Archive for July, 2006

Pictures — Ragbrai day 1

Monday, July 31st, 2006

Here I am dipping my rear wheel in a pool of Missouri River water. There wasn’t an easy access point in Sergeant Bluff to get to the river itself.

And here I am ready to ride.

This is the first breakfast stop on the route from Sergeant Bluff to Ida Grove — lots of people stopped, and it gives an idea of how many riders there are.

Ida Grove had the theme “One Royal Knight”, because it has a lot of buildings made to look like castles. Jeremy says that these are the work of an eccentric millionaire who lived there. His name was Byron Godberson, and apparently he really liked castles. Anyway, this kid was riding around town in a knight’s getup.

And here I am at my campsite.

Oh, yeah, and here I am with some fairies.

Muscatine

Monday, July 31st, 2006

The ride from Coralville to Muscatine was pretty uneventful. I stopped for a while in Atalissa to get gatorade and look for a post card to send Sophie. No luck with the post card, even at the post office — it said it was open, but nobody was there. I had planned to stop at every pass-through town, but Moscow didn’t have anything at all, as far as I could see. There were still about 13 miles from Moscow to Muscatine, so I was looking for someplace to stop and put on more sunscreen. Up comes a little church with a farmhouse across the road, and signs saying “free water”. So I stopped, as did a slew of other people. They had two big igloo coolers and they were refilling them repeatedly from a standpipe in the back yard. I went straight to the source and wet my head, as it was getting hot already.

They had some baked goods to sell, though by the time I got to them the cookies were gone, as was the pie. I got a muffin and some kind of bar cookie. It turned out to be sort of like pecan pie without the pecans. In other words, basically pure sugar. You could feel it going into your veins immediately after taking a bite.

Anyway, I got back on the bike, went just a little further, and there was the Muscatine city limit! So I stopped and got out the camera, wanting to get some pics of the “entering town” views. The route was lined with people, both locals waving and greeting and riders stopped to assemble their teams. From the city limits to the river is about four miles, and it was all downhill, so I just coasted, took pictures, and tried to keep the camera dry — people had sprinklers set up all along the way.

I cruised down to the river and dipped my wheel — some kindly members of team loon were there; I took a picture for them and they reciprocated. Then I headed back to the baggage truck. This was a problem. No camp site to go to, of course, so what do I do while waiting for Robin? I called her, and she was at least two hours away. Finally, I just got out a few items, left my bag, and went downtown looking for shade and something to do. Inspiration struck! They have bars! So I had a beer in a bar by the river, watched a little arena football on the first TV I’d seen for a week, and just generally killed time until it was time to go meet Robin at the baggage.

Oh, the ride was 50 miles at 16.5 mph. Not counting a little riding I did on the bike trail down by the river.

Back at the baggage I ran into Matt and Jimmy. Jimmy has resolved to come again next year; Matt seemed a little less certain, but I think they’ll work it out. I haven’t decided yet myself. I enjoyed the ride, but I might like to try something a little less crowded. I’m going to look into GRABAAWR, for instance. Or perhaps do RAGBRAI with a group next time; a couple of them are based in St. Louis.

I’ve downloaded all the pictures, and put them on my pictures site. Next I’ll start posting some selected ones with commentary.

Coralville to Muscatine

Saturday, July 29th, 2006

More Coralville

Coralville, being a suburb of Iowa City, has lots of nice amenities at the campground.  There are several buildings that are open to riders — air conditioned refugia in the beastly heat.  All the RAGBRAI stuff is centrally located in the same park/high school campus area, so you don’t have to ride anywhere after you arrive.  Still, there’s a certain charm to the smaller overnight towns, with beer gardens set up on the courthouse lawn and ‘historic’ downtown districts. 

One thing about a stop so near a large university — I got a really great slice of whole wheat veggie pizza at one of the food booths.  In fact, the food here was so tempting I ate too much and went to bed feeling pretty bloated. 

Coralville to Muscatine

I overslept — it got cool in the wee hours, and I didn’t hear the alarm.  When I got up at 5:20, lots of people were already striking camp.  I felt surprisingly good considering last night’s overeating, and I was on the road by 6:25.  Of course, I then stopped at an ATM and a bagel shop, so I wasn’t really out of town until about 7. 

