Thursday, August 5, 2010

RAGBRAI Day 6 (Waterlogged in Waterloo)

For those not familiar with the area, Cedar Falls and Waterloo are part of the same metropolitan area. We stayed in Cedar Falls which is on the North West side of Waterloo. Today's route however started on the South East side of Waterloo. This made for our most treacherous journey to the route all week.

The plan was simple enough, follow the bike path along the river until it stops and then make our way south through a grid of residential streets to Hess Road and then follow the route to Manchester. When you add a torrential downpour navigation gets a bit tricky. As the morning rain shifted from a light drizzle to monsoon, we set out. We followed the bike paths but got off of our original path somewhere along the way. Fortunately Julio had his iPhone and using his navigation software, we were able to maintain a general South Easterly movement until we ran into team "Butt Ice", also looking for the route. We road with them for a while and they lead us to the start to the route.

After riding twenty miles in the rain we arrived in Washburn (only 4.4mi into the official route). There we decide to stop and wait out the rain in the local bar. Several other riders on the route had the same idea and bar was packed. Despite the miserable riding conditions, we were all pretty happy and decided to make the most of all the stops along the way. As the rain passed, we enjoyed Irish coffees and bloody marys and were quickly on our way.

Three more miles down the road from Washburn, was Gilbertville. We stopped into their bar to soak up the atmosphere as well. It was great how much fun we had enduring such miserable riding conditions as a group. The rainy morning made for what turned out to be a really good day.

Cody and his make-shift rain jacket.

There was a fully loaded 'Big Dummy' outside the bar in Gilbertville. It's owner is touring to Argentina. Check out the sweet RB-1 in the background too.

When we rolled into Quasqueton (the meeting town) it was obvious that we weren't the only team having a good time. One of the local bars had a huge beer garden with a DJ and well established dance party. We stayed in Quasqueton until they had to shut down because their service time was over. Service times help keep the ride moving along.

At the Quasqueton dance party. I'd heard of the RAGBRAI tradition of applying temporary tattoos by mouth but I hadn't witnessed it yet. I must say it is far less sexy than it sounds. Here are three ladies from 'team Cockroach' applying tattoos to a man who has just ridden his bike 45 miles in 85 degree heat.

We got to Manchester around 6:00pm and were treated to Chipotle Burritos. Clint used to manage a Chipotle and is still good friends with his regional manager so he hooked us up with some great post ride food. He and Beth had also picked out a great camp ground and pitched all of the tents. Once again our SAG team did a great job making sure we were all well feed and well hydrated.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Day 5

Day 5

I got up around 6:30, packed up my stuff, grabbed a bite to eat and rolled out. Mike, Julio, Paul and I left the camp ground just before 8:00. It was the earliest I had gotten on the road all week.

I decided to ride without panniers for the second day of the week. The biggest downside to riding fully loaded in this kind of setting is that it takes a lot more energy to keep up with the group. Since today was a relatively long one with the potential for some headwind, I chose to give the legs a rest. Fortunately the weather was awesome and the wind was a non-issue. It’s amazing how good my legs felt without the added weight of my gear.

Just before arriving in Clarksville, the whole ride was slowed down to a near stand still as we approached a wreck that required a rider to be life flighted from the route. Apparently the rider was in a fast moving pace line and clipped the wheel of the rider in front of him. According to a guy I spoke with on the way into town, he hit the road really hard and was hurt pretty bad. UPDATE: I learned later that the rider passed away due to his injuries. Our hearts go out to his family and friends for their loss.

The crash brought me to another RAGBRAI realization. Bad things can and will happen when lots of people congregate for an event like this. Just by sheer odds, there are bound to be a couple of fatigue related problems like heart attacks, heat stroke and the like. Add bikes traveling at varying speeds and an endless supply of booze, the crash related injuries should be expected as well. Every year there it seems that you hear about a the tragic death of a rider and each story is absolutely heart breaking. It is so important to stay aware, look out for yourself and those around you, stay hydrated and ride within your abilities.

I spent most of the day riding with 'Boca' Mike from town to town, meeting up with Julio and Paul on occasion. We cruised to through most to the towns today, stopping only for water and food.

I road with Linda and Jacquie from the Bellevue Bicycle Club for a while between the towns of Stout and Dike and we traded stories from the week. After I got split from the BBC crew, I picket up the pace to meet back up with Mike who had caught a crack funny and hit the deck. He quickly got up and was back on the bike by the time I caught up with him. For the most part he came away unharmed with only a bit of road rash, a bruised hip, and torn shorts.

