Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Ragbrai Wrap Up - The Ride Part III

During the night it started raining hard. When I woke up at 5am it was still raining (thankfully it was mostly dry in the tent! Shelly got the drip - and had the added insult of having to pack up the sopping tent in the morning) but by 5:30, when it was time to get moving, the rain had stopped.

We weren't sure whether the reprieve would hold (it did), so a lot of debate over clothing went on as we got ready.

I opted for my very handy 'sleeves'. They turned out to be my favorite piece of gear for the ride. Great for early mornings and easy to tuck into a small bags when it warmed up. I even loaned them to Helen for the last day.

I should also comment on the hair. My hair kind of went 'out of control' with all the humidity. I was having a heck of a time keeping the shorter layers under my helmet. So on Day 7 I resorted to this ...

I think I was beginning to look a bit 'biker chick-ish' rather then 'Winter Chick-ish'  but it worked!!! LOL

We almost made it out of Oskaloosa without stopping, but then we saw a sign offering free coffee and cinnamon buns at a church along the route. You just know we stopped. We had a really interesting conversation with a local woman and learned a lot about farming corn and soybeans - and the cinnamon buns were DELICIOUS!!

One of the coolest things about Ragbrai was the small conversations that would occur along the route. Sometimes you'd just find yourself pedaling close in pace to someone and exchange a few words that might or might not develop into a longer conversation. Sometimes it would be something on a jersey that would spark chat. I cycled up to one guy with a dog team on his jersey, but it turned out to just be a company logo. (A 'Canadian' biking jersey is the one thing I did wish I had taken along on the ride.)

My tattoos sparked a few conversations. Usually when I'm out and about they are covered, so I forget I have them, but with shorts and sleeveless shirts on, that wasn't the case for Ragbrai (for the record - and to my Mother's GREAT dismay - I have three. The pawprints that were seen in the last blog, this Siberian husky head and maple leaf on my arm, and some text on my right foot).

That morning I was waiting for Helen at our pre-arranged breakfast stop when a man inquired if I had Siberian Huskies (Hi William!!), pointing at my arm. I replied I did and he showed me the lovely tattoo on his leg of two of his Siberians. I knew the breeder of his dogs and we had a nice little chat while I waited for my riding companion.

The last town for the day on this ride was Packwood and it turned out to be one of my very favorite pass through towns of the ride.

Boasting a population of just over 200, Packwood had RALLIED to make things run efficiently and comfortably for the riders.

They had chicken and pork grilling up and were making simple, but delicious sandwiches. They had all sorts of other goodies, like veggies and dip, and the mandatory homemade pie!  

Helen and I bought a few things and sat on one of the hundreds of straw bales covered with blankets and towels for riders to sit on. Very nice!!!!

We stopped once more for homemade granola bars and water. I picked the spot because they had a cute looking blue heeler in their driveway and I was looking for a 'dog fix' (which I got)!!

Turns out that wasn't the only dog there.

Yup, that's a Chihuahua in that guy's backpack. There were actually a few dogs in backpacks or baskets on the ride - and NO - I would never ask Bet or any of my guys to do that.

In Fairfield we were staying in the backyard of a friend of Shelly's Auntie. It would have been a great,  quiet spot if not for the 'Latin-ish' music BLARING from speakers from a restaurant about a block away - made worse by the fact that they only had about 3 songs on a loop. Oh....and there was the train..........but regardless .... it worked!
We were able to run a few loads of laundry through at our host's house, shower, use the bathroom and recharge electronics, which was excellent, before heading downtown for dinner and a bit of people watching.

'Recovery food' in Fairfield!

At 3am I tiptoed carefully from the tent to use the bathroom at the house (the problem with 're hydrating' a whole bunch in the afternoon) only to find it locked. Oops! Now desperate, I stealthily snuck into shrubs only to find out the family had motion-activated yard lights. I definitely woke up my traveling companions, but I believe they were groggy enough that I kept most of my dignity intact (not that I've ever had much!).

I'm not sure about Helen, but I know heading out of Saturday morning was filled with more sadness than anything else. I was very sorry the adventure was ending!

Everyone seemed to think Helen and I were being sappy over that in this picture...

 LOL, we weren't. Helen had been 'viciously' attacked by the tire pump earlier that morning and I was 'consoling' her!
I then proceeded to mock her for not having use of all her fingers! (She had a pinched nerve or a bit of carpal tunnel going on - she is taking good care of it now that she is back at home). After all, what are friends for??

Thankfully, those were the only injuries or pain that happened to us all week. What a blessing!

After 'fishing' around Fairfield a bit, we found and joined the stream of riders...

