Monday, July 30, 2012

Lesson From RAGBRAI 2012

CR Biker dips his tire in the Mississippi River at the end of RAGBRAI 2012.
So, blog fans, I did it again. I rode every mile of RAGBRAI 2012, just as I did RAGBRAI 2011.

Which means I was slow Joe, for most of the ride, being passed by young, lean bikers on sexy, fast road bikes; passed by middle-aged men on chunky hybrid bikes; passed by 10-year-old girls on mountain bikes. But, as they note in the RAGBRAI participant booklet, it's a tour, not a race. And I was a steady, albeit slow, tourist.

I decided one very hot afternoon, when the sun was beating down on my arms and I felt my body dangerously heating up, that the “don't walk up any hill” rule simply did not apply anymore. I made the decision that, if I felt bad going up a hill, I had special heat dispensation to stop, rest, and walk.

After all, it was friggin 105. And that's not the “heat index,” that was the humid, unbearable heat.

I also decided that my afternoon hydration rule (one drink every 10 minutes, it was one drink every 15 minutes in the cooler mornings) also had an asterisk—at the crest of any challenging hill I would pause and take an extra drink.

As it turned out, the second decision sort of negated the first one. There was one scary moment on one hot afternoon where I started to feel faint on the bike and honestly thought I might pass out. I stopped, rested, drank and ate a snack, and then went on slower than usual. But the scary moment didn't happen on a hill. Resting at the top of every difficult hill on any hot afternoon did the trick, and CR Biker was able to keep on trucking.

I will freely admit I did not enjoy my second RAGBRAI as much as my first. The primary reason is out of my control—the weather was a huge problem. No way to get around it—biking when it's over 100 degrees is just not a fun time.

And, due to the heat, I ended up on the tail end of things on at least two days. The tail end of RAGBRAI, where the riders are more drunk, the vendors are out of food and the support more worn out and grudging, is nowhere near as fun as the front or middle of RAGBRAI.

There was another aspect that contributed to slightly less pleasure, too. Last year, I was part of a group of young adults, bright Microsoft employees, who where riding together. Having that companionship in the campground every night, having people to debrief with and discuss the ride, is more important an aspect of RAGBRAI than I had anticipated. As a loner, I thought riding alone would be fine. I wasn't wrong—I still liked RAGBRAI—it's just that I wasn't totally right, either. RAGBRAI is better with company.

Finally, last year I did RAGBRAI for the first time. It was all new. Even riding my bike that far for that long was a novelty. This year, while the route was different and I saw cool new towns, the whole experience suffered slightly due to less novelty.

One of my RAGBRAI meals: iced tea, pie, a meatball and a pasta salad at a local church.
OK, so much for the downers. There was a lot to like on RAGBRAI, too. The food, for one. I ate lots of good pie. I tried to stick mostly to local vendors—churches and schools—and that strategy seemed to play out well. Granted, one Iowa fire department's pancakes won't taste any different than another Iowa fire department's pancakes, but the local Iowa vendors will usually be less pricey and more generous than other options.

My one food regret is that I failed to buy a kolache, despite three chances. In Cedar Rapids, I joined the stream of bikers after the bridge of the lions where vendors were located. Two other towns along the way offered the Czech pastry, too—but what with one thing and another, I had already eaten before I saw them.

Still, both rhubarb and raisin pie make for pleasant treats. And I consumed way more pork than I normally do, including a sausage on rye local specialty with some long Eastern European name that I don't recall (it was a Czech specialty that began with an “L”, I think, if anybody reading this blog can help out).

There were other highlights on RAGBRAI 2012. I really enjoyed the Cherokee Symphony concert, held in an air-conditioned auditorium right at the campground. That came right after a “sinful chicken” and noodle dinner (they called it that) served by a Methodist Church in a community center right next to the campground. That was a good end to a grueling day of riding.

I will fondly recall the sub shop in downtown Marshalltown, which saved me by being open during a thunderstorm that caused the shuttles to be shut down and the street food vendors to be evacuated. A night with rain and no supper would be worse than a night with rain and a full belly.

