Another Missing Fish

Yesterday afternoon I cleaned my aquarium. I had cleaned it before going on RAGBRAI, but not well enough, so it needed cleaning again. This morning when I was feeding the fish, I noticed that one of the fish seemed to be missing. It is one of the three smallest fish in the aquarium, one of the tiger barbs. I thought it may have been hiding in either the skull or the pirate ship in the aquarium, but I didn't see it this afternoon either. This isn't the first time one of the fish in the aquarium has disappeared since I restocked it after moving to Minnesota. Last September one of the fish went missing as well.

This evening we went to Wal-Mart to do a little shopping. We picked up some fish food while there, and since we were in the fish section, we looked at the fish. I did like the oscars, and thought that one may make a good addition to the aquarium. I would be concerned though that it might want to eat the two remaining tiger barbs as they may be small enough for it to consume. The other fish are big enough not to be at risk though. However, after doing a bit mor reading on oscars, it sounds like my aquarium may be too small for one. I guess I will just keep the aquarium as is for now.


RAGBRAI Beer Bottle Montage

One item which seemed to pop up quite a bit on RAGBRAI was giant inflatable beer bottles. At least they appeared during the first half of the week. After leaving Chariton Thursday morning, I did not see any more of these monuments to the intoxicating beverage. Most of the bottles I notices were Miller Lite bottles, although in my travels I did encounter one Budweiser bottle in Martensdale, where there was also a Miller Lite bottle, and a Coors bottle in Chariton. If any of the towns on Thursday, Friday, or Saturday had a beer garden sponsored by Miller Lite, I do not know why the bottle wasn't present. Of course I may have just missed it as I sped through town. Anyway, please enjoy this montage of inflatable beer bottle to honor the main reason many people decide to go on RAGBRAI.



I'm sorry it has taken me so long to get to the final blog posting documenting my ride on RAGBRAI this year, but I didn't have a chance Saturday night or on Sunday, and I didn't have time yesterday because I had so much work to catch up with, but here it is, the blog posting for the final day of RAGBRAI 2009.

Friday evening in Mount Pleasant was fairly good until late in the evening. Shortly before 10:00, we were told that a storm was approaching which could produce winds up to 40 miles per hour, so we were urged to go to an emergency shelter. Before moving from the campsite though, we had some preparations to make. I made sure my tent was staked into the ground well; On a previous RAGBRAI I had problems when my tent was not secured well. We also had to move the bus as it was located at a location where we feared it may get stuck in the grass if it rained too much. After all of these preparations, nothing happened by some lightning off in the distance and some light rain. I suppose it was better to be prepared though in case something had happened.

Saturday's route wasn't very long, just over 43 miles. As it was the day we had to get down to the Mississippi River, there was a lot more going downhill than up, and to top it off, we had a nice tailwind for most of the ride. Because of these factors, we traveled the first 15 miles to New London in just about an hour. We stopped there for breakfast.

The only other town we passed through on Saturday was Lowell. We didn't stop there for very long, just long enough to refill our water bottles. However the remainder of the ride was so easy, and the temperatures were so nice, that I probably could have made it to the end without the refill.

We took a meal break where Tender Tom's and The Peanut Butter Jam had set up. While we were eating, we saw a Des Moines Sheriff's Department car speeding by in the opposite direction of the bicycle traffic. A minute or so later another law enforcement vehicle sped by as well. After seeing these, I had a suspicion that there may have been an accident at one of the big hills we had gone down earlier. A few minutes later, as we were getting ready to continue on our way to Burlington, an ambulance came by very quickly and it looked like they paramedics were working hard on someone inside. I have a suspicion that this may have been the victim of a fatal accident that took place near Geode State Park.

After our meal break, it didn't take us very long to make it to Burlington. Upon approaching the finish line, we were given the option to go straight down to the river or to ascend Burlington's Snake Alley. I had already gone up enough hills this week, so I decided to skip the optional ascent.

Once Rebecca, Jen, and I all arrived at the finish line, we joined the throng of people waiting to dip their bike tires in the Mississippi River.

