Wednesday, November 13, 2013

CoeBRAI 2014: Our 10th adventure awaits

With RAGBRAI registration opening Friday, Nov. 15, I’d like to take a minute to refresh everyone about how to sign up.

RAGBRAI veterans will receive an e-mail with registration instructions. Virgins will first need to create a profile at the RAGBRAI Web site. You will then want to join the group CoeBRAI (#32344) before submitting your entry. Please do not send any payments to RAGBRAI. Instead, those should be sent to me, soy capitan.

We'll cap the group at 20 week-long riders, give or take a few as the situation allows. Fees for Team CoeBRAI will remain $450 in 2014. Of this, a non-refundable $225 deposit is due March 1 along with a completed (online) entry form and signed waiver. The remaining $225 will be due July 1.

The fee includes the official $160 RAGBRAI entry fee (up $10 from 2013), transportation to and from Cedar Rapids and the starting/ending towns and within each overnight town, some meals, and snacks and non-alcoholic beverages at each overnight stop. We will again be producing a Team CoeBRAI jersey, but it is no longer included in the entry fee. Information on ordering a jersey will be provided after the first of the year. This will be completely optional.

Two vans and a moving truck have been reserved to transport bodies and bikes, as we did last year. A repeat of last year’s weather has also been requested.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Day 7 to Fort Madison and the mighty Mississippi

Megan Wagner, a 2013 Coe grad, and her dad, Tim, began the week as RAGBRAI virgins. They ended it with a homecoming in Fort Madison and hosted Team CoeBRAI at their home for our group descent to the Mississippi River. It was a fitting end to what, by all accounts, was the best RAGBRAI any of us have experienced. The end.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Day 6 to Fairfield

Had it not rained all night and I wasn't fighting a cold, today's 52-mile pancake ride (only 1,222 feet of climb) would have been a joy. Overcast skies for most of the day kept temperatures low again and a nice tailwind made for a magic carpet ride to Fairfield. Turns out I needed long sleeves and a jacket for comfort instead of sweating out the illness.

Soon enough we were in Fairfield, staying with teammates for just the second time in CoeBRAI history. RAGBRAI virgins Jeff Evanelo and Holly Baker have opened their secluded home to Team CoeBRAI. It's going to be a struggle to leave this serenity for another day on the road, but the Mississippi awaits.

First, though, it's time for the now traditional spaghetti dinner with my homemade sauce (frozen and toted across the state and back for the occasion. I'd better get cooking.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Day 5 to Oskaloosa

Data on paper - even visually represented - is a funny thing. Today's 52-mile trek to Oskaloosa ranked third for the week with 2,808 feet of climb. In actuality, it may have been second in difficulty to Monday's 83-mile journey from Harlan to Perry. Wind direction, descents and fatigue make a difference.

In our only group camping experience of the week, our tents are pitched outside the chapel at William Penn University. A pasta buffet on campus awaits before the annual concert by RAGBRAI favorites the Nadas.

With only 1,222 feet of climb, tomorrow's levitation-aided 52-mile ride to Fairfield should be the easiest day of the week, on paper.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Day 4 to Knoxville

Though short on miles - only 50 - today's hump day ride to Knoxville offered the second most climb at 2,920 feet. I didn't feel like the hills were as rewarding as prior days, but who am I to judge?

Highlights of the route were passing the State Capitol building and through the state fairgrounds in Des Moines and crossing the 1-mile bridge at Lake Red Rock. I didn't get a swim for the first time all week, but the shower at the home of Kevin and Jennifer Bassett Wadle '95 was nearly as refreshing.

Jennifer was Coe roommates with CoeBRAI veteran Amy Wiezorek Schork '95, who should be rolling into camp any time now.

Tomorrow's ride to Oskaloosa offers similar distance and climb to today. Along the way, we'll pass through Pella - home of Iowa Conference rival Central College - before spending the night on the campus of William Penn University.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Day 3 to Des Moines

With cloudy skies, cool temperatures and only 1,308 feet of climb, Tuesday's 50-mile ride to Des Moines couldn't have been easier. Ok, there was some wind to contend with, but that's splitting hairs.