I don't have unmixed memories of the Marshalltown Police, however. The cops I met downtown were friendly and helpful, but when the shuttles finally started running at 11 p.m. (two hours after my typical RAGBRAI bed time), I was delivered into a large, dark park that was totally strange to me. I had pitched my tent before taking a shuttle ride downtown and getting stranded there—I had not anticipated returning to the campground in deep night. Nor did I expect the park to be totally unlit—is it really usually that way, or was the storm to blame? Anyway, the sky was still cloudy, rain was fitfully spitting down and lightning occasionally flashed as I exited the shuttle. Next to a building with an ominous looking pile of ruined tents.

Was my tent still standing? Was my bike OK? Where were they? I started off through the park.

And walked. And walked. And walked. I was always clearly in the wrong place. Here, there were RV campers, clearly not me. There, there were identical brown tents with little numbers to differentiate them. Also not me. In that place, there were random assortments of tents—OK, that's my tribe, but it was a vast and unorganized tribe, and I could not find my tent.

I crossed the park several times. By about 12:30 a.m., I was getting a bit dispirited, and I decided I needed aid. On a street by the park, I flagged down a passing police cruiser.

I held out my hand in a “stop” sign, the cruiser stopped and the window rolled down. I explained I was a lost RAGBRAI camper, and the immediate answer was, “Sorry, we can't help you buddy.”

Oh, come on. In the first place, they could have directed me to a shelter. In the second place, they didn't even let me explain what I wanted—I knew they didn’t know where my tent was, but I wanted them to direct me to the baggage trucks because I knew that, even in the dark, from those trucks I could find my tent.

So I explained I just needed directions to the baggage truck. There were two cops in the car. First, they said “you need to head north.” Now, I was in a strange town, in a dark park, during a lightening storm. I had no hope of finding the drinking gourd and following it north to freedom. I didn't know what way was north. I briefly noted I didn't know north, and one officer then said to “go down that road and veer left.” The other chimed in, “no, I think you veer right.”

Gee, thanks Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. Let us review: I was alone, in a vast park, lost in a lightening storm. Officers Dum and Dee were merely cruising the edge of park, not urgently on their way to save a creme-filled doughnut at the local bakery. They both knew where the baggage trucks were parked, but together could not articulate clear directions to a soggy, tired, dispirited stranger. Instead, they drove off, to serve and protect nobody.

Well, OK, they did at least point out the right road. And they were both right because there were two forks in the road. At one you veer right and the next you veer left, but there was still 30 minutes of pointless trial and error before I cracked that code.

By 1 a.m., I found my site. Old Blackie had been knocked over into the tent, but only the edge of the tent, causing, as far as I could tell in the dark, no damage to either. The inside of my tent was dry. I did manage to get 3 hours or so of fitful sleep that night.

That was after an exhausting day, a 77-mile slog full of heat and headwind. I wondered what the new day would bring, the ride into Cedar Rapids, the longest leg of the whole week. I didn't feet up to it. I was still dog tired the next morning when I struggled to pack my tent, pick up my bike and soldier on.

Final day scene--bikers zoom past blooming wild flowers.
As it turned out, as often happens in Iowa weather, the storm was a harbinger of change. The wind had shifted, and for the first time that week, it was the biker's friend. It got warm, but only warm, that day. I think the high might have been just shy of 90. Friends, when you've ridden in 105-degree heat, 90 feels excellent. The ride that was longest in miles, but turned out to be shortest in effort, and the cruise to Cedar Rapids was relatively easy.

And the final days, while I had low energy and struggled, particularly on the last day, still featured decent biking conditions. If they had been hot, I don't know if I could have finished RAGBRAI. I wondered whether to even try the final day, but was giving a ride to my family members, so felt duty-bound to try.

Well, I did it. And the views of east Iowa scenery were great. And it was fun to have my sisters and brother-in-law with me on those final days when I was most drained.

Clinton is a tired, old river town, but I saw our house at 735 7th Avenue South, which had been falling apart, and it's been fixed up. What seems in disrepair, be it a house or leg muscles, can be revived. A maple tree that I recall my dad transplanting from a hedge that was cut out long ago has grown to a massive tree. Our favorite Italian restaurant from the 1960s is still there and still good.

