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Old 07-18-2019, 07:38 AM   #1
pbot
H.S. Freshman Team
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Is this heaven? No, it's Iowa - A Ragbrai journal

This morning I am leaving for Iowa to participate in Ragbrai for the second year in a row. If you don’t know, Ragbrai stands for the (Des Moines) Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.

RAGBRAI - The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa

It is touted as the world’s oldest, largest, and longest group bike ride. Each year it takes a different route through the state, but by tradition it starts at or near the Missouri River on Iowa’s western border and crosses the state to the Mississippi River over the course of one week.

This year’s route starts in Council Bluffs on Sunday and heads along a generally southern path ending in Keokuk the following Saturday (7/27). People come from every state in the US and I believe last year they had riders from 18 other countries as well. They sell 8500 weeklong registrations and 1500 one day registrations, each day. The registration fee is used to defray costs as they supply tractor trailers that will haul your gear from town to town for you. It also covers porta potties, they provide four ambulances along the route, and other organizing fees.

The general gist is you ride your bike along the route, stopping at individual small towns throughout the day where everyone from the local church(es) to fire companies to American Legions to Boy Scout/Girl Scout troops sell home made foods and drinks etc, there are often bands and other activities designed to get you to stop and hang out for a bit (and spend some money). It is a big fund raiser for many small towns. Each night the end town has a large street festival with free concerts. I have heard it described as a rolling county fair, which seemed pretty accurate last year.

At night you camp in your tent. Either in group campgrounds – typically city parks, high school fields or sometimes golf courses or else people in each town will host riders at their houses.

The route this year is planned for 427 miles, but it’ll probably be longer in actual ridden miles. Last year was supposed to be around 435 miles and I ended up logging 485 miles for the week.

Assuming the Iowa cellphone network holds up, and tapatalk lets me post from my phone, I hope to document the trip a little bit this year. If not, this’ll be the shortest thread ever.

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Old 07-18-2019, 09:36 AM   #2
revrew
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Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: Just outside Des Moines, IA
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Assuming the Iowa cellphone network holds up, and tapatalk lets me post from my phone, I hope to document the trip a little bit this year. If not, this’ll be the shortest thread ever.

As a rural Iowan, the answer to this is simple: If you have Verizon, it will hold up. If you don't ... it will be spotty.
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Old 07-18-2019, 10:36 PM   #3
tarcone
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Pacific,MO
RAGBRAI is awesome! I remember them coming through my home town and staying in the park across the street from my house. SO MUCH FUN!


Enjoy your ride across the great state of Iowa.

GO HAWKS!
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Old 07-19-2019, 07:30 AM   #4
pbot
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Join Date: Apr 2001
Drove almost 600 miles yesterday. Stayed in Richmond, IN overnight. Motto on the water tower says it's an 'All American city'. If it's on a water tower it has to be true, right?

Have another 380 to drive today to get to Keokuk, IA. In Keokuk I will turn my bike over to a charter company for transport to Council Bluffs tomorrow. They will provide bus transport for me as well.

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Old 07-21-2019, 10:19 PM   #5
tarcone
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Location: Pacific,MO
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Originally Posted by pbot View Post
Drove almost 600 miles yesterday. Stayed in Richmond, IN overnight. Motto on the water tower says it's an 'All American city'. If it's on a water tower it has to be true, right?

Have another 380 to drive today to get to Keokuk, IA. In Keokuk I will turn my bike over to a charter company for transport to Council Bluffs tomorrow. They will provide bus transport for me as well.

Sent from my Pixel 2 using Tapatalk

Good luck.

Looks like the weather is going to be great
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Old 07-22-2019, 10:27 AM   #6
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Really excited you are doing this again! Can't wait for the pics/trip report.
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Old 07-24-2019, 03:40 AM   #7
pbot
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Join Date: Apr 2001
Have had issues connecting to Tapatalk so here goes....pix will have to wait until I get home.

