I Hate Needles

Despite the fact that I hate needles, I donated blood today. This was only the second time since we moved to Minnesota in 2008 that I donated blood. I gave pretty regularly before we moved here, but once we moved I just never got around to it. Donating blood is not something I enjoy doing, but it is something that I feel I should do, especially considering that my blood type is O negative. I know that there are people who need my blood, and since I am healthy and can donate it, I am more than willing to put up with a little pain as long as my blood is wanted.


Goodbye Desk

A couple of months ago we bought a new, larger desk at IKEA to use in the home office since the desk I had been using for work was kind of small for my needs. And since we had to move the office to the basement to keep Max away from the computer, it was a good time to do it. Since then, the plan has been to change the upstairs office into a toy room for the kids. Today that happened because I finally got around to getting rid of the desk. We did not need the desk anymore, but I kind of hated to see it go. That desk came from the music store my parents ran when I was a kid, and was in our house after the music store closed. It is nice having the desk gone though. It frees up some space, and I wouldn't want to have to move it again.

To get rid of the desk I resorted to listing it on Craigslist. Deciding it would be easier to unload on someone if it were free, I decided not to ask any money for it. Within an hour of listing the desk, I had already received four emails from people inquiring about the desk.

Now I am not completely clear about the proper etiquette regarding Craigslist, but I was taken aback by some of the emails I received. The very first one simply contained the text "address and zip i will map." Excuse me? Is that really a proper way to respond to an advertisement? Yes, it is short and to the point, but my time isn't too valuable that I can't take the time to read a complete sentence or two. The next email asked for my address and said he could pick it up today. Another email was fairly similar in its content.

As I really wanted to take care of this today, I responded to the second email I received letting him know the desk was still available and I gave information needed for him to get the desk. The fourth email came after I sent my reply. This one was someone who took the time to actually write a response to my ad in complete sentences, asking if the desk was still available and asking for other details about the desk. If I hadn't already replied to the email I replied to, I would have offered it to the final emailer.

Things worked out, and the person to whom I replied picked up the desk this afternoon. I will be using Craigslist to get rid of a couple more things we don't need as this seems to be an efficient way to use. Perhaps if I am not giving things away for free, but instead charging for them, the replies will be a little less curt, and more polite. On the other hand, maybe I just expect too much civility from people on the Internet.


I Love a Parade, and So Does Emma!

[caption id="attachment_231" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Emma and the Vulcan Krewe"][/caption]

Emma, Max, and I went to the Woodbury Days parade today. When I mentioned yesterday to Emma that we would be going to the parade today, she insisted that I check the weather first. The last time we went to a parade, the Cottage Grove Strawberry Fest parade earlier this summer, we got caught in a downpour. We left that parade early and all the way home Emma cried that she never wanted to go to a parade again. Checking the weather, I told Emma that there was a very small chance it would rain, but she was fine with that, so we went.

[caption id="attachment_232" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Max enjoyed the parade."][/caption]

I was very impressed with Emma at this parade. With every other parade we have taken her to, she had been terrified by the sirens from the police cars and firetrucks that invariably begin the parade. So when I heard the sirens off in the distance this afternoon, I braced myself to deal with her asking to go home. I was pleasantly surprised though when Emma didn't react to the sound at all. She watched the emergency vehicles drive by with their lights on and sirens blaring. I am so happy that she seems to be done with that phase. Max has never had problems with the noise, and today was no different.

[caption id="attachment_233" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Emma and Petey P. Cup"][/caption]

Emma also seems to have gotten over her fear of dogs as several dogs went by within inches of us in the padare. Emma liked the dogs this time. Both kids had a good time. I let Max have a few pieces of candy, mainly a package of Smarties and a Tootsie Roll or two. And he didn't get at all cranky sitting in his stroller for the parade which lasted at least two hours.

Of course the highlight of the parade for Emma was when she saw her favorite mascot, Petey P. Cup. She was super excited when she saw him coming in the distance. She gave him a nice big hug. I do not think it will be difficult getting her to go to any parades in the future.

[caption id="attachment_234" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="Emma ended up collecting a little candy at the parade."][/caption]



Mel and I tackled a couple landscaping tasks today. The first one we worked on was the small garden in the corner of our front yard. Since we moved into this house over three years ago, we have never bothered to plant anything there. There were some flowers there, but we let my mom take them a summer or two ago, because they were a type of flower to which Mel is allergic. In the meantime, the fence that surrounded the two straight edges of the garden had fallen into disarray, and the area had become overrun with weeds. I am certain that the neighbors hated that eyesore. For this area, Mel ripped out all the weeds, the two of us tore down the fence, and then Mel put down some mulch. We will probably end up planting some bulbs this fall, but we haven't yet figured that out.

[caption id="attachment_217" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="This is the front yard  "garden" before we began work.And here is the after picture.And here is the after picture.And here is the after picture.And here is the after picture."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_218" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="And here is the after picture."][/caption]

The second task was taking care of a nice-sized area of the backyard set apart from the rest of the backyard by some small, wooden beams. This area had grass in it when we moved in, but because of the wooden beams, mowing it was difficult. As a result, this area had also become overridden with very tall grass and weeds. A few weeks ago I sprayed the entire area with a heavy-duty weed killer, so today Mel removed the dead grass. Afterwards, I put covered the area with a weed barrier. Finally, Mel and I covered the area with 30 cubic feet of river rock, weighing a total of 1.5 tons. We finished off the area with some garden gnomes and other decor. We will add some more to this area in the future. But for now it is a vast improvement over how this corner of the yard previously looked.

[caption id="attachment_221" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Before we began, the back corner of the yard was an out-of-control mess of weeds and grass.The area is now much improved.The area is now much improved.The area is now much improved."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_222" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="The area is now much improved."][/caption]

My Day With Maximus

[caption id="attachment_214" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Maximus got a little yogurt on his face when he fed himself breakfast."][/caption]

Max's daycare provider took the day off yesterday so she and her husband could go to the state fair. Because of this, I used a day of my vacation time to watch him. Lately Max has had the tendency to get cranky and throw little temper tantrums when he doesn't get his way. Fortunately there was little of this Friday.