Highlights of the day, for me, were lunch at Chubby's outside of Van Meter and a stop at historic Valley Junction in West Des Moines. I'd like to return to the latter some day when I'm not on my bike.

After a swim, I made my way to the home of Bridget and Steve Van Every '75, our hosts in the capitol city. Everclear, Live, Filter and Sponge are on tap tonight as this year's big RAGBRAI concert, but I'm pretty comfortable right here.

Day 2 to Perry

For me, at least, the 83-mile ride to Perry ranks among my all-time top 5 RAGBRAI days. Those who opted for the century loop might disagree, but I loved the long, fast descents that rewarded most of the tough but manageable climbs. A 10-mile stretch from Kimbleton to Hamblin was particularly breathtaking.

A storm curtailed our evening activity, but no harm done as the rest of the week offers 50-ish mile rides and cool temperatures.

Thanks to the Finneseths for hosting in Perry. Tomorrow we dry out in Des Moines with Steve Van Every.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Day 1 to Harlan

After an exceptional night in Council Bluffs with the Madsen family, it was off to Harlan and Team CoeBRAI's first repeat host - Coe Athletics Hall of Famer Jim Bruck '77 and his RAGBRAI enthusiast wife Julie.

Sharing the lawn with us are members of our friends the Lizard Kings, who are making their fourth visit to the Bruck home. You've gotta love RAGBRAI friendly folks.

Today's nearly 50 miler pales compared to tomorrow's hilly 83 - plus 21 for those who opt for the century loop - to Perry. Better get some rest.

Saturday, July 20, 2013


Just a short update tonight to acknowledge our awesome Council Bluffs hosts Matt and Kathleen Madsen, whose son Peter is entering his junior year at Coe.

While our last visit here was memorable, the Madsens are RAGBRAI veterans and, consequently, great hosts. Next time RAGBRAI returns, so are we.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

RAGBRAI 2013: A Primer

Time for a long-overdue blog post since RAGBRAI is now next month and participant packets arrived yesterday.

Twenty-four riders strong (plus the best damn support team in RAGBRAI history!), we include 11 Coe alumni, two parents and three members of the college staff. Ages range from 23 to 60. In addition to 18 Iowans, team members hail from North Carolina, Missouri, Utah, Illinois, Virginia, New Jersey, South Carolina and Washington, D.C.

Final payments are due July 1 from 10 riders who haven’t paid in full already (thanks, by the way, to those who have). Remember that the $225 deposit is non-refundable. While I hope there are no cancellations, we will refund $100 to anyone who has to back out before July 1. No refunds for cancellations in July.

Here are some packing tips, based on eight years of RAGBRAI experience:
Sterilite 30-gallon tubs are the preferred storage tote for Team CoeBRAI. Easily found at Target or Walmart for around $10.
  • Please put identification on everything you take on RAGBRAI.
  • Bicycle equipment: Helmet is #1. 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. As long as you get your bike serviced before RAGBRAI, it should be good to go. In addition, a rear view mirror, bike gloves, pump, bike bag, rain gear and water bottles are necessary equipment. Everyone doesn’t need to bring a pump, as enough will that we’ll have plenty to share.
  • Camping equipment: You'll need 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 does 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. The one-tub-per-person rule will be strictly enforced. On RAGBRAI, less is more.
  • Toiletries: Pack a towel, washcloth, toothbrush, toothpaste, skin lotion, shampoo, soap, razor, nail clippers, brush/comb, hair ties/barrettes, deodorant, mirror and toilet tissue.
  • 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. Some of you ordered a CoeBRAI jersey and a few also ordered a RAGBRAI jersey, which you will receive upon arrival. 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. Remember the key to a happy hiney: Chamois Butter before and during, Gold Bond powder after. Avoid this advice at your own peril.
  • Miscellaneous: Bring an alarm clock, spare glasses, sunglasses, a scouting knife, camera, 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, credit cards, journal, pens, stamps, plastic trash bags for rain protection and zip-lock bags. Be sure to enclose everything in a water-tight plastic bag. Did I mention earplugs?
  • Food: Snacks and non-alcoholic beverages will be provided in camp. You may also want to bring a box of Power Bars and keep one on your bike for when you need a quick energy boost, but don't want to wait in line for pie. I’m still working out details, but it appears we will be on our own for dinner most nights. Anything else you may want or need can be purchased by our support crew during their daily store run. Bring a small cooler for anything you don’t wish to share. Anything left in the large team coolers will be fair game for all.
  • Electronics: Cell phone/Internet service is usually epically spotty with the crush of humanity on rural Iowa. But we will have charging stations available in camp. Please send me the number of the cell phone you will have with you and also the name and contact information of your emergency contact.

