Stage 5 – Wide Open Spaces (Marshalltown, IA to Cedar Rapids, IA )

Stage 5 – Wide Open Spaces (Marshalltown, IA to Cedar Rapids, IA )

i Jul 29th No Comments by
Iowa is full of wide open spaces!  (At least the section we are biking in.) I know the farmers are hurting but we cannot tell.  The beans and corn look fantastic.  The gras…s along the road is nice and green.  Except for the towns the rest of the land is beautiful.  While I will not be rooting for “Iowa” this fall, I have no idea why people heading west kept going.  I would have stopped here – beautiful! The Landscape, however, is not why I titled this journal Wide Open Spaces.  Yesterday we went through a town and the DJ was playing Wide Open Spaces  by the Dixie Chicks.  Fortunately for me I was wearing my sunglasses.  By the end of town the tears were streaming down my checks.  It took Cole and Ross almost a year to get Jeri and I to understand that this is what they want and need.  We want them to go off to college where they will be relatively  safe.  They are chaffing at the bit.  They want to explore, adventure, and spread their wings.  They want space! I realized walking through that little town that what I am doing this week is likely the last of a life time.  It is highly unlikely that I will ever be able to talk them into one of my hobbies again.  They have their own dreams.  While I am often scared, I want them to chase their stuff.  I don’t know what their “RAGBRAI” will be.  Maybe they will ask me to join them.  Hopefully I will be paying attention and say yes. As I have reflected over the day about the song and my kids I realized that Wide Open Spaces is probably why I do this kind thing – ride my bike as far and as high as I do.  I want space too!  Even in the midst of 20,000 bicycles when I am riding I can be all alone.  I may be in a city or out in the country, but in my mind I am free to fly.  Today the bicyclers were all spread out.  The terrain was hilly which meant Dad and I could not ride together.  He let me take off and I did.  Over a period of 30 miles I averaged 24mph.  I was flying up the climbs and almost no one was passing me it was awesome.  I did not really see much of the country side, but it was my best ride this year by far. I have a phenomenal life.  At this very moment I am sitting in a camp chair that Ross and Cole biked to buy me on Saturday when mine broke.  I just left the two of them at the Counting Crows concert with the rest of the LiveSTRONG group.  (Who wants to be at a rock concert with their Dad?). As I sit here finishing this journal all is well in my world.  At this moment I am at peace.  However, sometime tomorrow or the next day I will be looking for those Wide Open Spaces to test my legs, my heart, and my courage.

Stage 4 – Did I really Volunteer For This? (Webster City, IA to Marshalltown, IA)

i Jul 29th No Comments by

I usually wait until the day after to write my journals, but I have nothing else to do tonight. Here is why:

  • I cannot sleep yet even though it is 10pm
  • I have been in my tent for the past hour and a half.
  • The papers around here make it sound like there has not been rain in Iowa since Noah built the ark.  (It is really dry here and the farmers are hurting.). BUT not any more.
  • Not only is it raining buckets at a time but the wind is fantastic.  A couple times so far my tent has been  blown completely flat – with me in it!  My stakes have held so far – thank God!  (and that is not a jest)
  • My tent was great when it was dry and hot.  Did a great job keeping the bugs out. The same cannot be said of rain. It started with a drip right in the center of my chest.  Now it is a fine mist everywhere with each gust of wind.
  • I sleep with a pair of gym shorts on every night.  Well not tonight.  Tonight I will be sleeping in all my rain gear.  I cannot think of another way to stay dry enough to sleep.
  • Tomorrow we have the biggest day.  Officially we bike 84 miles.  I bet we end up with 90.  Our legs are starting to get fatigued and the hills are getting longer and more frequent.
  • Some good news: because of the storm the concert is  canceled so we will not have to listen to that all night.  I guess the lightning scared them off.
  • Couple heroes: Ross and Cole went out in the wind and rain to help all the rest of our group with tent stakes that did not hold like mine did.  I did not know it until they came and checked on me.  Pretty cool!
  • Incite for the day: thunder and lightning is a lot cooler to watch and listen to from a screened in porch with a sturdy roof overhead.

I had planned a completely different journal article for Stage 4 but this was too good to pass up.  For those people who think I am crazy for riding my bike as far as I do, you are right.  I did volunteer for this!  Not only that but I talked my Dad, Cole, and Ross into coming with me.  Hotels for me from here on out.

(I have my bag completely packed, my rain gear on, and my light ready if I need to run outside. How is that for a sexy shot?)



Stage 3 – Real time communication (Lake View, IA to Webster City, IA)

