Monday, August 6, 2007

Safety first

The lavish praise you all have heaped on me for organizing Team CoeBRAI is certainly gratifying. It also inspires me to keep this going. Three years ago I thought this would be a quintessential alumni event, and this year we made it just that. Thank each and every one of you for participating. Now I challenge each of you to join us again next year and/or recruit a friend.

The gift certificate you all got me was burning a hole in my pocket so I spent it tonight. I think you'll approve of my purchases. I spent over an hour examining nearly everything Northtowne Cycling and Fitness had to offer. Ultimately, my selections involved something I had learned from you this year.

I got a new helmet, white like Gary's to deflect the intense Iowa sun, after someone said they should be replaced every few years as the styrofoam becomes brittle. While I hope to never need it, I'm glad to know my most valuable asset is protected.

I got a taillight, which I can now use in concert with my helmet headlight should I ever venture out before sunup or, more likely, after sundown.

And I got a tube of Chamois Butter. I figure if it's good enough for John Edwards, it's good enough for me.

Thank you all, again, for everything. If you haven't already, please send me your photos so I can include them in the compilation CD.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Post-ride Musings

August 4, Saturday Looking Back

So it was only a week ago that we rode the hills and pedaled against the wind into Bellevue (poor Lance, he thought watching others race in France would be more fun), took the bus back to Cedar Rapids and then scattered our various directions....for me that meant another 135 miles by car to collect my kids at Grandma's in Kahoka, Missouri before driving another 1000 back to Northern Virginia the next two days....I don't know about Gary and Gail (who I estimate drove nearly similar distances) but next time I'm planning to fly and ship the bikes; that's right, plural bikes because my rising 8th grader -- perhaps inspired by stories of Zach riding successfully -- has said he'll do the ride with me next time I do it, and we even did a little 18 miler Wednesday this week so that I could confirm how sore my but still was...

Thanks to everybody who rode with the group this year -- even those who exposed my Lance photos as pictures of an imposter! I just looked at Tom's video -- I note those are back shots of men with Ragbrai and Livestrong jerseys like I saw hundreds of EACH DAY of the their any way to authenticate that sighting other than the Des Moines Register coverage of Peter Klein generously offering to sink John Edward's campaign with a Chamois Butt'r sample? Did anyone actually see Tom riding with Pete that day?

OK, I guess I should say thanks to Pete and Tom for letting me ride with them on some other days, and to everybody for helping me move and keep track of my two tubs and more worth of possessions at our hosts' camp sites each day....many of you will not be surprised to learn that I returned via UPS today the "Quick Pitch" "4-Person" tent I bought for the week, given its size and stubbornness. Those people at Sierra Trading Post were so understanding...

What an incredible experience of hospitality Lonnie, Lisa, Zach and Carissa and our host families and additional support folks (Gary, Jim, Sara) provided for those of us who were riding last week!! Not to mention the small Iowa towns....

Here are my learnings this year for future years:

1) When transporting riders in the cargo truck to an out-of-town host close the rear door on gravel roads...

2) When transporting riders in the cargo truck back to town on paved roads open the door to allow the passengers to breathe...

3) Whoever arranged the weather should do the same thing they did this year.

4) Leave when you are rested in the morning, swim at municipal pools along the route, and get in when you get in...EVERYBODY is aiming to be on the road by 7AM., which only creates congestion when there are 20,000 bikes on the road in a given day....If you are Lance leave at 11 and finish by 3.

5) Blues Travelor is not Sheryl Crow, but maybe Lance will do better next year (apoligies in advance to Blues Travelor fans).

6) There are no strangers on the ride, mostly just friends you haven't met yet.

7) People who went to Cornell College (John Minek excepted) seem to have an inferiority complex....this puzzled me since I almost went to Cornell, but maybe there is hope for world peace since Tom's wife has been doing the same kind of work at Cornell that he is now doing at Coe.

8) If Bob Untiedt becomes a professional stand-up comic I want to catch him doing a show.

9) Assorted Coe bikers playing the Wartburg College wrestling team in kickball is not a fair match -- maybe basketball would be a better choice?

(10) 20 and 30 years after my first two complete RAGBRAIs it's still a terrifically worthwhile vacation, if fact, I've got to do this ride more often.

Thanks to all of you Coe-affiliated folks for being family for the week, and Rich Blessings in all your endeavors....

-- Kevin Ogle

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Looks like heaven...

Thanks again to all of you for the good times. We really appreciated everyone's understanding and willingness to pitch in given our change in plans. RAGBRAI was a great experience and we're already looking forward to next year!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

From Deep in the Heat of Texas

That's right, "heat", it is not a typo. The weather here is hot (95+) and humid (70+%). I am missing the great weather we had on RAGBRAI, especially the cool nights. Here in Houston it gets all the way down to 80 at night.

After a brief visit with my daughter in Long Grove, Iowa, Gail and I headed down the Mississippi River on Sunday afternoon, reaching Cape Girardeau, Missouri about 8:00. Another 12 hour drive on Monday and we were back in Houston, where we were greeted with a broken hot water heater that had leaked all over the ceiling of our family room and entry hall (in Houston we have no basements, so water heaters, furnaces, etc. are placed in attics). What a mess. As I sit here writing this blog, the plumbers are installing a new water heater. Then we can get the restoration people in to dry out everything and redo the damaged sheetrock.

But the good news is, my ribs are much better.

I want to thank Lonnie profusely for the great job he did in organizing everything. Gail and I had a great time, met lots of new folks along the way, had lots of interesting experiences and sights to see and developed what we hope are lasting relationships with our fellow COEBRAI teammates. We have many memories to cherish for many years to come. My only regret is that I could not ride everyday, especially the Eagle Grove day, but I feel like I still got to experience RAGBRAI at its fullest.

Bob, I will miss your unexpected, off-the-wall comments, that always left us in stitches.

Doug, I am sorry that in the rush of things at Bellvue I forgot to give you my pedal wrench so you could remove your pedals before you shipped your bike. Hope you were able to find some other way to do that.

Katie, hope your husband passed the Bar Exam and has a successful and rewarding law practice.

To all of you, thanks for putting up with Gail and me, especially me. I felt like on the days I could not ride I took out my frustration by becoming a little dictatorial. My goal was merely to help get things ready so the riders would have what they needed, plus a few little treats, when they finished riding for the day. I did not intend to be bossy and I hope I did not come off that way or offend anyone. If I did, I apologize.

The bottom line is that RAGBRAI was a fantastic experience for us and we will miss all of you.

Best wishes for all,

Gary and Gail

Monday, July 30, 2007

More photos

I finally uploaded photos from my carry-along camera, so I thought I'd post a few of them here.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Thanks to all!

Well, I think we can all say it was a great week for all. I enjoyed getting to know all of you and each of you brought your own flavor to the group. The team was friendly and encouraging, the sights vivid, and the food plentiful as we shared our experiences each night.

I know all of us are questioning our involvement in the ride next year but if my feeling of satisfaction this morning is any indication of my interest in next year, I'll be back. I hope most of you feel the same way too.

I have posted my pictures online at:

My video of me riding behind Lance Armstrong and John Edwards is here:

If you cannot get access or would like a any of them, let me know.

Thanks for a wonderful week and I hope to see many of you in another 51 weeks.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Final photos

The end

RAGBRAI XXXV saved the worst for last in terms of hills, and ended with a 56.6 mile journey from Dyersville to Bellevue. Twenty of the 24 CoeBRAI cyclists went the distance (477 miles). Tom Hicks and Pete Klein (shown wading in the Mississippi) logged 500 by completing Monday's century. Nary a rider needed a sag wagon. We never even opened the first aid kit.

I opted to end my ride on the high from Friday's journey and drove the camper to ensure transportation logistics ran smoothly (or so I reasoned). The 23 other participants tackled the 3,100 foot climb like champs and we all proceeded together to dip our tires in the Mississippi.

Now I know I'm biased, but the Coe College presence on RAGBRAI was evident throughout. Other Iowa colleges were represented, to be sure, but none stood taller than good ol' Coe. Off the road, I've never been a part of a group of strangers that meshed so well.

As participants return to civilization, I hope they'll share their thoughts on the ride. For me, no one will be surprised to learn this was a father-son experience of a lifetime. So it was altogether appropriate that the route included an overnight in Dyersville, the setting for the film "Field of Dreams."

And no one was prouder than me when I saw Zach entering Bellevue. He was intimidated by the final day's climb and hesitant to ride without his partner for the previous five days (or so I choose to believe).