My son-in-law Brandon and I celebrate in traditional RAGBRAI fashion after completing the ride, 2012.  Mississippi in Clinton in background.
What advice to I have, having completed my second RAGBRAI? OK, since you asked, here goes:

  • Pack light. I did better this year than last year, I did not have a huge amount of stuff I didn't need, but the less stuff you have to cart or sort through, the better. When you've ridden more than 60 miles in humid Iowa heat, you want simplicity.
  • Get the right tent. I was lucky, Audrey helped me pick the tent, and we picked well. This year, I had a little two-person tent that was actually perfect for one—it was much simpler to put up than last year's huge four-person tent. If I were tenting with someone, last year's larger tent would make sense. As a lone biker, I'm glad I had a smaller, simpler one.
  • Carry toilet paper. I did last year, because the guide said to, and never needed it and thought “ha, that's extra weight I didn't need.” As luck would have it, I didn't need it again this year, but there were some close calls. Kybos often run out. If you're going potty, you always want to have a little TP with you, just in case. On RAGBRAI, you can't always wait. You don't need much, maybe just enough for two “events” the entire week—but you don't want none.
  • Carry a variety of snacks. Last year, I brought granola bars and got very sick of them. I also brought just two flavors of sports tablets to mix electrolyte drinks. This year, I had granola bars, nuts and pretzels—with three kinds of snacks, I did not get sick of any one of them. The nuts, packed in small individual servings, were the best addition—more than the granola bars, they really seemed to provide a boost when needed. Having three, instead of two, flavors of electrolyte tablet also improved the drink situation a lot. The snack situation this year was an improvement.
  • Bring a blindfold. I think ear plugs and a blindfold are must-have items for RAGBRAI camping. Last year, I had the plugs but not the blindfold. Again, it was Audrey who found the blindfold for me, and it was a good thing to have. You don't know how light or dark your camping area will be, and you need to be able to shut out the light.
  • Don't bike alone. It's not necessary to have someone with you every second of the day—it's OK for members of a group to bike at their own paces—but, as I learned this year, a social network is a big plus on RAGBRAI.

Well, there you have it, blog fans. Would I do RAGBRAI again? If you had asked me early Saturday, I would probably have said “no.” But, as I dipped my front tire in the Father of Waters late that afternoon, of course, my mood was different. I had done it. I would think about it before doing it again.

Then, I would do it.

Next time, I'll record my training rides more rigorously. While I did train this year, I was more serous about it last year. I've learned that you need to train seriously for any RAGBRAI.

And, while I'm not 100 percent certain about next year, I'm pretty sure there will be a next time.

Final notes: Thank you, Cate, Brigid and Eldon for providing the companionship and support on those final days when my batteries were totally drained and I didn't really want to carry on. Without you, I doubt I would have finished RAGBRAI.  Thank you, Sam and Nikki and Richard for that mid-week night on a cot in AC and the spaghetti.  I needed that.

And most of all, thank you, Audrey. You encouraged me to do RAGBRAI again, and despite the challenges, it was a worthwhile experience. You pointedly suggested I needed to go on a bike ride on some days, and every mile I biked before RAGBRAI was important. You got me essential supplies, including the tent, the blindfold, the necessary drug-store products such as sunscreen and ibuprofen. You left me off and picked me up.

And you told me that you missed me. I'm sure that was a huge part of what kept me going.
Audrey,  saying goodbye at the start of RAGBRAI.  My bike handlebars are also visible.

Friday, July 20, 2012

All My Bags Are Packed, I'm Ready To Go ….

Cate at Parlor City Pub.  We are in the cop corner.  And even saw a bike cop on the trail.
Well, not really. I have some final prep to do in the morning, including tagging all my stuff.

CR Biker will be on vacation next week, so no blog updates for a while. Despite the triple-digit heat, I'll be on RAGBRAI. Wish me luck, blog followers, but I am acclimated to the Iowa summer, and promise to drink lots of water and electrolyte solution and to be careful out there.

Did the final long prep ride Thursday with my sister Cate. We were exchanging data about our home town. She requested a tutorial on changing a flat (she has had her first flat in recent history, whereas I am a regular flatulent rider and have lots of tire-changing experience, alas). (And yes, I know, a fart joke is low humor, but I hope you chuckled.)

