Monday, July 27, 2009

The next leg?

RAGBRAI's 442-mile path from Council Bluffs to Burlington left me at a personal best 1,064 miles on the year. While I don't know when the next ride will be (I'm still 636 miles short of my goal), every ride from here on out will mark a new personal best. I like that.

I was hoping to join the local MS 150, but discovered that's the same weekend as my fantasy football draft. Experienced CoeBRAI riders won't be surprised that I'm the commissioner.

I looked into Swine Trek, but that's the morning of Coe's opening football game, and I have to announce. That was my first -- and only -- century last year, but I'll have to miss it this year.

There is the first annual BReW TAH TAH party ride out of North Liberty that caught my eye. It's a free party ride from Roadie's to Morse and back sponsored by Team AlcoHawk. It's an Aug. 8 nooner for 25-30 miles of rolling hills. I'll pick the Ely Boys up along the way, I hope.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Mission complete

RAGBRAI concluded today with a delightful 43-mile ride to Burlington, where the brave and crazy could end their ride going up Snake Alley. I've got enough coozies, thank you very much.

After dodging a severe weather scare overnight, today's weather was pleasant and the track flat and fast. There was only one severe climb and the ride through Geode State Park was a treat. Spectacular roads (finally!) from there to Burlington.

After gathering at Happy Joe's on the edge of town, Team CoeBRAI made its descent to the Mississippi River. Wearing our Marvin Cone inspired jerseys and riding together for the only time, I'm certain we won the fashion prize.

I've experienced worse dipping sites, as well as better. The team was a model of efficiency though as we loaded up for the return to Coe. Gotta give a shout out here to our awesome support team -- the best support team in the history of RAGBRAI! Thank you Abby, Ryan and Lisa!!!

I seem to have inherited a small fortune of chairs, tents, pumps, etc. so please let me know if you're missing anything before the yard sale. I'll gladly hold on to any property until you return next year, hint hint.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Toughest day yet

A fair dose of hills, our first dose of heat and a painful stretch of headwinds made Friday's ride to Mount Pleasant a challenge. Personally, I prefer it hot, so that was a welcome change. And it hasn't rained today -- knock on wood.

I started out with Doug and Eddie, but lost them both quickly. I seem to have rubber legs in the morning and can't get going until I've had a good breakfast. Today, it was one last Farm Boys breakfast burrito, where I jumped in line with Doug and shaved minutes off my waiting time.

As we turned into the headwinds near Pekin, I lost Doug and rode alone from there, rarely even seeing any teammates along the way. Many of them were in Mount Pleasant already when I arrived, so I had to surrender the yellow jacket. It's tough to finish first when your competition doesn't have to ride an extra 30 miles.

The ride from Ottumwa to Brighton was flat and fast. Brighton to Mount Pleasant offered heat, hills and headwind. If it had also been humid, we'd have hit the jackpot. Some riders witnessed accidents, including a biker riding into a farm grader!

We're all sore, but safe and anticipating completing this adventure tomorrow in Burlington.

We're being hosted tonight by Bitrus and Olabisi Gwamna, who are both on the faculty at Iowa Wesleyan. Their son, Duroje, will be a Coe senior next year. Another son, Zoom, is celebrating his birthday with 40 strangers in his yard.

We were rewarded for our efforts with an amazing meal our hostess spent the day preparing and hotel quality water pressure for showering. Today we also said good by to newly crowned century rider and unofficial CoeBRAI mascot Bob Untiedt. After taking Wednesday off, Bob completed his century Thursday and deemed his mission complete.

For the rest of us, that comes tomorrow when we dip into the Mississippi.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Zero percent

Hey! Lonnie here writing under Ryan's account, since I can't get mine to work on his computer and I can't access the internet on mine. I promise to catch you up just as soon as I have reliable access. Photos too.

Suffice it to say, we've had an interesting week -- so far.