After finding the Superior Hawgs bus, which was not far from the finish line, I got my belongings off in anticipation of Mel's arrival. It wasn't long before Mel got there to pick me up. It was good to see her since it had been a week that I had been gone.

Mel and I drove to Ankeny that afternoon where we were reunited with Emma who had been staying at Mel's sister's house for the week, playing with her cousins. It was also nice to see her again. We stayed the night in Ankeny Saturday before returning home to Minnesota on Sunday.

While the ride started out with me wondering why I was doing this for a tenth time, as usual, it ended with me ready to go again, after quite a bit of rest. I think the fact that I rode every mile of this year's route, including not walking up any hills, really makes this feeling more intense. Unfortunately, it looks like we won't be able to make it to RAGBRAI next year. Hopefully though, we will be back in 2011.


RAGBRAI XXXVII - Hot and Windy

Today started out to be a fairly nice day. We had a really steep hill coming out of Ottumwa, but other than that, the hills seemed to be manageable early on. We made our first stop of the day near the town of Hendrick. To get to the town, we would have needed to take a gravel road for a mile or two, and then another one to come back. Instead, we stopped for breakfast burritos from the Farm Boys. They were yummy!

We stopped in Packwood for our first lunch. I had a hot dog and a lemonade there. Our next lunch stop was in Brighton, where I had a walking taco and whoopie! That would be whoopie pie. After we left Brighton, things turned bad.

For most of the ride after Brighton, we had strong headwinds. And to make matters worse, the next town, where we had hoped to stop, didn't seem to be a town at all. Me took a fairly good rest in Lockridge before finishing our trek to Mount Pleasant. The last third of the day, when it was hot and we had headwinds, took almost as long as the first two thirds of the trip did, but we all managed to make it. Now we have one day to go!

RAGBRAI XXXVII - A Long, But Good Day

Once again, I didn't have chance to compose Thursday's blog posting yesterday, so I am taking care of it today.

To begin, I need to wrap up the events of Wednesday evening. Wednesday night, my sister, Jen, and Matt went to downtown Chariton to see Hariball, an '80s rock cover band, perform. They were fantastic! I think they were the best performance I have seen so far all week. Despite that, I didn't stay for the entire performance. I left when the band took its break since I had a long ride on Thursday.

Around 4:00 Thursday morning, there were some thunderstorms in Chariton, but fortunately they cleared up around 5:30, allowing us to leave in dry weather, although my tent was soaking wet when I packed it up.

Our first stop on Thursday was for Chris Cakes pancakes in Millerton. It was as good as usual, but I ate a couple too many pancakes. Fortunately that did not affect my ride.

Our ride was very nice on Thursday. There was a tailwind for the northward portions of our ride, and the hills were really not all that bad. In fact, we had more downhill than uphill today.
We made some brief stops in Confidence and Iconium where we grabbed little bites to eat. We did have a bit of lunch at the Honey Creek Resort, which is operated by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. I had a brat and a beer there. They were selling some beers that are brewed in Des Moines. So for the second day in a row, I had a beer before noon. Unfortunately, it was quite muddy from the morning rain, and as a consequence, we had to spend some time cleaning our shoes before departing from there.

We made short stops during the rest of the day Thursday, but we didn't really stop anywhere else for too long. As we were approaching Ottumwa, we saw some dark clouds in the distance. Just as we were entering the town, it started to sprinkle. By the time I found out where my campground was, it began pouring down rain. I was drenched by the time I found my campsite. Fortunately the sun soon came back out and everything dried up.

I didn't do much in the evening as we were far from most of the activities, and I was tired, so I went to bed a bit early.


RAGBRAI XXXVII - A Nice, Short Day

As I said in my last blog posting regarding RAGBRAI. Last night I met my sister and her friends in downtown Indianola. While we were there, we got our photo taken with an old friend of Rebecca's, a Dairy Queen cone.

Today was a much nicer day to ride than the previous days this week. The temperature was fairly nice. I think it probably got up to the eighties today. Also the hills were not as bad. And to top it all off, the day was short coming in at around 44 miles!

Our first stop of the day was in Sandyville where we had French toast and sausage for breakfast. We then made a stop in Milo where their theme was based on the TV show M*A*S*H. Here Jen, Rebecca, and I are pictured with person in a ten-foot-tall inflatable army man costume.