I’ve resolved to stop at every overnight town this time, since it’s the last day, and a short one.  One stop was at West Branch, which is the birthplace of Herbert Hoover.  They have the cabin where he was born, and a couple of blocks of the original neighborhood restored as they were in his boyhood.  It’s a very pretty town.  Right now I’m in Atalissa, which is pretty small, but the Iowa Telecom truck is stopped here.  I called Robin, and she’s up near St. Louis now.  As it’s only around 18 miles to Muscatine, I’m going to arrive well before she does. 

I’m a little apprehensive about how she’ll be able to navigate to the baggage truck for my stuff, in the middle of the RAGBRAI insanity.  I guess we’ll see.  More later…

Marengo to Coralville

Friday, July 28th, 2006

More Marengo

I ran into Wesley and Ann downtown, just after I got a pork loin sandwich.  They were looking for food, having just split a polish sausage.  Wesley was very interested to hear about the Belgian waffle guy — he’s trying everything, I think.  Ann said “He eats heavy stuff.  I can’t handle that.” Wesley corroborated that — he had a pork chop on a stick yesterday in the middle of the ride.  “I thought I was gonna need the AMBULANCE!  I mean peristalsis was SHUT DOWN!”  Anyway, they headed off toward the corn on the cob stand and I had some Amish cookies. 

I went by the Pioneer Heritage Museum on my way back to the campground, so I thought I’d stop in.  It was actually pretty interesting.  In the museum proper they had sort of a random assortment of things people had given them: someone’s nice collection of antique salt cellars, a bunch of old military uniforms and paraphernalia from Civil War on, some bridal gowns, a lot of advertising ephemera like old hardware store yardsticks and so on.  They had a lot of stuff relating to Schaffner’s Military Band, from Millersburg IA, including old flyers, the drum with the name painted on, etc.  Outside they have an 1856 batchelor’s log cabin, and the larger one he built when he got married in 1861.  They also have an old railroad depot and a 1930s vintage gas station on the grounds.  I talked to the docent ladies a while about when and how the area was settled, and how it compared with SE Missouri. 

Marengo to Coralville

Got up just before 5 AM today to the sound of a rooster crowing nearby, and I was on the road at 6:09.   It was a short day today, so I resolved to stop at all the pass-through towns.  The most interesting was Holbrook, which was once a big center for Angus cattle sales, but somehow fell by the wayside.  It’s now an “Iowa ghost town” with just a handful of residents.  They have a beautiful 19th century catholic church, with a big round stained glass window behind the altar depicting St. Patrick kicking the snakes out of Ireland, surrounded by a border of shamrocks.  Donated by the Ancient Order of Hybernians. 

Anyway, it was an easy day as well, with a tailwind most of the time, even if it was somewhat hilly.  Only 48 miles, and I averaged 17.0 mph (by the way, yesterday was 78 miles at 16.5 mph).   I got into Coralville at 10:36 AM and had to wait for the baggage truck to unload.  Since then I’ve been mostly at the aquatic center, since it’s beastly hot outside. 

People are waiting for internet, so I’ll stop here.  Only one day left. 

Newton to Marengo, Continued

Friday, July 28th, 2006

After my Belgian* waffle, I wandered down the street to the Wagaman Mill and Museum.  It was a very nice old water mill, built in 1846, and they turned on the water turbines and ran the grinder a bit for us.  I took lots of pictures for the benefit of my friend Jack Smoot, who administers Bollinger Mill in Burfordville, MO. 

I actually stopped a lot today, in part trying consciously to dawdle so that Lance might catch up with me**.  At Montezuma, I stopped long enought to ask how the town got its name.  The woman thought that it had something, vaguely, to do with chief Powashiek, whose hunting grounds this used to be.  Kind of like Pocahontas MO is named after some Indian maiden whose name nobody knew, and since Pocahontas was the only female indian name they knew, they just used that.

In Brooklyn I had a couple of chicken breast sandwiches and watched some little girl gymnasts and a really bad comedy duo. 

