Monday, August 5, 2013

RAGBRAI XLI Adventures with Tarra

Saturday, July 20th - Sunday, July 28th
My riding buddy, B.L., is starting the week out right by sampling some new microbrewery beers from the little wagon parked outside Tish's Restaurant, where we met up with the Red Dog Team that we had signed up with.  It's a great restaurant and Tish was nice enough to let us camp all night in the parking lot, so we didn't have to get crammed in with the mob of campers just down the road at the annual RAGBRAI Expo at the Mid-America Center.   

So here we are (B.L. and I) on Sunday morning with Tish's Restaurant in the background, ready to ride over to the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs and join the mob of 15,000 or so, riding across Iowa from the Missouri to the Mississippi.  RAGBRAI stands for the Des Moines "Register's Annual Great Big Ride Across Iowa".  It was started by a couple of newspaper editors 41 years ago with a 120 friends.  The next year there were a couple thousand and it is now the largest, longest, oldest, multi-day bicycle tour event in the world.  The tradition is to dip your back tire in the Missouri when you take off and your front tire in the Mississippi when you finish.  The route changes every year and is sometimes over 500 miles long.  This year it is supposed to be only 406 miles, the second shortest ever.

This is probably a couple miles or so from the start.  We are in downtown Council Bluffs.  There were already vendors along here advertising pancakes and burritos and such for breakfast.  One big sign said "Oatmeal Buffet", mmm, mmm.

Finally we are out in the country on a foggy, humid morning, and I am pedaling as fast as I can to get as far as I can, before the hot, sticky weather gets unbearable.  The Lion's Club in Neola baked 125 pies and every church along the way was selling pie.

The first of what seemed like thousands of endless hills.  And this was just a little baby hill.  The young boy on the right was probably about nine or ten.  There were quite a few youngsters riding the whole ride.  Just ahead of him is a man in one of those low-riding trikes.  I saw two men with prosthetic legs pedaling bikes like this with their hands.

If you can't make it up this first little hill, lady, it's going to be a really long week!  The hills I trained on in Helena, Mt. helped me, but they really didn't prepare me for the endless, steep, rolling hills of Iowa.  Thank goodness for the 21 gears I have on my road bike that usually got me about half way up the hill before I ran out of gears to shift.  Then I just had to grit my teeth and groan and cuss and muscle my way the rest of the way to the top (I have a "little" inherited Norwegian stubbornness), where more often than not I got a great view of the next huge hill!  Ugh!  But the ride downhill was fun, even if a little scary at times with so many bikers to avoid.

I made it the whole way (52.25 miles).  Left about 7:00 AM and got in about 1:00 PM drenched in sweat, but very pleased to have made it and grateful to have my wonderful hubby waiting with the RV and a hot shower.  This is bikers coming into and leaving the midday stop at the Guthrie Center City Park on Day 2.  It was a beautiful, huge park with tons of vendors, a live band on stage, beer garden and city pool and water park.   

The two Dang brothers from California were at every midday stop with their dang, old fire engine, into which they had built a brick, wood fired pizza oven, where you could stop and get a dang pizza.  Everyone said their pizzas were awesome, but the lines were always too long.  We did finally grab a couple the last day, before we headed home and they were really good.  Monday, Day 2, I put on 88.6 miles.  I left at 6:00 AM.  It was so hot and humid, I was sure I would never make it.  After leaving Guthrie Center, we went through Springbrook State Park where we went up the world's largest hill, I think.  I had to get off and walk the last 100 yards or so, the only hill I couldn't pedal all the way up.  We turned a corner sometime after noon and there was an old farmer in bib overalls with a hose spraying down anyone who wished to be.  I went over and got completely hosed down with cold, well water and soaked a little towel I had and hung it around my neck.  After that I just squirted my water bottle down my back every once in a while and pedaled the rest of the way in with no problem.   Couldn't believe I made it. 

This was a very rare sight, a flat road, after we left Perry on Tuesday, Day 3.   Lance Armstrong rode a couple days again this year and the woman who won the first Women's Tour de France in 1984 rode the whole ride with a fellow racer and friend from Iowa.  The Women's Tour de France was discontinued in 2009 due to lack of sponsorship.