Though I had been admonished by his mom not to push him, it was fun that she was the one offering the most encouragement -- even she knew he had come too far to not finish. I merely pointed out that hills were his strength, which I had witnessed first hand all week. After it became clear on Friday that I was slowing him down, I finally told him not to wait for me.

Once he learns how to use his gears properly, he'll be a cycling force. I don't know if he'll ever ride RAGBRAI again -- though it's encouraging that going for a ride tomorrow seems to be an option -- and I don't really care.

This week showed him that he can do anything he sets his mind to. It showed us both that he can do it without -- or even, in spite of -- me. And whether we're cycling side-by-side, or sharing a strawberry-banana smoothie break or I'm cheering him on from the shoulder of the road, I'm happy.

Thanks, buddy. You're a champ.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Is this heaven?

Not exactly. Heck, even vacation doesn't seem to be the proper noun. But, for me, today was as good as it gets on RAGBRAI. Weather conditions met the proper state of mind for the greatest day of riding I can recall in the past three years. Zooming around beautiful Backbone State Park, a strong wind out of the north to push us along was Zen-like.

The rain ended in the wee hours and it was damp when we broke camp. Clouds threatened more rain, but only a few drops fell in the early morning hours. Zach and I made efficient use of our breaks and attacked the hills with a vengeance (and it didn't hurt that the downhills provided a significant head start).

We arrived in Dyersville shortly before 2 p.m., our earliest of the week, but still later than most everyone else. Only Kevin, Tom and Pete -- all of whom had gotten a much later start -- had yet to finish, as well as my neighbor, Brian, who was supposed to join us for today and tomorrow.

Tomorrow the journey ends in Bellevue. I think it's been a good trip. Not everything, perhaps, that anyone imagined. But something for everyone.

Snapshots in time

I thought you might enjoy a few photos of our adventure.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

When it rains, it's RAGBRAI

As if our double-header kickball loss to Wartburg weren't insulting enough, here I sit beneath the overhang of a garage to block the rain. Yes, it's an official RAGBRAI now, though to have made it to Thursday night without any precipitation is a minor miracle.

Today's 63-mile ride from Cedar Falls to Independence was among the week's best, despite strong head winds on the southern trek from Fairbank. We're hopeful the passing storm will at least alter the wind pattern in our favor for the first time all week.

We are so grateful for the reception we've received from our hosts all week, and Mary and Steve Ohl are no exception. The barbecue pork loin was every bit as good as advertised, and the accommodations are second to none.

They even arranged for a site for our kickball game with Coe's rival Wartburg College. Unfortunately for us, Wartburg's ringers showed up and ours did not. After falling 8-1 in rather short order, the Knight Riders agreed to a second game (or, in our words, best two-out-of-three). They took game two 2-0.

Among our star performers were the Mineck siblings, Katie and John. Katie, a 2007 Grinnell graduate, scored our lone run. John, entering his second year at Cornell, was a force at first base. (The picture is of neither Katie or John, but rather Tom Hicks in the process of throwing a Knight out at first base.) But our team's superior intellect could not overcome Wartburg's athletic prowess.

Hopefully, this was the start of a new RAGBRAI tradition that will expand to include teams from other Iowa colleges in future years. I'm open to suggestions for a traveling trophy.

Tomorrow it's off to Dyersville, although I expect a delayed start because of the rain. Note to Coe's Admission Office: I wouldn't expect Mary much before mid-morning.

Good night, folks. Stay dry, and ride right.

P.S. In case you were wondering, I was won over by the butt-butter. Used in concert with Gold Bond powder, it's a biker's best friend.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Quote of the day

By my son, Zach, at an unplanned breakfast stop at the RAGBRAI-world famous Mr. Porkchop:

"Yesterday we had pizza for breakfast and today we're having a pork chop. I love RAGBRAI."

Of sore butts and presidential politics

Day 4 of RAGBRAI brought us to Cedar Falls and the lovely shady lawn of Barb and Al Poe, parents of Anson '08. The Poes had a great set up for our alumni dinner, catered by the ever-delicious Famous Dave's barbecue. Nearly 50 people (including Bob Untiedt '85, pictured) loaded up on ribs and chicken with all the fixins after a hot and hilly ride from Hampton.

Along the way, adventure-seekers Tom and Pete managed to get some face time with Lance Armstrong and Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards. After deducing when and where the two would be riding together in the well-publicized photo op, Tom and Pete joined the small throng of riders trailing the celebrities.

At one point, Tom joined Armstrong and Edwards as they were riding side by side, and engaged them in conversation about their upcoming appearance in Cedar Rapids. Later, Pete engaged Edwards in conversation about conditions in Darfur, a cause for which the Beloit College staffer has engaged much energy.

Back on the road, Edwards, an obvious RAGBRAI virgin, confided in Pete that his butt was sore. Pete turned him on to a product called Chamois Butter. You can read about it here.

A dyed-in-the-wool Gold Bond user, I bought the ass-salve myself tonight. I figure if it's good enough for a presidential hopeful, it's good enough for me.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Catching up from Hampton

Greetings loyal readers.

Sorry we've been out of touch, but Internet connectivity and cell phone access have been a bit of a challenge. We crossed I-35 today, which should make all the difference. Our hosts in Hampton, Coe parents Henry and Tess Wieck, really know how to throw out the red carpet.

All food tastes better on RAGBRAI, but the burgers Henry grilled rival any I've had in recent memory. Not that it was at all necessary or expected, a keg of beer was awaiting our arrival. Youngest daughter Jamie, even made a CoeBRAI flag (see photo) that we all signed.

After a peaceful night at the spectacular rural Humboldt home of Randy and LeAnn Hildreth, we embarked on today's 71-mile journey to Hampton. Along the way, we passed through Eagle Grove. Wow! I propose a new rule that RAGBRAI begin in Eagle Grove each year. Every other pass-through town before or since paled by comparison.

From vintage cars, to food, to celebrity impersonators, to music, to neighbors on their lawns waving us by, Eagle Grove takes the honor badge through three days of RAGBRAI. Zach and I scored a minor victory in Eagle Grove while waiting in line for breakfast burritos. I happened to notice a sign about a buffet on the door of Godfathers and ventured inside to check it out.

Turns out $5.34 was good for an all-you-care-to-eat pizza buffet and salad bar. Never mind that we got to sit in the mostly vacant, air-conditioned confines while consuming nearly enough food to last the day. As we departed, a biking comic (at least that's what the banner behind his bike described) questioned my sanity for choosing a pizza buffet at 9:30 a.m. "You're done for the day," he said. At that moment I knew there would be no sagging today.

But that story was trumped by Tom Hicks and Peter Klein, who rode in a draft line with Lance Armstrong. There's no video evidence, but I was plugging along at the standard 11 mph as the line passed at a much faster rate. Tom spotted my jersey and called out, "Lonnie, that's Lance," pointing towards the head of the pack.

Zach heard, "Lonnie, at last," as if passing the two of us was any great feat. Turns out Tom and Pete rode with Lance, riding a mountain bike and dressed incognito, for eight really fast miles. He was probably training for his ride with John Edwards tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Bob Untiedt went through his third and fourth blown tube of the ride. I wish I could do justice to the dynamic of this team. But Bob's dry humor has me in stiches. Together with Doug Bennett, I'm regularly in tears. These two riding partners rival the Smothers Brothers. Lucky for us, they'll be here all week.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Proud papa

I had to fight back the tears today when my manchild son, Zach, pulled off the road after completing the first day of his first RAGBRAI. Though it probably wouldn't have helped him, I'm sorry I missed it. Great thanks to Kristi, Meg, Tom and Peter for shepherding him safely for 75 miles.

By all reports, it was a plenty tough day out there on the roads. The heat, while not blistering, was sufficient and head-winds made everyone work. We'll see what tomorrow brings with the longest day of RAGBRAI XXXV -- 77 miles (or 100 for those who venture the Karras Loop).

I'll be skipping that part, and thankful enough to be biking at all. Gary Van Rooyann had a particularly rough day as he continues to recover from broken ribs sustained in a bike accident three weeks ago. So he's opted to sit tomorrow out and has graciously volunteered to serve as driver for the day.

That means I won't have to miss meeting with Brady Krischel and her family in Havelock. Brady and her dad were in a serious car accident around Christmas and she was in a coma for the spring semester of her senior year at Coe. She recovered sufficiently to participate in commencement exercises and continues to rehabilitate at home in rural Havelock.