Toward the end of the ride, I was moving along at a good clip when I saw a guy fixing a flat tire by the side of the road.  Just then, he looked up and called out “Pump?”  So I stopped and helped him pump up his tire.  Turns out he was an Italian named Alberto, and contrary to my preconceived notions, he didn’t know much about changing a rear wheel flat.  I helped him, and got on my way again.  I realized toward the end that, in the process, I’d used up my only CO2 cartridge for my pump.  The one thing I failed to belt-and-suspenders, and there you are.  If I have a flat, I’ll just put on a foreign accent and call out “Pump?”

Marengo

Pulled into Marengo about 1:30, and the signs directed me through a long, winding dirt road in the fairgrounds, petering out in a very unpromising-looking field of rough, unmown grass.  I wound up camped next to Matt and Jimmy, neighbors from Ida Grove.  It was baking hot with not a tree around, so once I got set up and found showers, I went into town. 

At the Catholic church (spaghetti again; cherry pie with canned filling and a lattice crust that, though promising in appearance, was very ordinary) I sat next to two brothers, Dave and Mike.  Dave said that he had in fact ridden with Lance’s “peloton” for a short distance before getting dropped.  They were hauling ass, not surprisingly.  I think I was probably in the shower when they got into town. 

Afterward, wandering around town looking for shade, I ran into Helen and Arnie.  Arnie felt that my assessment of the campground*** was accurate.  They’d apparently complained about the fact that the RV campers got a nice field of manicured grass, which they really don’t need, while tents were out in this bog.   We sat on the sidewalk in front of the county courthouse**** and chatted for a while; they recommended that I should try riding GRABAAWR instead.  We also discussed children and cats.  Robin and I have both; Arnie has the former, Helen has the latter.

Well, I’ve hogged a computer long enough, so I’ll go see what I can do downtown now — anything to avoid the “campground” at least until it cools off a bit.

 

* Some guy next to me was explaining in a stentorian voice to his son that these, although good, are not REALLY like the waffles you get in Brussels.

** I was, it turns out, ahead of Lance the whole way.  I’d be proud, except that your arrival time in RAGBRAI depends mainly on how early you get up in the morning. 

*** It sucks.

**** There was a monument to the brave sons of Iowa who, during the War of the Rebellion, helped to dissuade some unprincipled residents of my adopted home state of their erroneous ways. 

Newton to Marengo

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

More Newton

There’s not much more to Newton, really. I was beat.  I did go downtown and eat spaghetti at the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which was very good and a great deal, although the apple pie was too sweet.  A guy I sat next to turned out to be the department chair of English at John Wood Community College in Quincy, IL.  We got into a discussion of student writing and its quality*, and what you can do about it and whether the English department can do it all.  I gave him my email address so he can contact me and I can get him in touch with Dave Reinheimer. 

Newton to Marengo

I got to bed early, got up at 5, and found that there was a lot more activity in the campground at that hour than usual.  Today is the longest day, and there’s an optional century loop, so many people were starting early, I guess.  There were also more people on the roadside in chairs, probably because this is the day Lance is riding RAGBRAI.  I got on the road about 6:25, and stopped for breakfast an hour later at Lynnville.  I’d been hearing about the Dad’s Belgian Waffle guy for days, so I thought I’d try them in Lynnville.  He was set up in a little cafe downtown.  I walked in and it was like a sauna.  They’d put all the tables together in a U shape, and they were covered with waffle irons.  “Dad” walks from one iron to the next, pours in batter, and then starts dishing out waffles from the ones that were done.  It was great, but probably better when not in an enclosed space — people said he usually sets up in a barn. 

More later; there’s a big line for laptops, so I’ll take a break. 

* It sucks.

Waukee to Newton

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

More Waukee 

There was rain off and on Tuesday night in Waukee, but nothing too much early in the evening.  The forecast said that it would storm later.  I made sure all the tent lines were tight, closed all the ziplock bags, and just settled in to read a while.  About 8 I got hungry again and went to the food area — found a booth run by an Indian family.  Gyros were their big seller, and there was a young guy making them at a fever pace.  I asked the dad for chicken curry, which was apparently not such a common order — he had to yell at his pretty teenage daughter twice to get her to start making it.  She heaped scoop after scoop of rice on the plate — looked great — then several spoons of curry, then a scattering of fresh tomatoes and onions, then a spoon of yogurt sauce.  She reached over next to the gyros grill to get a napkin, turned to hand it all to me, and the young guy whirled around with the latest gyro pita.  My food all went in the grass.  I was sad. 