After our time in Milo, we continued down the road to Lacona. In Lacona we ran into Robin and Captain America. These two are on their first RAGBRAI. They were only wearing their costumes today.

We also had a lunch stoping in Lacona. We went to Rudy's Rendezvous where they had the most amazing tacos for a bar! Since it was such a short day, Rebecca and I also decided to have a beer since they were serving Flat Tire in addition to Bud and Bud Light. This was also the only town I have been to on RAGBRAI where they were actually encouraging us to take beer out of the beer garden. They had some music set up across the street and people we wandering over there with their adult beverages. There will be a picture coming of this once I return home.

Our next stop was for Beekman's Homemade Ice Cream. The line was long, much longer than yesterday, but it was worth the wait. While we were getting off our bikes, an 84-year-old man who was riding RAGBRAI fell off his bike. We helped him out. Fortunately he was alright.

Less than an hour after leaving the ice cream stop, we were in Chariton. We haven't eaten dinner yet, so any details about that which I feel I need to blog about will be in tomorrow's posting.

RAGBRAI XXXVII - A Long and Hilly Day

I did not have a chance to blog last night, so as I arrived in Chariton today, I stopped at the Iowa Telecom trailer before going to camp so I could blog about Tuesday's RAGBRAI ride.

The day started out pretty cool, and while Rebecca, Jen, and I were eating cinnamon rolls at the Orient-Macksburg High School in Orient, it began to rain. The rain plagued us for a good part of the day before it finally gave way in the afternoon.

While the cinnamon roll in Orient was quite large, I did not find it to be a sufficient breakfast, so when we stopped in Macksburg, I decided to have the best possible thing for breakfast, a half-pound tenderloin. It was quite a yummy sandwich despite the fact that it was only around 8:30 in the morning.

Before leaving Macksburg, we had to stop to watch the skillet tossing. The participants got to toss two skillets at a mannequin with a basketball for a head. The goal was to knock the basketball off. I am not sure what prize, if any, was given to those who were successful. The photo below shows a guy who was riding a bike in a banana costume try the skillet toss.

Much of the ride today was in Madison County, the Iowa county famous for its bridges. Since we were passing through the area, I thought I should take some photos of the bridges of Madison County. Below is one of the many bridges in Madison County. This one however, is not one of the famed covered bridges, but rather just an ordinaty bridge.

I was not going to let that first bridge deter me on my quest to see the famed bridges of Madison County. The next thing that gave me hope on the day was the Covered Bridge Arena. However, it still was not really a covered bridge. In fact, it wasn't a bridge at all.

There were signs all throughout the county mentioning that the county has covered bridges, but we had yet to see one. My hopes were up when the town of Saint Charles had a mini covered bridge on the main street through town. Nevertheless, it was not a true covered bridge.

Finally, just on the outside of Saint Charles, Rebecca and I spotted a covered bridge, and here it is.

Tuesday was a fairly long and chilly day, but I made it to the end and felt pretty good once arriving in Indianola. I went to Hy-Vee for dinner with some of the Superior Hawgs, a former Hawg, and two Hawgs who couldn't make it on the ride this year, eating way too much at the Chineese buffet. That is one delicacy that I miss not having a Hy-Vee near home.

A group of us checked out the beer garden later in the evening. It was a pretty big party. We didn't stay too long though, but still had a great time.


RAGBRAI XXXVII - Hills, Hills, Rain, and Hills

Today was another very hilly day on RAGBRAI. The feet of climbing per mile travelled was about the same as it was yesterday, but today was about twenty miles longer. The hills kept coming and coming, with very little respite. On the plus side, the temperature was pretty nice. It was a bit cool, but that was better than if it had been really hot.

I rode again today with my sister Rebecca and her friend Jen. Our first stop of the day was in Stanton. We had a bite to eat there. The place where I got food did not have listed prices, but instead asked for a free-will donation. I would guess that people tend to give more than they would otherwise have paid if the prices were listed. In Stanton where was some Sweedish dancing. Some of the RAGBRAI riders joined the dancers.