I’m still working out the details, but our schedule will look something like this:
  •  6-8 p.m. Friday, July 19 -- pre-load in Eby Fieldhouse parking lot with optional social gathering at the Home Port
  • 8 a.m. Saturday, July 20 -- finish loading
  • 10 a.m. Saturday, July 20 -- departure from Eby parking lot at Coe
  • Noon Saturday, July 20 – lunch stop in Des Moines
  • 3 p.m. Saturday, July 20 – arrive in Council Bluffs
  • Sunday, July 21-Saturday, July 27 – bike 407 miles across Iowa
  • 3 p.m. Saturday, July 27 – dip tires in Mississippi at Fort Madison
  • 5 p.m. Saturday, July 27 – arrive back at Coe
  • 6 p.m. Saturday, July 27 – celebration dinner at Casa Las Glorias

Our hosts in each overnight town are: 
  • Council Bluffs -- Matt Madsen, father of Coe junior Peter Madsen
  • Harlan -- Jim Bruck ’77, our first repeat after also hosting us in 2008
  • Perry -- Scott Finneseth ’85, father of Amanda Finneseth ’11
  • Des Moines -- Steve Van Every ’75
  • Knoxville -- Kevin and Jennifer Bassett Wadle ’95
  • Oskaloosa -- William Penn University
  • Fairfield – Jeff Evanello, father of Coe sophomore Chris Evanello and a CoeBRAI participant along with Holly Baker

 Because we have more riders than room to transport them, I have made arrangements for two of you to ride out with our friends the Lizard Kings. Let me know if you’d like to volunteer for this assignment.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

2013 apparel now available

Racing stripes and checkered flags inspired a fast-looking 2013 Coe bike jersey by graphic designer Christina Kroemer.

With Kohawk crimson and gold highlights on a white background, cyclists will be able to keep cool under the intense Iowa heat that typically marks RAGBRAI. Team CoeBRAI, always among the more fashionable participants in Iowa's great bike ride, will be modeling them again this year from Council Bluffs on Saturday, July 20 to Fort Madison on Saturday, July 27.

In addition to long-sleeve, short-sleeve and sleeveless versions of the jersey, we are again offering Coe biking shorts featuring the school’s Charlie Kohawk logo. Bib shorts are also available. While the jersey design changes each year, the shorts are intended to stand the test of time.

The designs will soon be submitted to Champion Systems and orders are now being taken. A jersey will be awarded as a prize in an upcoming bike ride sponsored by the Alumni Office and Team CoeBRAI. Clear your calendar for May 19 and plan to join us for the fourth occasional CoeBRAT (bike ride across town).

Anyone is welcome to buy jerseys -- $60 for short sleeve and sleeveless, $75 for long sleeve. Shorts are $70 or $75 for bibs. Order forms are available on the right column of this page. All orders must be received by May 20 and will be shipped by mid July.