So I showed her how to put on a new tube and then we rode the Boyson Trail and then down to Prairie Park Fishery, neither of which she had been on before (well, I'm sure she has been on the older parts of the Boyson Trail, but not the new ones that opened this year).

My lunch, the "Jucy Lucy" with sweet potato fries.  Very good, but the menu warned "the first bite will be hot."  Maybe they meant literally hot, because it was just a very good burger, not really spicy.
For lunch, she offered to take me to the Parlor City Pub in the New Bohemia district. The pub is just one block off the trail, but I had not known of it before. I highly recommend it. I had an excellent burger and sweet potato fries, and plan to take Audrey there soon—partly because the food and atmosphere are fun, but also because it's next door to a book store I have not been in yet.

Cate's lunch.  She says the pulled pork had a nice tangy sauce and was very good.
Well, Thursday night I had pretty bad leg cramps. 40 miles with my sister did something bad. But leg cramps, while they can be really, really painful, are also really, really nothing in terms of long-term problems—I would much rather have the cramps than, say, a swollen and sore knee.

All in all, I look forward to RAGBRAI with some trepidation. You can never say you've done enough miles when you hit that road. I'm flying more solo this year, without a Microsoft cohort to keep me company and schlep my bags.

But, I think I'm ready.

Stay tuned, blog fans. CR Biker will not be updating for a while, but when I do, I'll tell you all about my hot time on RAGBRAI.
Old Blackie, now tuned for RAGBRAI, in bike rack at Parlor City, a biker bar in New Bohemia.  It's chained to Cate's bike.  Catty corner from Parlor City is a motorcycle bar.  We wisely chose the bicycle biker bar.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Doe, A Deer, A Female Deer

Doe in muddy Dry Creek which was dry last week but has a bit of water in it.  She's a fair distance from me, my point-and-shoot has a good amount of zoom--I'm on C Avenue bridge and she's in the creek.

Ray, a drop of golden sun that fell on Iowa and made it friggin' HOT HOT HOT.

I got back Monday from a fun weekend trip to Rochester, Minnesota and the Twin Cities. Jon was in a wedding there, so he was able to come home for a couple of days before returning to the Peace Corp in Paraguay.

Due to a broken spoke, I didn't ride as many miles last week as I had intended, and while I will make up some this week, I won't push it. It's the week before RAGBRAI. The body needs a little rest before the ordeal.

I picked up Old Blackie from the bike shop Monday evening and took her out for a quick trail spin near my home. As I crossed the C Avenue bridge in the fading light, I saw something below me. Not that golden valley, but a creek that had been dry last week with some muddy water, and a thirsty doe, clearly having a drink.

She paused to look at me, but it was just too darn hot to run, so she just watched and I just photographed and after a few minutes I moved on.

I took the bike out again this morning for a 30-mile or so ride. I finished by 11:30, and it was already blisteringly hot.

Well, the first few days of RAGBRAI should be warm ones, but upper 90s, not 100s, and the forecast seems to include some 80s by mid-week. Maybe we'll be lucky and RAGBRAI won't be so hot, after all.

The water in the creek was a bit of a surprise, a gift from weekend rain. It's still very dry, and we could use more. There is a slight chance of storms tonight, so knock on wood and think wet thoughts!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

In Which CR Biker Sees Odd Signs In The Water

Taking a water break at ballpark near power station along the trail.  Today's ride, the junky mountain bike.
The RAGBRAI web site indicates that it would not be a good idea to use a mountain bike on the ride across Iowa.

It may not be an entirely fair test—it’s definitely a junky old bike—but after doing around 25 miles on Old Junkie, I say, amen, RAGBRAI.

It was odd riding this style of bike.  I felt like I was moving pretty fast, but it took longer to get places than I’m used to.  The old junk bike doesn’t function in all gears, but it has its speedy gears.  This style of bike is just a tiny bit slower than a hybrid—smaller wheels.

And the knobby tires eat some energy.  You can hear them as you ride along, an odd slow whirring, like a far-off old prop plane sound effect.  It’s a little weird, to me, because my regular bike rolls almost silently.

Well, I didn’t want to tackle any high hills without the hill climbing gears, so I went around the Bowman Woods hill on my morning ride.  I did climb the hill at MMU, though, and made it to the top.  I rode for a while on the Cedar River trail after working on campus—not as far as I would have on my usual bike, but at least I got some time on bike and some miles in today.