Simpson College gave its best effort to capitalize on Tuesday's ride into Indianola, but CoeBRAI jersey day stole the show. It rained as we were exiting Greenfield, but the sky finally cleared around 4 p.m. and the sun joined RAGBRAI.

In Indianola, we were expertly hosted by Coe parents Bill and Sherrie Engel, who teamed up with Coe parents Dave and Ellen Wellborn to provide an amazing meal. From there it was on to Chariton, where we didn't have a host. I drove the camper to secure a spot and biked half-way back -- an interesting experience, to say the least.

Though the forecast called for zero percent chance of rain, a thunderstorm greeted us this morning at 5 a.m. It cleared off quickly and allowed around 15 of us -- not me, but many of them -- to complete the optional century. Among the century riders was Bob Untiedt, who sagged Wednesday with a sore knee and contemplated going home. I still don't know what to make of his feat.

We're now in Ottumwa, hosted by Cornell grads and Coe parents Mike and Janet Vinyard. More rain in the late afternoon served only to dampen the recently dried tents. We enjoyed another amazing meal and were joined by future Coe Hall of Famer Tim Vinyard.

Tomorrow we're off to Mount Pleasant and the weather forecast looks promising. I'll believe it when I see it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A tough ride to Greenfield

I'm not gonna lie, today was tough. Brad even needed to shift off his big gear. Twice.

Me, I discovered granny missing on the way out of Red Oak, and didn't have her at my disposal all day. And what a miserable 72-mile day it was with the hills and the chills and the constant drizzle. It was enough to prompt me to buy rain gear upon arrival in Greenfield, where we have been treated like kings by our hosts Ralph and Erma Mitchell.

A sit-down dinner didn't pan out, but I'm pleased to have lunched at Subway in Corning, bypassing the carnival food frenzy.

Tomorrow we're off to Indianola and will be flying Coe colors en force. It's a bit longer and a bit less climb, with more downhills. The weather looks to be a lot like today.

I've yet to find a Fat Tire, so Chris Engel better greet me with a cold one or there may be trouble.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A sweet ride to Red Oak

RAGBRAI kicked off today with glorious weather and, for me, a mental health ride to Red Oak. I found the 52-mile journey most pleasant. The difficulty of the uphill rides was surpassed by the pleasure of the downhill runs.

I arrived in Red Oak shortly after noon after maintaining a 10 mph pace, including stops. I averaged 14.2 mph and completed the route in 3:39:36 -- a really good pace for me.

Just about everyone is in now. Katy and Andrew Borders and Brian Farrell just arrived to join the ride. The only mechanical issues I've heard of were Erik Albinson's numerous flats. A visit to the bike mechanic upon entering Red Oak uncovered shards of glass that was remedied by replacing his tires.

We're camping at Southwestern Community College and I'm pleased to be pirating their electricity and wireless Internet. I'm regretting, however, that my camper is leaking water.

Tomorrow we're off to Greenfield, a 72.6 mile journey with 5,096 feet of climb. Tonight's forecast calls for partly cloudy and 57 degrees. Tomorrow in Greenfield, mostly sunny and 79. If this weather pattern continues, everyone will do RAGBRAI.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Rolling with it

What happens on RAGBRAI doesn't necessarily stay on RAGBRAI, but all of it could only happen in Iowa.

We arrived today in Council Bluffs only to find our host had moved to Colorado without our knowledge. What a shocking experience that had to be for our first time riders.

Anarchy was quickly avoided as across-the-street neighbors Jessica and Ryan Willer offered up their lawn and bathroom. Soon after, fresh-back-from-vacation neighbors Diane and Barry Glass offered up their lawn and camper. Soon after that, our original host contacted the current tenant, his cousin Shelby Albertson and high school classmate Nick Golden, and we had free reign of their house as well. A little while later, neighbor Denny came over to offer up his fire pit and horseshoe pit.

Try finding hospitality like that anywhere else. Riders and unintended hosts alike rolled with it.