Our next stop of the day was in Villisca, where we ate a bit more. I had a Tyson chicken sandwich. Tyson is giving all of their proceeds from this week on RAGBRAI to help eliminate childhood hunger in Iowa Before leaving Villisca, we stopped by the famous Vilisca Ax Murder House. We didn't take the tour of the house, but did check out the barn.

Our next stop was for lunch in Corning, the birthplace of Johny Carson. We didn't stop by his home there, but we did spend a lot of time in Corning. By the time we left, it had begun to drizzle.

The precipitation was mostly limited to some sprinkling, but it did get heavier at times. We stopped again in Prescott so Jen could have some repairs done to her bike. While Jen was waiting to have her bike fixed, Rebecca and I checked out a 3,050-pound bull that they had there.

The rain continued for most of the remainder of our ride to Greenfield. We did make one last stop in Williamson before completing our ride for the day.

Fortunately the rain slowed a bit as I set up my tent. I ate dinner tonight in Greenfield's town square where I found the Iowa Telecom trailer from which I wrote this blog entry. Stay tuned for further reports on my journey across Iowa. And be sure to come back after the ride when I may add more details to each day's entry.


RAGBRAI XXXVII - What the Hell Was I Thinking?

Last night my sister, two friends of hers, and I went to Rib Fest in Council Bluffs for dinner. After eating we stayed to see the Barenaked Ladies perform. Their performance did not begin until after 9:30. We stayed to watch them until around 10:30, but most of the songs they were singing were not songs with which we were familiar, and we were getting tired, so we left before the show was over.

Our first day of the bike ride began by riding through Council Bluffs until we got out of town. On our route, we passed by the condominium that my grandmother used to live in before she moved to Minnesota. Once we left the city, we were greeted with a sign informing us that Pottawattamie County was not responsible for any accident we had due to the condition of the road. I wondered if this sign really did release them from any liability.

Shortly after leaving Council Bluffs, we encountered a really long hill. This hill wasn't too bad, but the hills just kept coming and coming. It was while riding up these apparently never-ending hills that I wondered what the hell I had gotten myself into. We took frequent breaks to recover from the hills though, and that made things go much better. Fortunately the temperature was nice, and it wasn't too windy. If either of those conditions were different, today could have been much worse.

Among the stops we made today was a rather late lunch stop at Pastafari. The pasta was pretty good, although a bit pricey. I would have liked to add the salmon to my pasta, but I didn't want to spend the additional seven dollars. If we stop later in the week, maybe I can get someone to split the salmon with me.

We eventually made it to Red Oak, although it took longer than I had anticipated. The Superior Hawgs have a good camping location tonight, not to far from food vendors and Internet access. There was a long like to get on the computers tonight, so I should probably go. I will add more details about my trip as the week progresses and once I get home.


RAGBRAI XXXVII - The Trip to Council Bluffs

This morning Mel dropped me off at the Superior Hawgs' bus in Evansdale. We have a lot of newcomers with the group this year and very few returning riders. It took us a bit longer to load than I expected it would. We were supposed to leave at 8:00, but it ended up being 9:30 before we hit the road.

The drive to Council Bluffs was fairly uneventful. We stopped for lunch at Hickory Park in Ames. It was very busy there, so we got our meals to go and just ate outside before reboarding the bus and getting on our way. There was one incident on our journey that did make it a bit more exciting for usual. As we were passing through a very small town, I suddenly heard the bus driver shout out "oh shit!" When I looked up, a car was heading right toward us in our lane. Apparently he was being a bit impatient and decided to pass a few other cars while we were coming. We swerved onto the shoulder as did some of the cars in the other lane. The dumbass driver then just kept going.

After getting the tent set up in Council Bluffs. I rode over to the pedestrian bridge which crosses the Missouri River. They were pumping water over the deck of the bridge to serve as an alternative to dipping the bike tires in the Missouri River. The bridge was really cool.

I met my sister at the bridge. We started out on a ride to find the house that my grandmother used to live in in Council Bluffs, but it was a bit farther than we anticipated and we ended up returning to our camps.

After returning to our camps, we headed over to the bike expo to check things out (and to blog). We plan on entering going to Council Bluffs' Rib Fest where we will eat dinner and then see the Barenaked Ladies perform. I'll be sure to blog about that tomorrow, or whenever I get back on a computer.

