The hardest day of the ride

Prior to today, Monday had been the hardest day of the ride. On Monday, we were sore from our Sunday's ride; our muscles were just trying to get use to the excercise.

On Wednesday, I decided this trip was about riding across Iowa. Prior to that, I hoped it would be a social trip. The speed of our trike just didn't make that the case.

Today was hard because of all the hills as well as trying to meet the Tall Dog deadline for packing and bus return to Des Moines. We got up at 4:30 am, took the tent down, and was on the road by 5:45 am, the earliest we have ever left. The road was really crowded with people at this time in the morning.

My knee caps felt like they were going to pop off. I was starving but all the lines were WAY TOO LONG to stand in. I was irratible and we were fighting the whole way. It was sure nice to get to the end with all our teammates applauding our arrival. AND, we weren't the last... There were still about 4 Tall Dogs out on Route when we finished.

People ask if I'd do it again... Of course, but next time I'm going to look for a better way to get the trike up hills so as to have more time to socialize and save my knees.

We won an award!

The Tall Dogs had a nice sit-down dinner tonight in a restaurant next to the field we were camping in. During the dinner, they told us about how the Tall Dog team got it's name, described what/how/when things would be packed for the return to Des Moines, and gave awards out.

We won an award for the "slowest but most determined rider(s)." From then on, the joke was "haven't you left for Bellevue yet?" as they were hinting at a 1 pm deadline to arrive in the ending city.

Some locals sell food, but you buy from established vendors

I was told that locals have something for you to eat or drink every so often on Route. What it turned out to be, was they were selling water or Gatorade, $1 for 16 bottle. Maybe they had cookies or donuts to sell (some did give away) but nothing to sustain you.

A few towns did get their residence together and sell real food. One town had 15 grills from locals going to cook corn, pork-chops, and sausage. Another town made two large grills that cooked about 100 pancakes simultaneously; I didn't see how they cooked the eggs.

But, most of our food came from the same 10 or 15 vendors each day. These vendors would pick a new location on each day's Route to setup; they would put up signs as far as 20 miles away to wet your appitite; and if you got there late in the day, they'd say "sorry, we're out of food." For the most part, they were setup to handle long lines, quick serving, and move you on. One vendor said they had 9000 transactions in one day. I guess that's possible since the head count on Route was around 23,000. (We don't know if they counted us and our trike once or twice.) Back to food for the moment... They say that you gain 5 lbs on this ride with all the food available; I am now inclined to believe this myth as I feel fatter than when I left.

EVERY town had a beer garden and it was always the busiest place. The police would shut them down every few hours just to get the crowd to move on. The beer gardens were allowed to reopen after an hour.

Serena and I opted for the local Library instead. They usually had water, WiFi Internet access, and didn't mind if we slept on the floor for a couple of hours. One time we slept on the pews of the county seat court room. (It wasn't in session; the town had shutdown for Ragbrai to come through.

Our first easy day... With so many riders!

Each day is 55 to 75 miles long. This day, I decided to shave off about 15 miles out of the trip by taking a shortcut. Surprising, the shortcut had about 300 people on it and it was well patrolled by the police and ambulances.

The short cut allowed us to catch up with the morning bikers for the first time on Route in Dunkerton. The city was probably made to handle about 100 people at a time. There must have been 6000 people there when we arrived and navigating our trike 300 feet through the crowd took about 45 minutes. (Primarily because we kept being stopped and asked about our bike.)

With all the people comes long lines to any food, water, bars, etc. The two lane roads between towns are packed with bicyclers as far as the eye can see. It's not surprising to see an ambulance every hour passing by with flashing lights; someone is always falling down, riding off the road, or running into someone else. I guess when you have so many bikers on the road, they all just run into each other. By the evening when the sun is past it's peak, medical personal pass by about once every 3 hours.

Streaming only lasted for about 10 minutes

Sometime on this morning between 6:30 and 7:30, I got streaming to work. If you happen to see the stream, then all you heard and saw was our dirty laundry being aired. (It seems we fight most in the morning and evening while on this bike.) Because the disagreement centered around me using Serena's phone as the Internet connection, I thought it best to take down the connection to relieve the morning stress.

Thanks to all of you who tried to connect.

I should be online this morning

I haven't had stable Internet services until today. The stream should be online today between 5 am and 8 am. That's when we leave town. Once I lose connection or go out of range, I may not be able to restart the stream for the rest of the ride.

If you are seeing this after 8 am, and I'm not streaming, then you probably missing me. If I come into another city with Internet access, I'll post here.

I hope the system works for you as I have not tested this system on most platforms.

We're seeing the same people over and over again

The mass exodus of riders is around 6 am every morning. Serena and I are probably the last 3000 people who straggle along the route. Our trike is really slow so we have begun to make "passing relationships" with many of the people. Some make the same comment about us; some get mad that we have passed them for the 4th time in a day (they stopped to drinkWinking some have nick named us. Here are the comments I can remember:
* There's the paddle-boat again!
* Where's the water? [For the paddle-boat.]
* How's the couch!
* Lovebirds...
* When was the last time y'all fought?
* What do y'all do when y'all fight?
* Do y'all still like each other?
* Was this ride prescribed by the therapist?
* Who does the most peddling?
* Hey! Your cheating... Your feet are up and she's doing all the work! [I was having leg problems.]
* Cool!
* At least y'all are in style... Even if y'all are slow!
* There are the Texans!
* Do y'all ever stop at the towns?
* One person even sang 2 verses of the "Bicycle built for two" song to us.

And the Tall Dogs yell "Tall Dog" as they pass. We either respond with "Tall Dog!" or bark like a dog. That's their motto/sniff.