We have yet to peddle a mile and I feel like we've already had the quintessential RAGBRAI moment. Or maybe it just gets better from here. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 17, 2009

On the eve of a great adventure

I've got a really good feeling about Team CoeBRAI 2009 after tonight's carbo load and pre-load. I'm excited about the relationships that will be rekindled and the new friendships established in the week ahead.

We loaded 20 of 27 bikes and I didn't even break a sweat. It didn't hurt that it was cool like a fall football Saturday.

Tomorrow, we finish loading and hit the road to Council Bluffs by 10 a.m. In Council Bluffs we'll be staying with 2006 Coe graduate Wyatt Yates.

Unfortunately, we're down to 34 full-time riders due to a last-minute cancellation. Phil Haynes, a 1983 Coe graduate from Lewisburg, PA, had to cancel because his mother is hospitalized. He had hoped she would improve so that he could join us for at least part of the ride, but that didn't pan out.

Tomorrow's forecast in Council Bluffs calls for sunny skies and 76 degrees. The overnight low will be a crisp 50 degrees. (What ever happened to summer?)

Sunday's forecast in Red Oak calls for sun and 79 degrees with a low of 58.

Monday's forecast in Greenfield calls for mostly cloudy and 79 with a low of 62.

Tuesday's forecast in Indianola calls for scattered thunderstorms and 76 with a low of 60.

Wednesday's forecast in Chariton calls for partly cloudy and 81 with a low of 63.

Thursday's forecast in Ottumwa calls for mostly sunny and 84 with a low of 66.

Friday's forecast in Mount Pleasant calls for scattered thunderstorms and 86 with a low of 67.

Saturday's forecast in Burlington calls for scattered thunderstorms and 83.

These forecasts are provided by, which is far more accurate than any TV meteorologist. If this pans out, I bet this is the coolest RAGBRAI on record.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Thoughts after mile 303

Oh, boy, is RAGBRAI fun. Pain, grief, .....

WAIT: I'm resisting my 'inner Eeyore', no more of the death-&-gloom stuff I'm thinking about. Instead, here's my training history in 2009:

Miles 285-303: Highlight - attack by red-winged blackbird. Four times over two turns around a hilly spot (Dows Road to someplace to Hwy 13 to Mt. Vernon Road; a 3.75 mile slightly hilly terrain). Reliving Hitchcock, the 2nd time around, I took out my small tire pump and waived it at the bird. Do I look like an egg stealing varmit to you?

Miles 1-285: a blur. Some with Brian Farrell, some with Lonnie Zingula; I have a faint notion I did a 45 mile ride with Tina Turner - but that may have been while I was on 'Proud Marys' or some such. I know it was fun, involving Sutliffe Cider, rides past Toddville, and limited amounts of ice cream and pork. (not together.) (yet.)

Anyways, it comes whether one is adequately trained or not. I'll try to take it like a man, or perhaps a small male mouse. Looking forward to seeing all the good people, and the capitalist robber-barons of the COEBRAI team soon!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Team CoeBRAI on Twitter

Utilizing every tool imaginable to spread the word about Team CoeBRAI, we now have a Twitter presence. If you're a Twitter user, follow us at CoeBRAI. This will allow me to easily post photos and updates throughout the day, while still updating the blog at night. Tell your family and friends.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

13 days and counting down quick

After surpassing 600 training miles today on a wonderful 35-mile ride to Solon and back with Bob Untiedt, it dawned on me that we are less than two weeks from departure and I have a lot of work to do. Consequently, I’m taking my bike in for a tune-up tomorrow and may not ride again until we get to Council Bluffs.

A reminder to everyone that the second installment was due July 1. This is $175 for most full-time riders. If you ordered stuff from RAGBRAI and didn’t include it in your first payment, add it to the second payment. Part-time riders should contact me about how much is due. In all cases, checks should be made out to Coe College and sent to my attention at 1220 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402.

Hosts have been secured in five of seven overnight towns. At this point, it seems certain that we’ll be fending for ourselves in the RAGBRAI campgrounds at Red Oak and Chariton. Rest assured I will do my best to make this as painless as possible.