It was a beautiful morning..... 

We ran through our 'routine', which was now comfortably established: pedal....coffee....pedal.....breakfast....pedal.....and then play the rest by ear!

Excellent roadside lattes!!!
This day we passed up Amish pie, but did stop for some fabulous sweet corn!!! 

I really felt good on that last 63 miles and ended up slipping into a pace line at one point and looked down to find myself riding with them at well over 20mph. 
I have to explain a bit about what motivated me to join that particular pace line - it was the music!!! 

See, many riders were carrying speakers with them. Everything from just iPhones to mount-on speakers to trailers hauling speakers. Throughout the day as riders passed and we passed riders you would be listening to snippets of all kinds of music. Usually it was pretty sweet music - and really enjoyable. (Helen says it was one of her favorite things about Ragbrai!) Though, I thought the woman blaring Justin Bieber's "Baby, Baby, Baby" should have been hauled off the route for 'irresponsible music selection'. Took me awhile to get that infernal song out of my head.   
Anyway, this group had one rider with speakers playing Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines". I love the beat of that song and wanted to hear more of it, so I mashed my pedals and slipped in! When the song ended I slipped back out and back to solo riding! 

The last town of WestPoint was just hopping with music and partying riders! No way were were passing all that up. 

Yes, that is a guy in a 'Hello Kitty' superhero costume - and yes, he rode.

We stopped for awhile and grabbed a couple 'walking tacos' for lunch. 

The last miles literally FLEW by - helped that we had a tail wind. I stopped and waited just outside of Fort Madison for Helen so we could ride into town together.

For me, it wasn't an 'Iditarod excitement' type of finish, but it was very rewarding to think of what my body had just carried me through - and not only carried me through - but comfortably and easily carried me through. When I think of where I was three years ago in my life I shake my head. I could have never have conceived of this at that time.

Biking across the state of Iowa -  7 days -  406 miles - 17,400 ft of climb

I've mentioned my aversion to 'Bucket Lists' a few times over the years - but I don't know that I've ever explained why.
If 5 years ago I had written out a 'bucket list' and become fixated on filling it, I certainly would not have included 'Riding Ragbrai' on that list. I didn't know what Ragbrai was or where Iowa was for that matter. It was never, ever on my radar and I might have skipped that opportunity when it presented itself  in favour of something on the list. I would have missed an incredible, incredible  experience.

My goal in life is not to fill some list - but to take advantage of all and any opportunities I can to the best of my abilities. Be it running the Iditarod, visiting a new country or riding across the state of Iowa.
Adventures and experiences to grow sometimes come in the simplest or strangest packages!!!!

So toss that list .... and go ride a bike across the state of Iowa (or something like that!). You never know what you might discover about yourself - and/or the world!!!!


I want to thank a huge number of folks (in absolutely no particular order) -

Jacque Young and Howard Kamish, Bev Shriver, Charlie and Jonell Conrad, Toshia Garnes, Kyle and Amy Lynch, Lu Peverill and the LC Titans (Brett Ford, Allison and Jeremy Towne, Todd Reznicek, Jill, Joe and Ben Bryson, Nancy Schmailzl), Sheryl Terlouw, Greg Lewis, Stephanie and Robert Gridley.
What GREAT representative for the state of Iowa each and every one of you are!!!

....and especially....
Helen - for being such a terrific and understanding traveling companion
Mark - for being an understanding and tolerant husband
Shelly - for so much I can't begin to say - but most especially for that first email that said "Have you ever heard of Ragbrai?" (or something to that effect).

And now, if you'll excuse me, it is too warm to run dogs and my chores are done, so I'm off to ride my bike!!!!


SAY said...

A great write up of your ride. Congratulations on your finish. Have to say I thought the heat might be too much for a Winter Chick, but you are a superbly conditioned athlete and neither rain, sleet, snow nor heat deter your adventures.

Shirly said...

You know I have lived in Missouri only about 15 miles from the Iowa line for 20 years and only 100 miles from Des Moines and until you rode this I never heard of it. And would of come to Des Moines except for my untimely fall I did not expect to happen. You are blessed all the things you have done. All my younger years I was stuck with my kids and his relatives kids and working. Sometimes I wonder how I ever got talked into all that and I started running dogs when my last son graduated from high school. Most of them thought we had lost our minds with the dogs. But that was when some fun started. Jack came into my life and it was marry me you marry my dogs. Doubt he knew what he was getting into and now almost 32 years later he at times tells me he knows as much about dogs as I do. Not really but he sure has learned a lot. But there are times when I would like to do different things and no one to care for the dogs so I can,t. So Karen count your self blessed in all you have been able to do.