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.

No comments: