Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Come one, come all

I vowed to do some RAGBRAI planning over Christmas break, so here goes.

Are you in?

Sure it’s 207 days away. But will you really have anything better to do, really? Over the past four years, I’ve come to see RAGBRAI as a less of a chore and more of a ritual. It’s also a pretty darn effective carrot for encouraging year-round physical fitness.

That’s why this is exactly the perfect time of year to plan for RAGBRAI 2009. With the repeated snow and ice storms accompanied by arctic temperatures, it warms my soul to think of reflective heat coming off the pavement in July. I’m not a pie guy, but I can’t imagine any served this holiday season can rival those found on RAGBRAI (which is why pie is incorporated in this year’s design). And, I’m sorry, but the stationary bike does not compare.

Besides, with the Packers out of the playoffs, what am I supposed to do? Watch the NBA? No thanks.

I sincerely hope you'll join us this year. Fees have been held at $350. Of this, $175 is due to Coe by March 1 along with a signed waiver from the RAGBRAI Web site. The remaining $175 will be due July 1.

The fee includes the official $125 RAGBRAI entry fee, a Team CoeBRAI jersey and license plate, bus transportation to and from Cedar Rapids and the starting/ending towns, and snacks and non-alcoholic beverages at each overnight stop. This does not include meals, unfortunately, though we hope to negotiate with our hosts at each overnight stop to make some accommodation for dinner and showers.

Additionally, participants should plan to spend $20-$30 per day on food and beverages, bike repairs, showers, etc.

RAGBRAI begins somewhere near Iowa’s western border and ends along the eastern border at the Mississippi River. Overnight towns will be announced soon in the Des Moines Register and at www.ragbrai.org. Again this year, we will seek hosts from among the Coe community at each of the overnight towns.

Students, alumni, parents, faculty, staff and friends are all welcome to join Team CoeBRAI. If you are interested, please complete the interest form at http://cobrai.coe.edu. To date, a handful of folks have completed the interest form. I know of dozens more who are at least considering it. If you have half a mind to do RAGBRAI – and, really, that’s what it takes – fill out the form or shoot me an e-mail.

Ride on!

Friday, November 21, 2008

A sight for sore eyes

Bob Untiedt's entrance into the Paul Engle Center for Neighborhood Arts on Wednesday should have had musical accompaniment. Talk about your Kodak moment!

Let me try to paint the scene since Bob has neglected to (though I bet this post will generate something hilarious).

With the season's first Alberta Clipper sending cold Canadian air our way, Bob was bound-and-determined to hit his "revised" goal of 1,200 miles. (He's an amazing stickler for details despite not having an odometer on his bike.)

So, as we gathered for a meeting of the non-profit board of directors for which we both are honored to serve, in walks Bob and his bike. Mind you, it's pitch black out, but he has lights.

Those of you who know and love Bob, and to know him is to love him, appreciate his keen eye for fashion. Without a single item of biking gear, Bob pulled off his 22 (I think) mile effort in multiple layers topped by a Coe College sweatshirt. A stocking cap protected him from helmet-hair (though not really, since both were worn). Bob's thinking of wearing his winter gloves on RAGBRAI 2009.

If only I had my camera.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thinking of Summer

After a mini-CoeBRAI reunion with Bob and Lonnie on election night, my thoughts have frequently been turning to the open road and summer in Iowa. Unfortunately, with winter looming it looks like it's time to transfer my bike from the garage to the basement, still about 53 miles shy of the 1,500-mile mark for the season. The good news is that we are now within 250 days of RAGBRAI '09, so start counting the days!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

One off the bucket list

A century bike ride is, by definition, 100-miles long. So imagine our confusion when Brian Farrell and I -- minus Bob "I didn't sleep well" Untiedt -- arrived for today's Swine Trek and discovered the "century" only added up to 94 miles.

I'm not sure if the 25- and 50-mile routes added up to the correct distance, but I signed up for the century and I was going to ride 100-miles if it killed me, which it nearly did.

We made good time and were riding strong for the first 50 miles, which we covered in four hours, including refueling stops. The final 50 were about 30 miles too many, for me, and took nearly five hours. It was every bit as hot, hilly and windy as anything I experienced on RAGBRAI this year, only worse.

On the 22-mile segment from Quasqueton to Troy Mills, we added four miles by adding Coggon to the route. The seven-mile ride from Coggon to Troy Mills was nothing short of brutal. Between the heat, crosswinds and hills that had me shifting to my granny gear, I contemplated quitting. When my legs and hips began cramping -- a result of inadequate training (I'd only ridden 92.6 miles on five training rides since RAGBRAI), insufficient sleep (I'm end zone videographer for the Washington High School varsity football team and didn't get home from Cedar Falls until 12:30 a.m.) and improper hydration (though I didn't anticipate the lack of options the last half of the day) -- I pictured myself unable to release my shoes from the clips and tumbling to the pavement.

By the time we reached Troy Mills, we'd logged 77 miles. I consumed a dill pickle in hopes of warding off the cramps and a half-frozen ice cream bar. The stop was out of water and Gatorade, so I headed across the street to the gas station for a Monster energy drink and a water.

Brian was increasingly pushing ahead of me at this point and was a much stronger rider than me. He kept stopping to let me catch up, which was most generous considering we were at risk of missing out on the chicken dinner (chicken for something called Swine Trek?) awaiting at the finish.

On mile 86, my IPod player died, leaving me alone with my thoughts. This is a scary situation. I began cramping at even the slightest of inclines, which fortunately began easing on the way to Center Point. From there to Pleasant Creek Park was nine, mostly flat miles, though a steep hill to the park entrance awaited. I gave Brian my car keys fearing I wouldn't make it so he could come rescue me.

But I granny geared that last hill and we made it to the park at 3:45, still in time for the chicken dinner, but with only 98 miles on the odometer. After feasting and enjoying time off of our bicycle seats, we still had two miles to complete before we could cross a century off our bucket lists.

Eight laps around the parking lot and we hit the magic number. That 100 miles was a personal best by 14.5 miles dating back to the grueling 85.5-mile RAGBRAI journey from Sheldon to Estherville in 2005. If memory serves, a thunderstorm-induced sleepless night was followed by a day that included biking in a hailstorm. Today was also a personal "best" by six minutes over that day for time in the saddle -- 7:23:03.

Most significantly to me, I've now logged 1022.8 miles on the year, topping the 932.8 miles from 2005, when I caught this biking bug. My Giant OCR3 has now accumulated 3,109 miles in four years, for an average of 777 per (which says a little something about 2006 and 2007).

My point of all this? Bucket lists are overrated, and so are centuries.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Kraut Route

I'm sorry to hear Sutliff Cider isn't quite open for business yet, though they'll have a stand at this weekend's Sauerkraut Days in Lisbon, which I'm inclined to attend based on their RAGBRAI reception.

I passed right on by in anticipation of Mount Vernon, but I was impressed.

It's also a good ride for several CoeBRAI riders past and present. And, to the Ely boys, just because we don't ride together doesn't mean we can't meet you in Lisbon.

I'm inclined for a Saturday morning ride in time for "Dad's Belgian Waffles," a staple of some of the upcoming rides I've been looking into. I could be persuaded to go later for the free blood pressure checks at 11 and cabbage weigh off at noon. Or, I like Super Size Seven. I could always bike to Lisbon late and meet Lisa and the kids with the Jeep. Or both, even.

Any takers?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My biking addiction

I was able to stay off my bike Sunday, occupying my time instead by unloading the camper. But Monday I was ready to go again.

I "only" logged 12 miles, but they were hilly. In prior years, biking was the last thing on my mind after RAGBRAI ended. This year was different, as I didn't even want RAGBRAI to end.

Plus, I was anxious to try out the IPod speaker system Team CoeBRAI bought me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I'm hoping to ride out to Sutliff Cider soon, but I don't know that this weekend will work. I'm officiating a wedding and participating in Relay For Life, so there may not be time. Soon though.

Also, for anyone interested in a reunion ride, consider joining the Hawkeye Bicycle Association's Swine Trek. Postponed by the flooding until Aug. 30, it offers 25, 50, 75 and 100-mile options. Call me crazy, but I'm planning to go for my first century.

Cue "Bicycle Race" by Queen. Or was it STYX?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A RAGBRAI Love Story

Generally speaking, what happens on RAGBRAI stays on RAGBRAI. That is hardly the case this year for Kevin Ogle, a 1983 Coe graduate from Falls Church, Virginia.

After Northwest Airlines lost one of his bags on his flight to Cedar Rapids, you wouldn't think he would entrust them with his new best friend on the return flight. But there he was Sunday morning, checking in Bo for the flight to his new home.

The family dog -- a rottweiler mix -- died of lymphoma this spring. Kevin, a pastoral counselor, knows all about appropriate grieving processes, so he was in no hurry to get a new dog. But it was "love at first sight" when he met Bo at a Safe Haven of Iowa County booth in Homestead on Thursday.

In addition to biking, Kevin spent the last two days of the ride navigating the considerable logistics of adopting and transporting Bo to Virginia. First there was the online application to complete -- no small task given the spotty Internet reception we've had. He also had to purchase a kennel for transporting Bo -- also a rottweiler mix -- and monitor the weather at each leg of his flight from Cedar Rapids to Minneapolis to Washington, D.C. He looked into renting a car to drive Bo when it looked like temperatures would exceed the 85 degree threshold for flying with animals.

Ultimately, though, Bo was issued a boarding pass and, barring any travel delays, he will soon meet his new family -- Kevin, his wife and sons aged 14 and 10. Kevin keeps hoping to bring his older son with him on RAGBRAI. I'm sure he never imagined bringing a living, breathing piece of RAGBRAI home.

Day 7: Rockin' to the river

RAGBRAI ended on a high note as I rode the final 53 miles to Le Claire with a bike-mounted IPod speaker system, a gift of the wonderful collection of riders who made up Team CoeBRAI. Though I couldn't find my IPod -- turns out it was in the camper all along -- my wife's had a sufficient collection of Tom Petty, ACDC and Green Day to keep me motivated.

The musical accompaniment and tail winds for the first time all week helped me average 15 miles an hour, a personal best. Several of us lingered in Eldridge, where a small army of rubber gloved volunteers made sure the port-o-potties were sanitary.

In Le Claire we dipped our tires in the Mississippi River, gathered for a group photo and loaded up for the return home. Several of us then met at a local Mexican restaurant for dinner, drinks and story-telling.

One of my favorite aspects of RAGBRAI is the strong relationships it fosters and this year was no different. I fully expect many of this year's riders to return again next year. I know I will.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Day 6: Crimson Pride


Friday's ride from North Liberty to Tipton offered no headwinds. I knew this would be a good day just because it went through Mount Vernon -- home of Cornell College -- but it was a bonus that Tom Hicks and Erik Albinson joined the ride. The Coe colleagues made good riding partners as we motored through familiar territory.

Though our start was delayed by one last Farm Boys breakfast burrito and a visit to my new favorite place on earth -- Sutliff Cider -- not to mention Lisbon and Mount Vernon -- my vote for best pass-through town -- we rolled into Tipton shortly after 2 p.m. and quickly made ourselves at home at Bob Rickard's place.

I've got a great setup, so I rarely get garage envy, but wow. Bob is set up with a century's old garage that houses a fully stocked bar, projection high definition TV and Wii!

I couldn't access the Internets (again!), so I reportedly got my drink on. Great stop!

Day 5: Heading home

Thursday began with a light rain out of Tama-Toledo until Belle Plaine, 30 out of 76 miles later. Fortunately, we shaved about six miles off of a bumpy road out of town thanks to a shortcut from the Upah farm.

This was my grouchy day. I was wet, and cold, and didn't want to be on my bike. So I rode, and rode, and rode by myself. I was first to arrive in North Liberty, which had the best welcome I experienced. Here, CJ and Jenn Marcy hosted us in their lakeside home.

On a nicer day the Amanas would have been cool, even if they didn't roll out the RAGBRAI red carpet. Instead, for me, it was merely a bathroom break from my final destination.

It helped considerably not to have to seek out breakfast -- thanks Upahs! -- but all were anticipating a refreshing dip in the Marcy pool. Several folks who live in Cedar Rapids took advantage of the opportunity to sleep in their bed for a night, and they all returned to finish the ride.

Day 4: Nothing like getting your butt kicked, twice

Had winds followed the prevailing pattern, Wednesday's 78-mile ride to Tama-Toledo would have been a breeze. Instead, it was a challenge. The consensus among Team CoeBRAI was that this was even tougher than the 83-mile, 5,200-foot climb into Jefferson on Monday.

While only 2,869 feet of climb, steady head and cross winds tested our resolve. It couldn't have helped that we added a few miles onto the beginning -- from David Moore's house in Ames to the route and off the route in Toledo to Stan and Charlotte Upah's homestead.

We soon discovered it was worth the effort. Predictably, the Upahs went all out. A hay rack was implemented to shuttle riders across the mile of gravel to the Upah home. There were hot showers aplenty and, though I may have been the only one to take advantage of it, they had a hot tub. Throw in a dinner feast -- not to mention breakfast! -- and a tough day on the road would have ended ideally.

Then Wartburg College arrived for the second annual kickball showdown. Team CoeBRAI held its own for three scoreless innings, before falling 6-2 in seven. Chalk this loss up to coaching. The Knightriders were prepared -- even taking batting practice as we finished dinner. Never mind that they appeared far too fresh to have biked this grueling day. I guarantee a different approach to next year's game.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Day 3: Blowin' into Cyclone country

RAGBRAI is all about pie, but this day was cake. Only 57 mostly flat -- except for a big climb into Boone, which probably accounted for a third of the day's total -- miles from Jefferson to Ames.

First to arrive was our host, Dr. David Moore, whose parklike backyard gave riders a much needed night of peaceful rest. From here, it's hard to tell RAGBRAI is in town, and that's just fine and perfectly timely.

And the weather -- oh glorious weather. I'm not sure what today's high was, but I barely broke a sweat while making progress on my farmer's tan. We faced challenging headwinds, I'm not gonna lie, but it's hard to complain on a day like today.

As I type this I'm on the deck of David's spectacular home with a cool breeze hitting my neck, scarcely a sound to be head but crickets chirping and an occasional croak from the pond. No train whistles. No reverberating music. No post game analysis. At least not yet.

Most everyone else went to the big show -- The Nada's and STYX. I took a pass so I could blog. These are the sacrifices one makes when he doesn't care for the headline act.

Much as I'd like to be "drinking from a bottle, not thinking about tomorrow" -- as we've heard time and again -- big mileage days await. Tomorrow offers nearly 80 miles to the Upah's in rural Toledo, where we will put our best 10 up against Wartburg College in RAGBRAI Kickball Death Match II (no one died last year, but one never knows).

Monday, July 21, 2008

Day 2: 83 miles of hills and headwinds

RAGBRAI hit us with its best shot Monday, but only one CoeBRAI rider succumbed to the sag wagon. It was fait accompli after Jill Clark forgot her cash and ID in Harlan.

With over 5,200 feet of climb over 83 miles (and I'm told the century loop was every bit as hilly) this is easily the toughest day we'll face all week. I used my granny gear on four of the hills and found the headwinds faced for much of the day every bit as challenging.

First though, Team CoeBRAI and the Lizard Kings huddled in the basement of Jim Druck's home in Harlan when a wicked storm blew through at 2 p.m. Evidence of the storm was apparent on Monday's ride to Jefferson, where our host Dave Hoyt '78 saw trees toppled at his parent's farm in nearby Scranton.

In the storm's aftermath, 20 CoeBRAI riders tackled 83 hilly miles to Jefferson.
Kevin Ogle and David Moore decided 83 miles wasn't enough, so they completed the century loop for 100 miles on a bike. For their efforts they got a patch and sore muscles. Kevin was first to arrive in Jefferson -- despite riding an extra 17 miles -- with your's truly arriving shortly after, first in the 83-mile division. Riders quickly trickled in while racing threatening clouds bearing down on Jefferson.

A little light rain fell for a bit, but it didn't derail the picnic dinner orchestrated by drivers Abby Masters and Ashley Bieghler, with assistance from Lisa Zingula. Thanks to Dave Hoyt for opening his home to us -- and for letting me tap into his wi-fi.

Ironically, our next door neighbors in Jefferson are the team from Wartburg College. They've been much more subdued than Team CoeBRAI. I've been scouting them out for Wednesday's kickball showdown in Toledo, and I like our chances -- unless they bring in the ringers again.