Usually Max eats a small breakfast at home before going to daycare, and then eats again when he gets there. However, Max didn't show any interest in eating before we took Emma to daycare, so I waited to give him food until we got home from dropping her off. When we got home I let Max feed himself some yogurt so I could empty the dishwasher and put clothes in the dryer and start another load of laundry. He didn't do too bad of a job feeding himself, although he did get a bit of yogurt on his face and in his hair.

After breakfast we played for a little while before leaving the house again to run some errands. On our way back home from dropping a package off at The UPS Store in Woodbury, Max fell asleep. He stayed pretty much asleep as I transferred him from his car seat to his crib. He ended up sleeping until around noon. We then shared a can of Chef Boyardee Mini Pasta Shells and Meatballs. I was impressed by how little of the sauce ended up on his face.

After lunch I took Max for a haircut. I received a compliment from another customer about how patient Max was being as we waited for his haircut. Max squirmed a bit for his haircut, but it was still much easier than when I used to cut his hair. After the haircut, Max and I went to Target to pick up a fer things and returned home to play a bit more before Mommy got home from work. Of all the days I have watched Max because his daycare provider was taking the day off, this was the smoothest.



For the past several days I have been experiencing severe tooth pain. Before I continue though, I must point out that I realize there are some people who live with almost constant pain daily. I do not mean to diminish their experiences, but this pain is something I am just not used to.

It began last Friday night when I was getting ready to go to bed in my hotel room while on my business trip to San Antonio, Texas. Fortunately the hotel was next to a 24-hour grocery store, so I went there and bought some Advil. That did the trick, and my pain went away allowing me to sleep. On Saturday I again experienced some discomfort while on my flight home, so I took some more ibuprofen. At this point the pain was not intolerable.

Things changed on Sunday. The pain in my mouth was getting progressively worse to the point where the Advil was having very little effect. I began alternating the Advil with Motrin, which did not seem to help much either. The pain was so bad that I only slept about three hours Sunday night.

Monday I went to the dentist and discovered that I had an abscess and was told that the root canal that I had done in October 2008 was failing and would need to be redone. Because it would have to be done through an existing crown, I was referred to an endodontist to have the procedure done.

The earliest I could get in to be seen by the endodontist was Wednesday at noon, so I had to deal with the pain until then. The dentist I saw Monday did prescribe me an antibiotic as well as Vicodin. On Tuesday when the Vicodin did not control the pain for more than an hour at a time, she prescribed me Percocet. I ended up alternating between them as neither seemed to do the trick. I did sleep better Tuesday than I did on either Sunday or Monday nights, but still did not get a good, restful sleep.

Yesterday I made it into the endodontist. After viewing the X-ray of my tooth, I was told that a root canal would be difficult to do, although he was confident he could do it. My other option was to just have the tooth extracted. While the endodontist would have preferred for me to keep the tooth, he said that given the difficulty in fixing it, he would not blame me if I wanted to just have it removed. After giving me an injection of Novocaine, so I could make my decision without being influenced by immediate pain, I ended up deciding to just have the tooth extracted. I really wanted to get it done that day, it was significantly less costly to have it extracted than to have a root canal, and I did not want to have to worry about future issues with the tooth.

I ended up in the dental surgeon's office at 3:00 yesterday afternoon, and by 4:00 I was walking out without any pain. I am very happy this is done. I think this was the worst pain I had ever experienced. The pain from when I had my gallbladder attacks last year may have been worse, but that pain did not persist like this pain did.


Trip to San Antonio


[caption id="attachment_207" align="alignright" width="225" caption="This painting of Bill Clinton wearing a La Tierra T-shirt was on a wall in the restaurant."][/caption]

Since Saturday evening I have been in San Antonio for work, and I will be here until late Saturday morning. On this trip, I finally met my functional manager in person for the first time, and I visited my company's San Antonio office. We have had a productive week of work, meeting with a client. Tonight though, a coworker from Iowa City and I got to see some of the sights of San Antonio. A colleague of ours who lives here drove us downtown where we went to Market Square, where I got gifts for Mel and Emma. We went through Mi Tierra Restaurant and Bakery, although we did not stop there to eat. We also checked out the exterior of the Alamo since it was closed for the day. After visiting these sights, we had dinner at La Tuna Grill. There was a lot to see on our shopping trip, and the food was good where we ate. It was nice to try something for dinner besides eatting at a chain restaurant another night, although I do like chain restaurants as well.

And before I complete this blog posting, no visit to the Alamo would be complete without mentioning the basement as in the video below.


The Irish Fair

[caption id="attachment_204" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Emma watches the Minnesota Police Pipe Band perform at the Irish Fair of Minnesota."][/caption]

The Irish Fair of Minnesota was held this past Friday through today at Harriet Island in Saint Paul. We had a good time last year, this past March when I saw a Groupon offer to get $20 in food tickets for just $10, I jumped at the chance. So yesterday, we all went to the Irish Fair. We listened to a few different groups of performers, and watched a few groups dancing. I did find it interesting to see the dance groups dancing to C+C Music Factory's "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)."  We did some shopping at the merchandise tents, buying the kids some Irish soccer outfits, and had some food to eat. I had a corned beef and swiss sandwich. We left the Irish Fair when it was clear that Max was tired and needed to go home to nap.


Another GCC Milestone

This morning I received another email from the Global Corporate Challenge. I have reached a total of 1,000,000 steps so far while participating in this year's challenge.  My team has only made it 52% around the world on our virtual tour. With just three weeks to go before we finish, I am fairly certain we will not be making it all the way around the world. That is okay though. I have found that the Global Corporate Challenge has gotten me to walk more than I would have previously. When I go shopping now, I am much more likely to park far away from the door than I was before. And if walking somewhere is a viable alternative to driving, I will walk. I hope I have the opportunity to participate in the Global Corporate Challenge again next year.