They made another plate quickly, though, and I sat in the big dining tent to eat it.  I talked to three guys from Arizona who were at the table — they were just doing a few days of the ride.  They were amazed to find out that I was habitually starting between 6 and 6:30; they usually start around 8 or 9.  One guy introduced himself, and when I introduced myself to the guy next to him, he said, “I’ll never see you again anyway.  We’re not on the road at the same time.”  It’s true, really; RAGBRAI is a lot of different rides that don’t always overlap very much.

Anyway, I went back to the tent, and about 10:30 it started to thunder and lightning and pour down rain.  I was fine, the tent was holding up well and keeping me dry*, so I kept reading.  I fell asleep around 11, to be awakened by a lot of people yelling and a guy on the PA system announcing that a severe thunderstorm was coming, and that the shelters were open for anyone who wanted to go. 

I thought about it a bit, and finally decided that although the tent was good, it probably wouldn’t withstand a tree falling on it, so I figured it was best not to take chances.  I walked up the road to the high school.  People were spread out all over the floor of the cafeteria area, and I spread out my sleeping bag and lay down.  Listening to the muffled voices, suppressed giggling, and snoring all around me, I was thinking how this must be the way people slept for large parts of human history — a bunch of people on the floor of  a large, cavernous space all at once.  It was oddly soothing, and I fell asleep. 

Waukee to Newton

I got up at 5 (I didn’t bring my alarm clock, but people were stirring) and walked outside with my sleeping bag.  The local TV station had a camera and a reporter, who asked me how it was last night.  I think he was slightly disappointed that I was actually in pretty good spirits and had slept well. 

The tent was mostly dry when I got back; a little seepage in the floor around the front, where the ground cloth doesn’t reach very well.  I packed it all up, including the very wet tent, and hauled it to the truck.  There were a lot of wet bags going into that semi.  I went to the pancake tent and ate there before leaving, in the process talking to a guy whose tent had more or less totally collapsed.  I was fortunate in that I’d used mine backpacking before, and had been through some storms in it. 

I got on the road at 6:38 AM.  The route started out northward, with a pretty good tailwind, and I made good time the first 15 miles.  Then it turned east, and it became clear that we had a SE wind.  A serious headwind again.  I wound up working a bit harder today than yesterday, and a couple of times I found other guys going about the same speed and had some moderately organized pace lines.  Having other people with you spurs you to a little more effort. 

I didn’t stop very long at any of the pass-through towns today, but I still find the level of preparation amazing.  All of these little towns have been working for ages to put together a “street fair” for the  RAGBRAI riders.  Even if they are trying to sell stuff, there’s a sense of innocent enjoyment of free entertainment that I find moving.  I don’t know if it’s fatigue, or my natural soppiness, or a combination of the two, but I often find myself getting a little teary-eyed as I come into a town.  A line of little kids stood by the side of the road coming into Mitchellville with their hands out so the incoming riders could “side-five” them.  A woman in Colfax was wearing a red-white-and-blue Miss Liberty outfit and holding aloft a water bottle (send us your tired, your dehydrated).  Everywhere people are sitting in lawn chairs on their lawns or driveways, waving and greeting the riders as they go by. 

Newton

Newton’s theme for RAGBRAI is “racing into Newton” — they’re the future site of the Iowa Speedway.  They had a big finish line set up with people checkered-flagging the riders, and people lined up along the road cheering and applauding every arrival.  Remembering that RAGBRAI is a lot of rides, they must have been doing that a very long time. 

The campsite near the baggage truck is a wooded area in a big park, and I spent a long time choosing just the right site, high, well-drained, in a clearing away from trees, but near enough to be shaded.  I spread the damp tent and other gear out in a sunny spot and read the Des Moines Register free RAGBRAI edition while it dried. 