When we found out RAGBRAI was going through her hometown, we knew it would be a special stop.

Then it's off to Humboldt, where we'll be staying seven miles south of town at a house with a picturesque view of the Des Moines River. As the music echoes from the fairgrounds here in Spencer, which went all out with skydivers and a great fireworks show, a quiet evening away from the masses sounds nice.

Hello Spencer

Day 1 of RAGBRAI XXXV is in the books, and I have yet to get on my bike. The plan was to drive to Spencer, unload our gear and shuttle back to Melvin so I could at least get 35 miles in.

That was not to be as it took three hours to drive the circuitous route from Rock Rapids to Spencer and I wanted to get the RV issues nipped in the bud. We unloaded our gear on the curb of our Spencer hosts, Terrel and Jamie Story, who greeted us with homemade signs and cold water. Judging from the looks of this picture, we got the better end of this deal.

Lisa and I headed promptly for Walmart, where we obtained the necessary sewer drain pipe. Then we found a nearby campground, where we were finally able to dump our dirty water and refill with fresh. That warm shower is going to feel great. After a stop at Hy-Vee for ice and groceries, I'm now quite comfortable inside my air conditioned camper. I might even take a nap.

Though I would have preferred to bike today -- that is, after all, why I'm here -- it was interesting to observe RAGBRAI from a driver's perspective.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Greetings from Rock Rapids

It's almost 10:30. Most of our group has headed for what will substitute for bed for the coming week, anxious to begin what, for most, will be their first RAGBRAI. Of the few veterans, none are of recent vintage. I'm the only returnee from last year's squad. That should tell you something -- I'm not sure what, but something.

As I sit here at the lovely, riverside home of our hosts, David and Heather Springer, there's no humidity, the air is calm and cool, all is peaceful, but for the periodic band of drunken bicyclists passing by. At least, by now, they've donned helmets.

I'm thrilled to find access to the Internets and decide I'll chronicle day one as best I can.

We left Coe within a whisker of the scheduled 10 a.m. start. But not before a masterful packing job aided most prominently by Tom Hicks and Doug Bennett. Tom and his friend, Peter Klein, pilot the moving truck while I haul my family in our camper. It's the maiden RAGBRAI voyage for them too -- Lisa, Zach, Karissa and Hope. Eighteen anxious souls board the chartered bus.

After a stop for lunch in Clear Lake, the drive mercifully ends 6 1/2 hours later in Rock Rapids. Then all heck breaks loose -- sort of.

After unloading the truck in a 10th the time it took to load, Lisa heads off to a drivers' meeting and Zach and I head for the grocery store to load up on ice and fruit. A detour to the dumping station reveals two unfortunate truths -- this station is exclusively for dumping as there's no water with which to fill and the masterful job my repair man did securing my bike rack was not without fault. The hose I need to dump sewage is blocked in the bumper by a thick bead of solder. So, for the first night at least, the camper will again serve as merely an alternative mode of transportation and an expensive way to avoid sleeping on the ground.

Meanwhile, I'm struck by the syndrome that needs a name -- cellular dystrophy perhaps. I'm supposed to meet a guy to sell him a spare rider's wristband, but my cell phone is unable to send or receive calls. This, I've learned, tends to happen when 10,000+ bicyclists descend on towns less than half that size.

Buy the time I connect with Andy, he's already purchased a pass from someone else and I'm left holding a coveted RAGBRAI wristband. We'll see where that leads. More than likely, I'm stuck with it, though I did make half-hearted attempts to scalp it while hoping to run into Andy, who I only know via telephone. Eventually I gave up and ate a brat.

So tomorrow it begins. Seventy-five miles to Spencer. Anxious riders peppered me with THE question -- when do we leave? When you want, I say. Those so inclined will leave at 6. I'm typically a 7 guy. Just remember, the later you leave means more riding in the heat of the day. It sounds like many are shooting for 8, but these aren't the usual camping types. They may be surprised how bright the sun is and how anxious they are to get going.

I, alas, will start RAGBRAI XXXV behind the wheel of a 15-foot moving truck. That should explain, in part, why I'm not also in bed. Turns out our driver and her husband, a rider, were delayed by the death of a friend -- to cancer. Talk about ironies. Cancer crusader Lance Armstrong is among 10,000 registered week-long riders for the first time. (He rode a couple days last year before vowing to complete this year's ride from start to finish.)

Sara and Brian will join us Monday night. Meanwhile, despite a valiant effort by Kevin Ogle to secure an alternate driver, someone has to get that truck -- loaded with all our gear -- to Spencer.

The plan is for Lisa and I to pilot the vehicles, while Zach accompanies Katie Borders on bike. Lisa will shuttle me back to the meet-up town, and I'll bike about 35 miles back to town.

So there'll be an asterisk by my third RAGBRAI. No big deal. At least I didn't go for a ride in a cattle truck. Not yet anyway.

Friday, July 20, 2007

We ride!

In a bus, truck or camper, mind you, but today, finally, we ride. Destination Rock Rapids and the eve of RAGBRAI XXXV. I didn't think it would ever get here, particularly this week, but it's here now.

Tonight's pasta dinner was a great way to kick off our week together. Better yet that it allowed a head start on loading. I got a good vibe from our group and I'm excited about our adventure.

But the male riders staying in Voorhees need an answer. Oh, they'll figure out where to go to the bathroom on their own. But why are the restrooms in a women's dorm labeled "Women"?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Don't forget the sunscreen and shades

The extended forecast looks extremely favorable for RAGBRAI XXXV, with sunshine predicted for six of the seven days. While it will certainly be warm, we won't endure the oppressive heat that marked last year's ride. Here's the current local forecast for each of the overnight towns plus Bellevue:

Saturday, July 21
Rock Rapids
Mostly sunny. High 86, low 63

Sunday, July 22
Sunny. High 87, low 63.

Monday, July 23
Mostly sunny. High 89, low 67.

Tuesday, July 24
Mostly sunny. High 90, low 71.

Wednesday, July 25
Cedar Falls
Sunny. High 94, low 71.

Thursday, July 26
Sunny. High 90, low 64,

Friday, July 27
Scattered thunderstorms. High 88, low 67. Sixty percent chance of rain.

Saturday, July 28
Sunny. High 89, low 68.

Now let's just hope for a gentle breeze out of the west all week.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

They're waiting for you at Bellevue

In three days, Team CoeBRAI will embark on a 477-mile bicycling journey across Iowa. Below are some tidbits about each overnight town on the ride.

Saturday, July 21
Rock Rapids
RAGBRAI theme: “Wild Wild Northwest”
Population 2,576
Elevation 1,388 feet (The highest point on this year’s route, so I guess it’s all downhill from here.)
RAGBRAI history: start town in 1999 and 1979
Trivia: Called “the city of murals” for scenes from city history painted on walls of downtown buildings.
Most famous citizen: Jerry Mathers (gee beav)
Dipping Tires: The boat ramp in Island Park will be open for riders to dip their rear tires, a RAGBRAI tradition.

Sunday, July 22
RAGBRAI theme: “Licensed to Thrill”
Population 11,059
Elevation 1,316 feet
RAGBRAI history: overnight town in 1999, 1990 and 1979
Trivia: Home of what is billed as the “World’s Greatest County Fair.”
Highlights: Lance Armstrong will speak with registered RAGBRAI participants age 21 and under at 6 p.m.; fireworks at 9:55 p.m.

Monday, July 23
RABRAI theme: “A Holiday in Humboldt”
Population 4,390
Elevation 1,070 feet
RAGBRAI history: overnight town in 1985 and 1979
Trivia: The town was originally called Springvale for numerous springs in the area. Highlights: Recently opened a new aquatics center with two “huge” slides (open for swimming and showers for $4 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.).
Need to know: After stopping for lunch in Havelock with Brady Krischel ’07 and family, we’ll be staying seven miles south of Humboldt at a home with a picturesque view of the Des Moines River.

Tuesday, July 24
RAGBRAI theme: “Hot Fun in the Summer Time”
Population 4,221
Elevation 1,112 feet
RAGBRAI history: overnight town in 1990
Trivia: Originally named Benjamin so it would be read as Benjamin, Franklin County, Iowa, to honor the famous American. Renamed Hampton in honor of the famous (??) Hampton Roads of Virginia.
Site to see: The Franklin County Courthouse, built in 1892 in Romanesque style.
Need to know: Our hosts have generously offered to provide us with a free barbeque dinner.