Here’s a quick rundown of the itinerary:

Friday, July 17 – 6 p.m. spaghetti dinner at Coe followed by loading of as many bikes as are ready to go. The dinner is free for CoeBRAI participants and $7 for guests. If you haven’t already, please let me know whether or not you will be attending and if you’ll be bringing guests. I need to get a somewhat accurate head count to food services.

Saturday, July 18 – Loading begins at 8 a.m. at Eby Fieldhouse on the Coe campus with a planned departure of 10 a.m. Lunch stop in Des Moines, where we will pick up driver Abby Masters. Late afternoon arrival in Council Bluffs, where we will be staying with Wyatt Yates, a 2006 Coe graduate. Wyatt has generously agreed to provide us with a barbeque dinner, complete with fresh vegetables from his grandpa’s farm. We will make arrangements to shuttle riders to RAGBRAI central to pick up bikes and/or attend the Barenaked Ladies concert.

Sunday, July 19 – 52.6 miles to Red Oak. We don’t have a host and I’m still trying to nail down a camping area. Trust me, there’s nothing I dislike more than biking all day and then having to ride around town looking for my team. If there’s any way possible, you will know your final destination before you leave Council Bluffs.

Monday, July 20 – 72.6 miles to Greenfield, where we will be hosted by Ralph and Erma Mitchell. We hooked up with the Mitchells after rider Judy Floy led them on a tour of Washington, D.C. They will also be hosting 14 riders in their house, but have ample shower facilities for us all. Dinner is on our own, but their land abuts the fairgrounds and is 3/4 –mile from downtown.

Tuesday, July 21 – 77.1 miles to Indianola, where we will be hosted by Bill and Sherrie Engel, parents of 2006 Coe graduate Chris Engel Fitzpatrick. The Engels are providing us with dinner and showers. They are located close to downtown as well. I’ve been looking forward to this stop since the route was announced.

Wednesday, July 22 – 44.4 miles to Chariton. Most likely we’ll be camping around the old armory (off 16th St. between Illion Ave. and Lucas Ave. It is close to showers, on the shuttle run, has porto-potties and some food options. There are no hook-ups for campers, but that only effects me.

Thursday, July 23 – 76.9 miles to Ottumwa, where we will be hosted by Mike and Janet Vinyard. Mike and Janet are Cornell graduates, but their son, Tim, graduated from Coe in 2002 and was a stellar quarterback for the Kohawk football team. They are providing showers and a grilled chicken dinner, but asked that we help with cooking and cleanup. The CoeBRAI standard is that when we leave a town, it looks like we were never there. I know this group will be no different.

Friday, July 24 – 75.5 miles to Mount Pleasant, where we will be hosted by Bitrus and Olabisi Gwamna, parents of Coe senior-to-be Duroje. The Gwamnas are accustomed to hosting large groups and will be providing dinner and showers. They are also located within walking distance of the town square.

Saturday, July 25 – 43.2 miles to Burlington. I will identify a spot for us all – you too, John Bowlin – to gather on the edge of town before making our descent, as a group, to the Mississippi. As we individually and collectively celebrate the accomplishment of biking across Iowa, this is the CoeBRAI moment that keeps me coming back for more. Don’t miss it.

We’ll then load up and high tail it back to Cedar Rapids for a mid-afternoon arrival.

Lastly, a handful of you still haven’t sent me the number of the cell phone you will have with you and also the name and number of your emergency contact. I will be handing out contact information to everyone so we can communicate on the road. If I don’t have your number, you will be left off the list.

A note about showers: our hosts have generously agreed to open their facilities to us. Let’s not abuse it. With 35 full-time riders, it would take six hours if everyone took a 10-minute shower. Please incorporate the five-minute shower into your training routine the next two weeks. I shave in the shower, and I’m still in and out in under five minutes, so I know it’s possible. (This does not apply in Red Oak and Chariton, where you’re welcome to linger in the cold shower as long as you like.)