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.