4th occasional CoeBRAT offers fun for all ages, abilities

Kohawk fellowship... food... drink... prizes... bicycling... and fun for all await participants in the fourth occasional CoeBRAT (bike ride across town) on Sunday, May 19. Sponsored by the Coe College Alumni Office and Team CoeBRAI, this event encourages you to get on your bike and ride.

This year's CoeBRAT follows a 22-mile paved route along the Cedar River Trail and Cedar Rapids roads. Participants will visit Nassif Admission House on the Coe campus, Casa Las Glorias, Smuggler's Wharf, Jerseys Pub & Grub and Butcher Block Steakhouse. In addition to door prizes and food/drink specials, the participant with the best 5-card poker hand will win a 2013 CoeBRAI jersey.

Registration is only $5 by May 14 ($10 after). Save yourself some cash and sign up today! Entry form here.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Short and hilly, and I don't mean soy capitan

RAGBRAI is trading villages for some big cities in its 41st year, including a stop midway through Iowa that will have more than 10,000 bicyclists rolling into the state capital.

The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa — the world’s oldest, largest and longest two-wheeled recreational tour — kicks off July 21 in Council Bluffs and ends 406.6 miles later in Fort Madison.

Along the way, riders will overnight in Harlan, Perry, Des Moines, Knoxville, Oskaloosa and Fairfield. The Des Moines stop is the first there in 16 years.

The ride is July 21 to 27.

RAGBRAI Director T.J. Juskiewicz described this year’s river-to-river ride as a chance to experience an eclectic sampling of Iowa that proves mutually beneficial to riders and hosts. “There are some great little spots — good-size towns, large communities and diverse towns that RAGBRAIers enjoy,” he said. “Plus, they like showing off what’s there to do. This is the biggest event they’ll host this year, and in some cases, in their history.”

Juskiewicz estimated the ride brings an average of $3 million in spending to each town, with more for bigger cities that can meet hotel demand.

The stop in Des Moines is significant because the city has transformed so much since RAGBRAI last visited in 1997, with major development in the East Village, Court Avenue District and along the riverfront. (Juskiewicz said camping will be “close to downtown.”) With 70 percent of participants coming from out of state, Des Moines could be a brand-new city to many riders. “When they see how far Des Moines has come, and how much has changed, they’re going to be pleasantly surprised,” Juskiewicz said.

After a sun-baked RAGBRAI in 2012 that had riders sweating across Iowa on some of the hottest days of the year, organizers are going easy on participants with the second-shortest route in history, at 406.6 miles, including four consecutive days with 52 miles or less. The route is also the 15th-flattest in RAGBRAI history. Only six RAGBRAIs since the ride began in 1973 were easier.

“Last year it was so difficult with the heat, even though on paper it was an easy route,” Juskiewicz said. “I think after last year, anyone that rode RAGBRAI deserves a break.”

But the ride won’t be all downhill. The stretch from Harlan to Perry is the hilliest with 4,239 feet of total climb. At 83 miles, it is also the longest.

Here’s a day-to-day breakdown of this year’s route:

Council Bluffs, July 20

The border city of 62,230 shares a pedestrian bridge over the Missouri River with Omaha at the base of which is the soon-to-open River’s Edge Park. RAGBRAI has come to the seat of Pottawattamie County five times before, most recently in 2009. The starting point of the historic Mormon Trail, Council Bluffs saw many settlers and explorers pass through its limits, including members of the Lewis and Clark expedition. The county’s pie-shaped revolving “squirrel cage” jail, located here, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Harlan, July 21

Just 5,106 residents will welcome riders to their first overnight stop in the least populous of this year’s RAGBRAI towns. Located along the West Nishnabotna River, Harlan is home to the Shelby County Speedway, where the Tiny Lund memorial races held each fall honor the town’s own Daytona 500 winner of 1963. And Harlan has more sports claims to fame: its high school has won 12 state championships in football. This is Harlan’s sixth RAGBRAI, and the first in five years.

