Sunday, July 14, 2013

In Which The Ride Is Grand But The Video Gone

Team Joe--Cate Sheller, Eldon Rocca, Brigid Rocca and me. I went along with it when they suggested the name. We are on the observation deck, the old bridge approach, next to the High Trestle Trail bridge.

Trust me blog friends—the 48-mile ride Saturday was a blast. Not an unmixed blessing, mind you, but a very satisfying time nonetheless.

The 2013 RAGBRAI group I’m part of, “Team Joe,” met for a pre-RAGBRAI conference and training ride Saturday. My brother-in-law and sister Brigid live in DesMoines, and another of my sisters, Cate, drove as she and I made the journey Friday to our fine capital city.

But first, a word about navigating: Never trust a Sheller. Our route to Brigid’s involved a tour of West Des Moines searching for 60th Street (which, if we had found it, would have been useless since our hosts live in Des Moines, not one of its metastasizing western suburbs). And when we called Brigid, we kept getting unhelpful “this phone is being answered by an annoyingly calm robot voice and you are doomed” messages.

Well, the problems were eventually resolved. It turned out I was right (of course) in that the route to Brigid’s involved state Highway 28, which I opined while looking at a Des Moines map. It also turned out I was wrong (of course) in that Highway 28 is not identified on any of the exit signs along I-235, which means my navigational wisdom was of totally nonexistent application.

As I said, never trust a Sheller, at least where directions are concerned.

Anyway, the pointless adventure concluded, we had a fine Friday supper of steak, corn on the cob, tomatoes and apple pie—all good RAGBRAI-style fare, and we laid our plans for the ride.

Our team is splitting the driving of the support vehicle, so technically I will ride 5 ½ days of RAGBRAI this year. Still counts as a week, I think, and I’m looking forward to doing RAGBRAI with a family group again. My first RAGBRAI was with Jon and some Microsoft pals of his from Seattle, my second was solo and this year is my third. Groups are better.

Anyway, after making our driving schedule Friday night, we went to bed fairly early and awoke for Saturday’s ride along the High Trestle Trail, starting in Ankeny.

We had a great breakfast, again thanks to Brigid and Eldon, then headed towards Ankeny in two vehicles. When we got there, we had a surprise since it appears July 13 was “parade day” in Ankeny for some reason, and the parade route included the street right by the trail head, which meant a very full parking lot. The first vehicle was lucky enough to snag a spot, and a few minutes later someone else left, enabling us to grab a second spot.

From Polk County's web site, the trail.
Then it was off on the trail. It’s a very pleasant trail, going through several small towns, with nice rest stops on the way, including several bars and businesses that cater to trail traffic. It was cloudy, and around the low 80s—a temperature that feels very warm when it’s still and sunny, but when it’s breezy and cloudy can actually be a bit cool, at times.

Cool is OK for a bike ride. The wind was from the south (or east? Honestly, I don’t really know what direction we were riding in—that Sheller gene again). We zoomed along for much of the first 12 miles, and even when we had some minor uphill grades in the second half, we did well.

The High Trestle Trail ends in a high bridge over the Des Moines River. It’s a very impressive ride. I was a bit dubious about the concept of crossing the bridge—I don’t like getting on a chair or ladder, and honestly the worst part of the whole trip to Paraguay, for me, was having to cross a high bridge near Tampa, Florida, once on the way to Miami and once on the way back.

Looking from the observation deck to the bridge, and yes, I rode across it. Are you impressed? I am.
I’m not a bridge person. But on this bridge, the side rails are so substantial and the bridge so sturdy, that even though I did have to focus my attention on the bridge deck now and then to calm my nerves, for the most part I was able to enjoy the views and the ride.

The company was superb. Brigid and Eldon—a couple who have their share of biking adventures on their trikes, such as this close encounter with tornadoes—even have developed hand-signals that stand in for many of the standard RAGBRAI verbal signals.

A three-fingered wag back and forth, windshield wiper style, means we are approaching a road. A twirling finger in the air, which could be a disco move, means “all clear” at said road. Rather than yell “biker up” at a rider coming from the other direction, a sort of Vanna White waive indicates approaching bikers.

On the trail. Brigid is passing on the Vanna waive, which means that a biker is approaching from the other direction. It if were me, my hand would be palms down, which means something else.
The signals were OK, except they confused me a little when I was in the lead and had to use them, and I didn’t do all of them well. Mostly, I proved incapable of a Vanna waive, and instead inverted my hand, which, my cohorts tell me, meant that I was apparently signaling “walk like an Egyptian” whenever a biker approached. Maybe the fact that I elaborated the signal by moving my hand back and forth the same number of times as the number of bikers approaching didn’t help that image.

Anyway, we had a great time. Lunch was at the Whistling Donkey, a sports bar in Woodward that actually had decent sandwiches, and then it was time to head back.

The 24 miles back were a bit harder than the 24 miles there. The wind, which had been our morning friend, was our afternoon enemy. What had been downhill was, in the other direction, decidedly not downhill.

Still, the day was fine, our tummies full of good food, and we finished the ride in high spirits, even if there were some sore bottoms.

So what was unmixed about this blessing?

  • I killed my water supply. I carry a backpack water holder in my front bike basket, and when I hopped in Eldon’s SUV to accompany him for the ride to Ankeny, my door didn’t shut all the way. “I think you’ve caught your seatbelt,” he said. Seemed likely, so I opened the door, checked the belt and then slammed the door again. Only then did I notice water pooling at my feet. It was not the seatbelt, it was the end of my drinking tube that was stuck in the door. The nipple structure popped off, and Eldon and I thought he had fixed it by forcing it back on. Sadly, there was also a little crack in the plastic holding the structure. Sorry for the pond in your SUV.
  • I shot and then lost a video of the bridge crossing. I downloaded my SD card to the laptop computer. If I download to my desktop computer, the same utility program, which says on either computer that it is copying “all media files,” copies both photos and videos. The laptop only copies photos. When using the laptop, I have to remember to manually move videos before I clean the card. Or, if I don’t, they are gone. This was “gone.” Sad, but oh well, it did not spoil the ride.
Anyway, I’m pretty jazzed about RAGBRAI starting in only a week. I am hoping to reconfigure an old laptop to blog from the journey—we’ll see how that goes. I’m not sure my sense of technology is much more advanced than my sense of direction.

In the meantime, my wife kindly bought me a new bike computer, which I installed today (yes, there were long technical glitches, I will spare you the details, it works now). I tested it on a brief Lindale and Boyson trails ride with my granddaughter bike pal, Amelia.

And I have seen the High Trestle Trail. It’s a nice ride. More photos here. I hope to come back some full moon for the night experience—I understand the bridge has pretty lights.

Then again, it was one thing to face the void during the day when I could see there was still a world there. A high bridge at night? We’ll see.

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