On our way through the campground, we saw this setup of tents. This is a group which provides the tents for their riders and sets them up for them. I just wonder how hard it would be to find one's tent when stumbling back in the dark after having a bit to drink.

I would like to close by thanking Iowa Telecom for the excellent Internet access they provide during RAGBRAI.

Ready to Go

In just over an hour and a half, I will be on the Superior Hawgs' bus, on my way to Council Bluffs, Iowa, for my tenth RAGBRAI! Mel and I came down last night, meeting my sister-in-law partway to leave Emma with her. We then proceeded to Waterloo, where we stayed with my mother for the evening. We had dinner at the Texas Roadhouse in Cedar Falls. We hadn't been to a Texas Roadhouse in quite a while as there are no locations near our home in the Twin Cities. Unfortunately, as I have previously stated, Mel won't be joining me on the ride this year. However, she does get to enjoy a quiet week at home without me or Emma to deal with. I hope she manages to be able to relax some.



Stay tuned this coming week for updates as I ride across Iowa on RAGBRAI. And if my blog entries are not good enough for you, my sister and a friend of hers will also be writing about their ride across the state at their blog, Jen and Rebecca See the World.


Getting Ready for RAGBRAI

Next week I will be riding on my tenth RAGBRAI, the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. I definitely feel more prepared for this year's ride than I did last year, but I still feel woefully unprepared. Because Mel started her job in the Twin Cities at the end of May, I was left in Cedar Rapids watching Emma on my own until we got moved to the Cities in July. This made it very difficult to do much training last year. Prior to RAGBRAI, I managed to only get 22.66 miles of riding in. This year, I have ridden 98.16 miles so far. This seems like an improvement, but this year is supposed to be fairly hilly, and I have done very little training on hills. Hopefully the first couple of days will serve to adequately prepare me for the remainder of the week.

In other ways, I am somewhat more prepared for the week of cycling across Iowa. I set up the tent earlier in the week to make sure that it was still in good condition, and that I had the correct poles. I have laid out clothes for the week, although I can't finish packing it up until I do laundry tomorrow morning. I still need to gather the electronic devices together that I need, such as a phone charger and the charger for the digital camera battery. I also need to gather all of my cycling gear together as well as locate my sleeping bag.

I am wondering about who will be riding with my group this year. By the Register's registration deadline, only eight people were listed with the team. However, an email I got from the person driving our bus indicates that there are sixteen people, with a good possibility of ending up with a total of between twenty-four and twenty-eight. I guess I will find out Saturday morning how crowded the bus will be for the ride from Evansdale, Iowa, to Council Bluffs.


12:34:56 7/8/09

For some reason, I saw many people making a big deal about 12:34:56 pm today. This was due to the numbers in the date and time making a sequence of the digits 1 through 9. Well, it was 1 through 9 if you ignore the zero, or if you write today's date as 7/8/9. Personally, I have seen very few people write the year 2009 as the single digit 9. I have read that this is the only time this century that this will happen. My hometown newspaper, the Cedar Rapids Gazette, even had an article about this "phenomenon." For the article, the reported consulted with a mathematics professor who confirmed that this would indeed happen again in the year 2109.

The professor did point out that the only time this trule happened was in the year 9. Well actually it would have happened in the years 9 CE and 9 BCE. Of course this calendar system wasn't used in those years, and while I do not know how time was recorded then, I doubt it was with this much accuracy.

What the article failed to mention was that a sequence of the digits 1 through 9 will happen again at 1:23:45 on 6/7/89, as well as on 12:03:45 6/7/89, and 12:34:05 6/7/89. In the latter two of these, the zero would have to be ignored as it is with today's date.



Saturday night Mel, Emma, and I went to see the Independence Day fireworks in Woodbury. This was Emma's first experience viewing fireworks. Last year we had just moved to the area and were having a hard enough time getting Emma to settle down to go to bed, so we didn't go. Prior to Saturday night, we had been preparing Emma for the fireworks telling her that they would be pretty but they would also be loud. As Emma does not care for loud noises, we thought that she needed to be ready.

