Tuesday, March 13, 2012

RAGBRAI: No Early Stop, But Passing Through Lovely Nemaha

A small version of the Register's RAGBRAI map. See their site for a full-size pdf of this map.

I am nearing my decision on what to do about RAGBRAI.

I’m sure I’ll do part of it. Both siblings and an MMU team are planning to do the final legs of the ride—from Marshalltown to Clinton. I’m pretty certain to do that much.

But, if you ride for 3 days in a row, including the most grueling day—Marshalltown to Clinton—you’re about halfway to just doing the whole ride.

So. Maybe …

Of course, what made it a great experience last year was doing RAGBRAI with my son Jon and his Microsoft pals from Seattle. I have a son-in-law who is planning to ride this year, but he’s part of another group that doesn’t involve me.

I don’t especially want to do RAGBRAI alone.

And yet …

When I did RAGBARI “with” Jon, I meant that we slept in the same tent, ate together at night and occasionally touched base during the day. He rode with me once, for an hour or so, on day 3 or 4.

Which was fine. I don’t see the point of bikers, each of whom has a different bike and different level of energy/experience, trying too hard to stick together, especially when one is a cheetah on a sleek, cool road bike and the other a wooly mammoth on a slow hybrid. So doing it, at least the riding part, “alone” doesn’t seem weird at all to me.

On the other hand, last year it was very convenient to have a support vehicle that hauled all our stuff, and a support person who set up our camp. And the mid-week break with my sister in Des Moines was very nice. Neither would be the case this year, although of course at the end of Day 5 I would have the ultimate break of sleeping my own bed (which was the case last year, too).

If I were to do the whole week, I would probably want to get a back basket for my pimped-out bike, which has gained lights, a tot seat and (soon) fenders since last year. With a back basket, I could tote my own tent—so I could set up a camp site as soon as I was done with a ride each day and then go get my suitcase from the luggage truck.

Without a back basket, the tent and bedroll and suitcase would all have to fit into a pretty small size. That is doable—hundreds of riders do it—but maybe not with the tent I currently have.


Anyway, the tent I own is big for one person, comfortable for two and not crowded with 3. I would prefer to share it, but only with someone I know fairly well. And I’m not sure about being alone for four whole days at the start of the ride.

Still, the call of RAGBRAI is pretty strong. The Des Moines Register released the full route this week. It does not, as I thought it might, go through Early, Iowa. But it goes near there on a county road that I used to bike on fairly often—and goes through the tired, tiny village of Nemaha. Yes, I have biked there before—on a “Bike Around Sac County” sometime during the Clinton presidency.

Again, hmmm. Are the two giant fertilizer tanks still there at the “Dolly Parton” corner? Will they still have Christmas lights shining in the park in Schaller in July? Will I feel a pang of nostalgia as I cross the Raging Waters of the Mighty Boyer?

Riding RAGBRAI would provide answers to these questions and more.

Anyway, MMUers, is anybody out there considering the whole week? I know a guy with a big tent …

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