Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Anyway, You'll Never Know the Many Ways I've Tried.

John and I looking fresh'ish at the beginning of the ride.
 I woke up this morning at 2 am with a migraine. Apparently, there is another pressure system moving through. On account of it getting colder and colder around here, I bring you another installment of  my monumental bike rides posts.

The boys monkeying around.
 TOMRV, or Tour Of the Mississippi River Valley.  This was my first real road ride. Sure, I had ridden to Solon and back and I had done a 70 mile ride before this, but it was with our social ride friends and we stopped every 10 miles or so to eat and/or drink.

I just got a real bike in the middle of March and this was the middle of June. So, after having my CX bike for 3 months, I was a little worried that I might not be strong enough to do RAGBRAI at the end of July.  I went with John and our friend Bry and they both assured me RAGBRAI would be a breeze compared to this ride. TOMRV is basically two centuries back to back on a weekend, on very hilly terrain along the Mississippi River in Iowa and Illinois.

Thinking about switching our bikes out for this tandem.

I think it's safe to say that this was one of the hardest rides I have ever done. Mostly, because I was new at real road riding. I didn't really know how to draft and we had a strong headwind on Saturday. I also wasn't used to being in the saddle that long and both John and Bry had been doing long rides like this for almost 20 years.

I did love it, but it was tough. We all started out together and stopped at the first place, which was a park that had sandwiches and snacks. Bry was used to RAGBRAI and was a little disappointed that most of the people on this ride were not about drinking. They would stop long enough to eat, but not long enough to lose their legs.

After this stop, both Bry and John took off, leaving me by myself. John told me I should just jump on a draftline of bikes and hold on as long as possible. The idea scared the crap out of me. I didn't want to hit someone else's wheel and crash and I was so slow, there were few people I could keep up with anyway. The one time I did try, one of the guys screamed at me to get off. They had their own line going on. Um, okay...

I said screw it. I didn't care how slow I went and if I had to ride the whole 100 some miles by myself, I would do whatever made me most comfortable. Of course, that all sounded great until I realized I was all by myself with no other riders around and I had no idea where I was going. I finally saw a guy riding ahead of me and hoped that it was someone else riding TOMRV And not some guy doing his own thing who might just lead me way astray. I pedaled on and after about an hour, John finally came back to look for me. Luckily, that guy was on TOMRV and I was on the correct route. Whew!

John was nice enough to stay with me and we met up with Bry and made it to Galena. Bry had been having a rough time of it himself, it seemed and didn't really perk up until we stopped at the De Soto for lunch and beer. We changed direction and got more of a tailwind and the ride was sooooo much better from Galena to Dubuque. We all split up after Galena, but that was okay, because there were plenty of signs to help  me find my way.

This part of the ride was extremely hilly. I followed the signs until I saw one that said "The Wall" and went with it. There is a hill on Sugar Bottom Road that we call the wall, but this one was longer with a steeper grade. I labored up the  hill and just when I was getting toward the top, a bird pooped on my head. Of course. On the way down, I saw John was waiting for me at the bottom of the  hill. When I stopped to show him where the bird had pooped on my helmet, he said, "Way to go! I'm proud of you for going up the wall instead of going for the easier route." My response was, "Wait. What? You mean I had another option?" Oh well. I'm glad I went the harder way. I proved to myself I could make it up the hill on my longest and hardest bike ride still to this day.

The Mighty Mississippi.
 We waited for Bry to show up at the last bar on the Illinois side and then headed across the Mississippi. I think we take it for granted sometimes that we live so close, but how many people can say that they rode their bike over the Mississippi River?

We hit Dubuque, right around the time I reached 100 miles. My first century. Yea me! Then we headed to the college where they were serving us dinner. The food was starchy carbs, which sounded perfect. A lot of people were sleeping in the dorms there, but we opted for a hotel. I'm so glad we did, because I needed to fall into a coma and not be disturbed. We ended up riding 115 miles for the day. After our showers, John told me he was going to find the bar and do some drinking. I wished him well and told him that I couldn't keep my eyes open, let alone walk to a bar. A few minutes later, I felt him crawling into bed beside me. He must have thought better of it.

The next morning, we got up and ready to ride our next century day. It was all on the Iowa side and the roads were so gorgeous.

Sunday was a lot better day for me. I was getting the hang of what it meant to ride those long, hilly, stretches and the winds weren't as bad. Plus, John stayed and rode with me the whole day.

Bry went ahead. We stopped at a bar in the last town before we rode back to get to our cars in Bettendorf, and called Bry to see if he wanted to backtrack and meet us for one last drink on TOMRV. He said he had to get back home and couldn't stop. He was in a new relationship and we totally understood.

As we hit Bettendorf, we saw this white Blazer following behind us and were a little creeped-out before we realized it was Bry. He hadn't headed back to Iowa City after all. Not only that, he was nice enough to take this photo of John and myself finish my first back to back century ride.

And both the guys were right...RAGBRAI was a million times easier than TOMRV.

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