we would start heading back.  I was not exactly sure where safe camping and roads would be on Sunday.  Turn back now and we would make Winterset and Indianola on time.  This all went down as we were about to click in and pedal away.  Stop at the Station and look at the map.  We could make Greenfield via Atlantic.  Yes the same hills again for a little while.

Not too bad of a ride at first then it began to wear us thin.  Hills.  Did the wind change?  Atlantic was reached in something like 22 miles.  Mercifully, the last stretch was flat.  We ran into members of the Tall Dogs who were riding out to the beginning of The Ragbrai.  They traveled light on road bikes as they had the team schlepping their gear.  Donnie said it was the last of the Dogs that ride out.  It was Saturday and the official ride would begin the nest day. 

The Tall Dogs we met in passing.

Atlantic was a change of pace.  We really had to dodge potholes and cracked pavement.  Lunch was necessary so we stopped at Fareway and purchased drinks and materials to make sandwiches.  This may have been the least expensive and most filling meal of the week.  We sat in the shaded part of the parking lot and ate.

...and then there were two...

I remember when I stepped inside the store looking back at the bikes to see where Nick was.  He was still there but on his phone.  I knew what he was doing.  He called Joe to pick him up.  Know when to say when.  It was hot and hilly and with Mary out of the picture our day of rest was eliminated.  The ride had thus far been an endurance test.  no party, no disco.  Survival.  After lunch we said our good byes.  Joe arrived about 20 minutes later to extract him.  Donnie and I never saw Joe.  we had to climb through the rough broken paved hills of Atlantic.  The storm sewers looked like they could swallow bicycles whole!

We decided to not to ride to Greenfield in favor of riding the White Pole Road to Redfield and then take the RRVT to the Clive Greenbelt and trail our way home.  Good idea.  I was sick of traffic.  Really do not know why Highway 83, The White Pole Road was so damn busy but it was.  Constant cars and trucks.  Now it was getting to the heat of the day and traffic was even more annoying.

Encountering other cyclists riding west to the start of the Ragbrai or the party in Marne did my spirits good.  We encounter a group in Wiota, Iowa, that included Mark Hildreth, somehow related to Donnie.  Then a large rampage of baggers, maybe 14 to 20 bikes heading in the opposite direction we were riding.  Then Old man River himself behind everyone despite being on an E-Bike.  Mark told us that the road flattens out on the way into Anita, Iowa, but I was thinking about Adair.  Adair has some large hills.  Also, we were hitting the WPR at the wrong time.  Not the traffic but the heat of the day.  Been baked on this road before.  Was not looking forward to this.

...and then there was one...

All lined up.  just one small section of the motorbikes.
I need this shirt!

There I go with those negative waves again.  Check the mirror and a goddamn semi was behind.  Sure it was the first one most turned off onto Highway 71 east of Atlantic but I did not want to see it.  I've seen plenty in recent days.  My shoulders were killing me now.  Fatigue?  Lowering my head to stare at the road?  Worrying about vehicles behind me and staring in my mirror too much?  Is it too fucking hot?  The shorter bike taking its toll on me?  Changing hand position on the bars every minute was not helping.  This was not safe.  Where's that Casey's, I need two quarts of Gatorade STAT.  I started riding with a do-rag in my jersey pocket just to wipe the sweat off my face.  Once every 3 minutes it seemed.  How much water do I have left to sweat out??

Hated doing this but I called Mary.  Time to extricate.  It's not fun anymore.  It's pointless.  I told Donnie we had room for his bike but he elected to go on.  After our final good bye I rode up the street to Shooters and ordered whisky and Miller Lite to tide me over until Mary arrived.  Other baggers were there.  They would try to reach Marne.

Then the place was invaded by a motorcycle poker run.  I should have stayed on my stool and helped stamp people but I went outside and watched.  Looking at full dressed Harley Davidsons I thought that my bike could haul more stuff than theirs could.  But they could be at their destination hours before I could.  Days earlier, too!  

I did ask one if he could fit a cooler on his and he replied that his hard case saddle bags.  

"There's room for a 12 pack."

Donnie sent me this after we parted ways.  The high water mark.  this was as far as Mary's heroes got.

Mary showed up before I could get in trouble, thankfully.  Time to go home.  Before that happened I got a text from Donnie.  He made it to the Jesse James historical marker near Adair.  He, too, called for the airstrike.  Renee was on her way to take him home.

Post Pop Depression

The extraction was quite fortuitous for us.  It rained hard that night.  It rained on Sunday out in Ragbrailand.  There were things to get done at home.  We had a lot of work done on the house.  Had it painted recently.  Our lawn was starting to look shaggy.  Mary needed help.  Although I was safe at home and out of the sun and in the wonderful bliss of a/c I was moody.  I felt like I wasted most of a week and a lot of money.  My favorite band in the world was playing incredible shows in Europe while I was tempting the sun, the hills and the traffic to kill me.  I added up all the money spent for this ride and almost cried.  We could have gone to Europe.  Not that all my cashola was wasted most of the purchases are long term investments and not all of them were made at once.  A touring bicycle, four panniers, two racks, tires, the money I spent on food and drink ect.  I'm not a masochist by any stretch of the imagination but the smiles per dollar ratio was not favorable.  And then the PTO burned to do this.  I returned to work two days early.  Save those hours for something better.

Sunday was a recovery day so I mowed the lawn as it rained.  Monday I tried to ride to Baxter, Iowa, on the Chichaqua Trail but could not get past Copper Creek.  Just did not feel it.  Tuesday's ride took me to Indianola, Iowa, to Nick's house.  He was playing host to Team Kum & Go and a few other Ragbrai teams.  Another hard to get motivated ride.  The primary reason for doing this was that Mary wanted to see people and had to return Nick's bike rack to him.   We decided not to go to Cumming because that town would be a sea of drunken humanity.  Where would we park?  The issue of Mary's broken ribs.  Better to go to indianola.  But I had a good time and it was good to see Nick.  Donnie was lost in the huge party in Cumming that day IIRC.  Both these rides were ridden on my road bike.  The bike was so light that I had to force down on the handle bars to keep the front wheel firmly planted on the road.  This happens after a long tour on a loaded touring bike.  Felt a lot better after this ride.  Mary drove me home.

Donnie and Nick and I had discussions before and during the ride.  One thought was that we should have a support vehicle tag along.  Personally, I am not in favor of such but it does have merit. Another thought was that we leave Iowa head north to the Root River Trail and ride it to the end and load up and redeploy to La Crosse, Wisconsin, and ride their trails.  Of course we would take turns driving the vehicle (this is where self driving cars would come in handy.  

Thoughts for 2020

1.  Never head to the hills again in the heat.  I'm done with southwest Iowa on touring bikes.
2.  Unless the Ragbrai heads north to the Okoboji area, ride elsewhere
3.  No time constraints/obligations
4.  Tailwind Metric Centuries--meet and head in the direction that the wind is blowing
5.  If we have a vehicle, prepare to make more route changes and redeploy as needed
6.  Return to the Cedar Valley Nature Trail, our 2018 ride was spectacular
7.  Ride The Ragbrai Officially with a team that has a bus
8.  Leave Iowa for Minnesota and Wisconsin or perhaps Wyoming
9.  If in Iowa, start when The Ragbrai begins, the weather seems to be better

I'm leaning toward 6 and 8.  Mary missed most of 2018.  We could visit our son Quin in Cedar Falls.  We barely scratched the surface of things to do on the CVNT and Cedar rapids/Iowa City area.  50 weeks to make a new plan.