Monday, July 14, 2008


Riding more than ever this year yet somehow, I am stacking up a number of “cycling disappointments” this year.  First, there were a number of curtailed long training rides early in the “season.”   Late March and early April were downright crummy weather days for accumulating epic distance training rides in preparation for a TransIowa.  

Then there was the TransIowa failure itself. Less than 1/3 of the route completed due to inclement weather before missing the time cutoff… ‘nough said. 

High hopes for a super long ride ‘round Lake Pepin brought with it a feeling of listlessness in the saddle, no excitement, and a incomprehensible feeling of impending doom. 

Bad things come in 3’s?  No RAGBRAI. (Pronounced: rag, bry) For the last 23 years, I’ve turned toward Iowa for the Register’s Annual Great Beer Run Across Iowa.  Started when I was 14 and haven’t missed an attendance in some form or another in all these years!

  • My first year involved a charter bus with the North Iowa Touring Club- NITC.  I attended solo, with my older brother’s girlfriend at the time acting as “guardian.”  It was a truly life-altering experience in SO many ways.  I had no idea what I was in for.  I rode in regular shorts, tennis shoes, even rode an 80 mile day in a pair of jeans.  I subsisted entirely on Hardees and beer.  Yes, at the time, truly if you could reach the counter on the corner of the town square, you would be over-served by the gentlemen (usually VFW or Kiwanis) manning the tap.
  • Year two… I was flatly told that when I called NITC and inquired about going again that I was not allowed.  :) Instead, I attended solo with the Rockford Club out of Charles City, IA.  I had a release waiver signed by the neighbor across the street who was evidently somewhere in attendance on the ride too, though I never actually saw him.
  • By year three, I had convinced a friend to drive and brother to go with.  We borrowed my parents Plymouth Reliant station wagon, complete with faux wood paneling.  I am afraid that the combination of the weight of coolers, beer, and equipment took its toll on the car.  My mother claimed that it never quite drove the same again??
  • From years 4 through #10, the weight of beer packed increased and so did the number of people choosing to go.  My oldest brother procured a dedicated RAGBRAI machine, a 1969 Ford Econoline “poptop camper.  We had escalated to a trailer to load with bikes and gear. There was lawn furniture, outdoor music, coolers, shower, and enough other stuff to require weeks of preparation and recovery.  We had years with a dedicated driver, years where we would take turns driving and had an informal contest to see who could score the best camping accommodations.
  • By the conclusion of #10, I had enough of the sleepless nights, partying, and long drives home.  As the days ticked by, and the effects of sleep deprivation and constantly being surrounded by 3 other brothers and other friends joining for the “fun” it was just too much to take.\
  • By the time year #11 approached, I had decided I was going solo, self supported.  I bought a Trek 520 touring bike, racks, and panniers.  I left on a Thursday after work from the Twin Cities and rode south.  I had no idea what I was in for, but managed to cover the nearly 400 miles to IA in 3 days.  Rode all of RAGBRAI, caught a ride to Madison, WI and rode home. All tolled, 1156 miles in 12 days, I returned home burned to a crisp and probably 10 pounds lighter than when I left.
  • Over the years, I’ve gone back to Iowa each summer.  Some years have involved a combination of driving, leaving a car, and rescues by my wife.  I’ve managed to cover as much as 220 miles in one day and logged several 150+ mile days fully loaded.   I’ve done nearly every century loop, and even the special 150 mile loop in celebration of the Iowa sesquitenial.

Since discovering the joy of traveling self-contained, I’ve never had the desire to go supported again.  The ride down to IA has grown into being more satisfying than the actual event itself.  With a family, an incredibly hectic life, family, and now a job offering precious little vacation time… sadly, I am afraid that a week plus on my own with bike has not made the cut.  Bummer.

1 comment:

Dan said...

My first and only RAGBRAI experience was 2 and a half days last year. My sister and I rode self contained, and I found it very easy.

I hope to get back someday.

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