i Jul 29th No Comments by

Here is what our day was like (via text messages to Jeri, Mom, Cole, and Ross)
Jeff:  8:30am and 30 miles done.  Just over 50 to go.  Feeling a little sluggish today.  More later.  Love you!
Jeri:  Been thinking about you guys and praying for you.  Hope things continue to go well! Love you all tons!
Ross:  Sorry about you feeling sluggish!! Sure love you!
Jeff:  43 miles done.  Gonna be slow from here.  Strong head wind!
Ross:  Sorry to hear that!!
Jeri:  Im thinking about you guys and praying for you this morning! Hang in there!!!
Mom:  Keep on keeping on …wow! You guys are amazing!  How many miles to go today!
Jeri:  Karen, i think Jeff told me last nite it was 88 with 2000 ft of climbing
Jeff:  60 miles done.  21 to go.  We are taking a little nap.  Drinking a lot.  We’ve eaten a ton and are about taped out of anything but water.  Wind is keeping it cooler but only going about 8mph. Some people will be on the course 14 hours.  Not us.  We should be done by 5. R&C – put up any tent Brian or Kim say is ok.  People are going to be whipped.
Ross:  Robert took Cole and I to the movies! Hope you guys are doing okay! You guys are amazing! Love you!
Ross:  We are going to start setting up tents as soon as we get back!! How are you feeling?
Ross:  Nevermind! Movie started, and my phones dieing. Just wanted to see how your ride was. Sure love you and keep pushing!!! You guys are incredible!
Jeri:  Wow!  Tough day!!! Love you guys!!!!
Jeff:  71 miles done.  We stopped to rest at a cemetery.  Guy here is serving lime flavored water.  Hope R&C are having a good time at the movies!  Haha  It is only 103 out here today.
Mom:  G
Jeri:  Oh man i am so proud of you guys an thankful for generous ppl with lime water!!!!
Mom:  Thanks for the update! They really mean a lot!  Loretta and I are sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to hear that you are  in!!  Love you!
Jeff:  We are done and safe for today.  83 miles and just over 7 hours on the bike.  C&R had all the tents set up when we got in!  Lady next to our camp site offered to spray us down with cold water. No one turned her down.
Tomorrow we get up and do it again.
(No Larry is not dead yet.  Only wishes he was.)

Stage 2 – What the heck is RAGBRAI? (Cherokee, IA to Lake View, IA)

i Jul 25th No Comments by

Officially RAGBRAI is the Registers Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.  This year it is RAGBRAI XL (40th year not extra large).   This does not even come close to explaining the event.

Let me try this.  There are 10,000 official daily riders and anywhere from 5-10,000 pirate riders (people who ride but are not registered.) Both mornings we have been on the road by 6:30 am and there are thousands of riders ahead of us.  We are never alone.  The roads are not officially closed but there is no way a car can ride in either direction – all day!  They cannot even cross the street.  If you drop something while riding, it is gone forever.  There is no way to stop, go back, and walk into the street.  It is awesome.

We do not have to worry about speed because the entire group cannot go much faster than 13-15 mph.  Some do go a lot faster but they are crazy. If they don’t kill themselves they could hurt someone else.

We also do not need worry about food or water. There are stands every 3-5 miles.  The big food here is Pork Chops.  Mr Pork Chop is a legend. We stopped today and had one.  Fantastic!  We chased this with a slice of Rhubarb pie.  All at about 11am after a breakfast taco at 7am, a hamburger at 10am, and a cliff shot and a dozen electrolyte tablets.

Camping is beyond description.  There are tents and RVs everywhere they can be set up.  If the city was a clock, then it would be 10 MILES in diameter.  Almost every piece of grass is being used.  There are so many people in these little towns that the cell towers are worthless.  Data and voice are completely overwhelmed.  (I found a book store to post my first two journals.)

The registration cost of the event is only about $75.  Everyone pays as they go for everything – food and showers (camping is free).  It is estimated that $1,000,000 a day is taken in by the vendors and shops along the route.  Most cities vie for the chance to have the ride go through their town.  (Some don’t want it because of the volume of people.  Think about how much trash is generated by 25,000 people!)

There are many traditions during RAGBRAI.  Dad and I were forced to participate in one of them.  We are once again virgins and were labeled as such.  This way everyone who passed us could make fun.

After re-reading what I just wrote I do not think I did this justice.  I tried.  Guess you gotta be here.  Cool thing to put on a bucket list

 (That is not windmill Island in Holland  – taken in Orange City, IA)

Prologue: Do we really have control?

i Jul 23rd No Comments by

Prologue – Do we really have control? (Sioux Center, IA) The Road Rider and the Dutch Plodder have come out of retirement and are together once again.  This time we are out to conquer Iowa.  Tomorrow morning we hop on our bicycles with 10-15,000 other bikers and ride day 1 of 8.  This is a first for us in many ways.  First time we have ridden a tour together (in the past it has been just the two …of us).  First time to do RAGBRAI.  First time we have biked and stayed in a tent.  And the first time we have not had to carry our stuff. Everything seems good right now, but we were both really nervous 8 hours ago.  Right now the tents are set up, dinner has been found, bikes are ready, and the sun is setting.  8 hours ago we did not know: if the bikes and all our gear would make it, if we would have a ride from the airport, if we would be able to find our group, if we would be completely overwhelmed by this kind of environment. We are here riding with the LiveSTRONG team.  So there was a little comfort in that we know some of the employees.  Poor Bryan!  Ha is the lead person at LiveSTRONG for this event.  I think I have sent him at least 100 e-mails in the last 30 days.  Last week I wrote, “This is what happens when you take an absolute control freak (me) and put them in a spot where they have almost no control.” He was very gracious and let me know that it would be a blast. I have spent a number of moments in the past week thinking about control.  It probably comes as no surprise to most people, but I was wowed buy the realization that there is really very little I can control.  There are just too many variables to manage them all.  Even today that lesson was made.  I felt such relief today when we had landed in Iowa.  I said something to that effect to Ross (Ross and Cole are with us working for LiveSTRONG this week.). When he asked me why I responded, “Because it no longer matters what I forgot because I cannot do anything about it.” Why cannot I live more like this all the time?  Is it the illusion of control?  Is it obsession?  Is it a habit?  I will have 470 miles over the next 8 days to think about it.