Now it's on to Ames, where we'll actually be staying with one of our riders -- Dr. David Moore, he of the just completed, first time century ride. I doubt it's his last. He seems to really enjoy this. All the better while connecting with former classmates like Dave Hoyt.

Speaking of alumni connections, Dennis Mumm stopped by tonight on his way into town to catch up with Dave and fellow Sigma Nu's Stan Miller '59 from St. Louis and Keith Rusher '61 from Fort Madison, Iowa, dropped by the greet Team CoeBRAI. Stan and Keith, who ride with a group out of Fort Madison, are staying across the street tonight. Earlier tonight, Judy Floy's brother and his family dropped by with pie from his Jefferson church.

It's a small RAGBRAI world.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Day 1: An Awesome Start

From the terraced farms outside Beebeetown, to the Farm Boys breakfast burrito, to Elvis in Neola, to a walking taco in Shelby, this was my best RAGBRAI day in four years. Losing 50 pounds will do that for a person.

Sure there were hills aplenty in the 59-mile trek from Missouri Valley to Harlan, but nothing I couldn't manage -- and the granny gear never came into play. Brian Farrell, Kevin Koschmeder and I ventured out about 7:15 a.m. and by about 2:15 were in Harlan.

Several arrived sooner and some arrived later, but all arrived without the need of assistance. A positive start to RAGBRAI.

Our hosts in Harlan are Jim Bruck '77 and his wife, Julie. We're sharing their lawn with the Lizard Kings, which includes Coe alumni Rick Blackwell and Dennis Mumm. Another fabulous stop. It's always great to connect with Coe folks.

We just learned that there's severe weather in the forecast overnight, so I need to cut this short. Tomorrow is also the longest -- 83 miles -- and hilliest -- over 5,200 feet of climb -- day, so I should get some rest.

We're off to Jefferson, were we'll be hosted by Dave Hoyt '78. What is it about these late 70s Coe grads? With any luck, the entire town will have wireless Internets too.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Today we drove, tomorrow we ride

Team CoeBRAI arrived successfully today in Missouri Valley after a very long journey from Cedar Rapids. Everyone's luggage has been recovered and, so far, it hasn't rained, although there's a tremendous light show going on right now.

Several riders -- and bandits like my son -- rode to the Missouri River 12 miles from here to dip their tires. I opted instead for a tasty tenderloin at the Eagles Club, and a long walk to the RAGBRAI expo, where I scored a sharp Fat Tire jersey.

We are being most ably hosted by Jack and Kris Gochenour. Jack is a veterinarian and Kris, a Coe alumna, helps at the clinic. We’re staying on grounds that were flooded 15 months ago. Pictures and news clippings hung on the outside of their former clinic are eerily similar to many we’ve seen from Cedar Rapids. It’s encouraging to see how they’ve bounced back, though many reminders remain.

Nearly 200 of us are sharing the Gochenour’s yard, including Team CoeBRAI, Team Skunk from the Des Moines/Ames area and veterinarian colleagues of Jack, who has ridden RAGBRAI since 1996.

The Loes Hills in the horizon promise a challenging ride to Harlan tomorrow. Personally, I’m anxious to get on the road. More later, as time and circumstances allow.

More later, and photos, after I recharge the battery.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Roll with it

I decided this was the theme for this year as I was escorting my second of two CoeBRAI fliers who arrived minus luggage. Brilliant!

The pasta dinner seemed to go well, although Doug Bennett and I were late (though at least we were clothed). Interesting dynamic between the veterans and first-timers. This is going to be a fun ride.

Pre-load went extremely well, thanks to Tom Hicks' able assistance. It's amazing what experience can do.

Technical aspects haven't gone so well, consequently I'll be taking two laptops along -- my state-of-the-art HP purchased months ago (which can't seem to work with the wireless Internets card) and one of the SID's dinosaurs (though one can't plug in the power card and the Internets card at the same time).

This could be interesting, but I'll try. I'm just gonna roll with it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

RAGBRAI weather

I had to chuckle the other night when I saw the first RAGBRAI weather forecast on the local news. I know meteorology is an imperfect science, but the forecast for Sunday in Cedar Rapids really has no bearing on the weather in Missouri Valley.

So, now that we're within the 10-day window of every stop, I did at little research at weather.com. Here's what I learned:

Saturday, July 19 in Missouri Valley -- High 87, Low 68 with scattered thunderstorms. 40% chance of precipitation. UV index -- very high. Fitness comfort index -- moderate.

Sunday, July 20 in Harlan -- High 86, Low 66 and partly cloudy. 20% chance of precipitation. UV index -- very high. Fitness comfort index -- high. Wind from the southwest at 7 mph. Sounds like a good first day, as long as we don't wake up wet.

Monday, July 21 in Jefferson -- High 87, Low 65 with scattered thunderstorms. 40% chance of precipitation. UV index -- very high. Fitness comfort index -- moderate. Wind from the west/northwest at 7 mph. If the wind switches to further north and east, this day could rival day two of 2006, when I rode the last leg in a cattle truck as sag wagons were overwhelmed.

Tuesday, July 22 in Ames -- High 87, Low 63 with scattered thunderstorms. 40% chance of precipitation. UV index -- very high. Fitness comfort index -- moderate. Wind from the west/southwest at 8 mph. This needs to NOT be a day that tests our resolve.

Wednesday, July 23 in Tama-Toledo -- High 86, Low 63 and partly cloudy. 20% chance of precipitation. UV index -- very high. Fitness comfort index -- COMFORTABLE! Glorious tailwinds at 10 mph. We should be in good shape when we take the kickball field against the Wartburg College Knights. Anyone bringing steel-toed boots?

Thursday, July 24 in North Liberty -- High 88, Low 66 and SUNNY! 10% chance of precipitation. UV index -- haven't you figured it out by now? Fitness comfort index -- COMFORTABLE AGAIN! Wind from the west/northwest at 9 mph. I predict this will be the best ride of the week.

Friday, July 25 in Tipton -- High 83, Low 61 and SUNNY AGAIN! 20% chance of precipitation. UV index -- see last paragraph. Fitness comfort index -- still more comfort. Wind from the southwest at 10 mph. The route from North Liberty to Tipton by way of Mount Vernong makes wind a relative non-factor here: at some point we're sure to face headwinds. Regardless, I'm so looking forward to the parade of Coe jerseys slicing through the heart of Cornell.

Saturday, July 26 in Le Claire -- ok, so I lied. We're not 10 days out. But here's the Le Claire forecast for Friday. High 82, Low 64 and more glorious sunshine. 20% chance of precipitation. Another good day on the fitness comfort index, whatever that is. I'm not even mentioning the UV index. Wind from the west at 9 mph.

So as a darn near lifelong Iowan, what do I conclude from all of this? Not a whole lot, but some. It's encouraging that the chance of precipitation never exceeds 40%, but those days will be humid and it may well rain -- or storm -- at some point. On the 10-20% days, of which there are many, we should be good. Apparently, the temperature will never exceed 90, which would probably be a RAGBRAI first.

Further proof, that global warming is a misnomer. It should be called climate change. Plenty of evidence of it here in Iowa.

The countdown is on

I just read on the side of the blog that RAGBRAI begins in a little more than four days. I can handly believe it's time again to spend a week in spandex once again. My training this year compared to last year has been less than impressive. I think I just hit the 130 mile mark on my bike. I don't think I will have to worry about keeping up with Doug this year...there isnt a chance.

Andrew and I participated (because I made him) in this event in Chicago called McDonald's L.A.T.E ride (Late stands for long after twilight ends). There were approx 5,000 to 8,000 riders and the ride started in waves and you ride around the city streets of Chicago ending by riding down the lake shore seeing the city skyline. The waves start around 1:30 in the morning. We didnt get going until almost 2am. It sounds fun right??? Just agree...

It was horrible...there were so many people on crowded streets that weren't blocked off and there were so many people who had zero road etiquette. People were crashing and running into people. It made me excited about RAGBRAI so I can hang out with those who are polite and friendly and have some respect for other bikers and cars on the road.

Mainly this post comes about as I am bored at work - I have plenty to do but the work gets a little boring at times - and I decided I would learn to post!

Lonnie, we'll be there early enough to load our stuff and you wont have to call us this year to see if I am coming or where I am.