Day 1: Council Bluffs to Atlantic, Iowa.

Day started with rain hitting my tent around 3am, I think. I got up around 0530 and hit the road around 0630. Roughly 300 yards into the day the knucklehead to my left rode directly into a roadway marker sign. It wasn't his fault as the inanimate piece of bright white plastic obviously came out of nowhere and jumped right in front of him.

Because he seemed ok, he didn't scream as he bounced off the pavement, and with suboptimal braking conditions I kept going. Godspeed, doofus.

The first 'town' of the day was a neighborhood still in Council Bluffs about four miles away. They weren't really ready by the time I got there, and with rain continuing to fall and occasional lightning flashing I proceeded without stopping. My bike is made from specially designed aluminum that does not attract lightning, so I was totally not concerned. At all. Besides, it wasn't even the cloud to ground stuff. 😲

Continuing on through the rain I did see a bald eagle flying out in the country side. Second day in a row I saw one out here. Clearly eagles realize how awesome Iowa is.

The rain stopped briefly, but it was pretty obvious that I was going to need a gas powered engine to stay ahead of it for good.

The temperature was in the upper sixties through out the day. Considering the heat index the past few days it was a most welcome change. My rain coat did a great job keeping the rain out. It also offers no breathable qualities, so I was totally soaked in sweat within the first hour. Win some, lose some.

The hills seemed to be a little more intense in the second half of the ride. Or maybe it was the homemade pie and cookies I had for 'lunch'. At one point a kid who I'm estimating to be about nine, passed me going up a long hill. With ease. And with that nine year old shit eating grin that says 'wow you're old, mister.'

I totally flew past him on the downhill side a few moments later though. Gravity for the win!

The hills continued, as did the rain. It finally stopped raining about three miles from the end of the route. One final, hellacious climb remained to get to the house we're camping at.

We then enjoyed a delicious dinner of charcoal grilled burgers with homemade peach cobbler (pictured) cooked by our team support driver. Headed to the town square for the night's concerts featuring every veterinarian's favorite band...Hairball.

Ragbrai 80s-90s song of the day: I wish it would rain down - Phil Collins

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Old 07-24-2019, 03:46 AM   #8
pbot
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Join Date: Apr 2001
.

Last edited by pbot : 07-24-2019 at 03:47 AM.
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Old 07-24-2019, 11:15 PM   #9
pbot
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Join Date: Apr 2001
Day 2:: Atlantic to Winterset.

The journey continued under beautiful blue skies with temps in the mid 70s and not much humidity. There was a pretty decent headwind most of the day.

I didn't really see anything of note. No punk kids or dimwits riding into obstacles. No eagles, either so the streak stopped at two days. I did see a dead racoons holding a beer along the way, if that's amusing.

There is a team, Team Roadkill, that drops beads on just about every piece of roadkill along the way, I don't know why, they just do. Yesterday in addition to the beads, somebody posed the raccoon with a beer can.

I did see the site of Jesse James' first railroad robbery and when Google maps decided to send me to the wrong side of Winterset, I passed by John Wayne's birthplace.

Many people bring speakers and blast music as they ride. I've realized that most people's taste in music is horrific. I brought mine for the first time, so they could hear my poor taste in music as well. However I kept the volume reasonable so as to only annoy the people in my immediate vicinity, not everyone within a quarter mile radius.

It was a long day as I had no energy. Ended up riding 75 miles.


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Old 07-25-2019, 12:00 AM   #10
tarcone
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Pacific,MO
Iowa is a little more hilly then you think. Keep working. Im enioying this.
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Old 07-25-2019, 05:59 AM   #11
pbot
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Day 3:. Winterset to Indianola.

Shortest day of the week at just about 40 miles. Realtively flat, there was really only one big hill, but a couple others where you just had to grind them out. They weren't steep, but were pretty long so had to just keep pedaling.