Another rare sight was Party Poopers without a long line.  These three were in a far back corner and hadn't been found by many people yet.  As we were pedaling down one country road there was a sign that said, "What goes in the corn field..." and the next sign said, "Stays in the corn field..." and the next fence post had a roll of TP stuck on top of it.  So that's why I keep seeing so many people going into and coming out of the corn fields.  Fortunately, the corn fields are never ending in Iowa.  It was a little shorter ride Tuesday, so I left at 7:00 AM and rolled into Minburn at 8:00 AM, where they had a live band on stage singing "Play That Funky Music White Boy", Bloody Mary's and beers were being served and thousands of people were already partying. 

There were about 25 Party Poopers there with two long lines of people waiting, but a much longer line was waiting for something else, so I had to ask, "What is everybody in line for?"  The answer was "Farm Boy Burritos".  I had never heard of them, but soon found out that there was a long line for them every day.  I finally got to have one, and they are awesome, loaded with two kinds of meat, potatoes, cheese, eggs, salsa, sour cream, jalapenos, etc. for $5.50.  Yummy!  

The pink bus with the smoke you could see from a mile or two away was a very popular stop, also.  Mr. Pork Chop is a tradition at RAGBRAI.  He makes pork chops on a stick.  I didn't have one, but lots of people stopped every day.  Dallas Center was the midday stop and had one of the most popular, if somewhat controversial, entertainment highlights of the week--Midget Wrestling.  They had an arena set up right in the center of town next to the beer garden and everyone was stopping to check it out.

Crossing the bridge over Red Rock Creek into Van Meter.  The National Veterans Cemetery is up in the trees behind us and there were flags on both sides of the road all the way from the cemetery into town, where there were little flags in the boulevards all over town.  They also had all kinds of vendors here and I stopped for one of my favorites, a pulled pork sandwich. 

B.L. and I spent some time in Valley Junction (which was party central plus) just trying to find each other, so we could ride into Des Moines together.  This is Water Works Park in Des Moines where they had about 20,000 campers spend the night.  As we got closer to Des Moines lots more bikers joined the ride.  They estimated that there were 33,000 or more riders going into Des Moines and leaving again the next morning.   Des Moines (literally The Monks) was named for the monastic fishermen who traveled the river.

This is also in Water Works Park.  The semi-trailer next to the Party Poopers is Joe's Wet Shack, where you can pay $5.00 to take a shower.  B.L. lives in Des Moines, so we took the bike trail to his house where we showered and had supper.  We checked into a private campground for the night to avoid the mob scene.  I guess there was a huge party downtown and I read in the paper that there were zero arrests made downtown or at the campground.  Des Moines has a great bike trail system and it hooks into the Raccoon River Valley Trail which is an 89 mile loop in southwest Iowa.

When we left Des Moines, Day 4, we went by the Capitol and through the State Fairgrounds where some of the rides were running and vendors were open for us, even though the fair isn't for a couple weeks yet.  Then we went through the suburb of Pleasant Hill and it was by no means a pleasant hill to bike up!  It was probably the second longest and steepest hill of the week, but I muddled to the top, where I had to stop for a snack and long rest.  A church near the tiny town of Adelphi sliced up 150 watermelons that they gave away free to the bikers.   The town of Runnells had all their Christmas ornaments downtown and lots of yards were also decorated for Christmas, with lots of people dressed in Santa hats and elf costumes.  Their pep band was playing and their cheerleaders were cheering us on along the street, as they were in Monroe and Minden and a few other towns.  They had a band on stage and vendors galore, too.  I had a yummy breakfast sandwich here and saw a lady pushing five kids in one stroller.  It turned out the four two-year olds were quads (three boys and a girl) and the older brother was just standing on the back of the stroller.  I heard there was a farm pond near Runnels where there was some skinny dipping going on.  I didn't see it, but heard there was a hearty round of cheers for one very pale, old man who stripped naked and eased himself in.  There was a tip jar for the local food pantry and Heifer International, one of my favorite charities.