My Big Boy

[caption id="attachment_198" align="alignright" width="225" caption="Maximus waits for the nurse to return to give him a shot."][/caption]

Maximus is one big kid. At just eighteen months of age he is already wearing size 3T shirts and 2T pants. And in just this past week, I have received multiple comments from strangers about how big a kid he is. Max, Emma, and I were shopping at Super Target on Saturday morning. While we were looking at the Jell-O, a boy who appeared to me to be between two and three years of age drew his mother's attention to the "baby" in the shopping cart. His mom responded to him that he was closer to being a baby than Max was. I then mentioned to her that Max was only eighteen months old. She then had to retract her statement to her son.

Then yesterday when I was picking Max up from daycare, I reminded his daycare provider that he would be leaving early Wednesday for his eighteen-month doctor visit. Another parent was surprised that he was only eighteen months old as he is larger than her older child. I got a similar comment form a customer behind me in line at SuperAmerica this morning when I was talking to the employee about Max.

So as I just mentioned, Maximus had his eighteen-month doctor visit this afternoon. This was probably the best Max has done for any doctor appointment. He did struggle a bit when the doctor tried to look in his ears, but there was no screaming this time. And he barely cried when he got his vaccination today. Max is doing just fine. His vocabulary and behavior are typical of a toddler of his age. The only aspects that were atypical were his height and weight. Max weighed in at 29 pounds 12 ounces, putting him at the 92nd percentile for weight. This seems like it could be a problem until you know that Max is 36.75 inches tall, which is over the 97th percentile for height. As his percentile rank for weight is lower than that for his height, it is just fine. I really wish I had a picture of his growth chart that I could share here. His height has always been above the top curve on the chart, but until today's measurement his growth has followed a nice curve. His height today was 2.75 inches greater than it was at his fifteen-month visit. So he grew almost three inches in three months! On the other hand, his weight did not increase very much over that time period. I guess we will see how his growth progresses when we go back to the doctor in January for his two-year visit.


Emma's Blankie

[caption id="attachment_193" align="alignright" width="225" caption="Emma holds her blankie in this photo from June 2008."][/caption]

Emma has been taking her blankie with her to daycare ever since she started going to daycare three months after she was born. She is now in pre-kindergarten and I have occasionally suggested that she leave her blankie at home, but she has largely dismissed that idea. I have told her than when she starts kindergarten next year, she will not be able to take her blankie with her. She has seemed confused by that, asking me if they take naps in kindergarten.

Anyway, Monday morning she said to me that she might leave her blankie at home. They have not been taking naps recently in her class as many of her classmates will be starting kindergarten next month and, from what I was told, they do not take naps in the half-day kindergarten classes, although the kindergarteners who go all day do have rest time. She ended up taking her blankie. I mentioned to Mel that Emma had thought about leaving it at home Monday, even though she ended up taking it. The two of them had a chat about Emma's blankie, because this morning Emma left it at home so I could wash it. Things seemed to go fine without it today.

At dinner tonight I asked her if she was going to leave her blankie at home again tomorrow. She did not seem certain that she would. After all, I washed it today, so why would she need to leave it at home? We will see in the morning. It would be nice if she decides to leave it at home, but it will be fine if she ultimately decides to take it with her.

Weight Watchers Week 2

As I begin my second week on Weight Watchers, my weight is down 4.6 pounds from my weigh-in last Tuesday. This brings my weight down to 225.4 pounds. While I am happy to have lost this much weight in the past week, I know that this is not a healthy rate at which to continue to lose. In the past however, I have found that the first week of counting points using Weight Watchers often results in a significant amount of weight loss. It is also possible that some of the weight I lost this past week was due to losing water that I had retained from RAGBRAI the week before. Regardless of the reason, this rate should slow down over the next couple of weeks.


Five Million Steps

[caption id="attachment_188" align="alignright" width="221" caption="My GCC team has recorded 5,000,000 steps!"][/caption]

Yesterday morning I discovered an email from the Global Corporate Challenge in my work inbox. It was an email informing me that my seven-person GCC team has reached a milestone of 5,000,000 steps since the challenge began on May 19. Looking at my data, I have recorded a total of 965,120 steps myself. Of these steps, 234,448 were from the week before last week, the week I was on RAGBRAI. That means that I recorded nearly one-fourth of my total step count in one week out of the eleven and a half weeks we have completed so far. That is amazing.


Visiting the Zoo

[caption id="attachment_175" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Emma checks out the Penguins of the African Coast at the Minnesota Zoo."][/caption]

Today we all went to the Minnesota Zoo which, last month, opened a new exhibit of penguins of the African coast. Not only does the zoo have a new exhibit, but the main entrance to the zoo has been completely remodeled. Naturally, our first stop once we got inside was to look at the penguins. They were really cool, no pun intended. We saw some swimming and some on the rocks. At first Emma seemed reluctant to get up close to the glass to get a good view of the penguins. But with some reassurance from one of the people working at the zoo, she climbed up the rocks and looked right at the penguins. I think she enjoyed seeing them.

[caption id="attachment_176" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Emma "drives" one of the John Deere tractors at the zoo's farm."][/caption]

Next we had some lunch before continuing on to the rest of the zoo. After our lunch we went through the outdoor part of the zoo in the opposite direction of what we usually do. Instead of first going to the sea otters and bears, we went in the direction toward the moose and caribou. We ended up making our way to the Wells Fargo Family Farm at the zoo. They were having a festival up there today. In addition to the usual farm animals, there were numerous John Deere tractors to look at. Emma sat on several of them. I think she wanted to do that even more than she wanted to look at the animals. Maximus also got to sit on a couple of tractors. He really liked the lawn tractor that he got to sit on by himself. After we looked at the cows in the barn, he wanted to back to that tractor.

[caption id="attachment_178" align="aligncenter" width="383" caption="Maximus loved sitting on the lawn tractor."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_179" align="alignright" width="225" caption="Max enjoyed the slides at the playground."][/caption]

We also spent some time playing on the playground near the wolf gazebo. We even let Max out of his stroller so he could play. He went on the small slide a few times, but then he discovered the largest slide on the playground. He kept wanting to go down that. That kid shows no fear.

We eventually left the playground and finished up looking at the animals outside. Max, Emma, and I looked at the dolphins and sharks before meeting back up with Mel and leaving for the day. We did not go to the Tropics Trail or the Minnesota Trail on this visit. That is one benefit of being zoo members. We do not feel as compelled to see everything on each visit. We can always go back to see what we missed the next time we are at the zoo. And we will definitely be back.

[caption id="attachment_180" align="alignright" width="584" caption="The camels were keeping cool in their pond."][/caption]


Board Games in the Twenty-First Century

[caption id="attachment_171" align="alignright" width="240" caption="This is the final result of a recent Scrabble game between Mel and me."][/caption]

I have long been a fan of board games, including the game Scrabble. Ever since I met Mel, Scrabble has been a game we have liked to play together. With two young children, it can be difficult to find the time to play board games however. This is why being able to play Scrabble online through Facebook is great. Each of us can play our turn whenever we get a chance, and there is no risk that one of the kids will upset the game board, ruining a game. Also, with playing online, we are able to have multiple games going with each other, as well as other people, simultaneously. One problem we have had with this though is that, until recently, each of could only play our turns when we were at the computer.

We have recently solved this problem by each downloading the Scrabble Free app for our Android phones. We are now able to each play our turn without logging into the computer. Both last night and tonight we found ourselves playing our turns repeatedly one after another. It was funny that I would play my turn in one game and then hear the alert from Mel's phone that she had a game ready for her. Moments later my phone would give me the same alert. While we could get the Scrabble board out and play a game with physical pieces, playing using technology is just so much more convenient.


Final Thoughts About RABGRAI XXXIX

[caption id="attachment_164" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Not everyone on RAGBRAI rides a bike. I saw this skateboarder, a registered participant, multiple days along the route."][/caption]

About ten miles into riding on Sunday, I was wondering to myself why the hell I was riding my bike across Iowa. Don't get me wrong, as this was my eleventh RAGBRAI in twelve years, I knew what I was getting myself into, but it was already really hot and humid out, the day's route was fairly hilly, and to top it off, I was not feeling well. To answer my question, the reason I do RAGBRAI is because, in spite of some of its downsides, it is a lot of fun and I get a great sense of accomplishment out of it. Although that sense of accomplishment is admittedly lessened when deciding to sag in after the first eighteen miles of the first day of riding.

And I still managed to have a lot of fun this particular year on RAGBRAI despite not feeling well for the majority of the week. I am really looking forward to riding RAGBRAI again. I do not know if I will be back for next year's ride, RAGBRAI XL, but I think I will ride again if possible. I may start using each year's route to help me decide if I will ride. Of the eleven RAGBRAIs I have been on, I much prefer the ones across northern part of the state. I do not know if I would choose to ride if the route was a southern one. I think I have had enough of the hills of southern Iowa to last a while. Time will tell as to whether I ride again. Perhaps in ten years or so Emma or Maximus will want to come along for the ride as well. That would be a lot of fun.

Weight Watchers Week 1

Today is actually two weeks since I last posted about restarting Weight Watchers, but since my weight is exactly the same as it was two weeks ago, and I did not count any points at all while I was on RAGBRAI last week, I am going to call today the beginning of my weight loss journey.

My weight this morning was 230.0 pounds. I like that my starting weight was a nice, round number. My goal weight is 199.0 pounds, which will bring my body mass index into the normal range. Since a safe rate at which to lose weight is one to two pounds per week, I should be able to reach my goal weight in 16 to 31 weeks. I am going to set a date of March 5, 2012, 31 weeks from now, as the date by which I should reach my goal.


RAGBRAI XXXIX Day 7 -- Coralville to Davenport

[caption id="attachment_155" align="alignright" width="225" caption="The frozen wine margaritas at the Brick Arch Winery in West Branch were very good."]Brick Arch Winery[/caption]

After a week of not feeling well, Saturday was the first day of this RAGBRAI that I actually felt like eating. And eat I did. Before leaving from my coworker's house in Coralville though, I was joined by one of Mel's uncles, Ted. Saturday was his first ever day of RAGBRAI. Mel had worn herself out on Friday, so she opted to ride the Superior Hawgs bus to Davenport instead. Ted and I set out around 6:30 and after finding the route in Coralville, we would through the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City. Before we even got out of Iowa City, we were passed by two ambulances with their sirens on. We encountered them where the route crossed Interstate 80 for the first time of the day. I am not sure what had happened, but there were two bike turned up for the sag wagon to pick up since their riders were being transported away by ambulance.

We made out first stop in West Branch where we had some breakfast at the Brick Arch Winery. I had a free sample of their frozen wine margarita. It was very yummy! If I hadn't had fifty-two miles yet to ride, I likely would have ordered a full drink. Next we passed through Springdale without stopping. It was less than five miles from our previous stop afterall.

[caption id="attachment_156" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="On Saturday I finally had a chance to stop for a sandwich from the PB Jam."][/caption]

We made another food stop at the Peanut Butter Jam truck on the outskirts of Moscow. This was the first time I had ever stopped for one of their sandwiches. I had a peanut butter sandwich with strawberry jelly, coconut, and chocolate chips. I washed the whole thing down with a chocolate milk. Since we had just stopped, we did not stop in Moscow itself, but instead continued on to Wilton.

In Wilton we stopped at the bar where I had a Made-Rite sandwich. We stayed there for a little bit before getting back on our bikes for the remaining twenty-eight miles of RAGBRAI XXXIX. We took a brief break in Durant where I got a Powerade from the Casey's General Store. We eventually made it to Walcott, although much of this distance to the east was into a fairly good headwind.

