Reflections on RAGBRAI XXXIV

The final day of RAGBRAI XXXIV on Saturday went quite well. It was hot, but I was able to make it from Coralville to Muscatine by 9:30. The final day's ride wasn't too tough. I only rested for a total of 20 minutes that last day because I really wanted to make it to the end to dip my bike tires in the Mississippi River.

Dipping the bike in the Mississippi River
This year's ride definitely had its ups and downs. The first few days were quite hilly, there was the heat and humidity, and let's not forget the violent thunderstorms Tuesday night. Then of course there was the appearances of Lance Armstrong in Newton and Coralville with his riding on Wednesday and Thursday.

While riding on Monday and Tuesday, I was thinking that this would be my final RAGBRAI, at least for a while. I thought that I should take next year off. This is a thought that I frequently have in the early days of each year's RAGBRAI. However, by the end of the week, I had completely pushed that thought out of my mind. I am really looking forward to riding on my eighth RAGBRAI next summer if I can. Of course, if the route is through southern Iowa, I may have to reconsider that.

It's amazing that a group of over 10,000 strangers can get together for a week of bike riding and completely trust each other. In every town we pass through, cyclists leave their bikes unlocked as they go to get something to eat or to use the restroom. The hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of bikes that sit around unsecured just boggles the mind.

Even those who would not normally get along . . .

Cy and a Hawkeye fancan end up getting along.

Cy and a Hawkeye fan
I do have one regret about this year's RAGBRAI. I really wish I would have ridden the century loop on Thursday. At the moment I got to the loop during the ride, I didn't think I'd have the energy to make it. However, as the clouds covered the sun later in the day and it got a little less hot, I think I would have been able to make it. I can always try it next year.

I am looking forward to riding on RAGBRAI again next year. I only have 356 days to get ready for RAGBRAI XXXV!


Hot and Humid

Today's ride from Marengo to Coralville was fairly easy, but it was pretty hot and humid. I left our campsite shortly before 6:00 and was in Coralville by 9:35. The only really challenging part of today's ride was a steep hill going into Cosgrove. That hill was awful! To make it worse, we had to turn before going up the hill, so we lost much of the momentum that we already had. I only stopped once today. That was for breakfast in Williamsburg, where I had some breakfast pizza.

Tonight we are staying at the house of one of my coworkers, and the hospitality is fantastic! Her husband picked up a keg of Bud Lite from Hy-Vee, and they even cooked dinner for us. I did not partake of the dinner because my wife came down from Cedar Rapids to see me. We went across town to dinner so we could avoid the crowd from the RAGBRAI riders. I can't wait to see her again tomorrow morning when she picks me up in Muscatine.

Here are some photos I have taken so far on the ride. Once I get home I am going to fix them up so they load faster.

The first photo is of the Superior Hawgs team bus as we are loading it in the parking lot of the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.

Superior Hawgs bus
Here I am dipping the rear tire of my bike in the Missouri River near Sergeant Bluff.

Tire dipping in the Missouri River

The Cookies Barbeque Sauce guy was cooking up food in one of the towns on Tuesday. I think it was Redfield.

Cookies BBQ guy
Here's Lance Armstrong as he spoke in Newton on Wednesday.

Lance Armstrong in Netwon, Iowa
Riders were encouraged to wear yellow on Thursday in honor of Lance Armstrong and the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Yellow jersey day


Seeing Lance Armstrong

The rest of yesterday's ride was pretty good. It wasn't too hilly, but it was warm. I went to downtown Newton early last night to see Lance Armstrong when he appeared at 8:00 p.m. He gave a short speech after receiving a proclamation from the state's first lady. In his speech he spoke about how more money needs to go to cancer research. He also indicated that he planned to ride all of RAGBRAI next summer.

Today's ride from Newton to Marengo wasn't too bad. There were quite a few hills early in the day and it was hot and humid, but at least the sun was hidden behind clouds for a good portion of the ride. Also, the last 14 or so miles from Victor to Marengo were fairly flat. It is still really hot this afternoon. The temperature is only 85 degrees, but it is very humid. Hopefully it cools off for sleeping later.