We've just struggled up another hill on our way to Monroe, the midday stop, but lots of people were pulling over here for the beer wagon and a rest in the shade.  I just don't know how they do it.  I'd never be able to finish the ride, if I stopped for drinks. 

My ride buddy finished his seventh continent marathon in Australia last summer for his 65th birthday, and now for his 66th birthday, B.L decided to do this ride.  He bought a bike a couple months ago and did a little training and has some beers and Bloody Marys every day along the way and a couple more when we get back to camp and a couple more when we go downtown in the evenings.  I guess I should have done more training for that part. 

I spotted this unusual bike as we were arriving in Monroe.  The team buses and sag wagon drivers were not allowed on the same route as us and were only allowed to meet up with the riders at the designated midday meeting town, which was Monroe on Wednesday, Day 4. 

You can see some of the buses and other campers lining both sides of the streets in the background.  John did not come to any of the meeting towns, as it was just too crazy to try to get around town and find a place to park.  We were just on our own until we got done for the day.  This blue bus in front was from Delaware.  I talked to a young man who used to be from Pittsburgh, but now lives in California where his wife is from.  Both of their extended families travel here to meet in the middle and do the ride together.  I also talked to a man from Germany.  They come from all over the world to do this ride. 

This is just a few bikers taking a break in the city park at Monroe, listening to the band.  Some of the interesting foods I have seen vendors selling along the way include half pound tenderloin, meatloaf, curry salmon, baked sweet potato, Cajun alligator on a stick, smoked macaroni and cheese, chocolate covered bacon, candied bacon, maple bacon ice cream, pickle on a stick, salad on a stick, deep fried Oreos, deep fried Jello, deep fried Snickers, deep fried Klondike Bars, deep fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich, deep fried sweet corn on a stick and sticky lips??  I have no idea.

Right next to the park, the local firemen were putting their gear on volunteer bike riders and giving them lessons in how to hold the water hose, so they could have a sort of piñata contest with a beer keg that was strung up on a cable.  The object was to push it toward the other team. 

Just another little hill, no big deal.  We can do it!  Some guy was the Condom King and was wearing a tiara on top of his helmet.  He said he had perfected the slow hand off when people were struggling up hills.  He had a thousand condoms donated by Planned Parenthood that he was passing out.

Every overnight town has people camped anywhere and everywhere, schools, fairgrounds, parks, private yards, etc.  We got lucky in Knoxville.  We got to camp at Marion County Park, which is a huge, beautiful park with lots of shade trees and many, many campsites.  B.L is having a little snooze after a shower and a beer, before we go downtown for supper.  There was a massage lady right next to our campsite, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity.  She said she had been traveling with this team of tenters for 18 years.  If they want a massage when they get in from riding, they just pay for however many minutes they want and she keeps busy all afternoon and evening.

All the literature we got said it was not allowed to drain your shower water on the ground, but there were huge groups of riders like this everywhere with all their gear hauled in by trucks (Penske, Ryder, Hertz, U-Haul, etc.) who had portable showers like these set up everywhere.  What can they do?  There's no way they could provide enough showers for all those people.  When we rolled into camp, there were 48 people in line for the campground showers.

Rows of Party Poopers, hillsides of tents and wet or sweaty bike clothes hanging everywhere to dry for the next day.   There was a 9 year old who rode his first RAGBRAI at 3 years old in a trailer with his Dad.  He was riding a specialized hybrid bike and had trained 600 miles.  He said it was hot and miserable and hard and he wanted to do it every year because it was fun eating the pie and ice cream and seeing all the people.

This little bus right across from us had a portable shower set up inside the little horse trailer.

This camper was right next to us.  There were two runners who ran the whole route for the first time.  Several others have tried, but they were the first to make it the whole way.  They started at 3:00 to 4:00 AM and ran 12 to 20 hours a day with an average of 3 to 4 hours of sleep.  The 25 year old finished first and headed for a beer. The 27 year old came in an hour later and headed for a couch.  They both had to work on Monday morning, the next day.  The 25 year old has a 100 mile race in the Rockies in Colorado in three weeks.  He travels with a nurse who gives him massages.

This bus was just a little ways down from us.  Knoxville is named for General Henry Knox, a Revolutionary War hero.  He was also wounded twice in the Civil War, instrumental in getting Abraham Lincoln elected as president, was with him when he was shot and helped to carry him across the street and was a pallbearer at his funeral.

Downtown Knoxville, this was the scene at the beer garden on the square.  I think they were expecting a little garbage, as they had these pallet-size containers set up continuously all the way around the courthouse square.  There were painted bikes hanging from trees and light poles around the square.  There is a 3M plant and Hormel in Knoxville and the Knoxville Raceway and the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum.

There were a couple of buses and lots of tents set up in this yard.  This bus was Team Bubba Clyde.  Some other team names were Pork Belly Ventures, Butt Ice, Spokebusters, Road Hawgs and Team Trust Me...Doctor, Lawyer and Car Salesman.  Team Achen' Knee, I assume from the town of Ankeny in Iowa.  Team Road Kill left Mardi Gras beads draped over actual road kill victims along the way.  An old school bus painted red with a pattern of bricks painted on it said Team Brick...we lay anything.  Hmm.  The Baboon Butt Team had a picture of a red, raw monkey butt on their jerseys that said ride till you're raw, a sentiment most of the riders could relate to.  Team Caboose liked to stop and party in every town and bring up the rear of the ride.  Every town along the way was doing all they could to get the riders to stop and spend their money in their town.  Team Haggard, was how John said I looked the first two days, but it got better after that.

Here B.L. stopped overlooking the Des Moines River to take my picture, as I came across the mile long bridge at the edge of Lake Red Rock.  We crossed the Des Moines River several times.

Here I come.  

As we came into Pella (home of Pella Windows) on Day 5, lots of bikers were stopping to have their picture taken with the little Dutch girls. 

Here's a couple of girls who were also taking pictures of the Dutch girls.  I saw another older couple with pieces of pie made out of foam on their helmets.  The guy's pie had pecans pasted all over the cut edges and the woman's had pictures of peaches on it.  Their name on the back was "Pie Hunters".  I'm sure they had no trouble finding pie.  All the churches along the way were selling homemade pie and the Amish people traveled along with the ride everyday and had a stand selling pie, cinnamon rolls, muffins, cookies, bars and other goodies.  They also were making home-cranked ice cream with what looked like a small version of the old fashioned steam thresher engines.  The ice cream stop was a very popular one.  Much to my surprise, rhubarb pie seemed to be the one they were running out of.  I guess Garrison Keillor knows what he's singing about on Prairie Home Companion.

This is the Mayor greeting all the bikers as they entered downtown Pella, a very Dutch community and home of the Tulip Festival in May which is very beautiful.  They are famous for the Dutch letters, a letter-shaped pastry, sold at the bakeries here.   But the really big line was at a stand on the square where they were selling poffertjes, a tiny, thin pancake served with hot butter and powdered sugar (12 for $3.00), or the poffertjes kraam with strawberries and whip cream on top.  They looked delicious, but the line was way too long.  They also had schoonwafel (sp), a very thin waffle sandwich with a honey-like filling.  Another place said they were "Full of Bologna" and they were selling fried bologna sandwiches with smoked gouda cheese.  Sounded yummy!  I haven't had fried bologna since I was a kid.  They also had Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) sausage, a special Romanian recipe.

This is a unique bicycle built for 21 with water bottle cages, horns and handlebars for each rider.   I suppose they use it in parades.

They were just getting this contest set up as I came through.  Weights on sleds, I assume it was going to be a weight pulling contest of some kind.   They were selling Bloody Mary's at the Opera House to the left, next to the Klokkenspiel (literally clock that speaks, characters rotate around) and the big Dutch windmill was on the corner with the gigantic wooden shoes you could stand in and have your picture taken.  I did that when we came to the Tulip Festival a year or two ago.

This beautiful country home was advertising goats to pet, to get us to stop and buy their goods.  One farm we went by, was advertising a chance to milk a cow.   The city folks from Denver, New York, Boston and such places love it.  A guy with a snake around his neck in one driveway was selling baklava.  In Beacon, you could kiss a camel.  I think Beacon was the town where there was an old guy playing a tuba in the park and they had the Chuck-a-Huffy contest.  Throw a little girl's bike.  Make a little girl cry.  I didn't stop to see if they were actually crying.

This was at the fairgrounds in Oskaloosa.   Looked like someone had hung up a couple of mosquito net hammocks, where they intended to spend the night.  John had yummy ribs here at the fairgrounds from Bubba-Qs.  Oskaloosa had painted bikes leaning against the street light poles along the route to the campgrounds, with whimsical characters riding them.

Everybody was climbing on the hay bale at Fremont to get their picture taken or putting their face in an ear of corn with their friends.  They had some neat old cars lined up in Fremont for the biker's enjoyment.  I saw a guy walking down the street with three ears of corn tattooed down the back of one leg.  I had to ask him if it was a permanent tattoo.  No, it was just something he thought would be fun to do with his nephews.

This bike had a Sturgis dude for a backrest.  Check out the guy in the John Deere biking jersey.   Somewhere near Hedrick we went by Preaching Pickers Antique Store where the preachers were out front a pickin'. They were featured on HGTV "West End Salvage".

A few girls from the Fungus Among Us Team taking a break in Hedrick, the midday meeting point on Friday, Day 6.  I was a little short on cash here, because I had just forked over $35.00 for a new tire and labor.  I had two extra tubes with me.  So I looked for something cheap to eat and settled on a small brisket sandwich at Three Blind Pigs BBQ.  It came on a small homemade bun piled high with meat.  It was huge and delicious!  As I was leaving Hedrick, there was just a private home or group giving away free brownies, rice krispie bars and hot dogs with all the fixings. 

It was a nice break in the ride every once in a while to have someone ride by with tunes playing.  This was at the daily stop sponsored by the Iowa Conservation Association where they gave away free bottles of water, bananas, and Iowa postcards and bookmarks every day.  Somewhere along the way, I met a girl named Katy Boggs from Brookings and a couple of nice young men with SDSU shirts on.  "Go Jacks!"  At one point, a guy rode by groovin' on his harmonica.

This guy rollerbladed the whole route.  I love to rollerblade, but I would have been so scared going down those hills on rollerblades.  There was also a guy who did the ride on a skateboard and two on  unicycles and one on one of those old fashioned bikes with the huge front tire and the tiny back tire.  I did not see any of them, but I did see a guy on a regular bike that had been modified with extensions on the top to make it about 8 feet tall.  I have no idea how he got on or off it.  I also saw a couple guys riding bikes with such fat tires, they looked like they were at least 5 inches wide and several riding on those tiny fold-up bikes like people carry in their campers. 

Check out the old dude on the left.  He was riding his bike barefoot and walking it barefoot through the crowded streets in the little town of Packwood.   B.L. said he heard you could eat 4,000 calories a day on the ride and still lose weight.  That's a bit if an exaggeration, but I did manage to lose about ten pounds from when I started training until the end of the ride.  Seems like an awful lot of work for a mere ten pounds, which I'm sure will creep back on in no time.

I don't know how that guy could go barefoot.  The ride was hard enough.   My feet would have been crying out in pain.  As I entered Packwood, my bike hit 1,000 miles since I had it tuned up in May.  Somewhere along the way was a blind guy riding on a tandem.  John said the scary part was that he was on the front.  Ha, ha!

One last good view before leaving Packwood.  Wait, that guy's not wearing a helmet.  How could I have not noticed?  I only saw two people on the whole ride without a helmet on.

I think this was just a little ways south of Packwood and was one of the best road side stops.  It was put on by Team Lizard whose motto was "How can you drink all day, if you don't start in the morning?"  This bicycle built for six had water bottle cages, horns and handles for the riders.  They were doing a fundraiser for something, trying to raise $5,000.  They were selling beer in the pole barn and had a stage set up where the band was just getting warmed up. 

They had some kind of inflatable water tunnel thing, similar to those bouncy house things for kids parties, but this "redneck water slide" was the best!  The guy with the cap with the fake orange hair appeared to be in charge.  His t-shirt said "Instant Redneck, Just Add Beer".   He was making some final adjustments on the angle of the water flow, that was being pumped by the tractor from the pond at the bottom of the hill.

The slide was made with straw bales for the sides and tarps hung over it.  People young and old were impatiently lining up to give it a try.  This old guy looked like he was about 70 at least.  He just came running up there and dove in.  Another lady who looked just about my age, whipped off her top and ran up there and dove in.  Just like a bunch of little kids.  They were all having a blast.  There were three marines waiting in line and lots of others.  I was riding behind those marines earlier and heard one of them say, "This ride is really kickin' my butt".  That made me feel pretty good.  I was told the Air Force Team had almost a hundred riders and they were stopping to help people fix flat tires and stuff.  Unfortunately they weren't anywhere around when I got my flat tire on Friday or when B.L. got his two flat tires.  Oh well, there were lots of bike shops with tents set up along the way and they soon had us on our way again.

This was the welcome to Fairfield entrance.  Many towns had neat archways we rode through as we entered their towns.  I think it was the little town of Shelby on Day 1 that had an archway made completely of old bikes all painted up in different colors.   Oprah dubbed Fairfield "America's most unusual town".  The college campus was purchased by a Maharishi from India who created the Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment, which you can tour.  I think he was the one The Beatles meditated with. 

One day I was riding with a guy from Moline, Iowa who was looking forward to the next stop because they were supposed to have snow cones.  As we were visiting, I noticed we were going by the snow cone place, so I pointed to it and he just pulled across the rode to go back without looking.  There was a car coming and people were yelling at him about the car and the car's tires were screeching as it tried to stop.  He made it, but people were irate about how careless and stupid he was.  I was just grateful that my pointing it out to him wasn't the cause of him getting hurt or killed!  I did see the ambulances picking up after a couple of bike crashes, but I never did here how bad they were.

The Team Spam bus.  I saw a few of their riders at different times.  You couldn't miss them, as each one had a can of spam mounted on the top of his or her helmet.  One farm we rode by, a guy was out in his yard playing his saxophone with loud speakers and he was awesome.  I could have stayed there and listened all day.  One day I rode with a guy from Fort Collins, Colorado with a banjo strapped on his back, who was playing gigs along the way.  We had an interesting conversation about some of the unusual instruments in the National Music Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota.

Wonder Woman and another of the super heroes just behind her, and I just don't know about the almost naked guy.  There's no shortage of unusual and entertaining sites and I kept hearing about lots of other things that I never did see.  I saw a guy dressed as Scooby Doo one day (that must have been warm), one dressed as Superman, one with a Viking helmet with horns and a cape and one with a buffalo head.  Several teams had pig ears and snouts and tails mounted on their helmets. 

A few of the ladies from Team Flamingo in Fairfield.  We were walking over to the Methodist Church where they were serving chicken and noodles over mashed potatoes, just like John's Mom used to make.  It's an Iowa thing I guess.  He had really been looking forward to it and was really bummed when we got there and found out that they had run out.  One of the food stands downtown was Squeal Good BBQ.

Fairfield Middle School was one of the many places around town where people were camped.  We were at the fairgrounds here.  The real Wonder Woman or Super Woman of the ride was a lady named Lucy from Washington.  I rode with her for a couple miles one day.  She is 86 years old and this is her 21st year.  She said she started when she was 65 and just got hooked, because it was so much fun!  She said she felt bad though, because she gets in kind of late, because she rides so slow.  She said she didn't get in until 1:00 PM the day before.  I had gotten in at 12:30 and was dancing a jig, because I was so proud of myself.  Kind of took the wind out of my sails.

Joe's Bunkhouse is one of the many outfits hired by teams or individuals.  Their semi-trailers have bunks for 72, bathrooms and showers.  Some teams even have their own chef traveling with them, like Team Gourmet.   In downtown Fairfield they got 4,000 or so bikers together to wear fake mustaches for five minutes and set a new record for Guinness Book of World Records.  

I saw all kinds of interesting jerseys, like these two.  "Tails Up" with a skunk on it, "Motto, we don't need no stinkin' motto!" And "Donner Party", where one jersey said, "We eat the slow ones" and another said, "Back for seconds".   Glad I wasn't on their team! And, of course, there was the Moo Team having an udderly good time!

Downtown Bonaparte.  This guy on the left is doing it the hard way, completely on his own, hauling all of his own gear right on his bike.  All I can say is "Uffda"!  I rode with a gentlemen for a short ways one day who was hauling his own stuff and continuing on to Columbus, Ohio after the end of the ride for a family reunion and then back home again.  He appeared to be in his sixties.  Again, "Uffda"!  We camped next to a guy one night who was 73 and driving his RV to sag for his grandkids, who were doing the ride. He and his wife rode the RAGBRAI for many years.  When he retired at 55, he rode from Anchorage, Alaska 100 miles a day for 34 days to Onawa, Iowa, where the RAGBRAI started that year and rode the RAGBRAI.  Again, "Uffda"!

Team Wimpy bus.  "I will gladly pay you Tuesday, for a hamburger today."  If you remember Wimpy from the Popeye cartoons, you're not a youngster anymore!

This old guy must have been Wimpy or at least they thought he was, because team members would ride back to check on him and ask him how he was doing and see if he needed more water or anything.  He appeared to be in his 70s and hadn't done the ride for a number of years.

At the entrance to downtown West Point they had a mountain of bikes.  When I pulled up, there was a guy who had climbed the steps up the backside with his bike and he was holding it up over his head for a picture, "King on the Mountain".  West Point has an annual Sweet Corn Festival in August that has been going on for 61 years, where 17 tons of corn are shucked for consumption during the three day event.   They had a trike obstacle course and the gravesite of Mark Twain's grandmother is in the city cemetery.

Here you can see Banana Man at the top of the stairs, just coming back down.  Just to the right of this picture is the city park with a very nice Veteran's Memorial with about six or more monuments.  I thought it was interesting to note that with the thousands of bikers and bikes, sitting, leaning and laying everywhere, there were none in the memorial area or leaning against the monuments or anything.

I rode with this guy for a few minutes and asked him about his elliptical bike.  He said they don't sell them very many places, but you can order them on the internet for about $2,500.  He said it's much easier on your tush, because you don't sit on that uncomfortable seat, however, it's hard work because you stand all day, the wheels are smaller and his shoulders get achy.

Hooray!!!  We finally made it to the end at Fort Madison.  I saw a man with a piano keyboard built right onto his bike as we came through downtown.  They were expecting about 20,000 bikers to cross the entrance into Riverview Park, where there is an extremely busy railroad crossing with 80 trains daily.  Hundreds of bikers were waiting each time a train went through.   Fort Madison is known as the Florida of Iowa with average winter temps in the upper 20s.  It is also located in the hook of the state, like Florida is in the U.S.  It is the oldest American military garrison on the upper Mississippi, 1808.  The Old Fort is a re-created scale replica of the original.

Two happy Campers!!!  I had 418 miles on my bike with an average speed of 12.5 mph and max speed of 37 mph.

We are very proud of ourselves and glad we made it all the way.  I can mark this off my bucket list now and relax and have a drink, finally!  It was fun, but a lot of work, and I don't think I will feel the need to do it again.  Thanks for getting me motivated B.L.  See you next year, when we can be a little more relaxed.

Two Tired or Too Tired Tarra

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tarra!
    I remember talking to you at RAGBRAI last year (banjo player from Fort Collins). Great blog you got going. Mine's not so great, but here's my entries re:RAGBRAI
    Maybe this year you will hear me playing in one of the little pass-through towns!
    Have a good one!