Although it was an odd ride, on the other hand, it’s nice to have a bike to use when my regular ride is in the shop.

The ride itself felt a bit weird beyond the strange bike.  It’s drought time in Iowa—high summer, the dry season, has arrived early and ferociously.  We’ve had one sprinkle in July and a dry June before that.  Dry Creek is actually dry for the first time in several years.  Some trees have died—several pines along Cedar Lake are just drying tinder.  Of course, some other trees that look dead might not actually be dead—a tree may go dormant to protect itself during a drought.  Still, some trees no doubt will die.  Some young trees are having a tough go—many of the new trees in the parking between the street and sidewalk in our neighborhood are bare skeletons.

The Cedar River, which raged so fiercely two years ago, is a muddy stream.  I saw a junk bike on a sandbar, and wondered how it got there.  There was a serious piece of iron sticking out of the river like an emerging Loch Ness monster.  I wondered if it’s a piece of the railroad bridge that was cast into the river during the flood, now visible as the water gets slow.

Sandbar in river, a tiny island in the shrinking stream.  How did this bike get there?

A heron waded at the edge of the water, and I wondered if it’s easier to hunt for fish for this bird.  Of course, a drought won’t be good for the health of the river, and if fish are easy to find now, there soon won’t be as many if the rains don’t come.

Are fish easy to find for this fisher?
 On my way home, I passed by a middle school next to Noelridge Park—and saw something, I’m not sure what, swimming in the remaining waters of a drying creek.  What was it doing there?  It looked like a big rat, do they often swim?

What is it that is swimming in the water?

Anyway, I guess I was just glad to get some time and miles in.  Although I would not mind missing  a day for rain.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Recycling Some Bikes for Final RAGBRAI Rides

Junk bike, courtesy of Ames dumpster.  Yes, I got both wheels fixed and chain back on, so it's sort of ready to ride.
Well, yesterday's wobble was more than I thought.  I missed it when I inspected my bike, but I broke a spoke, again.

So, I took Old Blackie into the shop, which this week feels like my second home because I have been there three times in two days.

Anyway, I’ll be without a bike in the week in which I want to maximize my miles.

But, luckily, I have three other bikes to choose from.  Audrey’s?  Well, I did ride it once before. But I prefer for it to be available to her, even if she doesn't choose to use it much. What other bikes do I have?

Audrey and Ben found an old junk bike in a dumpster in Ames this summer and brought it home.  It had multiple problems, including a weirdly overlong chain.  Jon removed some links, but didn’t have time to put the chain back together before moving to Paraguay.

This week, one of my extra trips to the bike shop was to get spare tubes for my main bike and a tube for the junk bike.  When I went to put the tube on, I found it needed new wheel spoke tape, which was an extra trip to Northtowne.  Anyway, what with one thing and another, in several hours I think I got “New Junkie” ready to ride.  Sort of.  It is supposed to be a 21-speed bike, but the derailers are so out of whack that it’s really just a 3 speed.  Well, I can still use it to get some flat trail miles in, so it’s progress.

Jon's pedals.  Need special shoes.

I also bought two cheap pedals at Target.  I swapped out the pedals on Jon’s bike, which require bike shoes, for the plain pedals.  That was a quick fix, and Jon’s will certainly be a more versatile bike, but I have not figured out how to pump up his tires yet.  (CR Biker hates those precious new dinky valves—give me big old fat old-school valves every time).

Anyway, my plan is to use the junk bike for the most part, but do some hilly rides on Jon’s bike once I figure out how to get air into his tires.  My RAGBRAI bike should be back in less than a week, and I admit I am not too sad that I broke that spoke.  It forces me to get the bike tuned now, which makes sense—I’ll be riding over 400 miles across Iowa on a newly tuned bike.

The new pedals, no special shoes.

Monday, July 9, 2012

In Which CR Biker Finds a Wobble and a Puddle

A wet street on the way to the trail this afternoon. Rain!
I did an early morning ride over the Bowman Woods hill, as usual, but instead of riding on the Boyson Road trail in Marion through the Frisbee golf course, I went east to 10th Street and north to Lowe Park.

