Monday, August 5, 2013

In Which I Answer the RAGBRAI Surveys

One of the early screens in the survey.

Not really—because I answered the surveys last week, but here is a version that is consistent with my answers.

Every year RAGBRAI sends out post-event surveys, and this year I got two because I was registered both as a biker and a driver. Drivers don’t get asked as many questions, but since RAGBRAI is primarily a bicycle festival, that doesn’t feel out of place.

Anyway, some questions RAGBRAI posed, and how I answered:

The demographic stuff: I’m an old male who rode my third RAGBRAI, or at least most of it since I took some time off for driving shifts. I did not ride all 406 miles—but probably did more than 300. I hope that counts.

I am not a vegetarian. Bacon tastes too good. But I do eat veggies and had a veggie bowl at the Carbo Hut twice during the week, so I guess I sometimes choose the vegetarian option. Don’t hold it against me. Besides, most pies these days have Crisco rather than lard in the crust, so they are vegetarian options, too.

The most serious rider safety issue I had is not one listed, so I had to write it in: Rough roads on steep downhill stretches. That day passing through Bonaparte and environs almost pulled my bones apart. Heading down a steep grade as each crack in the road goes ca-chunka, ca-chunka; only, as the speed increases so does the volume of the ca-chunkas: CA-CHUNKA, CA-CHUNKA and you pray “our Lady of Spoke Strength, please preserve my wheel integrity and don’t fail me now!” Yeah, that is a bit scary. Really, it wasn’t the regular cracks that were the worst—it was the scooped out holes that were the same color as all of the other pavement—they’d fly up to you at 34 mph or so and you would not feel like: A) Taking any evasive maneuvers, which would seem crazy at this speed or B) Going over a 6-inch hole which would not be a CA-CHUNKA but more of a BAM!

It’s interesting what gets marked and does not get marked on a RAGBRAI ride. Clearly there were so many hazards on day 7 that RAGBRAI just threw up its hands and said: “We hope y’all survive.”

I found out about RAGBRAI because I grew up in Iowa and my parents subscribed to the Register and I read “Over The Coffee” over my Cheerios and followed the first bike ride with interest. I had a Schwinn one-speed at the time and was in junior high, so it was a few years—like 40 or so—before I got around to actually riding RAGBRAI. Donald Kaul, we miss you.

I have purchased merchandise for RAGBRAI, but no RAGBRAI merchandise, unless you count paying the registration fee to get that orange license plate.

OK, you asked if I had purchased any bike stuff before RAGBRAI. I said “no.” But, my wife gave me a new back light and bought some batteries for the headlight on my helmet. Sorry for misleading you. And I bought some chain lube. It was a good investment.

I honestly don’t know which overnight campground was my fav, so I just answered “Knoxville” because it’s the name of a town in Tennessee not too far from where I was born (Oak Ridge). But the stuff about Fairfield being my least fav campground is on the straight and level.

And yes, please don’t cut off RAGBRAI so quickly on the final day. I know y’all are in a hurry to get home, but a slow biker on day 6 is a slow biker on day 7, and if I ride fast enough to keep up with RAGBRAI six of the seven days, I should not have to use rocket fuel on day 7. Because I finished after RAGBRAI was officially “over,” I had to manage many dangerous intersections with no support, and I missed those fine troopers, deputies and police.

Don’t end RAGBRAI before 4:30 on day 7 if you don’t end the other days before 4:30.

Finally, from the “other” survey, the driver survey: Mark the darn route. I know you technically did, but very sparsely, and getting into and out of towns was dicey, especially for a team that switched drivers in the meeting town. The first meeting town—don’t recall the name and I’m feeling too lazy to ask Mr. Google—was so tiny that they had the local Fire Department directing parking for support vehicles. That was support vehicle Heaven, because getting into and out of that town was so easy. Not so many other towns along the way. It was virtually impossible to find the main campground in Fairfield, because on signs they insisted on calling it something that no other town did ('Permit campground?' What?), and they turned away our clearly marked and legitimate support vehicle at the campground after we finally found it anyway.

My wife came from Fairfield. Clearly the place must have fallen apart in her absence.

Anyway, after many years the RAGBRAI powers that be do most things well. Overall I would rate RAGBRAI as a 9 out of 10, or 80 PSI on an 85 PSI scale (and don’t tell me that would be more than 9 of 10, I am a journalist but I can do math a little). It was a blast.

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