Who knew the crazy people on RAGBRAI who ride year after year would be right - that it's definately an experience you love a little more after you're off your bike for a few weeks - now I can't wait for RAGBRAI 2008

Monday, July 14, 2008

Swimming on RAGBRAI

One of the many pleasures I discovered last year on my inaugural RAGBRAI was the abundance of community pools along the route. Many had free or low-cost ($2) swimming for riders and a quick dip in the cool water broke up the day well. Cycling shorts (and a sports bra I hear) make for a great swimsuit and they dry pretty quickly when you get back on your bike. For those of you who may be interested in going for a dip this year, I've put together a map of each of the pools I could find close to the route. I know I'll be up for a swim when I join Team CoeBRAI on Friday, July 25th.
Click on the map above or this link for the pools:

Simply amazing

Wow! Today's journey to Mount Vernon and back was amazing. Wind at our back outbound and reduced wind in our faces on the return. No humidity. Temps in the low 80s. Respectively, a cheeseburger with onion rings, a Philly cheese steak with fries, a grilled tenderloin with fries, and a blue cheese burger with onion rings at Chameleons. Not to mention Fat Tire.

I'll take eight days just like this beginning next Sunday.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A glimpse inside

I am continually wowed by the red carpet thrown out by each overnight town on RAGBRAI. Often, in fact, usually, an overnight town's population doubles when RAGBRAI arrives. The planning and coordination involved is incredible.

For a detailed example of what's going on in one of this year's overnights -- Jefferson -- I encourage you to check out Chuck Offenburger's column here. Chuck, a longtime columnist for the Des Moines Register and one of the RAGBRAI founders, spent some time at Coe a few years ago as a January Term instructor and wrote about it here.

He's a great guy, who'll you get a chance to meet Thursday in Tama/Toledo. Chuck and his wife, Carla, are also staying at the rural Toledo home of Stan and Charlotte Upah, parents of newly hired Coe PR coordinator Kristy Upah, who graduated from Coe in May.

This is going to be a fun stop. Not only will the Upahs feed us dinner, there's a volleyball court, ping pong table and weight room available. They also have a hot tub, but I believe RAGBRAI rules declare them off limits to anyone who isn't a team captain.

Located three-miles east of town, we should also enjoy a peaceful night's sleep -- after avenging last year's kickball loss to Wartburg. That's right! Kickball is on! The Knights will meet us at the Upahs for a 7 p.m. game.

We'll open the week at the home of Kris Dyer Gochenour, a 1979 Coe graduate, in Missouri Valley. She and her veterinarian husband live on a large lot across the street from the fairgrounds and near railroad tracks with trains running 24/7. BRING EARPLUGS!

It will be interesting to swap flood stories with Kris, as her community was devastated just a few years ago.

In Harlan, we'll be sharing the yard of Jim Bruck with the Lizard Kings. Two of my favorite Kohawks are Lizard Kings. One of them, Rick Blackwell, is recovering from a recent biking accident. Jim, a 1977 Coe graduate, is a teacher and coach at the Harlan high school.

In Jefferson, where the Offenburgers hail, we're staying with attorney Dave Hoyt, a 1978 Coe grad. If you read Chuck's column, you're impressed with the planning in Jefferson. And that doesn't even include Dave, and many like him, who are opening their homes to riders. Dave is even providing dinner and Jefferson is where RAGBRAI officially bids adieu to Mr. Pork Chop, sadly. My guess is he'll get the itch around June and be back for 2009. But I'm a Packer fan, so I digress.

Ames will be an interesting stop, if only because we're staying with a fellow rider. Neurologist David Moore, a 1980 Coe grad, will host us in Ames while accompanying us from Missouri Valley to Tama/Toledo. Ames, home of the Iowa State Cyclones, is also the "big" concert venue, with local artists The Nadas opening for ... wait for it ... STYK! Oh well, tickets are only $5 and proceeds go to flood recovery. BRING EARPLUGS!

After Tama/Toledo, towns so nice they named them twice, we're on to North Liberty. There we'll be hosted by CJ and Jenn Marcy, 1993 and 1996 Coe grads respectively, at their lakeside home with in-ground swimming pool. Dinner tonight is pot-luck, so invite your family and friends.

After proudly flying the Coe colors through Mount Vernon on the way to Tipton, our final overnight town will be a treat. Bob Rickard, a 1958 Coe grad, is hosting us at his home overlooking the park that will be the focal point of RAGBRAI activity. Tipton is the official Coe gathering spot for RAGBRAI. Contact the Alumni Office to RSVP.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Final Push

Fortunately, it turns out, I've got a spare bike to ride while mine is in for the interminable tuneup. I'm not sure Zach, my then 14-year-old who rode all of RAGBRAI 2007, has been on his bike since.

His computer has been misplaced, somehow, so I have to take known routes, but he's got a sweet bike. His seat blows mine away. Maybe I'll steal it for RAGBRAI, since he'll be riding in the camper. Though I hope he'll join us for a day, or two or three.

The extra bike will keep me on pace for 450ish miles, but I've heard of some awfully impressive training mile totals. Doug Bennett, in particular, may need to start from the finish.

Here's the Cliff Notes schedule:
6 p.m. Friday, July 18 -- spaghetti dinner at Coe and advanced loading
8 a.m. Saturday, July 19 -- loading at Coe for 10 a.m. departure
3 p.m. Saturday, July 26 -- arriving at Coe after a safe and successful adventure

Type rest of the post here

Thursday, July 3, 2008



This is your big RAGBRAI concert, with proceeds supporting the Iowa Disaster Fund? Really?

I don't mean to offend any Mr. Roboto's out there, but I didn't like STYX in their prime. Why would I bother now?

Oh, perhaps to support a very needy cause, to be sure. Or just to see The Nadas. Now that's worth $5!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

RAGBRAI is this month!

Holy crap! All of the sudden, I look up and it's July. Two weeks from Saturday we depart from Eby Fieldhouse. I'd better get busy.

I know some of you are unsure what to bring so here are some tips from the RAGBRAI folks, plus a few of my own based on three years of experience.

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

Bicycle equipment: Find your helmet, make sure it fits correctly and pack it now. (Unless you're planning on biking anytime between now and July 18!) 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 three years. As long as you get your bike serviced before RAGBRAI, and your name isn't Bob, 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. Rode through hail two years ago. 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, such as the one pictured here), sleeping bag, pillow, pad, tent, ground cloth, rope, stakes and a flashlight. (A collapsible chair will also come in handy. It need not fit into your plastic tub, nor your tent. The tubs are just a handy way to tote items from town to town and also offer protection from the rain. For extra protection, pack what you can in large ziplock bags. I have a small supply of tubs should anyone, particularly out-of-towners, wish to use them.)

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 (even more!), safety pins, special medicines, Campho-Phenique and sanitary protection with disposable bags if needed. (Two years ago, I learned the healing power of Gold Bond powder. Last year, I learned the secret recipe to a happy hinie: Chamois Butter before and during, Gold Bond after. Avoid this advice at your own peril.)

Miscellaneous: Bring an alarm clock, spare glasses, sunglasses, a scouting knife, camera, film, watch, earplugs (THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. Trains, rock concerts, civil defense sirens, etc., will inevitably disturb your effort to get some rest. Bring earplugs.), ID, money, traveler's checks, credit cards, journal, pens, pencils (who uses pencils anymore?), 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.)

I got your chain right here, buddy

Oh, yeah - a post or two ago, Lonnie noted my chain difficulties. I need to confess, here, of my curse by a biking half-leprechaun. His curse didn't kill me. It just flattens tires, bends rims, breaks chains. Good thing he wasn't full-blooded.

But, seriously, I've gotten in more than 100 miles on the new chain already. Sure, I can't ride on some trails because they're still under water. I don't think there's any reason to fear riding on the only remaining paved area - the Interstate. There's no danger or curse attached to THAT, surely?

Well, I'd add more inanity here, but I should get out on the bike!


Thursday, June 26, 2008

On, Wisconsin!

With the days until RAGBRAI counting down, I was pleased to get in some unexpected riding this week. I accompanied Sara to a Coe faculty workshop in Spring Green, Wisconsin, and at the last minute decided to take my bike along. As it turned out, the weather was ideal and I got a nice ride in each of the three days we were there. The back roads in the area seemed like extra-wide bike paths - on a 24-mile ride today I was passed by only two cars the entire time. Most importantly, the routes gave me some much-needed hill training.

