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.