We arrived in Ojibway Park around 7:30 and found a spot from which to view the fireworks. While we waited, Emma and I went to the playground equipment nearby so she could play. On our way back to where Mel was sitting, we stopped to look at a firetruck from the Woodbury Fire Department. Emma was familiar with firetrucks since one had visited them at daycare on Thursday, but she was still excited to see it. She even got to shoot some water with a small fire extinguisher! It was tough getting her away from the firetruck, but we eventually got back to our seats.

Emma actually did really well with the fireworks. She was a little frightened by the loud noises at first, so I covered her ears so she could watch without being too bothered by the noise. She did keep putting her head down though. I am not sure if she was frightened by the fireworks, or if she was just tired, since it was two and a half hours past her bedtime. Overall she appeared to enjoy the fireworks. She ended up falling asleep about five or ten minutes after getting back in the car, but before we even got out of the parking lot.


Happy Fourth of July

To celebrate Independence Day, I am going to treat you to this performance of "Stars and Stripes Forever" by the Muppets.


One Year in Minnesota

It was one year ago today that Emma and I moved into our house in Minnesota. Mel had been in the Twin Cities since the week before Memorial Day last year, but it wasn't until July 3 that Emma and I made the move. Overall things have gone fairly well. We had to make some repairs to the house, such as replacing the filthy carpet in the basement and repairing some leaks in the plumbing. We have also made some other upgrades such as replacing the fuse box with a circuit breaker and replacing the bathtub and bathroom sink. There are still some other things we need to take care of, mainly reshingling the roof and taking care of some landscaping. We will get to those at some point in the future.

We do enjoy living in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area. There are plenty of things to do nearby, such as going to the Minnesota Zoo, the Science Museum of Minnesota, or the Mall of America. We have also made it to a couple of Minnesota Twins games, and there are plenty of restaurants to choose from in the area. Mel also enjoys her job much more than her previous job, and I line working from home for the most part, although I do miss the face-to-face interaction with my colleagues.

Despite all the things we like about the Cities, we do miss Cedar Rapids. We have some very good friends there who, unfortunately, we don't get to see as often as we would like, and the people in our old neighborhood in Cedar Rapids were much friendlier than those who live in our neighborhood in Cottage Grove. Upon moving into our house in Cedar Rapids we were greeted by our new neighbors. Here we have barely spoken with any of them. The main conversation I have had with out neighbors was when they wanted to know if we called the police on their dogs. And by the way, it wasn't us. Hopefully we can have some more positive interactions with our neighbors, although I can guess that is we somehow became wealthy enough for Mel to not have to work, we would probably move back to Iowa.


Finishing the Bathroom

Last summer, while Mel and I were on RAGBRAI, we had some work done in our bathroom. We had just moved into our house that July, and the bathtub we had was somewhat disgusting, so we had some plumbers replace the bathtub with a new one. They also replaced the sink. Well, installing the new shower surround involved cutting away some of the drywall around the shower surround so they could fasten the new surround to the studs. Being that they were plumbers though, their work ended with the plumbing. So the gap around the tub has been exposed for nearly a year. Also, there have been two different types of flooring in the bathroom since a vanity was removed. (The photo of the floor, the third photo, is rotated 90 degrees counterclockwise from how it should be. I am unable to change that.)

A few months before selling out house in Cedar Rapids, we actually had made similar changes to the main bathroom there. Of course this was before we had any idea that we would be moving, otherwise we probably would not have done as much as we did. But when we had the wall patched around the tub there, it cost us a little over $500, if I remember correctly. I decided it would be worth the money to tackle this job myself.

So today, I took most of the day off from work and began patching the holes in the wall. It was a little difficult to get the drywall cut to exactly the correct size, but I managed to do alright. The bathroom definitely won't look like it was done by a professional, but I think it should be adequate. Besides, most people won't see inside the shower anyway since the shower curtain is usually closed.

I am currently waiting for the joint compound around the showed to dry so I can sand it and apply more. Hopefully I can apply the texture to the new drywall tomorrow morning and maybe paint later in the day. Then we can replace the floor. Hopefully we can get this all done this weekend.