Since it was a short day, and we're close to Des Moines, there were a lot of one day riders today. The first eight miles were tough because everyone was grouped together. It's similar to watching videos of the guys in Spain trying to outrun the bulls down those narrow alleys. The road is totally filled with bikes, there's absolutely no place to go and you have to hope that the people around you don't do something stupid. After the first big hill things spread out and the fun part of the ride started.

I saw a guy riding with no hands today. Well, he had hands, he just wasn't using them. He rode that way for at least a mile straight. Showoff. He tried to convince me to do it as well but was not willing to cover any ER visit fees, so I politely declined.

The group I am riding with is Team Ibuprofin. The house we stayed at the night before made a custom welcome sign for us. It looked like a big ibuprofen bottle And let us sleep inside, use their shower and do laundry. That would never happen at home. Let 10-15 strangers have free roam of your house? No way. But out here it's no big deal.

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Old 07-25-2019, 06:00 AM   #12
pbot
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Day 4:. Indianola to Centerville
The longest day of the week at 85 miles, or 116 if you feel sassy and select the optional extra loop. Once again perfect weather, I think it was in the fifties as we started just after sunrise.

Didn't have cell service for most of the day. A good bit of climbing today as well. But it was through pretty corn and soybean fields so all in all, a good morning. By lunchtime it was getting warm.

The first decent breakfast stop in Liberty Center was packed. I stopped for a minute and then decided a Clif bar was good enough for the time being as I needed to conserve time to ride all 116 miles. Yep I was feeling sassy at 8am-ish. Headed to Laconia and picked up a breakfast sandwich at the fire company Rolling hills of Iowa still delightful as the temps hovered somewhere in the 70's.

Next up, 15 miles down the route, was Charlton where I planned to grab a burger, or two. The whole way I thought about how delicious that burger would taste after 52 miles. Wanna guess what you apparently can't buy in Charlton today?

Exactly.

I eventually stopped at a pizza food truck to get one slice of plain. They didn't have any ready but said it would be about four minutes until it was ready. Time continued to tick away as I was making NO PROGRESS on the 116. Pepperoni pizza after pepperoni pizza appeared from the oven. 'Plain is almost ready, it'll be the next one out' they kept telling me. Riiight. After, oh, 15 minutes with no plain pizza in sight I took the hint and slinked away to find something else.

The ride continued through the rolling hills. However as the temperature increased, they weren't quite as pretty and more of a green hellscape spewing heat and humidity. My gps was reading anywhere between 92-100F. Who thought this was a good idea?

Finally I made it to the decision point to take the loop or wimp out and just do the 85. I ran through a mental checklist of body parts (like NASA does before launching rockets).

Feet? Go!
Ankles? Go!
Achilles? Go!
Hamstrings? Go!
Knees? Go!
Hands/wrists? Go!

Only one item remained ...

Butt? Don't even think about it.

And with that any thoughts of riding the extra loop vanished. I continued on the Velcro like roadways until the finish.

I did not see any dead racoons, either with or without beer cans. I did pass a tiny little frog on one of the first hills. Unfortunately I didn't see it until it was right next to my front tire. I didn't hit it, but suspect that someone else did shortly after. It is not easy being green.

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Old 07-25-2019, 09:53 AM   #13
AnalBumCover
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Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: La Mirada, CA
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I did not see any dead racoons, either with or without beer cans. I did pass a tiny little frog on one of the first hills. Unfortunately I didn't see it until it was right next to my front tire. I didn't hit it, but suspect that someone else did shortly after. It is not easy being green.

A real-life game of Frogger.
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Old 07-25-2019, 09:15 PM   #14
pbot
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Join Date: Apr 2001
Day 5: Centerville to Fairfield

Welcome to day five! Planned for 68 miles, actual was just over 70.

Same as yesterday, beautiful weather, fields, yada, yada, yada. We are close to Missouri so the hills were of the rolling variety. Nothing too steep or long, just lots of them. Most of the time the downhill from the prior hill provided enough momentum to make it a good way up the next one. Just a little bit of effort was generally enough to make it to the top.