By the time we make it to camp at night, they notice us and welcome us into the group. Had we been riding typical bikes, they may have never noticed us.

Our first night with the Tall Dog camp

In typical Rob & Serena style, we're arriving in Hampton at dusk. We actually had directions to camp this night and got there with little trouble. We are also back to Serena fretting about the showers. She wants to go to the local school or knock on someone's door. I beg her to give the showers a try and if she don't like it, then we'll go some place else.

These portable showers are actually pretty nice! They have warm water, they are roomy, and they have a removable shower head. Serena says she loves them! Great! One less thing to worry about each night!

Of course, we've been absent from the group for the past two days and no one knows us. It feels a bit funny hanging with these people because we have no commonality to build on. The next morning, they see us, they see our trike, and they begin to put 2 and 2 together.

Things quickly begin to change on this day...

Google doesn't map addresses in IA

Serena and I don't easily wake up at 6 am in the morning. So, we rarely get out of town before 8 am. Thus, we are arrive at our campsite at dusk each night. Getting to Humboldt was no different. This night, we are scheduled to stay at a friend of Kenny's house. We call at 9:30 pm, get some directions, and tell them we'll be there in the next 2 hours. You could tell that this couple is already in bed. (They thought we'd come in much earlier... Opps!)

I do have Internet access this night try to map our location. Its seems that most IA cities like to use numbers for street names. They also like to say "we're at NE 1st street just past SW 3rd street on the corner of 2nd N." This is natural to them; for me, I have no idea what they said. The street signs say "203 NE 1st St" but Google wants "203 1st St NE." That was murderous trying to figure that out while lost.

Fortunately, the house we were staying at, and the Tall Dog camp, was only 4 blocks apart. We got our stuff, got to the Duffy's house, let ourselves in, and got to sleep by 12:30 am.

Lost in Spencer, IA

We roll into Spencer, IA, our first night stop, at dusk. We have no idea where the Tall Dogs are camping and we forgot to ask the night before. Also, being the first day, no one knows us on Route nor do we know them to ask.

So we begin asking people on the streets, and other camps that we come across to see if they know where the Tall Dogs are camping; or, do they know anyone in the Tall Dog group. We get one person who says a campmate of his has a girlfriend in Tall Dog. So, he sends us off to find his camp, The Pirates, hoping that this guy (which we don't know the name of) is at camp.

Across town we go; we actually find The Pirates with his directions; and better yet, the guy we're looking for, John, is in camp. He begins to make phone calls to 2 or 3 people but none of them are answering the phone. I'm not hopeful as my phone is not on; why would theirs be? John thinks he has a map of Tall Dog camp sites. He digs through all his stuff but never finds anything. And just when we're about to give up, John gets someone on the phone!

They gave us directions to go back across town. We find where we're going on a Mapsco. I don't have Internet access so I can't look the address up on Google. We're also tasked with delivering a pillow and a lantern to some girl in the Tall Dog group.

Off we go back across town. The whole way we are asking people where "22 Grandview" is and they all point the opposite way we're traveling... But the Mapsco says this direction; the owner of the house where Tall Dog is staying says this direction; so, we continue on this direction until we're completely lost, frustrated, sleepy, and now it's 11:15 pm.

We pull into this bar parking lot where locals immediately begin to help us straighten the whole thing out. The only thing on Serena's mind is a good shower. So, she begins to ask these people to use their bathroom. Come to find out, their mother is taking in riders for the night and she's had a cancellation, thus space on her living room floor. Her other son, who's doing biker errands comes and picks us and our trike up. Takes us back across town to finely find the Tall Dogs. (Which, by the way, is only a couple of blocks from The Pirates.) We get our stuff and he takes us to his mothers house where Serena gets her nice shower.

6 am the next morning, we get taken back to the Tall Dogs camp to return our stuff to the truck carrying our stuff to the next city. When we leave town, we bike all the way across town, find route, and bike back across town following route for the 4th time!

Although the people were really nice to us, I'm glad to be out of that city.

Getting to Rock Rapids

After a really long day of driving from Dallas to Des Moines, we arrive at Kenny & Ashley’s house at 4:14 am on Saturday morning. By 8 am, we're supposed to be headed to the team meeting location. I'm barely awake and I have to unpack the car, get our stuff & bike in line to get packed, and pay our dues.

Most of the emails to the team coordinator have been about confirming our credentials and/or sponsor.

For $150 a person, we're getting a really good deal on our travel. There are about 120 people in this team. They have a truck for our gear, nice chartered buses to the city start of the route (Rock Rapids), a special trailer that carries bikes, which also converts into showers on one side and beer taps & power outlets for phones on the other. Tall Dog seems to have a lot of traditions that we're trying to understand. Probably 40% of the group has never done this ride before so we're in good company.

Which team are we on?

So we're supposed to be on the team called "Team Stop-A-Lots." I begin to ask questions about:
* Where do we meet?
* How do we get from Des Moines (where Kenny and Ashley Bernstein live) to the start of Ragbrai?
* How do we get back to Des Moines after the ride?
* How do we get our stuff from one stop to the next?
* Etc.

While Kenny was trying to get these answered, he found out that "Team Stop-A-Lots" has no space and no longer wants "us!" Kenny was upset because they kept telling him, "You'll get the answers later..." "Later, you'll be in formed." When "later" came around, he found out that there was no more space for us.

So, Kenny went on a mad dash to find us a new team. You see, to be a part of a team, you have to have someone like "a sponsor,” someone who will vouch for you and put you in contact with the appropriate team leads. Most of the time, your sponsor has to live in Iowa or know the team contact personally; that makes it hard on a lot of out-of-staters to get in the ride... officially.

Kenny lucked out and found a really cool team called "Tall Dog".