We took another break in Walcott where Ted had a smoothie. We were glad to be heading south out of Walcott so that we would be out of the headwind. At least that is what we thought before getting out of town. By the time we left, the wind had shifted to be coming out of the south. Fortunately when we turned east again we were finally rid of the headwinds.

Entering Davenport there were a few big hills that we had to go up. We also got to go down them. That would have been more fun if the road had been a bit smoother and if there weren't ninety-degree turns at the bottom of two of them. Also, the road surface as we entered the city limits of Davenport was a bit sticky. It was almost as if they had just laid down some fresh tar for us. It could have been a result of the heat though.

We ended up riding at least five miles once we got into Davenport. I eventually found the Superior Hawgs bus around 3:30. I was the last one of us to arrive, so we were soon on our way back to Evansdale.


RAGBRAI XXXIX Day 6 -- Grinnell to Coralville

[caption id="attachment_149" align="alignright" width="225" caption="Cyclists enter the flag-lined street of Brooklyn, Iowa"][/caption]

As I went to bed Thursday night, I contemplated not riding on Friday, but I decided I would see how I felt in the morning. When I woke Friday morning, I was feeling a little better, so I decided to try to do the ride. The first stretch to Brooklyn was fairly good. Mel and I stopped there for breakfast. She went with pancakes. I, on the other hand, found a big fruit cup to eat. We only stopped in Brooklyn long enough to eat and for a potty break before leaving for Victor.

We did not stop for very long in Victor either. Today was going to be the longest day of the ride, at almost seventy-five miles, so we filled our water bottles and posed Petey P. Cup for some photos with tractors, and we continued on our way.

[caption id="attachment_150" align="aligncenter" width="584" caption="Petey P. Cup drives a John Deere tractor in Victor."][/caption]

Once we got to Ladora, we stopped again for some food. I had a chicken wrap which seemed to sit well with me. For a really small town, Ladora appeared to have done a pretty good job setting up. Besides the chicken wrap, I had some awesome lemonade from the Boy Scouts.

We did not stop in Marengo, and continued on our way to West Amana. The sun was out by now and we were quite hot. Mel was starting to get worn out. I thought I could continue, so we kept going. Mel was going to stop once we got to West Amana, but there was nothing there worth stopping for, so we made out way to South Amana.

[caption id="attachment_151" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Among those set up in South Amana was Mr. Pork Chop."][/caption]

In South Amana we both called it quits for the day. Mel was completely worn out. I probably could have kept going, but I did not think I was going to be able to complete the final eighteen-mile stretch of the ride, so I stopped as well. We waited for a few hours for the sag wagon, but never saw it. South Amana was a good place to stop though. We found some shade to wait in, and there were a sufficient number of food vendors set up. One amenity that was missing from South Amana though was kybos. Apparently one of the store owners in town had called to see about getting just four port-a-potties for RAGBRAI and was laughed at, presumably because none were available anywhere near by. There was one port-a-potty in the area though. It was at the edge of a corn field across the street from town. I am almost certain that it was there for use by detasselers, but the RAGBRAI riders were making use of it. Those detasselers will sure be in for a surprise when they return to work Monday morning.

While we were waiting for the sag wagon, Tara, another member of our team who had only ridden a couple of days earlier in the week, called to see if we wanted her to pick us up a coffee as she was driving to our camp in Coralville. After I told her that we were waiting for the sag wagon, Tara volunteered to come to South Amana to pick us up. Within half an hour she was there driving us to Coralville.

In Coralville we stayed at the house of one of my coworkers, Sandy. Because of this, Mel and I got to sleep in a real bed and in air conditioning. Sandy's husband cooked some wonderful food for us and for the other three teams that were sharing their yard. Also Mel's friend Penny came down from Cedar Rapids and took us to dinner in Iowa City. For once this week, I actually felt like eating. So after having a brat and some other food at Sandy's, I ate again at Carlos O'Kelley's. Our service was quite slow there, so it was close to 9:30 before we got back and were able to go to bed.


RAGBRAI XXXIX Day 5 -- Altoona to Grinnell

[caption id="attachment_128" align="alignright" width="225" caption="This is "Iowa's only banana tree.""][/caption]

After spending an evening in air-conditioned luxury Wednesday night, we returned to the heat and humidity Thursday morning. Nevertheless, we set out on our ride from Altoona to Grinnell. The ride started out fairly well. Our first stop of the morning was in Mitchellville. We had already eaten breakfast at Patrick's house, so we just stopped for something to drink and to use the kybos. We did relax for a short bit before we left. While we were there we saw what was being billed as the only banana tree in Iowa, and a performance my the Southeast Polk High School Band. For one of their songs, Banana Man and his entourage came up and danced to their music.

[caption id="attachment_132" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="This ice sculpture of the RAGBRAI XXXIX logo was completed shortly before we arrived in downtown Colfax."][/caption]

After leaving Mitchellville, we proceeded down the road to Colfax. However, before arriving in Colfax, Mel and I became separated along the route. I thought I was ahead of her, so I stopped at the top of a hill and waited for her for about fifteen minuted before deciding to proceed. It turned out that Mel was ahead of me all along. I eventually met up with her on the crowded main street through Colfax. We stopped to eat some lunch. While we ate our lunch, we could hear some kids drumming on the other side of the kybos from where we were sitting. They were pretty good. I had thought that what I ordered for lunch would sit well with me, and it kind of did, but my stomach was still giving me issues. I think that I had a problem other than being overheated and dehydrated. I think I may have had some kind of stomach bug that was making it difficult for me to eat. However I did continue to try to eat. Leaving Colfax we had to climb a rather long and steep hill that they dubbed Mount Colfax. Both Mel and I ended up walking at least partway up the hill.

[caption id="attachment_137" align="aligncenter" width="584" caption="Cyclists climb Mount Colfax."][/caption]

Things got more difficult once we left Colfax. Turning north toward Baxter, we encountered a strong headwind which we had to contend with for a good portion of the fifteen-mile ride between the towns. Fortunately we, as well as many others, rested by either watching, or by enjoying the water slide that someone had set up on a big hill in their yard. There was an ambulance parked across the road from this water slide. I joked that it was probably there to take away any injured sliders.