Stormy Night

I am a bit tired today after not getting much sleep last night. Two big thunderstorms came through Waukee while we were camping there. The first one was around 11:00 in the evening. I stayed in my tent during the storm, watching the lightning and the people who were running down the sidewalk for cover. That storm seemed to last a while, but I don't think it was more than 20 minutes or so. Then right around midnight, a announcement was made over loudspeakers that another storm was coming in about 15 minutes and the emergency shelters would be opened. I opted not to go to the shelter, after all, it was just a thunderstorm, not a tornado, but I did leave my tent to sit on the bus, which was located a few feet from my tent. The storms seemed to miss us for a while, but after a couple more announcements about storms, one came through around 2:30 a.m. that lasted until around 3:00. It was then that I finally got some sleep. My tent did withstand the 20-mile-per-hour winds that came with this storm better than my tent survived the big storm on last year's RAGBRAI. I just heard that more storms are expected for tonight. Great!

The ride today hasn't been too bad. There aren't as many hills, but we have had head winds much of the day. Right now I am in Elkhart, after passing through Granger and Polk City. I am about 30 miles into the ride today with another 40 to go. Stay tuned for more coverage of RAGBRAI XXXIV from Mathman.


RAGBRAI XXXIV Days 1 through 3

I'm writing this post to my blog from a Iowa Telecom trailer in Waukee. I'd post some photos with this blog entry, but I don't want to mess with plugging my camera into the computer. With is attached to the table, it's hard to reach the USB ports.

Anyway, I thought I'd update everyone on how my first few days of RAGBRAI have gone so far. We had a long bus ride from Cedar Falls to Sergeant Bluff on Saturday. We had to stop twice for repairs. The first time coincided with our lunch in Fort Dodge. The generator, which we haven't yet used, was leaking some oil. We spent an hour or so getting it fixed. Then later, we stopped in the western Iowa town of Early to fill the water tanks on our bus. It was then that we discovered a leak in the hose for the shower. We spent an hour or so there as well. Fortunately, we were parked at Crossroads Restaurant and Lounge. We spent some time enjoying margaritas and other adult beverages as the hose was being replaced. We did eventually get to Sergeant Bluff by 5:00. A couple of other members of our team and I made the mistake of going to dip our bike tires in the Missouri River. After riding five miles, three of which on very bad gravel and sand, we got to the river. We then got to repeat the trip to get back to our campground.

Sunday morning, some of us departed from Sergeant Bluff around 6:15. Our ride took us through the towns of Bronson, Anthon and Battle Creek. I had been told that this would be one of the hardest days on the ride, but it wasn't too bad. The nice tailwind we had throughout the day made out eastward journey fairly easy, despite the hills. I arrived in Ida Grove by 11:30 a.m.

While Sunday wasn't bad, Monday was brutal! We had strong headwinds most of the day. Our only respite from the wind was for the brief parts of the ride when we headed east, and by then we were so exhausted that I didn't feel much difference. The hills were just as bad as the day before, but the wind made it so much worse. On Monday we passed through only three towns, Boyer (which was barely a town), Arcadia, and Manning, before arriving in Audubon. The 77-mile ride took us from 6:00 until 3:30 p.m.!

Today was much better. Despite being hilly as well, we didn't have a headwind. I was able to make it to Waukee by 1:00. The bus however, didn't arrive until after 3:00! Needless to say, some of our team were quite upset. Hopefully the bus arrives before us tomorrow.

I may post some more later in the week if I get the chance. I'll also put up some photos once I get back home.


Returning the Tent

I tried to set up our new tent last night so I would know how to do it when I am on RAGBRAI next week, but one of the parts was damaged. So after work today, I have to stop by Scheels in Coralville to exchange it for another one. Aside from the damaged part, the tent is really nice. It's pretty big, almost too big for RAGBRAI. However, the size will be good if Mel and I ever go camping together or if she joins me on RAGBRAI next year.

Because I'll be on RAGBRAI, I may not be blogging much next week. I may try to find a computer to post some entries to my blog while I gone though, but don't be surprised if I don't write regularly next week.


My Damned Honesty

Once again, trying to do the right thing doesn't pay off. As I have previously written about, my wife and I bought a new car at the end of January. This car came with an XM satellite radio with three free months of service. We enjoyed listening to the XM radio, but we decided it wasn't worth paying the $13 or so each month that the service would cost to continue after three months. April ended and I was expecting the XM radio to stop working. It continued to work. Recently I decided that I had better call them because I would hate to get a bill for months of service. Apparently the ID connected to our XM radio was not associated with any other information, so they had no idea that the radio was working I guess. We could have continued listening to the XM radio for free! Anyway, the customer service representative said it would be deactivated soon. Maybe he did something wrong, because four hours later, when I was driving home from work, I noticed that the radio was still working. If it continues to work I can be comfortable with the fact that I tried to do the right thing and be honest. It's not my fault if the customer service representative didn't properly deactivate my radio.

Getting Ready for RAGBRAI

Mel and I bought a new tent this past weekend for me to use on RAGBRAI. I was going to set it up last night so I could seal the seams and so I'd know how to set it up when I need to next week. However, just as I was thinking about doing it, I saw that there was a storm in Benton County, just west of my home. Therefore, I held of on setting up the tent. I'd like to treat the seams before it gets rained on. Hopefully I can take care of that tonight.


My Sister and President Bush

My sister is in Germany for a few weeks for a program of some kind. I'm not exactly sure what she is doing there, but anyway, I got an email from my mom last night urging me to check out this AP photo on Yahoo! My sister is the head at the center of the bottom of the photo, the one with the outstreached arm clad in black.

Here's another photo of President Bush in Germany. My sister is not in this photo, I just found it amusing and thought I'd share it.


License to Steal

It looks like if you want to shoplift items valued under $25 from Wal-Mart, you not have carte blanche to do so. According to an article on CNN.com, Wal-Mart will now only prosecute shoplifters who are caught taking merchandise worth $25 or more. So carefully add up those prices before walking off without paying at your local Wal-Mart.



Well, I'm stuck at the place where I am having meetings this week. I would have liked to return to my hotel 45 minutes ago, but I have to wait for a couple other people to get done with their meetings for today. At least this gave be a chance to get caught up on the 55 email messages that I missed at work since leaving for Minnesota yesterday.


Back to Minnesota

I'm back, in Minnesota that is. It's time for another few days in the Twin Cities for work running committee meetings to look at test questions. I usually enjoy these meetings, and I'm sure this time will be no different. Driving from Cedar Rapids to Saint Paul does make for a long day though after spending four hours in the office in the morning. We used to stay at a hotel in Bloomington in which all of the rooms were suites with separate living rooms and bedrooms. This hotel does not have that, but this time I am in an executive suite which is just a standard room with a refrigerator and a microwave hidden in the armoire. The room also has a Sleep Number bed. From previous stays here, I think I have determined that my Sleep Number is 40. And of course, the dining out is always nice while here on business. We usually go to places we can't go to back in Cedar Rapids. I am really going to try to be good with not overeating this time.


Beer, Beer, Beer

Last night Mel and I went to the wedding reception for her supervisor from work. We went with a few other of her coworkers, one of whom happens to be a former student of mine from when I taught at Highland in Riverside, Iowa. It was a lot of fun, considering that I knew neither the bride nor the groom. We all pretty much sat at our table at the back of the reception hall. I kept walking across the room to the tap to keep our pitcher of beer full. I much say that we had plenty to drink.

I had been thinking about relaxing a bit this morning before starting to work on cleaning the basement, but I think I will go out for a bike ride instead. I could use some exercise to burn off the calories from all that beer. Besides, today will be the last day I have a chance to go cycling as I'll be in Minnesota for work all this week. My goal is to ride at least 25 miles today. I was hoping to reach that point yesterday, but I came up 1.12 miles short. At least I didn't get a flat tire this time. In fact, I think I will follow the same route I was riding last Monday when I did get a flat tire. This time I'll keep a better eye out for glass!


Excellent Movie!

Mel and I saw Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest last night and we both loved the movie! It was packed full of action and humor. The special effects and costumes were fantastic. Some of the fight scenes were great. I have to say that I had never before seen a three-way sword fight in a movie (or in real life for that matter). I think Mel and I may have to go see the movie once again before it leaves the theaters. Now I really can't wait until next summer when the next installment of Pirates of the Caribbean is released so I can see the resolution of the movie's cliffhanger.