In addition to my bike rides, we attended Henry IV and Eugene O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness! at American Players Theater, sampled some local cheeses and beers, and I even got a fair bit of work done (though plenty more was waiting to greet me when I returned).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Must-see TV

RE: CR flooding. Nothing Coe-related here.

Walking tour of flood-ravaged downtown Cedar Rapids, Iowa from GazetteOnline.com on Vimeo.

Swine Trek postponed

Not surprisingly, Swine Trek has been postponed due to the flooding in eastern Iowa. Looks like they're going to try to reschedule late this summer: http://www.hawkeyebike.org/special_rides/swinetrekpostponed.html
I may consider a ride to Center Point or Mt. Vernon this weekend in place as a substitute if anyone is interested.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Flood: Coe is fine, CR hurting

As I look through the dozens of photos I’ve taken over the past four days, it strikes me that they lack proper perspective. My motives were purely to document this historic event for the college, but I hope that no one draws the conclusion that Coe was decimated.

Compared to portions of town within as much as a mile of the Cedar River – which, now quite literally, slices through the heart of the city – Coe got off easy. Sure we had to shut down and evacuate a few dozen students, but Coe will be back on track in short order.

If you were to walk on campus – as I did just about an hour ago – you wouldn’t know anything happened, other than the large generators stationed strategically to restore power to critical areas and the absence of human activity. Head back of Eby Annex, where only the brave venture anyway, and it’s quite a different picture.

Those pictures can be viewed here. And I’m proud to have been able to provide them for alumni across the globe who were curious how the Cedar Rapids flood was affecting their alma mater. Rest assured, Kohawks, Coe College is fine.

I can’t say as much for Cedar Rapids. A large portion of town was decimated, and my heart aches for all those homeowners and business owners. City landmarks and legends like Czech Village, the Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, the public library, CSPS, Smulekoff’s, etc., were deluged. We’ll see in the coming days, as the river returns to her banks, but the damage is unfathomable.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette has done a fabulous job covering this historic event despite and, perhaps, because of being located within the flood zone.

I’m confident in the local government and business leadership, many of whom I’m proud to count as friends. Cedar Rapids will rise again! Her signature Independence Day celebration, the Freedom Festival – now delayed until Labor Day weekend – will be extra special this year.

Meanwhile, RAGBRAI awaits!

Friday, June 13, 2008

CR flooding

As most of you know and others have probably heard, Cedar Rapids has been devastated by flood. Coe College was not spared and is currently shut down. I've been documenting this historic event in photographs. Feel free to view them here.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Adventures with Bob

Between my son's baseball games, my daughter's softball games and practices and the rain, getting a ride in has been difficult. I was determined to get one in today -- despite the continued weather uncertainty -- and was glad when Bob returned my call with thumbs up.

We met at Greene Square Park shortly after 2 p.m. and departed for Ely. With portions of the trail flooded, we took the road route out of town until -- about four miles in -- Bob's chain broke. Poor guy has a beautiful new bike, yet the same bad luck.

Bob walked his bike home, reasoning, "at least it's exercise," while I continued onto Ely. Strong headwinds and an attack bird presented challenges on the outbound route. Inbound was smooth sailing with strong tailwinds. Got in a little over 20 miles in about 90 minutes.

And now it's raining with tornadic activity in the area. I hope Bob made it home.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Boy, howdy


I'm just sayin 'hey', here, to the Abby's. I sent them a separate email, but didn't know from the blog that the famous duo of Abby, and yes (wait for it...) Abby - are back this year! (I rediscovered their being with us by reviewing a weeks-old Lonnie email.) Well, ain't this all great. Just great!

We got all kinda people back - most of 'em, I knew about. But adding the Abbys to alla us all; that's just a bucket of warm worms when you got the fishin pole ready, that's what I'm thinkin. Boy, howdy.

Quite separately: It's official - this weather just sucks. Make the rain go away! I'm going to get on my trainer in the living room now, and watch another suspense flick to get me goin. But this aint nothin like being out on what's available in the great out-of-doors these days: crappy half-submerged paved trails; pasty near-concrete paste from mushy packed gravel trails, or risking-ones-life-to-get-to Ely roads. Right now on the trainer, I'm going to take Doug's advice and put a fan in front of me, so at least I'll get some wind training in.

Ah, well - regardless: I'm also soon looking forward to Swine Trek. Can't get enough of those walking tacos; proof yet again that American ingenuity lives. Didn't invent the walking taco in Sweden, nossir; not in Nigeria, neither, ma'am. Four decades ago, we put a guy on the moon. Now, the walking taco. Who said we're falling behind other countries in innovation? The walking taco is a more recent generation's moon shot, it seems to me. God bless America. And swine trek. And my creaky knees.

All for now;


Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Lonnie already mentioned this, but it is worth noting again because it's really a great event. The Hawkeye Bicycle Association's Swine Trek will take place on Saturday, June 21, beginning at 7:00 a.m. Pleasant Creek Recreation Area near Palo is the registration and starting point, and there are four distances to choose from. Bob and I rode the 50-mile ride last year and I was quite impressed by the organization. For RAGBRAI virgins, it's a good preview of an 'organized ride' (stops in small towns and more than a few of you on the road); for everyone it's a good opportunity for a longer, safer road ride. The registration form is at http://www.hawkeyebike.org/special_rides/Swine_Trek_2008.pdf

I'm slowly getting back into bike mode after running a half-marathon in early May. I've probably only logged about 50 miles so far, so I'm hoping to kick it into high gear soon (despite the disheartening news from Northtowne last night that they're at 2 weeks for tune-ups...).

Seems like I've been tied up on a lot of weekends, but perhaps those of us in the CR area can get together for a few evening or weekend rides in June. Looking forward to seeing you all!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Personal best

Now this won't seem like much to the speedsters among you, but I was surprised to have set personal bests for average speed my last two times out. Losing 44 pounds since January has undoubtedly helped, but I also notice a different approach to my biking. Instead of logging miles just for the sake of logging miles, I seem to be riding with a purpose. Not speed, necessarily, but I want to make sure that each ride is a workout.

Between May 21, 2005 and this past Saturday, I've ridden a bike on 185 days. Whether it was the 2+ mile round trip to work or the 85.5 mile day from Sheldon to Estherville (in the hail, as I recall) in 2005 or anything in between, the best speed I could muster was 13.7 mph in a six-mile ride on Sept. 24, 2005. (Obviously, I'm anal about recording my rides.) Typically, I've plodded along at 12 mph. Until Saturday, when I averaged 14 mph in a 24.7 mile ride home from Urbana along the Cedar Valley Trail. That record didn't last long as tonight, after mowing the lawn as a warm up, I averaged 15 mph on an 11.5 mile ride.

That 3 mph jump will save me more than an hour in the saddle each day of RAGBRAI. I also plan to take spinning classes leading up to RAGBRAI, which should make me faster yet (or, at least, make the hills less difficult).

I've always stressed that RAGBRAI isn't a race, and it's not. But I'm going to save a fortune on Chamois Butter and Gold Bond if I can cut my time in the saddle from 5-6 hours to 4-5, and so can you.

P.S. With 87 miles logged over the last 11 days, I'm now at 178 on the year. Last year, I didn't hit that mileage until July 4. In 2006, it wasn't until July 23, day 1 of RAGBRAI! In 2005, when I caught this bug, it took me until June 24 (although I didn't start until May 21). After three straight years of declining mileage (from 933 in 2005 to 633 in 2006 to 613 last year), 1,000 miles looks like a reasonable expectation.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bike to work: turtles, trains and automobiles be damned

Today was the official "Bike to Work" day, but you'd hardly know it by the delays encountered on my noon ride along the Cedar River trail.

Even as gas prices jumped to $3.69/gallon locally, vehicular traffic seemed to be heavier than usual on a day that was perfect for riding a bike, walking, or most anything besides driving a car. After meeting up with Tom Hicks and Brian Farrell, we took our usual path to the trail -- only to be blocked by a slow-moving train. (In this case, by slow-moving I mean back and forth.)

We headed downtown to catch the trail there, battling winter-worn streets and residual sand. Downtown was where we encountered the most vehicular traffic -- and these drivers didn't seem the sort to share the road with cyclists. After taking the turn at the now-closed landfill, which was particularly ripe today, we were slowed again, this time by a turtle. A big turtle! I wished I had brought my camera at the time, but I'm just now realizing my cell phone has one. D'oh!