Wednesday, July 25
Cedar Falls
RAGBRAI theme: “Live Large”
Population 36,940 (biggest town on this year’s route)
Elevation 853 feet
RAGBRAI history: overnight town in 1998 and 1989; pass-through town in 1985
Trivia: Originally called Sturgis Falls; what is now known as the University of Northern Iowa began as the Civil War Soldiers’ Orphan Home.
Site to see: Lance Armstrong Foundation concert featuring Blues Traveler at the UNI-Dome (tickets required).
Need to know: Dinner catered by Famous Dave’s courtesy of the Coe Alumni Office;

Thursday, July 26
RAGBRAI theme: “S.S. Independence”
Population 6,114
Elevation 922 feet
RAGBRAI history: overnight town in 1982, pass-through town in 1989
Trivia: Located on the scenic Wapsipinicon River, the countryside features one of the largest Old Order Amish communities in the nation.
Site to see: Team CoeBRAI defeating Team Knight Riders from Wartburg College in kickball.
Need to know: Our hosts have generously offered to provide us with a free barbeque pork loin dinner.

Friday, July 27
RAGBRAI theme: “Ride the Distance”
Population 4,167
Elevation 942 feet
RAGBRAI history: overnight town in 1989, pass-through town in 1983, 1993 and 1999.
Most famous citizen (almost): Although Ernest Hemingway didn’t live here, he visited his grandparents often.
Trivia: Home to the “Field of Dreams” movie site, the National Farm Toy Museum and the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier.
Site to see: “Field of Dreams” movie site (nothing says America like competing land owners)

Saturday, July 28
RAGBRAI theme: “Soaring into Bellevue”
Population 2,361
Elevation 600 feet
RAGBRAI history: hosted in 2002, 1999, 1991 and 1989
Trivia: shortest day in terms of mileage (56.6), but the worst in terms of climb (3,195 feet).
Site to see: Beautiful view of the Mississippi River at Lock and Dam No. 12.
Need to know: We’ll gather at the high school on the edge of town before descending as a team to the Mississippi River to celebrate our accomplishment.
What I’ll be thinking:
Princess cards she sends me with her regards
barroom eyes shine vacancy, to see her you gotta look hard
Wounded deep in battle, I stand stuffed like some soldier undaunted
To her Cheshire smile. I'll stand on file, she's all I ever wanted.
But you let your blue walls get in the way of these facts
honey, get your carpetbaggers off my back
you wouldn't even give me time to cover my tracks.
You said, "Here's your mirror and your ball and jacks".
But they're not what I came for, and I'm sure you see that too
I came for you, for you, I came for you, but you did not need my urgency
I came for you, for you, I came for you, but your life was one long emergency
and your cloud line urges me, and my electric surges free

Crawl into my ambulance, your pulse is getting weak
reveal yourself all now to me girl while you've got the strength to speak
Cause they're waiting for you at Bellevue with their oxygen masks
But I could give it all to you now if only you could ask.
And don't call for your surgeon even he says it's too late
It's not your lungs this time, it's your heart that holds your fate
Don't give me money, honey, I don't want it back
you and your pony face and your union jack
well take your local joker and teach him how to act
I swear I was never that way even when I really cracked
Didn't you think I knew that you were born with the power of a locomotive
able to leap tall buildings in a single bound?
And your Chelsea suicide with no apparent motive
you could laugh and cry in a single sound.

And your strength is devastating in the face of all these odds
Remember how I kept you waiting when it was my turn to be the god?

You were not quite half so proud when I found you broken on the beach
Remember how I poured salt on your tongue and hung just out of reach
And the band they played the homecoming theme as I caressed your cheek
That ragged, jagged melody she still clings to me like a leech.
But that medal you wore on your chest always got in the way
like a little girl with a trophy so soft to buy her way
We were both hitchhikers but you had your ear tuned to the roar
of some metal-tempered engine on an alien, distant shore
So you, left to find a better reason than the one we were living for
and it's not that nursery mouth I came back for
It's not the way you're stretched out on the floor
cause I've broken all your windows and I've rammed through all your doors
And who am I to ask you to lick my sores?
And you should know that's true...
I came for you, for you, I came for you, but you did not need my urgency
I came for you, for you, I came for you, but your life was one long emergency
and your cloud line urges me, and my electric surges free

Saturday, July 14, 2007

One week

Next Sunday, you won't wake up in your own bed. I know this because you'll be on RAGBRAI XXXV, waking in Rock Rapids full of adrenalin to tackle a seven-day bike ride across Iowa -- the long way.

As chief organizer, it's assuring to know we have a landing spot each day. I hope that puts your mind at ease as well.

By now, you should be packing and piling on as many miles as you can. If you're 40+ and have fewer training miles than me (238 as of this writing), you're in for a challenge -- but one that's achievable (coming from someone who only logged 148 training miles last year).

Those under age 40 will have no problem whatsoever, unless it's seasonably hot and humid, in which case you lack the life experience and psychological fortitude to overcome the elements. But, then again, maybe this is your year.

Those with 500+ training miles, and anyone who has done a 100 this year, have my utmost respect... and a caution.

None of us should miss out on everything that is RAGBRAI. In other words, there are no prizes at the finish line, other than personal satisfaction. If you're extra motivated, you can be in the next overnight town by noon each day. But you'll have missed a lot along the way.

Take some time to smell the hog lots, get to know the vendors, eat some pie, nap under a shade tree, take a leak in a cornfield, buy a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich from an unlicensed vendor (particularly if he's a Waldorf College professor from Forest City who is raising money for Relay For Life, among other no-less worthy causes).

I've never experienced RAGBRAI from the fast lane, nor do I want to. Slow and steady may not win the race. But RAGBRAI isn't a race, it's a ride. Treat it as such and you'll leave with at least one lifetime memory. Either way, it takes seven days. Spend them as you will.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Humboldt housing offer

I had already thrown in the towel when an e-mail arrived tonight informing me of a housing possibility in -- or rather, near -- our last holdout overnight town, Humboldt.

There's a family that would like to accommodate us for the evening, but the location is eight miles south of town. They are willing to let us use the bath and shower facilities and they have a wonderful yard with a picturesque view of the Des Moines River.

The alternative is taking our chances at the Humboldt County Fair Grounds, which we would share with thousands of riders.

Day 2 to Humboldt is already the longest day of RAGBRAI at 77.4 miles (100 for those so inclined). Are you willing to ride an extra eight miles for the prospect of peace and quiet and, at least potentially, a warm shower? Or would you rather conserve the mileage in favor of what will most closely represent the true RAGBRAI experience -- crowds, portopotties and group showers that are most likely cold? Keep in mind, the housing option would also add to day 3's mileage, although we might be able to find a shortcut.

I've already inquired as to whether the extra eight miles are paved. If there's any gravel, I won't accept. Assuming it's paved, what is your pleasure? I need to hear from each of you ASAP regarding this important decision that I'm not comfortable making without your input.

In other news, I learned today that we'll have our sag wagon/rental truck on Friday night prior to our Saturday departure. This was a huge relief as I was beginning to stress about loading bikes and gear for 25 riders on Saturday morning and still depart by 10 a.m. Now, I can encourage everyone to bring their bikes or personal belongings (packed in a 30-gallon plastic container, pictured above) or both to the Friday night pasta dinner. I'll park the Ryder right outside the cafeteria, and we can get a head start on loading.

Out-of-towners might consider getting their bikes loaded early. Locals might want to bring their personals on Friday, and bike to Coe Saturday morning.

Speaking of Friday's dinner, I need to provide a headcount. Please let me know if you plan to attend and if you will be bringing any guests. They are welcome to attend as well. If you're not attending, I'd like to know that as well.

Speaking of out-of-towners, if you need housing before and/or after the ride and haven't made arrangements with me, please do so. Coe is graciously making rooms available to us in Voorhees Hall, but I need to secure these accommodations in advance.

Lastly, Cornell officially declined my kickball challenge today. Conventional wisdom says they're just tired of losing to Coe. That means we can focus our energies on beating Wartburg.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Jerseys arrived today

Or yesterday, actually, given the hour. Happy to report our order was fulfilled with 100 percent accuracy. If I were more savvy, I'd post a photo.

Also, I learned today that we'll be camping near Team Knight Riders (our kickball opponents) in Independence. Damn those competitive juices!

They have a blog too. Ours is better.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Anyone else getting pumped up?