Mike and I waited for Julio in Dike for a while then realized that he had passed the town and went straight to the host house in Cedar Falls. So, after an ear of corn, a beer and a quick trip to the fire station for first aid, Mike and I were out of town headed to Cedar Falls as well.

As with our house on day two, tonight's house was a bit off of the official rout. We followed the directions provided by Cody and with a bit of help from some friendly locals, we arrived at the best overnight house yet.

Jonnie and family as well as their neighbor Raleigh, were great hosts, they fed us, let us sleep inside, do laundry and shower (the best shower I have ever taken). They let us use their jet skis and took those who were interested on a boat ride up the river. The rest of us stayed in and relaxed.

Relaxin By the River

The parade of people extends as far as the eye can see.

One of several dogs on bikes.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

RAGBRAI Day 4 (Shotgun Wednesday)

Last night we got hit by an early morning thunder storm. I loved it. My new Marmot tent kept me and my gear dry and the sound of rain on my tent and random claps of thunder was pretty soothing. Unfortunately, Cody didn't have as much luck. His tent leaked and dripped on him in his sleep, and his phone was ruined when it was left outside on the front porch. It’s never a good thing when your team’s trip coordinator is without his phone. Good thing Beth has hers.

This morning we decided that we'd try to see how fast we could ride the route. As a team, we rolled like a two wide freight train from Clear Lake into Swaledale, the first town. Sean dropped his chain along the way so we decided wait up for him and also look out for Ben and Cody since they got a later start than the rest of us. We waited for about an hour and nobody showed up so we started texting to see if everyone was ok. Apparently, Sean, Ben and Cody had missed us in Swaledale and were in Rockwell, the next town.

We met up with Sean in Rockwell and decided that instead of riding as fast as we could, like we had originally planned, we'd shotgun a beer in every town. As a rule, I don't like to drink in the mornings but when you plan on making a day of it, you've gotta start early. After an 8:45am, 16 ounce bud light shotgun, we had a second beer to make up for the one missed in Swaledale then made our way to Cartersville.

In Cartersville, we came across the best attraction to date on the route. On the property of a farm house, they had constructed a swimming hole equipped with an island and a monstrosity of a trapeze swing. We had to stop.
We each paid our $5 and waited in line for our turns, each with a drink in hand (when riding all day it is of the utmost importance to hydrate). While waiting we observed and critiqued each trapezer’s from. I knew in the back of my mind, that I would either drop unimpressively into the water or land awkwardly and be in pain for a while. My attempt was pretty weak and I just dropped into the water like the most everyone else, no flips, and no awkward landings. The $5 admission fee was good for all the trapezeing you want but the line was long and We were on a mission, so we dried off and got back on the road. Rumor has it that the state patrol shut the place down for excusive nudity shortly after we left.

We rolled on to Rockford and met up with the rest of the group for lunch. Beth and Eric (who was sagging for the day) had a pretty good spread set up on front yard of a friendly town member. We had sandwiches and chips and were treated to a five gallon cooler of summer brew punch. After napping in the shade for a while, we all slowly made our ways out of town and on to Charles City.

In Charles City, we were for the first time since Sioux City, slumming it. When we rolled up to camp, Beth and Eric had all ready set up our camp site including all of our tents (except mine because it was with me on the bike). 'Boca' Mike, Julio and I were the first to arrive at camp. I quickly pitched my tent and changed cloths. The others filtered in soon thereafter.

After chocking down terribly salty chicken cordon-bleu (catered by Hy-Vee) a few of us went out in search of a bar to watch the MLS all-star game. After striking out at the first bar we found, we ended up sitting at the bar in the local bowling alley. There, we met some of the locals. The two old ladies across the bar were especially friendly and when they heard that Mike and Sean were med students, they tried to set the guys up with their grand daughters.

After the game we headed back downtown for to find the others but to no avail. I walked around the expo for a while and enjoyed a gyro and a fire juggling show before heading back to the camp for bed.

I saw this family several times on the trip. I'm pretty sure all four pedaled all week.

Everyone comes out to watch the parade of cyclists as they pass through town.

One of the many crazy bikes on RAGBRAI

Monday, August 2, 2010


Last night was a great night for sleeping outside. I took the rain fly off of my tent and enjoyed the cool breeze. Mike and Sean took a different approach.

Since we ended yesterday early, we had to start 10 miles away from the official route today. The roads from our host house had relatively low traffic and were two lane blacktop high ways, ninety percent of which being the last few miles of yesterday's route into Algona.