In addition to the usual encounters with geese, we passed a snake on the return to campus. No deer on this trip, but Tom told of a recent occurrence.

I support efforts to encourage a healthy and environmentally friendly alternative form of transportation. Hopefully as more people begin riding bikes something will be done about all the obstacles.

We had a good 15-mile ride, don't get me wrong. But I'm craving the open road. Tomorrow I'm planning to bike home from my son's baseball games in Vinton, about 30 miles away. As Hayden Fry said, "You have to scratch where it itches."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bike to Work Week/Day this week!

Lonnie and I had the conversation last week that we thought "Bike to Work Week/Day" was sometime soon. I forgot about that until tonight and thought I'd look it up and pass it on to all of you. FYI, Bike to Work Week is officially this week and Bike to Work Day is this Friday, May 16th. (un)Fortunately, I live less than 100 yards from my office so as much as I'd like to ride to work, I think it would take me longer to get my bike out, roll it out of the building, park, and lock it than it would for me to walk.. I know Lonnie will be riding to work and we'll go on a noon ride...feel free to join us!

Bike to Work Week

Friday, May 9, 2008

100 miles in record time

So, how's your training going? I'm happy to say I'm ahead of pace, having surpassed 100 miles in the saddle today. Tom Hicks and I enjoyed a noon ride along the trail and had lunch at Jerseys. I'm thinking I shouldn't have to count the calories in the french fries they brought me since I ordered cottage cheese.

So, due largely to my Florida vacation and considerably less to the Iowa climate, I'm at 109 miles. Last year, before I wound up biking only five of the seven RAGBRAI legs, I didn't pass 100 miles until May 22. In 2006, the year of the cattle truck rescue, it was June 30. Back in 2005, when this obsession started, I bought my bike two weeks from now. On June 12 of that year, I set a personal best riding 13.4 miles to and from my son's baseball games to surpass the 100 mile mark.

Three years later the odometer reads 2,217 -- not counting 70 miles in Florida -- and I'm as fired up for RAGBRAI as I've ever been. Losing 40 pounds certainly helps. I really like the route. The jerseys are cool -- both the RAGBRAI and CoeBRAI versions. Most of all, I'm excited about the returning riders and anxious to give the newcomers an experience of a lifetime.

Training rides

In addition to our weekly Friday noon rides, which officially begin today, I wanted to call your attention to some locally organized events that can help prepare us for RAGBRAI.

One that I just discovered is Ben Murphy's Bike Ride for Preemies. In it's seventh year, this ride raises money for babies born premature. Scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, July 12, it offers a 20-mile bike ride that uses the beautiful Cedar Valley Trail from the New Shack Tavern to the Hawthorne Suites hotel and back. The cost is only $15, and you get a custom designed Ben's Ride T-shirt, water bottle, and other goodies.

There's also the annual Swine Trek on June 21 sponsored by the Hawkeye Bicycle Association. You have the option of a 25, 50 or 100 mile route beginning and ending at Pleasant Creek State Park near Palo. Registration is only $20 (before June 14) and includes fully stocked rest stops, a chicken dinner and other goodies. I rode Swine Trek last year, but suffered a mechanical breakdown.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

he's baaack...


I have experienced some technical difficulties with posting for a bit. Ergo, I've not responded to semi-trash talk from Doug, nor been posting photos of my new bike, yet. Weather here has been a factor in reducing my training time, so I'm not yet ready to tell Doug to "make my day". Indeed, I'd be currently reluctant to challenge Doug's grandmother to a race.

Thanks, Katie, for your nice words. We all look forward to riding with you again. Bringing the hubby? Nothing is more beautiful than a woman of power, and that's certainly you.

Separately, and back to 'my blogging habit': Stay tuned. I've already had issues with the *!@#%$ newfangled stems on these tubes. I got a tire jones of some sort. It's a bad, bad thing.

Yup, - you saw this coming, right? - I've already 'portaged' about six miles with this bike, from up a gravel trail last Friday to near home. (Sure, it's because I think myself invincible and didn't bring adequate equipment. I was just too excited about getting out there!) The shoulder bruises are starting to heal, the bike is clearly broken in (probably 50-60 miles total), and more is coming. Also, I did get a ride from a 20-something faintly stoner type, the last 2 miles home. He's going to crash a day or two of RAGBRAI, so maybe we'll all score some stuff, if we reconnect...

But, really - the important thing about all this is, on a daily basis: Can't you just hardly wait to get out? Isn't biking, for people who live in areas that have real seasons, just a sure sign of spring; a reminder of youthful days (or daze, as it were); the promise of weight loss and nice thighs; and more? Get out of your car, down off your horse, and ride!


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

We're in!

I got my e-mail notification tonight. Easily the best e-mail I received all day, but I'm trapped in this cycle of folks responding all to a mass e-mail and, well, it's been interesting. Anyhow, we're in! No waiting list for Team CoeBRAI this year. Come July, we ride.

More later, I'm sure. Right now I feel the need to ride my bike around the block.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I rode my bicycle past your window last night

Well, not technically. But I did ride my bicycle past several windows tonight.

Leaving work I faced a dilemma: Do I head to the racquet center and work up a sweat on the elliptical machine? Or, given the gorgeous spring weather -- at last! -- do I take my bike for a spin around the block?

Turns out it wasn't such a dilemma.

So after dinner I lugged my two-wheeler down from the guest bedroom, where it had spent the winter braced by a stationary device. Now I didn't get quite the workout that I would have on the elliptical, 11-year-old riding partners will do that. But I did knock off six miles while officially beginning RAGBRAI training.

I was able to bike for the week I was in Florida, but that counted as exercise for Coe's New Year, New You faculty/staff weight loss competition. By the way, I won the individual competition with 35 pounds and my team won the overall title with 61 pounds. I'm anxious to see what difference this makes on RAGBRAI.

And now that spring has finally sprung, I'm ready to ride! Weekly Friday noon rides commence this week, weather permitting. All who are able are invited to meet outside the Clark Racquet Center for a noon departure.

I'm sure we'll soon organize some weekend and/or weeknight rides, too. If anyone wants to suggest something, feel free. I'm pretty tied up in the near term with kids' baseball and softball, but don't let that stop you.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Riding in Style

We'll be riding in style this July thanks to the wonderful design skills of Coe freshman Tara Buchheit. Her jersey design (pictured here) has been submitted to Champion Systems and I've begun taking orders.

Each weeklong rider who was part of our group registration gets one free jersey. Please let me know what size and style you would like.

Anyone else is welcome to buy a jersey -- $60 for short sleeve and sleeveless, $65 for long sleeve. To place an order, go to http://coebrai.coe.edu/ and click on the "jersey order" tab. Sizing information is also available there. All orders must be received by May 9 and will be shipped along with a complimentary CoeBRAI license plate by mid July.

Monday, March 10, 2008

RAGBRAI XXXVI day by day

As you already know, we launch at Missouri Valley, overnight in Harlan, Jefferson, Ames, Tama, North Liberty, and Tipton, and greet the Mississippi at Le Claire. All total, the route clocks in at about 460 miles and we'll be doing a little over 21,000 feet of climb. As far as the ride is concerned, it doesn't make any of the all-time ride top-10 lists. Make no mistake though, we'll be doing about 8,000 more feet of climb this year than we did last year and proper training will be important. On a daily basis though, there are a couple of days that should get your attention.

We’ll begin our journey at the home of Kris Dyer Cochenour ’79 in Missouri Valley. The town is still recovering from devastating floods a year ago, which forced Dr. Jack Cochenour to evacuate the Willow Park Veterinary Clinic, which has since been relocated downtown. The Cochenours have space for tents on their well-shaded yard and a Quonset building with restroom facilities that could double as a storm shelter, if needed. They’re right across the street from the swimming pool and fairgrounds. They’re also near a rail line and trains run 24/7, so bring a good set of earplugs.

Day 1: Sunday – Missouri Valley to Harlan
Distance: 59 miles
Climb: 3,797 feet
You can thank the founding fathers for locating the town of Missouri Valley on the downhill side of the Loess Hills, nestled in the Boyer River valley. However, it is still a river valley and the riders will eventually have to climb out. Climbing is the operative word for most of the day as the route winds its way through Beebeetown, Underwood, Neola, Minden, Shelby and Tennant on the way to Harlan. The good news is that there are only 59 miles to our first overnight stop in Harlan. The other good news is that this will be the fifth time that Harlan has hosted RAGBRAI, so the folks there are old hands at meeting riders' needs.