She Wants to be a Pirate

Mel with a pirate skeletonIn honor of today's release of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, this week's photo of the week is of my wife standing behind a pirate skeleton (or is it a skeleton pirate) at the Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, Jamaica. We already have tickets to see the movie tonight. As soon as I get home from work, we are heading over to the theater for what should be a great movie. Mel has been really excited about seeing this. We had considered going to the midnight showing of the movie this morning as she doesn't have to work today, but I didn't think I'd want to show up at work exhausted. That's why I took a personal day from school last year for the opening of the final Star Wars movie.


Jamaica Part 5 - The Final Two Days

It’s been a few days since I have blogged about Mel’s and my trip to Jamaica, so I suppose I should finish up with the posts on Jamaica. For most of the last two full days we were in Jamaica, Thursday and Friday, we were at the resort’s beach. After having breakfast at the buffet at one of the restaurants, we went to the beach. For about six hours both of the days, we alternated between lying in the beach chairs and swimming in the sea. Leaving the beach on Friday was difficult as it would be the last time we would be there on this trip.

Drinking a rum and cokeFriday evening was the bon voyage party in the pavilion on the Manor side of the resort. We enjoyed the buffet and the drinks. However we didn’t stay for the main festivities of the party. At 8:00, we headed back toward our cottage on the Riviera side of the resort. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 7:13 Saturday morning, and with a two hour drive there as well as needing to get there a couple hours before the flight left, we wouldn’t be getting much sleep.

We checked out of the hotel at 2:00 in the morning and by 3:00 we were on a bus to the airport. We really enjoyed our trip to Jamaica and our stay at Sandals Grande Ocho Rios. We are hoping that we will have a chance to visit again. If we do go again, you can be sure that our flight back home will not be leaving at 7:00 in the morning!

The sunset in Jamaica


Happy Independence Day!

I hope everyone is having a happy Independence Day. Mel and I took the opportunity to relax most of the day. We did go see Superman Returns this afternoon. It was a good movie. I am really glad that I watched the 1978 Superman earlier this weekend on the satellite TV. Some of the lines from this movie were taken directly from the original movie and other parts made references to parts of that movie. I also liked how the opening credits were similar in style to the original Superman, and even though he didn't compose the music for the movie, John Williams's original Superman theme was of course used. We enjoyed the movie, even though it was a bit long. It seemed to me that there were parts that could have been cut some.

This was the second movie we had seen in four days. We saw The Da Vinci Code on Saturday. It was also a good movie. It was full of action and I really liked Tom Hanks's character. He wasn't the typical hero from an action film, but it really worked in this movie. The movie also brought up some interesting ideas. Now I think I should read the book.

We'll be seeing another movie next weekend when Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest opens.


No-Work Monday

I really enjoyed not having to go to work today. I was able to sleep in come, getting up at 7:30 instead of my usual 5:30. I then went for another bike ride. I rode 25 miles before I got a flat tire. Unfortunately I didn't have a spare tube with me. I was still a few miles from home, but Homercles was kind enough to come pick me up. The two of us had a nice lunch at Bennigan's. I had hoped to buy some spare tubes for my bike after lunch, but both bike shops in town were closed for the Independence Day holiday, so unless I drive down to Scheels in Coralville tomorrow, I won't be out again on my bike until at least Wednesday.


A Beautiful Afternoon

Mel is off shopping with some friends today, so I thought I'd take advantage of this beautiful afternoon to get some cycling in. I just got back from a thirty-seven-mile bike ride, and it was great! I'd have ridden longer, but Mel should be home soon and we have plans for the evening. We are going to be watching Mel's friend's four-year-old son while his mom plays softball this evening. Perhaps I'll be able to get out for another lengthy ride tomorrow morning.


The Superior Hawgs

Superior Hawgs RAGBRAI BusThis week's photo of the week was taken before last year's RAGBRAI. It shows the team bus for the Superior Hawgs, the group I ride with. This year the bus had a fresh coat of paint. This was a very good thing, as the year before, we got pulled over for having a bus that was school bus yellow. Apparently only busses used to transport students to and from school can be school bus yellow.