Sunday, July 31, 2016

In Which RAGBRAI Karma is Complex

In camp the first night in Shenandoah--a RAGBRAI rainbow.

Eldon Rocca and I don’t look much like a superhero and his sidekick, but we got to play those parts briefly in Leon, Iowa.

We saved Delbert. Or maybe Dilbert—I’m not sure.

Anyway, the other two members of Team Joe were biking that morning, and Eldon and I had packed up to drive out of Leon. As we headed down a street, Eldon spotted an old man in a power chair who had turned a corner from a sidewalk to a gravel alley too abruptly and had tipped.

Eldon stomped on the brakes of the Eldonmobile, and he and his sidekick (CR Biker) sprang into action. We helped the man stand, evaluated his injuries (scratches, but he was coherent), and righted his chair.

In the process, Eldon’s shirt got some blood on it, and he had to change, so the incident did delay our trip to that day’s meeting town, Humeston. That was unfortunate, because the first leg of riding that day was rather short, and our bikers beat us to the meet town.

At least we had a story to tell. And we thought we had had the RAGBRAI adventure of the week.

Wrong—more dramatic events were in store when one member of our team slipped in the shower in Centerville, ending her RAGBRAI ride three days early. Her head injury was serious enough that she blacked out briefly and required a CAT scan at the local clinic. Fortunately, no cats were found. She ended up being mostly OK, although it was a scary experience.

It was a RAGBRAI to remember. It was the best of rides, it was the worst of rides. The ride featured a “mile of silence” on the first day to honor bicycle riders who died in accidents, and one such death took place on the ride. There was a serious injury in the first campground, when a man in a tent was dragged by a vehicle.

Team Joe at the end of RAGBRAI. Crazy guy with the gloves is CR Biker.

And yet it was RAGBRAI, a week of summer sun (for the most part), hospitality and decadent food. Iowans can sure make pies.

Team Joe was mostly four people, until the injury knocked us down to three, but we were six on Sunday, and seeing my son and his girlfriend that day was fun.

I was also passed twice during the week by Nate Klein, am MMU business professor who clearly needs to slow down.

I did try to do a few good deeds on this ride. In addition to helping to rescue Dilbert, I gave several strangers squirts of my hand sanitizer outside cornfield restrooms. At one such stop, a woman pulled off the route. Somehow, she looked distressed, and I asked her if she was alright.

“No,” she said. “My chain came off.”

Well, the chain was not broken, and luckily she hadn’t continued to pedal after it slipped off the gear—because a slipped chain can get really mashed in there and be hard to extract. This one wasn’t, and I was able, despite my limited mechanical abilities, to fix her bike in a manner of seconds.

And I bombed ditches with Milkweed seed.

My bike's bomb bay is loaded. Ready to toss some balls to spread Milkweed.

Still, my karma wasn’t all positive. In Sigourney, seeking Marco, I turned left in front of another biker, nearly toppling him. I didn’t mean to create a near accident, but I did—and it was clearly my fault because I was the biker making the sudden, unexpected and unannounced, move.

You’ve got to be always careful on RAGBRAI.

Ottumwa was an especially enjoyable stop this year. The town camp was at a large and beautiful park. There was a concert by Rick Springfield, the one such event I did attend this year. Also, on the way out of town, there was the best food stop of all of RAGBRAI, in my opinion—a magnificent breakfast provided by student groups at Indian Hills Community College.

Eldon added to his Karma when I had a minor situation Friday morning. During the night, one of my foam earplugs had become embedded in my right ear.

That was bad news for several reasons, including that I normally hear better out of my right ear, so my hearing was cut to less than 50 percent. I decided to seek help at a medical tent—but before I did, Eldon decided to see if he had a tool that would help.

What Iowa countryside looks like. Very pretty.

His multi-tool had tweezers, but they were too small. Still, with the pliers part of the tool, he was able to painlessly grab the foam and pop it out of my ear like a cork from a wine bottle.

Highs and lows of this year’s RAGBRAI:

High: One of my daughters discovered and recommended “Not Your Father’s Root Beer,” a sweet and very alcoholic drink that tastes like dreamy root beer. We took to the drink like thirsty RAGBRAI riders, and root beer became the Team Joe official flavor. We took the idea one more step by inventing the alcoholic root beer float—which is quite good.

High: Iowa scenery and the enthusiasm of small town folk.

Low: Riders who don’t understand that “car back,” especially when said car is an ambulance carrying an injured biker, means get the heck out of that left lane.

How the vehicle route is marked. Rather badly, and not at all inside towns.

The weather this year. True, we had some rain, but no terrible storm and no soakers. After last week’s heat wave, we can’t complain at all.

Low: It’s over. So suddenly it passes. By Monday, you feel you’ve been on RAGBRAI forever. By Wednesday you realize you are halfway. By Thursday morning, you suddenly understand that there isn’t much RAGBRAI left.

Overall, this was a very nice RAGBRAI, although I would have very much wished for our team to finish full strength. Still, the sister who fell in the shower was able to meet us and ride a few miles on the last day, which was nice.

What do I wish for future RAGBRAIs? Somehow, at some point, I would like to do a full RAGBRAI again—to actually ride all of the miles. I felt in better physical shape this year than I have in the past, and I don’t want to miss any sights. I also wish for safe biking for my team and for all of RAGBRAI.

On the final day, my youngest sister and I stopped at Beekman’s for ice cream. We were running ahead of schedule, and didn’t want to get to Muscatine too early, since we knew we were meeting one of my other sisters there.

The ice cream was good. And our sister was waiting for use in Pearl City, but hadn’t had to wait too long.

Rescue Cindy, at right, woman who aided a fallen member of our team. And below, Rescue Eldon, friend of hearing and Delberts or Dilberts everywhere.

Somehow, that felt like good karma. If you want to, explore more of my photos.

Some RAGBRAI thank yous: Joann, the final stay in Muscatine was perfect. Al and Lorna, you made our night in Washington very easy. Rescue Cindy, wherever you are, Team Joe is a fan. Eldon, gadget guy can even fix up an ear. I feel like a real cyborg. RAGBRAI—I can quibble with details of your efforts, but overall, kudos. You put on a great ride this year.

I hope Team Joe grows a bit next year, although that will depend on the route, to some extent. We shall see. For now, farewell, RAGBRAI 2016. We’ll miss you.

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