In Harlan, we’ll be staying with Jim Bruck ’77, who is also hosting our good friends the Lizard Kings.

Day 2: Monday – Harlan to Jefferson
Distance: 83 miles
Climb: 5,239 feet
The ride into Jefferson will be a true test of cyclists' conditioning, with 5,600 feet to climb over 83 miles. The route resembles a pastrami sandwich: Imagine two pieces of bread, flat on either end, with mounds of meat in the middle. As riders approach Jefferson they'll see what looks like a grain silo on the horizon. It is not. It is a 162-foot bell tower. Anyone who's not too tired from the 14.5 mile Karras Century Loop can ascend the 18 flights of steps to the top. Me? I'll take the elevator.

This day rates as the eighth most climb and the seventh hardest day. For those of you new to RAGBRAI, on this day you'll learn a new word that you'll either love or hate: "Rollers." We'll do about 90 percent of this climb during the first 55 miles of the day after which things should settle down. Get going on those training miles! Also, the Karras Loop is this day. So for those of you gunning for a century, you'll be looking at about another 1,000 feet of climb. The best way to handle this kind of day is to strike up a great conversation with a fellow RAGBRAI rider, find a comfortable pace and click off the miles.

We’re still in need of hosts in Jefferson.

Day 3: Tuesday – Jefferson to Ames
Distance: 57 miles
Climb: 1,377 feet
With the second shortest mileage of the route, the ride to Ames is 57 miles. The road stays flat until it reaches Boone and the Des Moines River valley, where there a few hills will await riders. We can be thankful that none of the hills rivals Pilot Mound. A flat section and a few little hills later, riders will arrive in the heart of Cyclone country.

The route takes us through Grand Junction, Dana, Ogden, and Boone, and the words that you'll learn today are, "cream puff." In short, this will nice day to recover. A neat feature you'll experience on this day is traversing the Des Moines River valley between Ogden and Boone. The views are great and the climb isn't that bad. Take a little break on the bridge and check out the river turtles. I've heard rumors that Ames might be offering up some great entertainment.

We don’t yet have hosts in Ames, but I’m optimistic.

Day 4: Wednesday – Ames to Tama/Toledo
Distance: 78 miles
Climb: 2,869 feet
This day's 78-mile ride sets out on one of the longest of RAGBRAI's traverses of the Lincoln Highway, through Nevada, Colo and State Center, to name just a few of the towns. All along the way are remnants of businesses that sprang up along the old two-lane highway in the first half of the last century. The route will take riders along the fringes of the Meskwaki Indian Settlement on the way to the overnight in Iowa's twin cities of Tama and Toledo.

The first 25 miles are along the old Lincoln Highway and are relatively flat. Another favorite portion of this days ride is from Le Grand to Tama. We'll be hopping watersheds which means some hills but the views are great. Also, the last five miles into Tama cross the Iowa River valley and are flat miles.

We’ll actually be staying three miles east of Toledo at the home of Charlotte and Stan Upah, parents of Kristy Upah ’08, an intern in the Coe PR office this spring and the person most responsible for the college weight loss competition that has helped me lose 24 pounds – so far. Though there’s about 0.9 miles of gravel between the paved road and the Upah home – fear not, shuttle service will be arranged – this promises to be a fun stop with a play room, volleyball court, ping pong table, weight room and hot tub at our disposal. The Upahs have also offered to provide dinner for us.

Day 5: Thursday – Tama/Toledo to North Liberty
Distance: 76 miles
Climb: 3,123 feet
The ride from Tama-Toledo to North Liberty covers 76 miles and about 3,300 feet of climb. The route is a real mix of terrain, from hills in all their various forms to good stretches of flats, and plenty of towns along the way in which to rest and fuel up. One of the towns is Luzerne, as in Switzerland; fortunately there are no Alps, just one big hill near town. The route will also wind through three of the Amana Colonies: West Amana, South Amana and Homestead. Be sure and check out the historic gas station as we come into Belle Plaine.

An in-ground swimming pool greets us in North Liberty at the home of CJ Marcy ’93 and Jenn Wilson Marcy ’96. The home is also near Lake Macbride. Because of the close proximity to Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, we’re going to invite our family and friends in the area to join us for a pot luck dinner this evening.

Day 6: Friday – North Liberty to Tipton
Distance: 65 miles
Climb: 3,051 feet
The ride out of North Liberty brings the cyclists through the twists and turns that make up the area around Lake Macbride State Park and the Cedar River Valley. A highlight of the day will be the ride through the Cornell College campus in Mount Vernon. We’ll fly the Coe College colors prominently this day. Most of the major hills on this 65-mile-ride arise after Martelle, and with the any luck riders will have a tailwind to push them on to the overnight stop in Tipton.

In Tipton, we’ll be staying at the 124-year-old home of Bob Rickard ’58, which offers a putting green and an old barn equipped with a big-screen TV where Bob gathers with friends for Iowa Hawkeye football games. The home overlooks the park and is near the high school. This will be the spot for the annual gathering of Kohawks on RAGBRAI.

Day 7: Saturday – Tipton to Le Claire
Distance: 53 miles
Climb: 1,835 feet
Many RAGBRAI critics have claimed that hell would freeze over before RAGBRAI returned to the Quad Cities area. Well, if you have been paying attention to the weather this winter you know that Hades hit the ice age, and RAGBRAI will be ending in Le Claire, a hair north of the cities. The birthplace of Buffalo Bill Cody will be the site for the final tire dip of RAGBRAI XXXVI. Another interesting tidbit about this day's route is that every town the ride passes through is on the route for the first time. That has not happened since the earliest days of the ride.

For those of you who haven't been to Le Claire - the view of the Mississippi seems to go forever. Find a spot in the shade and watch the river drift by.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

RAGBRAI route follows Lincoln Highway

Hills come alive with sounds of RAGBRAI


Break out the Burma Shave signs. The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa is heading down the old Lincoln Highway.

A fair portion of this year's edition of the trans-Iowa ride, July 20-26, will follow the country's first coast-to-coast highway on U.S. Highway 30. The 471-mile route will also take riders along other officially designated stretches, such as the Iowa Valley Scenic Byway.

At 471 miles, the route is nearly the same distance as last year's - 477 miles - but the amount of climb is not. Last year's 10,000 registered riders climbed 13,600 feet. This year they'll face 22,500 feet - it's a return to the hills, valleys and ridges that define this state.

Look at the bright side: Despite more climb, this route still does not make the top 10 most hilly - it's No. 11.

More positives: Riders will visit two first-time overnight towns, North Liberty and Le Claire, and eight first-time pass-through towns, Albion, South Amana, Martelle, Bennett, New Liberty, Maysville, Eldridge and Argo.

Additionally, it's been an average of 17 years since the ride has visited the other overnight towns. For many riders, the experience will be new.

If the hills don't take breath away, the scenery will. Throughout the climbs, drops, twists and turns, there is more than enough Iowa beauty to take riders' minds off the challenge of the terrain.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Fast, fast, fast. I'm gonna be fast.

Dear y'all;

Ok, "fast" is a relative term. But I've bought me a new bi-cycle. Rather than the near 20-something-year-old 10 speed Schwinn I was noted for in last year's COEBRAI, this year I'll be riding a 2008 Cannondale Synapse Sport 7. (Yes, I said "seven"). It's blue, a color noted for it's aero-dynamisms; it's got pedals; it has twenty-seven really fast gears. And I am able to transfer my gel seat to this high performance model. Stand back.

PLUS: I bought what is known as a "trainer". This means that, just like I did last night, I can ride my bike in my living room, and not hit anything. Any time I want. Ok: technical explanation - the rear wheel is held up with some kinda doohicky, but it still spins round and round.

This trainer came with a video, too; so I'm practicing speed racing with persons in a 2004 national race held in Downers Grove, IL. Yet another sign of speed: Downers Grove is known to be a fast, fast place.

Anyways, just to send the random blog, I conclude: Doug, I may come closer to keeping up with you this year. Katie, if you're out there: I'm going to be drafting all the way up hills behind you. Hopefully, close enough to actually draft. Love to write more, but I'm just too darn fast...