The trail there is short, but nice, but getting to it is a huge pain. I might ride it again on a quiet weekend, but not on a weekday morning. There is just no good bike route there, which is mildly frustrating, because why put in a bike trail that nobody can bike to?

Anyway, what with one thing and another, including cleaning out my dresser and killing Japanese beetles with traps and soapy water, I didn't get on the bike again until 3 p.m.--right after a rather surprising afternoon sprinkle. I'm afraid it was nowhere near enough rain to do much good in these dry conditions, but it was rather nice to see puddles on my ride for once.

I used a gift card to buy a back rack for my bike at one store, and went to my regular bike shop for other supplies, including an old school (glue included) patch kit, a new master link for the junk bike and some inner tubes.

Cedar Lake is calm after the storm, but the sky looks
more interesting that it has in recent days.

Then, I noticed a wobble on the way home. I checked, and no spokes are broken, but I think I probably should take Old Blackie to the shop for a pre-RAGBRAI tuning and to get the rear wheel true again. Unfortunately, they are probably buried in bikes right now, which means I won't get mine back much before RAGBRAI.

Which means that I sure hope the master link works to mend the junk bike. Looks like it might be my new training ride!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

It’s A Dry, Warm, RAGBRAI Ride

Leaf at Prairie Parks Fishery.  Dried and eaten by Japanese beetles.
That's the kind of day it was.
Well, blog fans, I am not sure exactly how far I rode today.  More than the shortest RAGBRAI ride.

I started off around 10:30 heading for the Linn County Democratic HQ on Mt. Vernon Road.  I received a phone call last week asking me how many tickets I wanted to reserve for President Obama’s visit to Cedar Rapids on Tuesday.  Well, two, one for me, one for Audrey.  The person who called said I could pick the tickets up between 10 a.m. and noon Sunday, today.

I had not been to the local party office before, and headed down Second Avenue, past Washington High School.  I turned left, intending to take Cottage Grove to 32nd Street.  I had not been on 32nd before, and wondered if it would have a good hill to practice on.

The answer, dear reader, is “yes.”  I don’t think the 32nd Street hill, headed south, is much different from the notorious Cottage Grove hill headed west.  I went down Cottage Grove today, but up 32nd.  I had done the Bowman Woods Hill on a shorter ride before breakfast, so today’s biking definitely featured good hill practice.

When I got to Dem HQ, things were tense. Plans had changed, and all tickets had been handed out, first come, first serve, on Saturday.  So those of us who had been called to reserve tickets gone none.  A young female volunteer was left to face the ire of the masses.  And there was some ire.

Well, poop.  I must say, however, that while I was disappointed, my reaction was nothing compared to the monumental meltdown staged by a “lady” who went on a loud, lengthy rant.  “Lies!” she shrieked.  Well, no, lady, the local dems didn’t organize the visit, they thought they would have enough tickets to give out and the national campaign office changed plans on them.  It was a monumentally bad mess up, but hardly deliberate untruth.

She vowed to register immediately as an Independent.  Lady, please register as a Republican.  With your personality, you should be good for an extra 5 points for Obama in Linn County.

Well, I left after a few minutes of the rather impressive tantrum.

I headed across Mt. Vernon Road, east to Memorial Drive, which I went south on to its end in Otis Road.

I then went to the Prairie Park Fishery.  It was warm and dry, but serene—a good place to relax and forget the toxic scene at party HQ.  Despite the drought conditions Iowa is falling into, it was a nice day to be outside—a normal hot summer afternoon.  Upper 80s felt pretty good after recent temperatures had been measured in triple digits.

I ate my peanut butter sandwich lunch, washed down with electrolyte drink, and then headed down Otis Road for downtown, where I joined the Cedar River Trail.  I headed south to Ely, then north to the end of the trail north of Hiawatha.

Dragon Fly in Ely at the south end of the branch of the Hoover Trail
that reaches Cedar Rapids.

Between my early morning ride, the trip to the party headquarters and the full trail ridge, I am pretty sure I topped 50 miles.  I don’t think I reached 60, but between 50 and 60 miles is enough to count today as a RAGBRAI-like ride.