Once I was set up, I went to the pool for a shower and swim**.  It’s an elaborate water park, with two giant slides.  On the stairs to the giant slide I ran into Helen.  Later I talked with her and Arnie; their campground became a river last night, and they stayed with the tent (something Helen said with a certain note of disgust in her voice) to keep it from blowing away or something.  Anyway, everything they had was wet, and they didn’t get started until 8 AM.  I guess they were in a different ride today — forgot to ask.

Anyway, I got clean and cooled off, and went back to the tent to change and blog.  Supposedly the probability of rain is not too much tonight, so I’m hoping things will dry out.  Also, this will help with Lance’s speech downtown this evening. 

*Really the only problem with the tent was the continuous stream of idiots that had to try to walk in the 9-inch space between me and the next tent, tripping over both of our guy lines and loosening them repeatedly.  What is with people?  Never seen a tent before?

**I was watching people at the pool for a while.  It’s funny to see bike-riding women wearing swimsuits.  Their tans don’t fit their suits at all; typically the woman is all white from waist to knees, brown below the knee, and her torso is tanned in some pattern that matches a jersey or sports bra. 

Audubon to Waukee

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

More Audubon

After I blogged yesterday, I walked out of the Iowa Telecom trailer, and a young man came up and said, “Excuse me, but were you by any chance at a Templeton Foundation conference in Oxford about 10 years ago?” Okay, I know that when you travel, especially to a place where other people are also traveling, you’re likely to meet someone you know from back home. But this guy met me when he was a sophomore in college, attending this conference with his dad, who was a religion professor at Augustana college, and we probably spoke a dozen times over a week-long conference ten years ago. He saw my name on the sign-in sheet for the internet trailer and recognized it, and then picked me out even though my hair is now about a foot shorter. I’m impressed. Anyway, he’s just accepted a position teaching at Augustana also, and he says I gave him advice about choosing a graduate school. His name is Mark Larsen, and his father, Dennis, walked up while we were talking – but I don’t think he remembered me, which gives me some relief.

Later I went to St. Patrick’s Center and had cavatini and pie. Back at camp I noticed that the black couple from St. Louis had set up camp near me, and I went by and talked to them a bit. The wife asked me about the cavatini dinner, and I said it was okay, but the pie wasn’t nearly as good as the pie in Manning. The husband looked over all excited, and said “See! See?”

She rolled her eyes. “Don’t get him started…”

“I was in PIE HEAVEN! Man, I was in PIE HEAVEN!”

We discussed the virtues of the Blue Ribbon Pies at the senior center in Manning for a while and came to an agreement that 1) Pie is important and 2) That was damn good pie. They’re Wesley and Ann, by the way.

Anyway, they left to go eat, and I turned in early, as I was still tired and sore. There was a big area set aside for the “Dream Team” near us – I think maybe disadvantaged kids get to ride RAGBRAI or something. Anyway, they cheered each new arrival loudly, and I think the last straggler showed up sometime after 8. Rough day, as everyone agreed.

Audubon to Waukee

The alarm went off at 5 AM, and I picked my way through the crowded tents in the dark to the port-a-potties*. You don’t have to wait in line at 5 AM. There were actually some people riding out even then with headlights on. I got packed and on the road by about 6:15.

It was a much easier day today. There were still lots of hills** , but only about 8-10 miles headed south into the wind. I did purposely take it easy, though, keeping a fast cadence and not pushing too hard. The biggest pass-through town stop was about 27 miles in, at Guthrie Center. It was 8:30 in the morning, and the place was packed with bikers – RAGBRAI is like a week-long street fair that moves with you, and this one was huge, with loads of booths selling food, fixing bikes, etc. I went to the Boy Scout booth and had pancakes. Trying to keep my carbs up. There was an announcer touting Budweiser products in the beer garden and bloody Marys, although it didn’t look like there were that many takers.

We finally hit the first really flat stretch in the trip so far outside of Waukee, the last 3 or 4 miles. I made good time, but overall it was a pretty slow day. 68 miles, 15.6 mph. Still, I feel good now.