[caption id="attachment_135" align="aligncenter" width="584" caption="Many riders cooled off on this water slide."][/caption]

We eventually made it to Baxter where we had some more to eat and then took a brief nap before continuing on our way. And it figured that now that we were going east instead of north, the wind seemed to have shifted to be coming from the east instead of the north. This was really wearing us out. About forty-five miles into our ride, twelve miles short of Grinnell, both Mel and I decided we had had enough, and we stopped to wait for the sag wagon. While we waited for the sag wagon, we saw a couple of interesting cyclists ride by, including Elvis Pressley and a guy on a homemade Big Wheel bike.

[caption id="attachment_141" align="aligncenter" width="584" caption="Elvis is alive, and riding a bike on RAGBRAI."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_142" align="aligncenter" width="584" caption="Why ride a bike when you can ride a Big Wheel?"][/caption]

We did not have to wait too long for the sag wagon. Mel and I got the last two seats available. Once our bikes were loaded on the trailer, another man came up and wanted on as well. He appeared very upset that there was not room for him. But they have a fifteen-passenger van, and once it has fifteen passengers, the driver can not allow anyone else on. We eventually made it to Grinnell, riding in the packed sag wagon along the rest of the route there. Once we arrived we found our campground without much difficulty. And after setting up our tent for the final time and showering, we walked down the street to the Dari Barn for a bite to eat.

[caption id="attachment_144" align="aligncenter" width="584" caption="After picking us up, the sag wagon was full."][/caption]


RAGBRAI XXXIX Day 4 -- Boone to Altoona

[caption id="attachment_121" align="alignright" width="225" caption="My breakfast today was a brisket sandwich from Sinful Smokers BBQ Team."][/caption]

I was feeling better again this morning, so Mel and I both rode today. We left Boone a little after 6:00 after stopping for a quick bite to eat at Casey's General Store. The route was not very hilly today, although that is not to say that there were no hills. A couple of things that did hold us back was a headwind from the south, and the high heat and humidity.

After riding through Luther, we stopped in Slater for something to eat. It was only 8:30, but that was not too early for barbecue. After leaving Slater, we pretty much just breezed through Sheldahl as it was only a couple miles later. Our next stop was Alleman, where I had a smoothie.

We continued through White Oak and then stopped to cool off in the fire station in Elkhart. Finally, we stopped for a bit in Bondurant, where I paid two dollars for a single banana, before finishing our ride in Altoona.

Tonight Mel and I, as well as another member of our team, are staying in the home of another of our team members, Patrick. It is really nice to not have to deal with the heat index that is over one hundred degrees still.

RAGBRAI XXXIX Day 3 -- Carroll to Boone

[caption id="attachment_114" align="alignright" width="300" caption="The Superior Hawgs bus is parked in Carroll, waiting for its departure to Boone."][/caption]

Mel was feeling better Tuesday, so she rode from Carroll to Boone. On the other hand, my stomach was still bothering me, so rather than risk my health, I decided to ride the Superior Hawgs bus. I am not sure if my problem was that I hadn't had enough to drink on Monday, or if I hadn't eaten enough, or even if I hadn't gotten enough sleep. But I think I made a good decision not to ride.

Our bus driver, Walter, and I left a little after 9:00 and stopped for breakfast at the Hy-Vee in Carroll. After breakfast, I slept most of the way on the bus to Atlantic. Upon arriving in Boone, we made a stop at Walmart and then proceeded to the yard that had been previously arranged for us to stay at.

Later in the afternoon I had a late lunch with Lee, another member of our team, at a really good Chinese buffet downtown. It was a very hot day. Walking around in the sun was almost unbearable. This made me more confident that my decision not to ride was a good one.

Later, after Mel had arrived, we picked up a pizza from Casey's General Store for dinner. I had wanted to go downtown to see Hairball perform, but they were not playing until 9:30, and as I was tired, I decided to go to bed. I do regret not going to see their show as I couldn't fall asleep until around 11:00. Oh well, maybe I can see them perform somewhere else some time.

RAGBRAI XXXIX Day 2 Part 2 -- Manning to Carroll

[caption id="attachment_111" align="alignright" width="300" caption="I got my photo taken at the building of the first jail in Templeton."][/caption]

After leaving Manning things got better for a while. Riding to Templeton was a breeze. It was sunny and hot, but the hills were not too bad. Things did start getting a bit more difficult riding into Dedham. While I was there I stopped for a slice of pizza. I wanted to get to Carroll, so I did not stay too long, leaving immediately after finishing the pizza. The ride into Willey was fairly difficult. The hills just kept coming and coming. On my way to Willey, and even after I left there, I saw several sag wagons and was seriously tempted to catch a ride on one, but once I got to Willey, there were less than eight miles remaining, so I pressed on.

After arriving at our campground in Carroll, I ate some food that Mel had picked up for me, but I probably waited until it was too late to try to eat dinner. By the time I found something for dinner, around 8:30, I found that I was not feeling well enough to eat it all. I was feeling much like I felt Sunday morning.


RAGBRAI XXXIX Day 2 Part 1 -- Atlantic to Manning

[caption id="attachment_100" align="alignright" width="225" caption="The street into Manning was VERY full of bicyclists."][/caption]

I have made it a little over half way through today's ride, and have stopped in Manning. So while I let my phone charge at the Windstream Internet trailer, I am going to begin blogging about today's ride.

This morning when I woke up, I felt much better than I did yesterday, so I decided to go ahead and ride. However, Mel was not feeling too hot, so she is riding the team bus instead. One thing that made this morning much nicer than yesterday morning was the fact that it was not sunny, and it was a little cooler. As I write this now at 11:30 am though, the sun has come out. That will definitely make the rest of the day much warmer.

Today's first stop was in Elk Horn where I stopped to check out the sights, including the windmill they have in town. Even though it was almost fifteen miles into the ride, I was not ready for breakfast. I ended up spending about half an hour there before I continued.