I ended up with a sore butt, aching knees and a heat rash.  But, I am hoping to pack on the miles this week.  I was also hoping to see President Obama.  At least I think I may achieve the one ambition that I have control over—and not melt down over the other.
My reward, after the ride.  Appropriate, no?

Friday, July 6, 2012

In Which CR Biker Becomes Weird Al

Anybody out there play the accordion? Or own a weird off-color straight-hair wig?

Or is cinematic enough to imagine some scenes for a music video for this song? Because it was hot today and because grandchildren were visiting, CR Biker didn't ride, so instead I completed round one of the lyrics for my “Waking up on RAGBRAI” version of “Waking Up in Vegas.”

I'm betting that for many of you, “Waking up in Vegas” is a pretty familiar ear worm, so just imagine Katy Perry's boisterous voice belting out these words:

Waking Up on RAGBRAI

You've got to help me pump.
I've got a flat tire now.
Where is your patch repair? Is there a spare tube in there?
You lost your chain lube in Sac City.
Why am I wearing your bike shorts?
Don't eat that raw meat
You want to pack and peddle out of town

Don't be a granny.
Remember what you told me
Shut up and shove your feet back in your toe clips,
That's what you get for waking up on RAGBRAI
Stand up and wring the sweat out of your Jersey
That's you get for waking up on RAGBRAI

Riding across Iowa now.
I've eaten more pie that ever. Can you carb load with beer?
Why aren't there Indians in Cherokee?
Don't you pop a wheelie.
Just keep on pedaling.

Don't be a granny.
Remember what you told me
Shut up and shift down into first gear,
That's what you get for waking up on RAGBRAI
You smell just like your armpits
That's what you get for waking up on RAGBRAI

Is this a porta poty?
Or just an Iowa field?
Send out an SOS
And get me a cold one
We're going to bike out of town

Don't be a granny.
Remember what you told me, you told me, you told me
Shut up and tighten up your brakes now,
That's what you get for waking up on RAGBRAI
Stand up and wring the sweat out of your Jersey
That's you get for waking up on RAGBRAI
Wring the sweat, wring, wring, wring the sweat, c'mon!
Give me some sweet corn baby
Give some fresh pie, honey

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Some Bling For a Hot Bike

Water bottle on it's side in basket, sticker on the front.  I put some stickers on my helmet, my fender and the back of my rear view mirror, too.

I bought my RAGBRAI water bottle today, a nice MMU cool blue model, as you can see.

While I was at the University Store, Ms. T. W. noted that I could also have some free stickers for my bike.  The sheet has many stickers that say “Mount Mercy College” on them, so the sheet isn’t for sale anymore—but the “Mustang” stickers are still current, so I have added some to Old Blackie.

Not many more change to be made before RAGBRAI.  I’ll stop at a downtown store and use a gift card that I won at MMU for a back rack, which will give me some more carrying capacity.  I have to pick up some spare tubes and a patch kit.

But, otherwise, I’m pretty much ready to roll.  I did some hot riding today—commuted home in the afternoon via the Cedar River Trail.  I did fine, and I’m sure I looked great with my new “Mustang” stickers.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Some Ducks And Other Wild Things

Why does the baby duck cross the park drive?  Clearly, to get its image in my blog ....

Happy Fourth of July! We celebrate the letter our ancestors sent to the king of England, telling him we weren't going to eat scones or drink warm beer any more.

I went on two short rides today. In the morning, I did the Boyson Trail in Marion on my way home from the gym. I did the same trail again in the evening, when I went on a ride with my son-in-law, and then he and I rode over to Noelridge Park to meet more family members there.

It was warm in the morning, hot in the evening, but they were short rides and I didn't overdo it.

The theme of the evening ride was “Where the Wild Things Are.” I was telling Brandon (my son-in-law) that I had seen deer often on a new stretch of the trail, and he had just replied that he also often saw turkeys during his rides near Monticello, when a turkey strutted across the trail maybe 30 yards in front of us.

Later, on the new rail line trail headed towards C Avenue, a deer calmly walked across the trail in front of us. It was too far away, maybe 50 yards or so, to even tell for sure if it was a buck or doe, but it was still a deer encounter.

Finally, at the park, we met the family at the duck pond and saw lots of cute baby and mom ducks.