I know I am. With 16 days to go, everything seems to be falling into place. The bike shop called Tuesday to let us know that our tune-ups had been completed (three days shy of the two-week estimate), so Zach and I have been making up for lost time. The heat wave we're now experiencing seems to be an ideal training opportunity under RAGBRAI-esque conditions.

We did lose one week-long rider -- poor Steve Fisher from Chicago injured his knee training in southern Wisconsin -- but I was able to sell his pass to a fellow from Dubuque. We look forward to Steve joining us next year and wish him well with his rehabilitation.

Detailed maps have now been posted on the RAGBRAI Web site, so I'll be able to provide you with turn-by-turn directions to our hosts in each overnight town.

Here's a brief itinerary (please commit to memory or write it in your planner):
6 p.m. Friday, July 20 -- free pasta dinner in the Coe cafeteria.
10 a.m. Saturday, July 21 -- depart Eby Fieldhouse for Rock Rapids.
Sunday, July 22 -- bike 75.7 miles to Spencer.
Monday, July 23 -- bike 77.4 miles to Humboldt (OFFICIAL COE JERSEY DAY); Karras Loop option for those wanting a 100-mile day; lunch with Brady Krischel '07 in Havelock.
Tuesday, July 24 -- bike 71.1 miles to Hampton; dinner provided by hosts Tess and Henry Wieck, parents of Joe Wieck '04.
Wednesday, July 25 -- bike 68.2 miles to Cedar Falls; dinner provided by Coe Alumni Office; Blues Traveler concert at the UNI-Dome.
Thursday, July 26 -- bike 62.9 miles to Independence (OFFICIAL COE JERSEY DAY); dinner provided by host Mary Ohl from the Coe Admission Office; kickball showdown with Team Knight Riders from Wartburg College.
Friday, July 27 -- bike 64.7 miles to Dyersville.
Saturday, July 28 -- bike 56.6 miles to Bellevue (OFFICIAL COE JERSEY DAY); return to Coe by approximately 3 p.m.
Sunday, July 29 -- sleep like a baby.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Kickball anyone?

After receiving a rather intimidating e-mail from my RAGBRAI-organizing colleague at Wartburg College, the competitive juices flowed like Gatorade -- my red to Kendra's orange. Before the day was out, we had agreed to a kickball match between members of Team CoeBRAI and members of Team Knight Riders.

She even threatened to hold practices, "so we can dominate." I won't go that far, but I'll bring the game ball on RAGBRAI. I'll need at least 10 of you to commit to an hour of off-bike physical activity on Thursday, July 26 in Independence. The game will be held at our hosts' house, which gives us home field advantage and is conveniently (for Wartburg) located adjacent to the hospital.

(Having suffered through more "adult" kickball tournaments than I care to remember, I will serve exclusively as bench coach.)

You remember kickball, don't you?

You might wonder why Coe's historic rival isn't the opponent. I have approached organizers of Team Ram with the same challenge and am awaiting their response. I have to say, though, that the Coe-Cornell rivalry is currently based solely on duration. While we are academic peers, the two Linn County schools have enjoyed much different athletic success since leaving the Midwest Conference for the Iowa Conference. While Wartburg tends to dominate Iowa Conference athletics, Coe has more than held its own. Ask any current Coe student-athlete who they want to beat most and 99.9 percent will say Wartburg. Don't let them down.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ride on

The real RAGBRAI training began tonight, over pork and pie, at a drivers' meeting held at the home of Sara and Brian Farrell. Sara, a Coe psychology professor, has graciously agreed to drive our rental truck. Brian, a local attorney, will be biking across Iowa for the first time.

Also attending this meeting were my wife, Lisa, and kids, Zach and Karissa. Zach will be accompanying me on bike for the first time. Lisa and Karissa will operate the family camper and assist with ensuring your comfort.

Tony Bata, the sag wagon driver and sous chef for the last two CoeBRAIs, also attended to offer some sage advice and to share some tasty wine.

Tony's presence reminded me that this RAGBRAI will be different than the past two, although I'm the only one who will notice. And while we won't have someone preparing lavish meals for us each night, we won't go hungry either.

Here's a rundown of the CoeBRAI itinerary:
Friday, July 20 -- Pasta dinner in the Coe cafeteria at 6 p.m. Free for all CoeBRAI participants. We'll hand out wristbands, jerseys, maps, etc. at this time for all who can attend.

Saturday, July 21 -- Gather in the parking lot behind Eby Fieldhouse for a planned 10 a.m. departure for Rock Rapids. (RAGBRAI theme: Wild Wild North West.) Please allow ample time for loading your bicycle and gear (packed in a 30 gallon plastic tub). We'll camp at the home of David Springer '94 in Rock Rapids.

Sunday, July 22 -- Bike 75.7 miles to Spencer (RAGBRAI theme: Licensed to Thrill), where we'll camp at the home of Tarrel Zwiebahmer Storey '93. The Storeys have invited us to make use of their deck, fire pit, and bathroom off the garage. Showers will be available at the YMCA, three blocks away.

Monday, July 23 -- Bike 77.4 miles (or 100 for those opting for the Karras Loop) to Humboldt (RAGBRAI theme: A Holiday In Humboldt). It's an official CoeBRAI jersey day as we hope to gather for lunch in Havelock with Brady Krischel '07 and her family. Brady and her father are recovering from a near-fatal traffic accident over Christmas break and we plan to present her with her very own CoeBRAI jersey. Biking across Iowa is small potatoes compared to the journey she's on. We don't yet have a host in Humboldt, though I haven't given up hope. If nothing materializes, we'll likely be camping in the main RAGBRAI campground at the fairgrounds in northeast Humboldt.

Tuesday, July 24 -- Bike 71.1 miles to Hampton (RAGBRAI theme: Hot Fun in the Summer Time), where we'll be hosted by Tess and Henry Wieck, parents of Joe Wieck '04. The Wiecks have graciously offered a free barbecue for all CoeBRAIers.

Wednesday, July 25 -- Bike 68.2 miles to Cedar Falls (RAGBRAI theme: LiveLarge). We'll camp at the home of Barb and Al Poe, parents of current Coe student Anson Poe. The Poe home will also be the site for the alumni dinner, free to CoeBRAI participants and catered by Famous Dave's (mmmmmmm). This could be a wild overnight as Blues Traveler headlines a benefit concert at the UNI-Dome ($10 for RAGBRAI participants).

Thursday, July 26 -- Bike 62.9 miles to Independence (RAGBRAI theme: America's Fame is in Our Name). We'll camp at the home of Coe Admission staffer Mary Ohl and we'll be treated to Mary's husband's famous barbecue pork loin. (See what I mean about not going hungry? Or broke?)

Friday, July 27 -- Bike 64.7 miles to Dyersville, home of the Field of Dreams (RAGBRAI theme: Ride the Distance). Here we'll be hosted by Colleen Ries '04 at the home of her mom, Charlene Willenbring. Their home is most conveniently located on the inbound route through town. You're on your own for dinner, but they have rented a port-a-potty for our use.

Saturday, July 28 -- Bike 56.6 miles to Bellevue and the Mississippi River (RAGBRAI theme: Soaring into Bellevue on the Mississippi). This should be the most challenging day of the week in terms of hills. While we'll almost never ride as a pack, it's a cool feeling to enter the end town as a unit, so we'll gather at a school on the edge of Bellevue and finish our journey (wearing CoeBRAI jerseys) as a team. We'll then bus back to Cedar Rapids. In the past we've been back on campus by 3 p.m. That might be a best-case scenario this year, but we'll be home on Saturday regardless.

Special note about housing: Anyone needing a place to stay before or after the ride should notify me ASAP. Please don't assume that we can put you in a vacant dorm room without notice. Much as I wish it worked that way, it doesn't.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

RAGBRAI 101: Roll with the punches

"You can't always get what you want" is not only the greatest lyric ever, it's also the first, last and only rule of RAGBRAI -- and, apparently Swine Trek.

We had last-minute plans to camp, but scrapped them at the last minute when a steady rain settled in Friday night. We left home shortly after 6 a.m. in order to arrive in time for registration and a 7 a.m. departure from Pleasant Creek State Park.

It was cold and we were under-dressed, but determined. We felt good arriving in Center Point about 8 a.m. and stocked up on fruit and cherry donuts. But when we went to leave I discovered my front tire was flat. Inflation proved futile, so I replaced the tube with the spare I always have with me. (Lesson #2)

By the time we discovered the route out of town, my front tire was flat again and our ride was over. We summoned a sag wagon and rode back to Pleasant Creek, 10 miles in to what was supposed to be a 50-mile ride.