[caption id="attachment_101" align="aligncenter" width="584" caption="Petey P. Cup and I got our photo taken as vikings.There were mermaids in Elk Horn!"][/caption]

My next stop was just three miles down the road in Kimballton. By this time I was getting hungry so I stopped for a Farm Boys breakfast burrito. The line was long but moved very quickly. In addition to the rather tasty breakfast burrito, I had a Danish. I needed to be sure I had enough to eat because the next town, Manning, was almost twenty miles away.

[caption id="attachment_104" align="aligncenter" width="584" caption="The Farm Boys made some really good breakfast burritos in Kimballton."][/caption]

About halfway between Kimballton and Manning I made another stop. This time it was for Beakman's Specialty Homemade Ice Cream. I had a cup of half chocolate and half raspberry ice cream. With the temperatures rising, the ice cream was very refreshing.

[caption id="attachment_105" align="aligncenter" width="584" caption="The Beakman's ice cream was a refreshing treat."][/caption]

I have about twenty-eight miles to go before I make it to Carroll, and from what I have heard, it is much less hilly than the first half of today's ride. That is a very good thing. While I have managed the hills fairly well so far today, I could really use a break from them.

I will try to blog about the second part of today's ride either this evening or sometime tomorrow. However my first priority is getting my butt across the state on my bike, so the blog entry will come when I get to it.


RAGBRAI XXXIX Day 1 -- Glenwood to Atlantic

[caption id="attachment_96" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Petey P. Cup sits by the side of the road as RAGBRAI cyclists ride by."][/caption]

Upon waking up this morning I was not feeling the best. My stomach had been hurting all night, probably contributing to my lack of sleep, but I figured it was just because I was hungry. Mel and I therefore set out on our first day of RAGBRAI XXXIX, planning on riding the 59.5 miles from Glenwood to Atlantic.

Our first stop of the morning was in Silver City both Mel and I were quite hungry so we decided to seek out some breakfast. We got in the pancake line, but even as I took my plate of pancakes, I was not sure if I was going to be able to eat them. I quickly drank my glass of orange juice, but after just a few bites of my pancakes, I could tell they weren't sitting well with me. Before leaving Silver City I found a banana. I thought that would help, but I couldn't finish that either.

Having finished the first nine miles of the day, we continued on our way to Carson. However, we would not end up making it there. My body continued to give me problems as I rode. At one point I was waiting at the top of a hill for Mel when I lost my balance. I had only unclipped one of my shoes from my pedals, so unable to balance on the uneven surface, I toppled over, cutting my right leg up pretty good with my gears.

We did continue going, but the extreme heat was beginning to get us despite the face that it was still early in the morning. Even as I write this, the heat index in Atlantic is 92°F. We ended up stopping about eighteen miles into the day. We waited for the Des Moines Register's sag wagon with a ham radio operator who was helping to communicate what was going on along the route. We, and the seven or so other people who were in need of transportation to Atlantic, waited over three hours. Every time a sag wagon passed by it was already full. The ham radio operator decided that he needed to do something about this. He called up his sister in Glenwood, and she and her husband brought a truck to haul our bikes, and we rode in the car we had been waiting by. We ended up arriving in Atlantic before 3:00. I have not decided yet if I will ride my bike tomorrow or not. That will depend on how I am feeling.

Mel and I did have a nice dinner at a locally owned Mexican restaurant in town. The food did help me to feel better for a while, but I am still not feeling my best. After I finish with this blog entry, I am going to continue to rehydrate myself with Powerade. Hopefully that replenishes all my fluids.

RAGBRAI XXXIX -- Getting to Glenwood

[caption id="attachment_91" align="alignright" width="300" caption="This is GeekAaron with the Superior Hawgs team bus."][/caption]

Mel and I arrived early to meet our team in Evansdale, Iowa, yesterday morning to be sure we would not be late. We were actually quite early as we were only the second ones there. This year we only had twelve people riding the bus from Evansdale to the start of RAGBRAI in Glenwood. We ended up leaving at 9:00, and after our traditional stop at the Casey's General Store down the street we were on our way.

This year the bus ride to the start of RAGBRAI was very uneventful. We made really good time, stopping in Stuart for lunch at the Burger King, and arriving in Glenwood by 3:00. Our campsite was located pretty close to the town square where food vendors were set up. It also was not too far away from the bike expo. Mel and I were able to find some RAGBRAI XXXIX T-shirts for ourselves.

There was a rainstorm in the evening, but it was not very severe. The town's sirens had actually gone off earlier because of the severe weather. It had been really hot before the storm came through, but the storm helped to cool things off a bit.

While our campground's proximity to the downtown area was nice there was one negative aspect about its location. We were less than half a block away from a bar's beer garden, and the music continued until around midnight! I do not think I got much sleep at all. The longest amout of uninterrupted sleep I had was from 3:00 until 4:30 this morning. Hopefully this trend does not continue all week.


Traveling to Iowa

[caption id="attachment_84" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Maximus plays at the Boondocks truck stop while we wait for his aunt."][/caption]

Yesterday the family made the trip from the Twin Cities to Iowa in preparation for RAGBRAI. We met Mel's sister and one of our nephews at the Boondocks Truck Stop along I-35 to drop the kids off with them. Emma was excited about visiting her cousins yesterday morning before we left, but while we were waiting for her aunt, she got a bit apprehensive telling us that she would miss us. By the time my sister-in-law arrived though, she seemed better. And from what we heard last night, she is having a fun time.

And my fears the other night about forgetting to pack something were proved to be valid last night. As I was getting ready to go to bed, I discovered that I had left my bag with all my toiletries at home. I know exactly where it is. It is on the shelf in the bathroom. Fortunately I discovered this last night. I was able to make a quick trip to Target to get most of the things I need. I did have to go to Walmart as well to pick up a contact lens case though. The only one that Target had in stock was one with a feminine design, and while the design didn't really matter, I didn't want to pay a premium price for a contact lens case that wasn't really me.