First town was about 16 miles in to the day. The breakfast stop was packed, so I bought a granola bar and a drink and ate my last Clif bar.

The next town, Bloomfield, was the meeting town for the day. Each day, one town is designated as the meeting town where support drivers are allowed in to town to meet up with their teams. It usually has the best selection of food vendors. The quest for the elusive burger was on!

I circled the town square. Guess who I spotted? The plain cheese pizza shysters from the day before. As I walked past I heard them claim they had plain and pepperoni available. I was not about to fall for their shenanigans a second day in a row and just kept going.

As I rounded the final corner of the square, there it was...the Davis County Cattleman's booth! $6 for a cheeseburger, bag of chips, and a bottle of water. Hallelujah. Now it wasn't the best cheeseburger I've EVER had, but it was pretty damn good at the moment. I was ready to get back on the road, but was distracted by the Amish pie booth next door. That was delicious as well.

Finally headed back out around 11am. It was getting warmer, but the fields didn't turn evil like yesterday.

Eventually made it to Douds, IA and stopped at the firehouse for a hot dog and Gatorade. While in Douds, ran into one of the other team members who indicated there was a big climb out of town. At that point there were only 15 miles left in the day, so I headed out with a sense of dread.

I decided to listen to some music to distract from the climb. After a week of skinny white twentysomethings blasting hip hop and fat old guys blasting Hank Williams Jr, the people around me were about to pay for the sins of the others. The hill started, so did my music.

Not sure what was in the hot dog, maybe amphetamines(?), but all of the sudden my legs were supercharged. I started passing people going UP the hill. That just doesn't happen. The Earth exerts a strong gravitational pull on me, I'm designed for downhills. But it was cool. Besides when you're blasting Motley Crue, you can't spin up a hill...the hill must be attacked. 😁

There were a few more decent hills but between the music, and the mysteriously laced hot dog, I knocked out the last 15 miles pretty quickly.

If you believe Strava, and you probably shouldn't, I've burned just over 17,000 calories so far.

Two more days to go.

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Old 07-26-2019, 06:18 PM   #15
tarcone
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Pacific,MO
Yep, Iowa isnt just a flat state like Nebraska or Kansas.

And a state full of good people. Any good parties at any of your over night stops?
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Old 07-26-2019, 10:53 PM   #16
pbot
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Join Date: Apr 2001
Day 6: Fairfield to Burlington

Planned distance of 69 miles. Like the old AT&T commercial, is it better to have more or less? If someone is handing you $20 bills, more is generally better. If you're looking at Ragbrai estimated mileages, more than the estimate is definitely not better.

It started raining sometime after midnight but ended sometime around four-ish. I don't know exactly, as I was sleeping most of that time.

Tents were wet as we packed up but roads were dry when I left around 0640 under cool, cloudy skies.

The route was pretty flat overall, with just a couple of decent hills. To up the degree of difficulty, there was a persistent headwind or crosswind. Just enough to aggravate me and ensure that coasting was not an option.

The clouds burned off by about 10am and it started getting rather warm. The other issue with the flat terrain was that I could see a long ways down the road. There weren't many turns, so it was easy and demoralizing to see just how far ahead the line of bike riders stretched. At least with hills and turns it disguises what's up ahead, somewhat.

The pass through town had lame lunch options so I skipped it and went to the next town. My pizza pals from two days ago were there. They were offering free samples!

"Why yes, I'd love a free sample slice of pepperoni".

It was pretty good, and then I immediately headed over to the Mac n Cheese booth. Never said I wasn't vindictive and petty. "I'll be back in....four....minutes!". Ha ha ha.

Also bought some cookies to support the local high school band or science club or something. The bakers of Iowa make some killer pies but when it comes to homemade cookies...well, they make some killer pies.

The route continued...flat...hot...windy...sunny. Eventually we dropped into a river valley. I hit 40 mph on the drop, my fastest of the week so far.