Perry, July 22

At just 4.17 square miles, this bike-friendly town is the smallest on the route. A host of the annual BRR — Bike Ride to Rippey (coming up Feb. 2) — for die-hard winter cyclists, Perry pays tribute to another legendary ride at the historic Hotel Pattee. Themed rooms are devoted to topics as diverse as Central America, cream and eggs — and, of course, RAGBRAI. It’s the town’s first time hosting riders since 2001.

Des Moines, July 23

With some 70 percent of riders coming from out-of-state, Iowa’s capital will be new to many of this year’s participants; it’s the first time RAGBRAI is rolling through Des Moines in 16 years. With the Iowa Cubs in residence at Principal Park, cyclists can check out a home baseball game against the New Orleans Zephyrs.

Knoxville, July 24

This town of just 7,313 residents knows a thing or two about speed; the “dirt racin’ capital of the world” is home to the Knoxville Raceway and the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum. Side-trippers looking to get away from wheeled recreation can head six miles north to Lake Red Rock, the largest lake in Iowa. Though it was a pass-through town in 1988 and 1992, Knoxville has hosted RAGBRAI just twice before — last in 2000.

Oskaloosa, July 25

The home of William Penn University invites cyclists to unwind for the first time in 10 years, and its fourth time overall. The town was known for its coal-mining operations until an explosion in 1902 killed 20 workers. Today, it’s known for its summertime Sweet Corn Serenade, an acclaimed Christmas parade, and the Oskaloosa Municipal Band, which plays Thursdays in downtown’s city park.

Fairfield, July 26

Foodies can look forward to a night in this southeastern Iowa town, which claims to have more restaurants per capita than San Francisco. (Granted, Fairfield is just over six square miles.) And art lovers will find something to gaze at in more than 25 galleries. Home to the Maharishi University of Management, Fairfield also features a sub-city devoted to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, teacher of transcendental meditation, where weary riders can “restore balance” at the Raj Maharishi Ayurveda Health Spa. Fairfield last welcomed RAGBRAI in 1997.

Fort Madison, July 27

It’s been 10 years since Fort Madison’s 10,980 residents welcomed RAGBRAI to their banks of the Mississippi, in the southeastern corner of Iowa. Fort Madison is known for its historic downtown, the oldest prison west of the Mississippi (although a new prison is being built), and the world’s longest double-deck swing-span bridge — the last remaining of its kind. But as much as it looks to the past, Fort Madison is also nodding to the future as the home of Siemens’ wind turbine blade manufacturing. The town previously wrapped up RAGBRAI in 1975, 1988, 1997 and 2003.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Biking memory lane

There’s something about the first ride of the year that gets me all nostalgic. That’s especially true when it occurs in January, as it did today and each of the past two years.

This morning’s mile-long spin to Coe extends my outdoor cycling streak to 35 months, which may not seem like much to you southerners, but is a major source of pride for this Iowa boy.

I have now logged 12,170 miles since I contracted this cycling affliction in 2005. It was May 21 of that year when I rode my newly purchased Giant OCR3 home from Northtowne Cycling as I started to prepare for my first RAGBRAI. The 2005 Team CoeBRAI is pictured here before venturing off from Le Mars.
Team CoeBRAI 2005 prepares for departure from Le Mars.

RAGBRAI XLI will be the ninth for me and Team CoeBRAI, my seventh year as soy capitan. My annual mileage totals have varied over the years: 933 in 2005, 633 in 2006, 614 in 2007, 1,062 in 2008, 1,286 in 2009, 2,709 in 2010, 3,070 in 2011 and 1,863 in 2012. While I’ve kept meticulous account of the miles, I’ve lost track of all the memories.

To call RAGBRAI a life-changing event is no exaggeration for me and, I’m sure, many of you. That’s why so many of us return each year – the good food, folks and fun outlasting memories of heat, hills and headwind.

With two weeks remaining before the 2013 route is announced, seven riders have signed up to ride RAGBRAI XLI with Team CoeBRAI IX. That leaves 13 openings. You want to make a memory?