As we rolled through the remnants of yesterday's festivities, I came to one of many realizations of the rolling party that is RAGBRAI. It leaves a huge footprint along its route through Iowa. In every town not only is the sheer volume of trash from food vendors and partiers unfathomable. There is probably an equal amount of roadside posters, beads, and empty food containers between each town. I was pleasantly amazed at how the town's people were up early taking town posters and signs and returning what was just hours earlier, a massive 10,000 person party, to the quaint towns they call home. Judging by the relatively good condition of the town, I can also assume that they were up into the wee hours of the morning cleaning up.

So far, it seems to me that each town has been really on top keeping thing clean. Sure there's a bunch of litter in the ditches, but I'm sure that it won't be there for long. The Kybos (port-o-potties) haven't been terrible, and trash cans are all over and never overflowing. It is absolutely evident that the people that live along the route take pride in their communities and the land that live on.

We passed through Algona around 9:00 with around what seemed to be the tail end of the large pack of riders. It was obvious that traffic would be pretty light until we hit the stop towns. Once we were on the official route, our group spilt up and I didn't see many of them until I arrived at Clear Lake. I met up with Julio and 'Boca' Mike at most of the stop towns (Mike got the nickname 'Boca' because he is the only vegetarian on the trip and there are two Mikes). We all traveled at different paces but would usually end up at each town within the same 15 minute window.

In the meeting town of Garner, I met up with Emily and Adam at the team Homunculus bus. They drove Adam's team van to the meet town this morning and planed to ride from there to the end. Adam built himself a tall bike made from an old huffy welded to an old dirt jump frame. His theme for the day was "tall bike, short shorts".

"Tall bike shot shorts"

We relaxed in the shade at Adam's van for a while then left for a pretty slow going final 22 miles. You see, one of the main issues with tall bikes is that in order to link the top bike's pedals and crank to the bottom bike’s drive train, the top bike must be rigged with a left side crank. Unfortunately, this setup caused Adam's bottom bracket to unscrew on the right side and become tight on the left side. The constant chance of a major mechanical failure loomed heavy as we battled 12 or so miles of stiff head and cross winds. All the same, the company was good and sprits (and Adam's bike) were high.

Adam's tall bike complete with aero bars, 700c front wheel, 26in rear wheel, zip tied repair parts and tools and a bag of Franzia.

I parted ways with my riding buddies on the outskirts of Clear Lake and road to tonight’s host house. Located on the opposite side of the lake as the town and craziness. Even though I would like to see the Spin Doctors tonight, I think I'll just enjoy a calm and relaxing evening beside the lake and avoid the party.

Clint found a lightning bug in his drink. Even the insects like to party on RAGBRAI.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Best day on a bike in a very long time! I woke up with the sun feeling refreshed and ready for a long day on the bike. After a couple of muffins, some fruit snacks and a cup of coffee, I was ready to go. The initial plan for the day was to ride the extra loop and earn century loop patch. The only catch was we had place to stay just outside of Whittemore (the second to last town of the day) so we wouldn't get the 100 miles in anyway. Either way, I decided to leave the panniers with the van. I know, that wasn't the most "self-supported" way of doing things but you have to admit, lining up someone to carry your stuff on RAGBRAI is (or at least sorta is).

I rolled out around 8:00 with Ben and Cody only to catch my friend Emily, her boyfriend Adam and Thad from Lincoln Velo, right outside of Storm Lake. I joined up with them and my day quickly changed from a long one to a leisurely tour of small town Iowa and it was awesome. In my opinion, today was the best way to enjoy RAGBRAI, ride fast between towns, then take your time at each stop, enjoy the food and beer gardens and take naps in the shade.

Met up with Ben and Cody again as they were making their second pass through Plover while riding the century loop (*it was only 90 miles).

Our bikes rested while we enjoyed some time in the shade.

Bikes and bikes and bikes and bikes and bikes and more bikes. Everywhere you look there are bikes. It's really a sight to behold.

While stopping along the side of the road for nature (as Phil Liggett calls it) we stumbled across an old barn with some kind of weird farm parts on a shelf. Emily was being creative and decided to set up a photo.

A candid shot of Adam and Em while trying to get the camera positioned correctly and the timer set.

We stopped in West Bend for a six pack of Mikes Hard Lemonade, oatmeal cream pies, doughnuts, and ice cream. Please don't pass judgement.

I saw some friends of Greenstreet on today's ride as well (sorry, no pictures). Omaha's own meteorologist extraordinaire, C.T. Tonklin passed me in a pace line in early in the day. I got to chat with Erin G. the ever charming Greenstreet ladies' rider in Plover. I also saw our friend Eric A. still recovering from a run in with a car last month, but riding for the week all the same. Last night a couple of other Greenstreet customers said hello as well (I can't remember their names but if you said hi to me on RAGBRAI stop into the shop and reintroduce yourself and I promise I'll never forget your names again).