We were routed through a state park that had a nice lake at the bottom of a different valley. After climbing back out of the valley, I estimated we had a few miles left.

Spotted three dead raccoons posed with beer cans. I did not stop to take pictures.

Eventually a sign said five miles left. That was definitely #fake news.

THIRTEEN miles later (what the hell, Ragbrai?)I pulled into the host home driveway with 77 miles on the books for the day.

More was not better.

Tomorrow's the last day. I think it's supposed to be 63 miles, but who knows? Maybe it'll be 73 or 47 or 86...

Alleged calories burned so far:. 21,241
Miles since Sunday (confirmed): 406

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Old 07-26-2019, 10:54 PM   #17
pbot
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Join Date: Apr 2001
I'm sure there have been some good parties, Tarcone, but the group I'm with is pretty laid back. Most go to sleep at sunset. We're generally up at 5am to pack and eat breakfast.

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Old 07-28-2019, 12:39 PM   #18
tarcone
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Pacific,MO
Enjoy dipping your front tire in the Mississippi today and congratulations on a great job.

I enjoyed following along with you.
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Old 07-29-2019, 11:07 AM   #19
pbot
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Join Date: Apr 2001
Day 7: Burlington to Keokuk
Last day.

Left before sunrise. I didn't take many pictures or stop more than needed, since as soon as I finished I had to start the long drive back to Pennsylvania. Day 7 was about finishing as quickly as possible.

The day soon turned sunny and warm. The first 20 miles just retraced the prior day's route in the opposite direction. Not sure that ever happened before, and it made the day seem longer. Usually the first 20 miles go quick, but on Saturday it made it go slow as it was the same scenery I saw the day prior.

A solid headwind that would last all day kicked in as well. Didn't matter what direction we turned, the wind adjusted and turned to face us, somehow. I didn't think that was possible, but it happened.

Eventually the route brought us back to the Mississippi River at Montrose Iowa, with about 10 miles to go. I assumed this would be a nice flat ride along the river into Keokuk.

Wrong.

Although the road ran alongside the river generally, it sometimes turned inland for a tiny bit and climbed some of the bluffs. After 60 miles, and seeing the time getting later and later, I was 'very @#$&@#& pleased' with this last surprise.☹️

I finished the day, and the week, shortly thereafter. Loaded all my gear into the SUV and started heading East.

I don't know if this year or last year was tougher physically. Time has a way of making you forget the physical challenge, short of a significant injury. Mentally, this year was much more difficult since it wasn't a totally new experience - just a different route to the same end goal of crossing Iowa.

Thanks for following along and the comments. I tried to give a different perspective beyond just reciting mileages and town names.

I'll post some pictures later.

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Old 10-28-2019, 01:41 PM   #20
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lolzcat
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: sans pants
PICTURES

Also!: Cycling fans fear future of RAGBRAI tradition | Nebraska News | journalstar.com
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Old 10-28-2019, 04:52 PM   #21
tarcone
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Pacific,MO
Coralville is my home town. Remember the bikers staying at the park across the street from the house I grew up in.
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Old 10-29-2019, 08:30 PM   #22
pbot
H.S. Freshman Team
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
I guess my pictures are too big to attach to a post, I'll try and resize them to upload, Subby.

Not happy about the split between Ragbrai and the former director. I fear it will lead to two crappy events next summer. And just ruin the overall experience moving forward, thankful I went twice before all this BS started, at least.

Not sure I will go again next year, waiting to see what happens over the next several months. Both my wife and brother had expressed interest in going in 2020, but now I don't want to drag them 900 miles to some half-assed event, so may look for something else instead.

Also feel bad for some of the companies impacted. The charter service I've used to get my bike from eastern Iowa to western Iowa the past two years can't support both events, so they sent out a survey to see which ride most people will choose and will eventually pick one. A decent chance their business will take about a 50% hit over this. There are many others in the same boat.
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