I traded a two-hour wait for the chicken dinner for getting our bikes in for a tuneup (Lesson #3) and proceeded immediately to Northtowne Cycling. They tell me it will be two weeks; I pray it will be shorter.

In review:
Lesson #1 -- "you can't always get what you want."
Lesson #2 -- carry a spare tube
Lesson #3 -- get your bike tuned up at a reputable shop that will assure RAGBRAI readiness

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Deadline approaches

I'll send individual e-mails on this as well, but I wanted to remind everyone that the deadline for sending in your final payment for Team CoeBRAI is July 1. Five riders sent in full payment weeks ago and I just got checks from two others. That leaves 20 riders owing $150 (or $175 in the case of Abby Masters and Meg Reid). Checks made out to Coe College (with Team CoeBRAI on the memo line) can be sent to me at 1220 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Hi all, finally getting onto this list. Too many years ago I was on RAGBRAI (and even earlier, since the second ride was SAGBRAI). This'll be my first RAGBRAI since those IV. The amazing thing is that I plan to ride the same bike I rode on 2 of them.

Now I'm getting ready to move and I found my old t-shirts. Here's the images.


Friday noon ride?

Fresh from a 30-mile ride this morning (my first time on the bike in about two weeks...) I feel that I need to keep the momentum going. Anyone up for a 12- or 15-mile noon ride from Coe on Friday?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

So much for Barenaked Ladies

Oh, they'll be out there, but they won't be on stage in Cedar Falls.

Rumor had it that the all-male Toronto-based band would be performing during the Cedar Falls overnight. Apparently not, since it was just announced that Blues Traveler would head up a UNI-Dome concert to benefit the Lance Armstrong Foundation and local cancer-related charities. Tickets for registered riders are $10.

This makes a certain amount of sense, if only because memory tells me Blues Traveler frontman John Popper has some connection to Cedar Falls. The schedule shows The Nadas opening from 6-6:40 p.m. followed by Lance Armstrong (who knew he could sing too?!) from 6:40-7. Blues Traveler is scheduled to perform from 7-9 p.m.

Meanwhile, my favorite Iowa-based band, Bob Dorr & The Blue Band, will be performing in the RAGBRAI beverage garden (aka beer tent) from 4-6 p.m. Guess I'll be getting an early start out of Hampton on July 25 and, potentially, a late start out of Cedar Falls on July 26.

The three young-uns among us (those under age 21) will be invited to an interactive session with Lance Armstrong following the first day of the ride in Spencer at the Clay County Regional Events Center in the main RAGBRAI campground. Young riders will have the opportunity to talk with Lance and ask him questions about his journey in life and his experiences on RAGBRAI. The event will be free for registered RAGBRAI participants under 21 years of age.

After biking 75.7 miles from Rock Rapids to Spencer, I'm guessing this is just the inspiration my son, Zach, will need to get up and do it again the next day.

Day 2 should prove inspirational for us all as we'll pass through the hometown of recent Coe graduate Brady Krischel, who recently returned home to continue her rehabilitation from a near-fatal traffic accident over Christmas break. We'll present Brady with a CoeBRAI jersey and hope to have lunch with her and her family.

Stay tuned for more details and additional announcements in the remaining 34 days. But it seems you'll have to find the Barenaked Ladies on your own.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Father's Day ride

With Sunday's baseball schedule cleared, I'm toying with the idea of a Father's Day bike ride to West Branch, where my father-in-law lives. The ride would culminate with a feast of some sort. Any and all are welcome to join my son and I, but I need to know in advance so we have ample food and beverage at the end of the 36-mile journey from my house. I propose a 9 a.m. start, which would put us in West Branch about noon. You would be on your own for transportation home, but the ride is free. Any takers?

Also, I've learned that no baseball games are scheduled for June 23, so Zach and I intend to join Bob on Swine Trek. Entry fee is only $20 if mailed by June 16 ($25 after). Distances of 25, 50 and 100 miles are available, plus you get a chicken dinner with all the trimmings, though, curiously, no pork. Visit for a registration form.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Not all flat

While shuttling back and forth between my neighbor's cabin in rural Bernard and my son's baseball tournament in Dubuque over the weekend, I had the opportunity to preview the terrain for the last day of RAGBRAI. Specifically, I drove the 13-mile stretch from Cascade to Bernard along D61 and Y31. If this stretch is any indication of the day, and I believe it is, RAGBRAI officials have saved the worst for last.

Even my camper was slowed by the hills.

Day seven is the shortest ride in terms of mileage (56.6), but it's the worst in terms of climb (3,195 feet). That's 56.4 feet of climb per mile. Here's how the rest of the week compares:

Day 1 -- Rock Rapids to Spencer -- 75.7 miles, 1,647 feet of climb (21.8 feet/mile)
Day 2 -- Spencer to Humboldt -- 77.4 miles, 1,482 feet of climb (19.1 feet/mile)
Day 3 -- Humboldt to Hampton -- 71.1 miles, 1,491 feet of climb (21 feet/mile)
Day 4 -- Hampton to Cedar Falls -- 68.2 miles, 2,057 feet of climb (30.2 feet/mile)
Day 5 -- Cedar Falls to Independence -- 62.9 miles, 1,505 feet of climb (23.9 feet/mile)
Day 6 -- Independence to Dyersville -- 64.7 miles, 2,412 feet of climb (37.3 feet/mile)

Day 7 is 6.3 miles shorter than the next shortest day, but there's 783 more feet of climb than the next hilliest day. Day 2 is both the longest and the flattest, taking us 20.8 miles further than Day 7, but with 1,713 feet less of a climb.

Don't be fooled by the hype about "flattest ride ever." There will be hills-a-plenty, if only confined to the last day or two. Make sure you incorporate some hills into your training and save some strength for the grand finale.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Oh, nothing really...

Hi again;

I appreciate the Knee Saver info, Doug, and look forward to being with you, Lonnie, for Swine Trek. I'd encourage others to join us - among the mysteries of the universe is why they serve chicken at an event named after pork...but you must be present to learn the answer! Again, see: if you want info/the registration form, etc...It's $20 before June 16, and $25 AFTER 6/16.

In my own soap opera, "As the Knee Turns", I'm optimistic now. I just did a 22-mile, much hillier-than-my-average route. This was something I blogged about earlier which affected me severely last time. And it's not this evening producing anything like the same earlier pain! (Yay for me.)

Probably both additional training and DOWNSHIFTING EARLIER (like THAT isn't a 'duh' realization: one doesn't have to prove masculinity on every hill...and age matters on joints) may have made a difference, but I'm far more optimistic now about being part of COEBRAI than I was in the last post. Not that this matters to most, but I had a great conversation with another biker about how Lance Armstrong was among the earliest professional riders to downshift much earlier: sure, it requires more rpms - but is MUCH easier on ones knees and can be quicker overall, apparently...

Any interest for rides after work this week, or this Saturday? I'm tempted by Hiawatha-Brandon on Saturday, maybe something like 9am-5pm...

Thanks, Lonnie, for your continuing info updates, too!

All for now;


Thursday, June 7, 2007

Special delivery

Just when I was needing inspiration most, I arrived home from work tonight to find a package from the Des Moines Register. Inside were our RAGBRAI credentials, including wristbands, bike tags, vehicle passes, luggage tags, participant guides, merchandise catalogs and RAGBRAI jerseys for those who ordered them.

These will be distributed upon departure from Eby Fieldhouse on Saturday, July 21. If for some reason you need them sooner, let me know.

The participant guide includes suggestions for what to pack. I'll recite them here (with editorial comment in parenthesis).

Please put identification on everything you take on RAGBRAI. Lost items can be returned to owners.

Bicycle equipment: Find your helmet, mike sure it fits correctly and pack it now. (Unless you're planning on biking anytime between now and July 21!) Bicycle shops can handle most any mechanical need you have, but you might consider bringing a small repair kit that includes a tire, spare tube, tire irons and small wrenches. (I've survived on spare tubes and chain lube, after the eventual rain, the past two years. As long as you get your bike serviced before RAGBRAI, it should be good to go.) In addition, a rear view mirror, bike gloves, pump, bike bag, rain gear, bicycle lock and water bottles are necessary equipment. (Personally, I don't mess with rain gear. If it rains, I get wet. And a lock isn't really necessary either, from my experience. )

Camping equipment: You'll need a duffle bag (or, in our case, a 30-gallon plastic tub), sleeping bag, pillow, pad, tent, ground cloth, rope, stakes and a flashlight. (A collapsible chair will also come in handy.)