Well, shucks. Despite the heat, the rides were pleasant.

I've done well this week, I figure I have more than 100 miles already, but today was a lighter day. We'll see what tomorrow brings—but tomorrow is supposed to be even hotter than today, so I doubt it will bring any long ride ….

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Bugs, Both Entertaining And Annoying

Pretty flowers in Sokol Park.  One of my break places on today's hot ride.
Was it hot again today? Does a fish like water?

Actually, a fish doesn't have a well-enough developed central nervous system to be very self-aware, so no, it doesn't like water because it doesn't “like” anything. But, shucks, it was HOT.

And yet I rode. Fortunately, I rode earlier in the day. I had hoped to get on the road by 8, but and left closer to 8:45. Still, my ride today was at a much more sensible time than yesterday's dizzy journey.

It was indeed hot, and I didn't finish until 1:30 p.m. I did the Bowman Woods hill first, then took the “new” trail back to C Avenue and headed west to the Cedar Valley, Cedar River trails. I only went as far north as Boyson Road (there is a nice restroom there), and then turned south.

I biked to Ely and back, stopping every hour, drinking a lot, taking it easy.

It was a very warm, but fairly pleasant, ride. The only off note was the bugs that bugged me.

One upside of a dry Iowa summer is that it's not as buggy as a wet Iowa summer. Still, trust me, Iowa in summer is a buggy place. And the Japanese Beetle, a newly arrived pest of the East, is coming out in force right now, which distresses me as both a gardener and a human biker. They sting—no, they don't have stingers, and don't bite, as far as I know, but if one hits you when you're tooling along at 15 mph and that metallic little bug bomb is going the other way at 10 mph—well, they make an audible “pop” and they sting.

Fortunately, they have tough exterior skeletons, and they don't also splat, at least not a bicycle speed. They are just annoying—you're riding along, enjoying the scenery, when you unknowingly approach a linden tree or crab apple or apple or rose bush or hollyhock or any other of the numerous plants these little garden panzers of mayhem attack, and …. pop. Pop. Pop.

From a St. Paul Minnesota web page, telling our northern neighbors
how much fun this newly arrived pest will be . A Japanese beetle.
And you have to brush the brutes off, cause they just sits there on your bike shirt. Or, worse, face.

Well, although I intensely dislike Japanese Beetles, they aren't the worst bug out there. They are not as bad as when you stop for a break and a black fly lands on your ankle. The bite of the Iowa summer black fly is not as serious as a mosquito bite, in the long run, but in the short run it hurts RIGHT NOW! Ouch!

Well, not all insects are horrible little biting flies or big brutish plant-destroying bits of metallica. At the end of the ride there is a pond in Ely, and, despite the heat, or perhaps because of it, I spent a few entertaining minutes watching the many dragonflies.

Until that darn black fly bit. Ouch!

Hot Time In the Old Town Last Night

How did I feel during my ride Monday?

Well, there you have it. The heat finally got the upper hand, briefly and made me dizzy. It's a good reminder to be careful out there, I suppose. I had planned to do an early ride, but what with one thing and another didn't get on the road until close to noon.

I rode the along the Cedar Valley Trail north, then headed south. I only went as far as the ballpark park next to the power plant, where I had my boxed lunch, then I decided (it was getting past 4) to head home rather than continue this hot, hot ride.

By the time I neared McLoud Run Park on J Street, I was feeling a bit lightheaded. I stopped at the park to cool off for a while, rested, drank, and texted Audrey. She wanted to know whether to come get me, but I figured I would be OK with a few minutes rest.

As it turned out, I was right. But, I'll have to remember, on these hot days, to ride earlier, drink more and take it even easier. It could be a hot RAGBRAI this year, and I need to be ready for heat, but I also shouldn't overdo it.

Anyway, what feverish imaginings were running through my mind? A version of Katy Perry's song “Waking up in Vegas” was--I'm toying with re-writing the lyrics for a parody, the chorus of which would be something like: “Shut up and stick your feet back in your toe clips, that's what you get for waking up on RAGBRAI, stand up and squeeze the sweat out of your shirt now, that's what you get for waking up on RAGBRAI …”

Anybody want to make a spoof music video?