Our host house for the night was great, the family cooked us an awesome dinner of lasagna and sloppy joes.

Later in the night our hosts drove us into the overnight town of Algona to check out the expo. Regional cover band, Vic Ferrari rocked the crowd with pretty good covers of artists like Bon Jovi, Bowie, and Guns N' Roses. The highlight of the night was their rockin' rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody.
It was a late night but our hosts had one of the softest yards in the Midwest and the weather was perfect.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


So last night after a 30 pack of keystone light worth of flip cup, we broke our no Smash Mouth resolution. As you can imagine, ‘the mouth’ totally rocked Sioux City.

Smash Mouth serenading RAGBRAI with "All star"

Cody rocking out to 'The Mouth'.

This morning came early. My alarm sounded at 6:45 and I managed to catch another 20 min of snooze time. By the time I got out of the tent, everyone was up and packing up the campsite. I quickly took down my tent, put it away (still wet from dew) and loaded my panniers. After a quick tire dip in the Missouri River we were off.

From what I hear, it's not an official RAGBRAI until you dip your tire.

Team Greenstreet 2010 left to right: Molly, Eric, Clint, Mike, "Boca" Mike, Sean, Julio, Me (Andy), Cody, Ben, Paul, Beth

I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Masi Randonneur handled under a full load. There were even times during the first half of today’s ride that I forgot that I was riding a 60lb bike. It handled great, climbed pretty well and was super stable on the downhills.

Our first stop of the day was at the Farm Boys burrito stand for breakfast. $5.50 was a bit much to pay for a breakfast burrito but hey, it’s RAGBRAI and the burrito tasted awesome. We continued along the route stopping again for Lunch at Mr. Pork chop, also overpriced, also fantastic.

By about mile 45 or so, the weight of my bike started to take a toll and I had a hard time keeping up with the rest of my group in spots but as we approached the overnight town of Storm Lake, we all joined back up and rolled into town together.

Basically, the day consisted of a lot of food, a lot of people on all kinds of bikes, and a fair amount of beer.

In Storm Lake we were treated to a great yard to camp in and hot showers from our gracious hosts.


After a late night of packing and repacking my gear, I got up around 6:30 AM and by 7:30 or so I met up with Ben at his place to cruise up to Sioux City. We had initially planned on all riding in our trusty team van but space was a bit limited so Ben managed to talk his friend Matt into driving him, Julio and me up separately. We’ll see how things shake out for the ride home.

We arrived here in Sioux City around 10:00 AM. The ride was pretty uneventful. The soundtrack was provided by Julio’s iPhone but due to a lack of proper connecting cables, we were forced to listen to it via the iPhone’s built in high fidelity speakers. I opted for a nap and arrived relatively refreshed.

One of the more intriguing features of the RAGBRAI Expo (aside from the free Smash Mouth show of course) was the “World Tire Changing Championships”. I stumbled across this booth while exploring the Expo and decided to make a run for the rainbow jersey. Seeing as how I change a fair number of tires on a daily basis, I figured I’d have a valid shot. Going in I was told that the top 5 times would be called back for the finals. The top time was 1:20 and the fifth time was 1:40. I’d never timed myself but I was pretty sure I could come in sub 2:00 so I chipped in my $2 and gave it the ol’ college try.

So here’s how it works. You are given a wheel and a tube. The wheel must be laid on the ground and you cannot touch it until the timer says go. When the clock starts, you need to deflate the tube, remove the tire, remove the tube, install the new tube, install the tire, inflate the tube to 100psi and remove the pump head. One minute and twenty-five seconds later I was sitting second for the day and feeling pretty good about my speed tire changing skills.

At about 4:50 PM, I got a call from the “World Tire Changing Championship” folks telling me that I had 10 minutes to get back to the Expo for the “World Championships”. I mounted my bike and headed out as fast as I could only to show up at 5:02 PM, thirty seconds in to the finals. My bid for tire changing immortality was over. So, while I missed my opportunity for greatness, I can take solace that according to the folks at RAGBRAI, I’m one of the top five tire changers in the world. For being a final qualifier, I did get a consolation prize of a new(ish) Bontrager floor pump. I have no use for this seeing as how Greenstreet is a Specialized dealer and I already have a floor pump. So, if anyone is looking for a new floor pump, I'll be willing to trade this one for some good used bike parts.

The rest of the night should consist of trying to avoid the Smash Mouth show, playing euchre and killing five and a half cases of Lucky Bucket.