Toiletries: Pack a towel, washcloth, toothbrush, toothpaste, skin lotion, shampoo, soap, razor, nail clippers, brush/comb, hair ties/barrettes, deodorant, mirror and toilet tissue. (No arguments here, though I could probably survive a week without nail clippers.)

Clothes: T-shirts, shorts, a jacket, pants, warm-up suit, underwear, socks, shoes, sandals, sleepwear, swimsuit and sweatbands/bandannas should get you through the week. (Two sets of biking attire are sufficient from my experience -- one to wear and one to dry out after "washing" it in the shower. Remember that you will be getting a CoeBRAI jersey and some of you also ordered a RAGBRAI jersey. Remember also that each overnight town has a t-shirt they would like to sell you. Be sure to bring padded biking shorts!)

First Aid: Pack aspirin, ibuprofen, vitamins, Band-Aids, gauze, tape, first-aid cream, lip balm, sun block (lots of it!), insect repellent, safety pins, special medicines, Campho-Phenique and sanitary protection with disposable bags if needed. (And Gold Bond powder. Don't leave home without it!)

Miscellaneous: Bring an alarm clock, spare glasses, sunglasses, a scouting knife, camera, film, watch, earplugs, ID, money, traveler's checks, credit cards, journal, pens, pencils, stamps, address book, several plastic trash bags for rain protection and zip-lock bags. Be sure to enclose everything in a water-tight plastic bag.

(Oh, and bring your bike.)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

RAGBRAI is next month?!

Forty-five days sounds better, but not much. Somebody post something inspirational, please.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Rain, Rain, Go Away

I had a great training schedule set for this past weekend and week. Holiday weekend, so if I take off a bit early Friday and ride 40 miles, and then ride 65 Saturday, 65 Sunday and 45 Monday - that's four days in a row on the bike. That, followed by a 20-25 miler on Tuesday, Wednesday and today, and I would have felt like I was going to be ready for RAGBRAI. The biggest unknown for me about RAGBRAI, and therefore my biggest concern, is 7 consecutive days of riding. I have never done that before and so I don't know for sure how my body (spell that, "butt") will react. Even though my intended mileage would have been much less than the RAGBRAI mileage, it would have given me a good indicator. But forget that. It rained everyday - long and hard- and all I could manage was a 40 miler Sunday morning. I'll have to find time between now and the end of July to get multiple days in. If the weather gods will cooperate.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hows about Swine Trek(?!)? is the link to, yes, Swine Trek. I'm likely to do the 50 mile option on this Saturday, June 23 event (one can do 12, 25, 50, or 100 miles that day)...check out this website if you want to register. (Perhaps we could transit bikes up there together?)

The Trek starts at Pleasant Creek State Rec Area near Palo. I'm intensely curious about why it's named this way; there are no allusions to having to wear a pig hat, or eat sausage, or what...and, strangely enough, there is a CHICKEN dinner from 11-4 connected to it.

Separately, I've had knee issues of some concern this weekend. Last Thursday, my 19 mile ride on the Sac & Fox trail was ok until I did the quarter mile hill on East Post Rd. My knees hurt for two days afterwards. Yesterday, I did 46 miles on the Cedar Valley Nature Trail (it's cool to go under 380, and I've now been to Urbana!) But having had knee surgery last October, I'm starting to wonder. More work and more hills will answer whether I will actually be able to do RAGBRAI, now. We'll see.

All for now;


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Lunchtime ride tomorrow (Friday)?

I ran into Lonnie at lunch and he said he was interested. Anyone else want to join us? I've never ridden with this CoeBRAI group so I'm excited.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

CR ride this week?

It looks stormy, but...

would anyone have an interest in a 15-20 mile ride either Thursday noon or maybe Saturday morning? Unfortunately, I won't be in town on Friday and can't make the noon ride, but I agree with Lonnie that it's easier to ride with a group. Either way, I think we'd have to be flexible given the weather.

Info from the Veterans

Okay, I have been reading the posts for a couple of weeks now, so I can see what you guys in CR are doing for training. As a first time rider, however, I have some questions. 480 miles in seven days seems kind of intimidating. How fast (mph) do the average riders go? How long does it take to complete an average day - say 65 miles? Does everyone start together (at a horn or whistle) or do people just get up in the morning and take off when they are ready? Are the showers "communal"? Are they always cold? I've heard there is a "no drafting" rule, is that true (what-no pacelines)? Are there rest stops along the way with water, energy drinks, snacks, etc, (free or cash?) or are you on your own? Are there SAG vehicles on the course? Ride marshalls? And the two most important questions: What time do the parties start and do I have to keep up with Lance?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Happy Birthday to my Giant OCR3

It seems like only yesterday when I was pedaling my newly purchased road bike home from the bike shop. It was actually two years ago today. Since that time, we've logged 1,666 miles together. That includes 933 miles in 2005, 633 in 2006 and 100 (so far) in 2007.

That I got to 100 in time for today's milestone is due to a 26-mile ride to Mount Vernon and back on Sunday. I'm really finding these group rides to be motivational as I'm not sure I'd ever bike narrow Mount Vernon Road without at least one partner to catch the license plate of the vehicle that clipped me.

On Sunday there were six of us, although Bob had to bail about five miles in when his pedal broke. I'm still curious how he made it back up that half-mile hill with only one functional pedal.

Katie, Andrew, Brian, Zach and I carried on to Cornell Ram country, breaking beneath the shade trees outside the Cornell athletics facility before returning to Cedar Rapids. My son, Zach, now understands what I mean about "uphill both ways."

I'm sure the ride was good for his psyche as he prepares for his first RAGBRAI. I tried to provide additional reassurance by noting that we'll be able to ride side-by-side and chat during the week-long bike ride across Iowa. In hindsight, I realize that may have been the worst thing I could have said.

We've always been close and I'm looking forward to the ultimate bonding experience. But I wouldn't be at all surprised if he uses his superior physical conditioning to maintain a comfortable separation from Rock Rapids to Bellevue. He's never been much of a chatter.

Iowa Boy on Coe bike writers

After a long career as a feature columnist and co-host of RAGBRAI for the Des Moines Register, Chuck Offenburger is now writing from his farm home near Cooper in Greene County, Iowa. His latest column features the May Term "Bicycle Writing" class being taught by Coe rhetoric instructor Kerrie Miller. Another version of the column can be found on the Raccoon River Valley Trail Web site.

As you're training for RAGBRAI, don't forget to brush up on the song "I Want to Go Back to Coe Again." If we run into Chuck along the way, and chances are good that we will, he'll expect us to sing it.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Training tips from a RAGBRAI veteran: pear IS a shape

An absolutely gorgeous spring day greeted CoeBRAI riders Katie, Brian and myself as we met for a lunchtime ride along the Cedar River trail. I had planned to do 10 miles, but Katie couldn't get enough of the landfill odor, so we pressed on for 15.

I'm glad we did as it was the first time I had been on my bike since our group ride to Center Point on April 28. I applaud those of you who are racking up major miles already, but I'll resist the temptation to catch up.

A review of my RAGBRAI training patterns might offer encouragement to those of you struggling to find time with your bike. So far this year, I've logged just 73 miles. I too hope to reach 500 by RAGBRAI, but failure to do so won't keep me from participating.

At this time a year ago, I only had 61 miles under my belt. By the time RAGBRAI arrived, I had ridden just 148 miles. Consequently, I struggled, mightily at times, but I made it.

Two years ago, I didn't even have a bike at this point. My first five miles came on the ride home from the bike shop on May 21. I rode nearly every day from that point on, often only from home to Coe and back, and logged 380 miles before losing my RAGBRAI virginity.

I'm not suggesting anyone shun training. Of all the things that will influence your enjoyment of RAGBRAI, training is the only one you can control. You don't select the route, you can't control the weather, and you can't will the shower water warm.

But if you can't log 100-miles a week or you can't find any hills, you can still ride RAGBRAI. You'll see all variety of ages, shapes and sizes among RAGBRAI participants. Among the 10,000+ riders, I'm pretty sure Lance Armstrong will be the only Tour de France winner.

When you dip your tires in the Mississippi River on July 28 -- signifying the completion of a week-long, 476.6 mile journey -- the feeling of accomplishment will overwhelm you.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Happy Bike to Work Day!