Fast, fast, fast. I'm gonna be fast.

Dear y'all;

Ok, "fast" is a relative term. But I've bought me a new bi-cycle. Rather than the near 20-something-year-old 10 speed Schwinn I was noted for in last year's COEBRAI, this year I'll be riding a 2008 Cannondale Synapse Sport 7. (Yes, I said "seven"). It's blue, a color noted for it's aero-dynamisms; it's got pedals; it has twenty-seven really fast gears. And I am able to transfer my gel seat to this high performance model. Stand back.

PLUS: I bought what is known as a "trainer". This means that, just like I did last night, I can ride my bike in my living room, and not hit anything. Any time I want. Ok: technical explanation - the rear wheel is held up with some kinda doohicky, but it still spins round and round.

This trainer came with a video, too; so I'm practicing speed racing with persons in a 2004 national race held in Downers Grove, IL. Yet another sign of speed: Downers Grove is known to be a fast, fast place.

Anyways, just to send the random blog, I conclude: Doug, I may come closer to keeping up with you this year. Katie, if you're out there: I'm going to be drafting all the way up hills behind you. Hopefully, close enough to actually draft. Love to write more, but I'm just too darn fast...


Monday, February 25, 2008

Riders and hosts wanted

Since the Courier just came out, I figured I ought to post something new here for the surge in traffic it's likely to generate (ahem). Anyway, the granddaddy of all recreational bike rides is coming in what seems like an eternity. With all the snow and ice we've had this winter, a field of tall corn has never been so appealing.

February is a heck of a time to expect people to commit to a week of biking, but that's how it is. If you're tempted, we have plenty of space available. I count about a dozen committed riders, plus a handful who have expressed interest but haven't committed yet. We have room for 30 and would love to have you along. I guarantee it'll be a vacation like none you've ever spent.

We're hoping to finalize our team around March 1 so that we can meet RAGBRAI deadlines for registering. If you're toying with the idea, please let me know and we'll keep you in the loop.

We've been having great luck with alumni and parents in overnight towns offering their lawns for Team CoeBRAI. There's still a couple of towns unspoken for, so let us know if you'd like to host us for a night. I guarantee it'll be a Coe event like none you've ever experienced.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Initial review: Overnights could make for a party year

From the Des Moines Register, here's the first review I've found of the overnight towns selected for RAGBRAI:

Mark Wyatt is psyched because, while pedaling is fun and all, the towns at day’s end make any bike trip.

The size and variety of cities selected as overnight stops for the 36th Register Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa could make it a party year.

“The hospitality will be second to none,” said the avid bicyclist from North Liberty, one of the eight overnight towns on seven-day bicycle tour July 20-26. This will be his seventh RAGBRAI.

The 471-mile route cuts through the guts of the state, traveling north of and roughly parallel to Interstate 80.

For riders, it won’t be as flat of a ride as last year’s pool-table-level pedal but certainly not in the top 10 for hills, climbing 22,500 feet.

If there is a theme, it could be overnight exuberance. Several towns are near large population centers, including Missouri Valley (near Omaha-Council Bluffs), the college town of Ames, North Liberty (near Iowa City) and LeClaire (near the Quad Cities).

Officials in those towns, in addition to Harlan, Jefferson, Tama-Toledo and Tipton, are exceedingly happy because the average time since last RAGBRAI overnights is 17 years.

LeClaire and North Liberty are overnight newcomers.

The benefits are obvious with 20,000 riders, support crews, hangers-on, merchandisers and visitors hitting town.

“We’ve seen towns that get 20,000 to 30,000 people,” said T.J. Juskiewicz, the ride’s director. “That’s a lot of dollars. The economic impact, some towns have told us, is $2 million.”

When he heard the route, Jeff Snyder lay awake all night.

“I rolled over and it was 5 a.m.,” said the executive director the Missouri Valley Chamber of Commerce. “I was thinking of what we had to do, if we had enough room, everything.”

Snyder had even convinced county fair officials to move the date of the fair so he could apply to be a RAGBRAI town.

By early Thursday, he said, the 220 motel rooms available in town were filling fast. The scenic village tucked among the Loess Hills also has 14 restaurants.

The scenery is a real draw on this year’s ride, says ride host Brian Duffy. The Missouri Valley-to-Harlan first day is a real up-and-downer among the wind-blown hills.

Other overnight towns offer variety:

-- Harlan has hosted four rides, the last in 2004, and riders will be happy with the ample green space for camping.

-- Jefferson is familiar with the bike crowd, situated at the northern end of the Raccoon River Valley Trail. “You try to work on tourism but an event like this really gets people to know us,” said Amy Milligan of the Jefferson Area Chamber of Commerce. Riders will see the 168-foot Mahanay Memorial Carillon Tower standing tall in the town square.

-- In Ames, where a beverage or two is tipped on occasion, expect the sizable university town to put on a time.

-- In the “twin cities” of Tama and Toledo, known for the Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel, city officials say riders can expect top entertainment from a pair of cities that loves to entertain.

-- North Liberty looks similar to a large suburb to Iowa City but without a high school. RAGBRAI gives people a chance to come together as a community, says Wyatt, who directs the Iowa Bicycle Coalition.

-- RAGBRAI hasn’t stopped in Tipton since 1982. Hungry? Once named the “agriculture and livestock center of the world,” the town also boasts a Carnegie Library with a large collection of Grant Wood lithographs and an art deco theater showing top independent films.

-- LeClaire is the finale, a picturesque Mississippi River town known for it’s address at the corner of I-80 and the river. Here’s the bonus: The Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival is happening at the same time in nearby Davenport.

And, yes, Lance Armstrong is expected on the ride, although last year’s politicians are gone.

That didn’t stop Pam Ellis of the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau from her own, very familiar sound bite:

“We’re fired up and ready to roll!,” she said.

RAGBRAI Overnights Announced

RAGBRAI 2008 will roll across Iowa's midsection, according to the list of overnight towns just released by the Des Moines Register. Beginning in Missouri Valley on July 19, the ride will stop in Harlan, Jefferson, Ames, Tama-Toledo, North Liberty and Tipton before ending at the Mississippi River in Le Claire on July 26.

Make this your year to join the official Coe College team on the adventure of a lifetime. Please fill out the information form at http://coebrai.coe.edu and we'll keep you posted as plans develop. Also, if you are from one of the overnight towns and would like to host Team CoeBRAI in your community, please let us know.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Warm thoughts on a wintry day

While bracing for the arctic blast that is supposed to follow the 3-5 inches of snow that blanketed Eastern Iowa this morning, I can't help but be warmed by two thoughts: the Packers are a game away from the Super Bowl and RAGBRAI will be here before we know it.

Speaking of RAGBRAI, while checking to see if the overnight towns had been announced, I noticed the 2008 jersey has been unveiled (see picture). For once, I may have to buy one as it truly reflects the RAGBRAI experience. As their sales pitch says, it "invokes the sense of achievement you feel once the view of the water tower from the next Iowa town rises above the beautiful rolling countryside."

I sincerely hope you'll join us this year. Fees have been set at $350. Of this, $175 is due to Coe by March 1 along with a signed waiver from the RAGBRAI Web site. The remaining $175 will be due July 1.

The fee includes the official $125 RAGBRAI entry fee, a Team CoeBRAI jersey and license plate, bus transportation to and from Cedar Rapids and the starting/ending towns, and snacks and non-alcoholic beverages at each overnight stop. This does not include meals, unfortunately, except for dinner at the Coe alumni gathering somewhere along the route. We do hope to negotiate with our hosts at each overnight stop to make some accommodation for meals.

The fee is $50 higher than last year in order to pay our drivers. We’re hoping to hire drivers who will also be willing to set up and/or tear down tents for an extra fee to be negotiated with individual riders who are interested in such a service.

Additionally, participants should plan to spend $20-$30 per day on food and beverages, bike repairs, showers, etc.

RAGBRAI begins somewhere near Iowa’s western border and ends along the eastern border at the Mississippi River. Overnight towns will be announced soon in the Des Moines Register and at www.ragbrai.org. Again this year, we will seek hosts from among the Coe community at each of the overnight towns.

Students, alumni, parents, faculty, staff and friends are all welcome to join Team CoeBRAI. If you are interested, please complete the interest form at http://cobrai.coe.edu.

Ride on!

Lonnie Zingula
Team CoeBRAI captain