Waukee

Waukee’s theme for RAGBRAI is “Wau-Ke-Kee”, and there were people giving you leis at several points rolling into town. I found the baggage truck right away, and started looking for a nearby site to camp. I’m starting to get this figured out. I can’t carry my 50-pound bag very far, so it has to be close to the truck, and it needs to have afternoon shade so I can rest. The campgrounds around the truck were pretty depauperate in trees, but I did find a few big ones in a group. I found a good spot. It has some drawbacks, mainly that it’s very near the “Secondary Stage.” But I’m hoping that one won’t go too late tonight.

I headed for the nearest shower venue, the high school just down the street. It was only $2 for a shower, about half what it’s been elsewhere. So far I’ve had one shower in the shower trucks, sort of an open-air affair with tarps hung up and a shower like having someone hold a sprinkling can full of cold tap water over your head. Then yesterday it was at the public pool, which had pressure but was still pretty tepid. This one, you pushed a little button and a stinging spray of scalding water came out for about 30 seconds. Then you soap up something else, press again, etc. It was interesting, to say the least.

After the shower, I was starving***, so I walked back via the food vendors’ path in the park. I got the vegetarian pasta benefiting the local dance group. It was a huge plate of rainbow rotini heaped with sautéed peppers, zucchini, squash, and crushed tomato sauce. Good stuff.

Back to the tent to write some notes while halfway watching the BMX trick bike show (more drawbacks of my location), and then to the library, where I’m now blogging this. I thought for a minute I had hit the picture jackpot – the computer has Paint Shop Photo Album installed – but the “premium features” such as resizing a damn photo have been disabled. Ah, well. I guess I’ll just have a “picture-book version” RAGBRAI blog next week. Kind of like when people give you birthday presents late, it makes your birthday last longer.

Note added:  At the library I was sitting next to a guy who was also typing furiously away — turns out he was Lonnie Cook, a columnist for the Muscatine Journal.  He asked me if I knew the mileage for today’s ride, and I had a copy of the route maps with me.  He was interested to hear I was blogging the ride, and I gave him the URL.  He mentioned it in that day’s column.

*Or ‘kybos’ as they’re known on RAGBRAI – I don’t know if this is unique to this event, or if it’s a regionalism or something.

**Total climb today 2939 feet, compared to 3076 yesterday. That’s not net gain in altitude; it’s the sum of all the uphills.

*** Total food consumed so far today: 2 bananas, 1 muffin, 1 cinnamon roll, 1 power bar, 3 pancakes, 1 glass juice, 1 bottle Gatorade, 1 large plate pasta and veggies, 3 slices of bread. I’m ready for dinner.

Ida Grove – Audubon

Monday, July 24th, 2006

More Ida Grove 

After posting yesterday, I found a stand selling roasted sweet corn, and I sat in a little park downtown to eat it.  There was a guy there playing a tuba and tapping time with a tambourine; first he played “As time goes by,” and then I could have sworn he played “Moon over Bourbon St.,” but it may have been the heat.  I put a buck in the tip jar, and noted that he also was selling his CDs — “The Tubador”.   I passed on that.

The downside of getting in early is that you have a lot of time to wander around trying to stay out of the heat.  While sitting in the shade near the campground, I saw a man walk by carrying a bag of ice on his head.  “Nice hat!”

“Yep, it’s a fantastic buy for a dollar.”

I got a chicken pita at a stand, and the black couple in front of me were wearing “Barnes/Jewish Hospital” jerseys.  They were indeed from St. Louis, and they said they usually come down to ride in the Tour de Cape. 

When I got back to the campground, there was a guy on the little stage (earlier occupied by teenage dance school performers).  He had long white hair and a white beard, wore a monk’s robe, and was bellowing something about “Riversaance”.  All I really caught was the part where he yelled “Huzzah!” and various costumed folks in the park yelled “Huzzah” back.  Shades of Madrigal Feast. 

Later the Riversaance crowd came to the beer “garden” (a closed-off street with a $1 cover charge).  I got my picture taken with fairies.  I’m still working on the photo uploading — I’ll come back later to the Iowa Telecom truck and see if I can put a few directly into the Coppermine pics folder.  The band was actually really good — local guys, including one of the band directors, someone was telling me.  They had two guitars, a bass, drums, and a four-piece brass section.  I wound up dancing to “Honky Tonk Women” with Tammy from Georgia, who appeared to be a) young enough to be my daughter and b) drunk enough to dance with me anyway.

Then off to bed, and woke up at 5 when the neighbors started packing up. 

Ida Grove – Audubon

Okay, remember when I said that the first day had the worst hills?  This is the sound of me chewing and swallowing those words.  The worst of it was that there was a 15 mph headwind for the section headed south, which was over 30 miles of a 77 mile trip.  Average mph for this trip: 15.4. 

The high point was stopping for almost an hour in Manning, where I had a really great piece of raspberry-rhubarb pie at the Senior Center.  I stayed in Manning almost an hour, from which you can deduce that I was damn tired.  

Audubon 

I got into Audubon about 1:30 and set up my tent in a nice shady spot.  My new neighbors were just finishing setting up theirs, and I wound up loaning them a tent peg (I brought twice as many as I need.  Belt and suspenders.).  When I got my tent set up, I unrolled the sleeping pad, tied open the front screen, and sat down in the doorway.  My involuntary groan of pain attracted the neighbor guy’s attention, and I explained that the ride today had pretty much literally kicked my ass.  We came to an agreement that the combination of headwind + uphill = pain.   He’s Arnie Bronk from Milwaukee, and his wife is Helen.  She’s some kind of nurse, and when I said I was a geneticist she gave one of those “Oh, God, GeNEtics…” cries.  A lot of people have nightmares about genetics.  Many of them my former students, no doubt.

Anyway, after a nice shower and swim in the municpal pool (finally got the “fairy dust” glitter out of my hair), I sat around and rested in camp a while, and then finally came downtown.  I’ve had a turkey burger and a grilled chicken sandwich so far.  Later I plan to go to St. Patrick’s Hall for cavatini and pie.    

Ida Grove

Sunday, July 23rd, 2006

Robin got me to the campground about 7 AM, and I got my enormous bag safely onto the truck.  It was a bit of a struggle getting it out of the car — after carefully stretching all the bike muscles, I managed to pull something in my upper back lifting the damn duffel bag.  However, I’m managing okay, so I guess it’s not a disaster. 

I didn’t make it to the river with the bike to dip my back wheel, but they kindly provided a big pool of Missouri river water at the campground — I’d upload the pic, but it’s too big.  I’m at an Iowa Telecom trailer writing this, so I don’t have access to any software to upload other than through WordPress.

Now I’m at Ida Grove — got in about 10:30 (distance: 54 miles, average speed: 18.6 mph).  I found a spot for my tent near the baggage truck and waited for them to open it — that took a while, and in the process I met my prospective neighbors.  One guy is 81, and has been on every RAGBRAI since it started (this makes 34).  The modal age is about mine, I’d say, although there are all ages around. 

Had a shower in the open-air enclosure, lots of scrawny old naked white guys.  I have seen a couple of persons of color on the ride, but either most are too smart to do this, or it’s Iowa, and they don’t live here, for the most part.

Next on my list? I’m not sure.  Maybe the pool.  Or maybe a beer somewhere and some lunch.  I haven’t had pie yet, although I did get a piece of mulberry/rhubarb crumble at Bronson, one of the pass-through towns.  I also sent an empty envelope to Robin as a mementon — the local post office did a special RAGBRAI cancellation.  No doubt she’ll be puzzled, as I don’t think she reads this. 

By the way, if you only read this blog and not my LiveJournal, note that I had to post on LiveJournal yesterday because the blog wouldn’t take posts from the computer at the hotel.  Hoping this one works better.

Apparently so.  Anyway, today was the hilliest day, and it wasn’t too bad.  I think my usual routine of climbing hills in North Cape County prepared me pretty well for long, gradual Iowa hills.  That said, I spent some long times at over 170 beats/min.   I kept thinking I would find someone going about my speed, and we could take turns drafting each other, but all I ran into were people who were doing 25 mph and people who were doing 15 mph.  So, I sort of hopped from group to group.  Judging from the number of people in the campground when I arrived, and the number still pouring in now, three hours later, I was toward the front.  Maybe I’ll find some people to ride with here. 

There’s a sign for Karaoke.