Sunday, July 27, 2014

In Which I Share My RAGBRAI Wisdom

The ride is almost over and Eldon and I check out the Father of Waters.

Each year, RAGBRAI asks for feedback. Well, I will share some. And each year, other riders don’t ask for feedback, but they’ll get it anyway.

I didn't know about the two deaths on RAGBRAI this year right away—when you don’t camp in the campgrounds, you don’t get the free Registers handed out there, and I was cut off from news. Sad tidings.

Anyway, advice to myself, my team, my fellow bikers and RAGBRAI:

RAGBRAI, mark the darn route more clearly. I don’t mean the bike route—the support vehicle route. It’s marked as it if were being used by bicycles—tiny signs right at the exit you are supposed to use on a 4-lane highway, for instance. If you were riding a bike at 15 mph, you could see and react to that sign. In an SUV at 65? If you’re not watching the map like a hawk (and who wants drivers to do that?) it’s often a case of, “damn, I missed that exit.” And the code is confusing—Pink? Green?

Team Joe, go to the driver’s meeting, or send a representative. Maybe it’s partly our fault the vehicle signs did not make sense. On the other hand, we did scout the destination town and anticipated that traffic would be terrible. The scouting trip was a good idea.

RAGBRAI, add more information to the web site. Easy to find links to planning committee web sites in overnight and meeting towns, for instance. Detailed maps of said towns that show the bike and vehicle routes. I went to the Iowa DOT web site and downloaded maps for our team, which Eldon had printed. Those maps were very useful--but not as easy to get as RAGBRAI could make them.

Our meeting spot after the ride.
RAGBRAI, fill those rumbles. I don’t mean all of them—rumble strips on a flat are amusing, not consequential. But on the final day, in the infamous “W,” which I named that because there is a distinct W shape on the elevation profile due to two consecutive valleys with steep ascents and descents, one rapid downhill run ended in rumble strips. And several RAGBRAI riders ended their rides with broken bones there. I remember whizzing along at something close to 40 mph and seeing the little sign that said “rumbles ahead” and thinking, “really?” Most riders missed that sign because they were moving at car speed. And, as noted, some shattered bones resulted—I didn't see the fall, but I saw one aftermath, and during our break in Garber, several ambulances sped by, from, I’m assuming, deathtrap rumble strips hill.

Riders, "car back” means move over, jerk. Fast bikers often cross the center line. Well, if they have a clear view, OK. But when someone yells “car back,” quickly find a gap and move right, fast peddlers. The “car” is often an ambulance, and it could be a friend or, someday, you in there. For safety’s sake and as a courtesy, make a hole.

RAGBRAI, clone those Edgewood farmers. In the final meet town, the tiny village of Edgewood, farmers on ATVs actually escorted vehicles to specific parking places. It was a slick, nice system. Getting to the town was not so easy—the route markings were confusing and led Eldon and I to drive too far towards Guttenberg (I’m looking at you, RAGBRAI!)—but once you got there, you were briefly detained at city limits until a tan farm man on an ATV took you to a parking place. Our escort said there had been some complaints. We could not figure out why. There was no other town so easy on support vehicles along this year’s route as Edgewood was. Kudos, Edgewood. RAGBRAI, can you find out who planned that stop and hire her or him as “meeting town czar?”

My "Hello Kitty" system worked well--vital supplies, such as this, my bathroom bag, were easy to find. In my bike bag, I had the "on the road" kit in case Mother Nature called, and she did. As I was walking to a kybo holding a small lunch box with vital supplies inside, one lady I passed noted "I love your purse." It was very functional.
CR Joe, train more. I promise on a stack of Participant Guides that I will call my doctor tomorrow (Monday) and make an appointment. I had some symptoms that I described after the ride. My sister said, “I didn't know about the left arm pain.” Her spouse, a nurse, said: “If you feel those symptoms again, go to the ER.”

I’m happy to say I didn't end up the third fatality on this year’s ride. My vital organs are still functioning, although I don’t guarantee at what capacity. No Joe bones were broken, either. Here is my Facebook album of this year's ride. And RAGBRAI was so much fun that I will surely participate again.

After a medical checkup.

Friday morning in Waverly. It was wet. This is Brigid's trike, and she and I drove that morning. I don't think we regret it.

1 comment:

  1. Good feedback to RAGBRAI. Hope your ckeckup turns out good. W is a good description of hills. Last ascent I called " max heart rate hill" and it was tough. Rumbles at bottom were scary but I braked often on that one