There were thunderstorms all night. It seems like they have ended for now. I was worried that we would have to be loading the team bus in the rain before departing for Glenwood in a couple of hours. Hopefully any more rain holds off until we are on our way.


Preparing for RAGBRAI XXXIX

[caption id="attachment_77" align="alignright" width="300" caption="This is a photo of cyclists riding on a gravel road on RAGBRAI XXXII in 2004."][/caption]

This evening, after the kids went to bed, Mel and I packed for RAGBRAI. Well actually, Mel had already done most of her packing and just had a few things to finish up with for herself. I had to start, and finish, packing my things tonight. And as much as I check things over, I still feel that I am missing something. Fortunately it's not like we will be in the middle of nowhere. If I forgot to pack something, I am sure we can find it wherever we are. I also had to take care of a few last minute work things tonight, such as submitting my time cards for this week and next week. Now that I am done with that, I will not have to think about work at all for the rest of the month. That will be a nice break.

Since the kids are staying with Mel's sister and brother-in-law in Ankeny, Iowa, we had to pack their things as well. And with both my bike and Mel's recumbent bike in the back of her truck, there was not enough room for the things we need to take for the kids, so we are going to end up taking both of our vehicles on our trip to Iowa. I just hope my sister-in-law's minivan has room for the things we are bringing for the kids, especially since we are bringing Emma's bike along for her to ride next week.

While I am on RAGBRAI, I do intend to keep up with my blog, writing about each day's ride. I will probably do most of this from the Windstream Communications trailers if I find the time. If I appear to miss a day's blogging, do not be too concerned. It is probably just a sign that I did not have time to stop to blog that day.


Watching My Weight

Over the past few months I have really been struggling with my weight. I have been paying for the Weight Watchers online program, but I have not been as diligent as I need to be when it comes to recording what I eat. I am usually careful the first two or three days of the week, but by the time I get to the weekend I am not recording everything. This is the behavior I need to change.

Last week my weight increased significantly, mainly due to overindulgence while on my business trip to Sioux Falls. I am therefore redoubling my efforts when it comes to watching what I eat. Since I likely will not be carefully tracking my points next week while I am on RAGBRAI, I thought about waiting until the beginning of August to restart the Weight Watchers program. However, the more I thought about it, I really should start immediately. I do not need an extra week of overeating. So I started back up with Weight Watchers today.

My weight this morning was 230.0 pounds. That worked out being a nice, round number. For my height I need to get my weight below 200.0 pounds for my body mass index to be in the normal weight range, so I am setting my goal to be 199.0 pounds. I have had my weight this low before, but not since October 3, 2007. I will get to this weight again. And to help me succeed, I recorded everything I ate today, even the package of four smaller-than-average Oreo cookies I had after donating blood.


RAGBRAI and the Global Corporate Challenge

My employer is one of many around the world participating in the Global Corporate Challenge (GCC), a 16-week-long walking challenge in which employees walk around the world virtually. This challenge began on Thursday, May 19, and ends on Tuesday, September 6.

While this event focuses on walking as exercise, having participants tracking their daily steps recorded by their pedometers, it also makes allowances for people who cycle or swim. This is going to help me and my team out when I am cycling across Iowa on RAGBRAI next week. According to GCC's website, 2.5 miles of cycling is the equivalent to 0.6 mile of walking, or 1,563 steps. So if I ride all 454 miles of RAGBRAI, excluding the optional loop on Tuesday, I will earn 283,841 steps for me and my team for the week. Of course, this is just the steps I will earn from cycling. I will be walking quite a bit once I reach my destination each night. I will of course be counting these steps as well.

Now I am concerned that the average of 40,549 steps from cycling each day will earn me a GCC "speeding ticket." Such tickets are issued whenever someone records an abnormally large number of steps for a day. If this happens, I will just have to explain to GCC why my step count is so high. This should not be too much of a problem, but it could delay my entry of some of my steps. As I have been averaging around 10,000 steps a day so far, this would be a significant increase.

I will be blogging about my progress on RAGBRAI, so be sure to check back next week to see how the ride is going.


Shove Six Tacos...

[caption id="attachment_52" align="alignright" width="300" caption="This is one way to quit a job."][/caption]

I saw this news story earlier today about a guy who quit his job at Taco Bell on Independence Day after working 22 days straight by leaving a message on the restaurant's outdoor sign. This reminded me of an incident from my youth. During the summer when I was in college I worked at a fast food restaurant as a crew leader in my hometown in Iowa. After closing one night one of my employees, who had access to the restaurant's Zip-Change Letter Changer, went across the street to a fast food taco place and did some rearranging of letters on its sign. When he was done, instead of the sign advertising the restaurant's six-pack of tacos and a pound of its potato item, the sign stated that if you "shove[d] six tacos up your ass" they would be free. To the best of my recollection, as my coworkers were finishing up the sign, a police car drove by and caught them. The cops had a good laugh about it and simply made them change the sign back.



This morning I woke up in my hotel room to discover that the electricity was out over most of the hotel. Fortunately I swam in the pool last night and showered afterward, because I really did not want to shower in complete darkness. Some of the lights in the rest of the room were working, so I was able to see well enough to get dressed and to finish packing my things. I had to walk a mile to Burger King for breakfast, once the rain stopped, since the hotel's restaurant could not serve anything more than toast and cereal.

After getting back to the hotel I decided to head to the airport to either use its Wi-Fi connection to work, or to see if I could get on an earlier flight home. I was pleased to discover that I could get on the flight that was scheduled to depart just one hour after my arrival at the Sioux Falls Regional Airport, and even better, my seat was in the exit row. The flight did leave about twenty minutes later than scheduled, but I still arrived in Minneapolis before 11:00 this morning. I did have to wait a very long time for my luggage though. It was eventually discovered to be stuck on the conveyor that brings it to the baggage claim area. I am glad to be home finally. Now I can actually get my project work done.