I just discovered that May 18 is Bike to Work Day in Iowa. Was planning to do that anyway -- since I don't have 16 places to be -- but it's good to know I'll be part of a larger movement.

The forecast looks ideal for the first (finally!) of our Friday noon rides. Katie, Brian and I have committed to it. If you're in the area, join us at noon outside Clark Racquet Center on the lovely Coe campus. We'll shoot for 10 miles on the Cedar River Trail. Lockers and showers are available in the Racquet Center.

A movement appears to be taking hold for a Driving Directions from 1821 Bever Ave Se, Cedar Rapids, IA to Cornell College, 600 1st St W, Mt Vernon, IA">26-mile ride (round trip) to Cornell Ram land on Sunday. Tentative plans call for departure from Map of 1821 Bever Ave Se Cedar Rapids, IA 52403-2631, US">my house at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Locals are also encouraged to check out Hawkeye Bicycle Association, which hosts regular rides of varying degrees of difficulty throughout the year. One need not be a member to ride with this group, which includes many Kohawks.

Out-of-state members of Team CoeBRAI are on their own for training rides, but I do have some information for anyone planning to ship their bike to Cedar Rapids. Please contact me and I'll hook you up with a local bike shop with strong ties to Coe.

Today Kate and I completed the last of our calls to our overnight hosts at six of seven stops and I'm quite pleased to report that dinner will be provided at three stops -- Tuesday in Hampton courtesy of Tess and Henry Wieck (parents of Joe '04), Wednesday in Cedar Falls courtesy of the Coe Alumni Office in cooperation with Barb and Al Poe (parents of Anson '08) and Thursday in Independence courtesy of Coe Admission staffer and parent Mary Ohl.

Also hosting are David Springer '94 in Rock Rapids, Tarrel Zweibahmer Story '93 in Spencer and Colleen Ries '04 at her parents' home in Dyersville. The generosity and enthusiasm of all of our hosts leaves me most optimistic about our approaching journey.

I shouldn't be surprised, given my RAGBRAI experiences the past two years, but I never want to take hospitality for granted either.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Cornell when?

Lonnie & all,

I'd be interested in a ride to Cornell if it could be Sunday afternoon (5/20). If that's not preferred by others, no biggie; but I'd rather ride in a pack to those badlands...

Although the RAGBRAI site suggests training 650 miles in advance of the ride, I'm setting a goal of 500 miles. (I'm at 103 miles right now.) I did the Hiawatha-Center Point (26 miles) ride again on Monday night, in 2 hours, 8 minutes. I'm not racing anyone, but want to keep track of my own fitness by doing a limited amount of timing on identical routes. According to, I burned 1820 calories(!) - a bit hard to believe, but that's what the website said.

I'm a little worried about not doing any hills so far, but will start looking for them in June. I am currently planning to do Hiawatha to Brandon (54 miles roundtrip) on June 16, ideally starting at 9am, and being done no later than 4pm, averaging just under 10 mph while riding, and taking up to 90 minutes for lunch! I'd welcome company for that.

All for now; it's good to hear from folks everywhere, too. I really like that Coehawk icon, too, on the main page of this blog - and hope you work that more prominently into next years' jersey!


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Too legit to quit

Finally, I'm a number. I entered my data into the RAGBRAI lottery results page for the umpteenth time tonight and got this result:

Congratulations LONNIE ZINGULA, your wristband number is listed below. Please use this number on any correspondence with RAGBRAI. See you in July!

We're in folks!

The RAGBRAI info went on to say "credentials packets with wristbands and any jerseys ordered will be mailed to the Group Contact (aka me) late in May for distribution to the members of the group."

Also: "If you cannot go on RAGBRAI and must cancel, please email your request for a refund to before June 12. It will take approximately 2-3 weeks for a refund to be processed. There will be a $25 administrative charge per applicant."

Please copy me on any such cancellation notices. I'm hoping there will be none, but understand life's curve balls.

RAGBRAI preview?

Monday, May 7, 2007

In due time

I'm really pleased to see some of you starting to use this blog. I think it's a great way to communicate and get to know one another. Soon enough I'll begin offering packing advice (less is more), training tips (if I can make it, anyone can) and other words of wisdom (if a stick gets lodged between your spokes, get off the bike to remove it) for the RAGBRAI virgins among us.

Meanwhile, I'm tending to more urgent matters, like ensuring we are registered. I lost a lot of sleep over last week's lottery scare, but all's well that ends well. We got through Coe's commencement yesterday and I am anxious to embrace the slower pace of May Term and summer. This week I'm focusing on finalizing our jersey orders. If you haven't yet done so, please click on the CoeBRAI tab and select "jersey order." Orders will be submitted on Friday to ensure delivery in time for RAGBRAI.

Kate Rose and I have also begin contacting our hosts by telephone to get a better feel for what they have to offer and what their expectations are. I shouldn't have been surprised that people in the Coe family would be so generous. Iowa hospitality really shines on RAGBRAI, and the hosts we've talked with so far are fired up to make our stays in their towns and on their lawns as comfortable as possible.

The official Coe alumni gathering will be held July 25 in Cedar Falls, but we're also covered for dinner the next night in Independence. Our hosts there are planning a barbeque pork loin feast for Team CoeBRAI. I'm sure it goes without saying that we'll show our appreciation to all our hosts by respecting their property.

I haven't had much opportunity to get on my bike since four of us rode to Central City, but I hope to rectify that very soon. Friday's rain scared me off, but I'm ready to try it again this week. Feel free to join whoever shows up outside Clark Racquet Center at noon. I'm also free Saturday and open to suggestions for group rides. How about we pay a visit to our rivals at Cornell?

P.S. As for the question of how much cash to carry, it depends on who you ask and how you experience RAGBRAI. $30/day is a good ballpark figure, from my experience.

Greetings from Kentucky

Sorry I can't train with y'all

I am really looking forward to the ride this year. I was in the class of '77 and now have a nephew attending Coe. Jordon Gunn. A great deal has changed at Coe and the surrounding area (I hear the Maid Rite is gone) but there is a great deal that ties me back. One of the folks I ride with attended Coe a number of years before I did but we found that we had actually had the same dorm room. It really is a small world.

While I am out riding around Kentucky and Indiana but I regret not being able to train with the rest of the team. I grew up in Newton an did do some rides around there last year but probably won't get up to Iowa again until RAGBRAI. I will need lots of advice about what to bring (and not to bring) as I don't want to look like a Coe Freshman again with a U-haul backing up to the dorm.

I plan to ride the route this year on a bike that my father rode on RAGBRAI about 30 years ago. (Of course he was smarter than I am because he had all the gears on it and I have since turned it into a fixie.) I've only done 4 centuries this year and feel very out of shape (mostly because yesterday's ride had 8,000 feet of climbing) but think that I can be ready to go by July.

Is anyone else planning to do the Century loop on Tuesday? Count me in!

Please don't hold back on any advice on what to expect and how to prepare as I'm sure preparation is the key to a positive RAGBRAI experience. ie. Is $30 a day about right for food and extras?


Friday, May 4, 2007

Greetings from Texas

My wife, Gail, and I may be the only COEBRAI riders from Texas, but we hope to represent our adopted State well. Since there are no hills here in Houston (other than freeway overpasses) we drive 50 to 100 miles on the weekends to the famous "Hill County" of Central Texas to get our hill training in. When they say this year's RAGBRAI is the flattest ever, we know that is a relative term, so we are not changing our training regimen at all. We are very excited to be participating with the Coe team this year and hope training goes well for all of you. See you in July! Go Kohawks! Go Hawkeyes! Hook-em Horns!

Thursday, May 3, 2007


I just received a phone call -- a phone message actually -- from RAGBRAI officials saying that Team CoeBRAI is in! I'll have wristbands and credentials in hand in 7-10 business days. Now get on your bikes and ride!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The waiting game

I just got off the phone with RAGBRAI officials and learned that we were not selected in the wrist band lottery. Fear not, however, as we are on the waiting list and the person I spoke with was very encouraging about our chances. Apparently, we're fairly high on this waiting list and, based on typical cancellations, it's "highly unlikely" that we won't get in. So keep on training.

Meanwhile, I've only received jersey orders from half of you. If you haven't yet placed your order, please click on the CoeBRAI tab and select "jersey order." Orders will be submitted May 11 to ensure delivery in time for RAGBRAI.