Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Wonder of Wonders, Miracle of Miracles

Okay. So, now we're on day number two of OOBRAI. Thanks to Chelsea, Burne and John for any of their photos I used. We had a lovely evening and the next morning, my brother joined us. We'll just call him Uncle Bill. And then there were five...

We knew we had a long ride ahead of us, but from the git-go things started to go wrong. I will call this our day of getting thwarted. Don't get me wrong, this day was epic, but it was hard. Of course, from a month away, I mostly just think of it as a wild adventure, but at the time, we were all pretty roughed-up from the day.

This picture above was my first mistake. We had some leftover pizza and everybody ate it while I was in the bathroom and I didn't go back in to get some real food before we took off. D-U-M, dumb.

We weren't going to eat lunch until we got to the town of Hampton and that was going to be almost 70 miles in, but, of course, it was a lot farther than that after everything went to shit with our route...

At first the trails were lovely, we thought we'd have about 30 miles of them, according to Google maps.

After a while, the beautiful trails got ugly. We thought we might be able to go around the bad parts, but quickly realized the trail was all bad parts.

We went out to the road next to the trail and then took a wrong turn...Or really, took a wrong straight, when we were supposed to turn. It got us onto this VERY low maintenance road.

It was beautiful, but it was all sand and some of it had giant puddles on either side. I thought it was a lot of fun to ride.

We figured out we were going the wrong way and hit a gravel road to get us back on course. I always bring dog treats, because there are usually more dogs on gravel than paved roads, and I'd rather distract them with a treat than have to kick them away from my bike when they come at me.

It also means I get to make friends with some very fine creatures, like Kiera here. She was a good girl. Her human stopped mowing his ditch and came over to talk to us. When I asked him if it was okay to give her a treat, he said, "Sure. And you'll probably be able to convince her to rob a bank with you after you give it to her too..."I would happily rob a bank if it meant I could hang out with Kiera more.

We hit the small town of Clarksville and headed back out to the next set of trails that we hoped wouldn't be ripped up.

So far so good, we thought...

Until we looked across the highway at what was supposed to be our trail.

We headed down ANOTHER gravel road to see if we could connect to this illusive "trail" that Google Maps assured us existed.

Welp, This strip of shoulder high weeds was the "trail". We think what happened was that at some point, people thought they were going to make a great multi-use rails to trail and they ripped up the old railroad tracks, but then either ran out of interest or money or both and it all went to hell. We had no other way to go, so we soldiered on.

After riding way too long through thistle, and burrs and poison ivy and wild parsnip, John said he heard a road. So, we picked our bikes up over the barbed wire fence to see if we could find a more pleasant riding experience.

What we really found was a feedlot. The farmer who owned it probably had every right to shoot us for hopping over the fence onto his property, but he only waved to us when he saw us and his dog gave us quite a fierce show, until I threw a treat his way. Then he grabbed it and trotted off after his human.

We wondered if other people had bailed on the non-existent trail onto his property before.

We rode a gravel road into the next town where, wonder of wonders, I found a splash pad. I tried my best to wash off any of the bad oils from the poison ivy and wild parsnip, but I didn't have any soap.

We did, however, have better luck with roads after we gave up the trail. we were on our way to the town of Hampton, when I lost every last ounce of my energy. We were going up a hill and I kept fading. We happened to be on a road with a narrow shoulder, so it was harder for anyone to look back and see that I had dropped. I realized that I was bonking - it's a term that means I didn't have enough fuel and it makes a person overly emotional and tired and stoooopid. I stopped myself, set my bike down on the side of the road, sat down in a ditch and dug around in my bags for some food. I have no idea what the motorists must have thought when they drove past me, crying and shoving food into my mouth.

I finally had enough fuel and strength to get back on my bike and head up the rest of the hill. When I was almost at the top, I saw John coming back to find me. He said he asked Burne where I was, since he was the last in line and Burne said he had no idea. So, John rode with me and we met the rest of our group at a nice, shady park and we all made a big point to eat plenty of food before we took off again.

We finally hit the town of Hampton and found a great Mexican restaurant. We ate lunch at about 3:30 and headed out for the last 40 or so miles left.

About 5 to 10 miles out, John realized he broke a spoke. It was on his drive train side, so he couldn't fix it on the road. A person can usually ride with a broken spoke, but it can also upset the balance of the whole wheel and break more and more spokes. John told us he would just see how far he could get, since we only had 26 miles left before we hit Clear Lake. Five minutes after he said that, most of the spokes on his wheel broke all at once. Crap! Since John couldn't ride his bike like that, his plan was to try to hitch a ride to Clear Lake, while we rode on. My brother joked, "Don't put-out unless you have to..." har har har, but I was really worried. I wondered what the odds would be that John would find someone to give him and his bike a 26 mile ride to Clear Lake, and then drive 26 miles back to where they lived on a Sunday evening.

On top of all that, my brother started having real problems with cramps. We also realized that Google Maps was trying to tell us to ride a gravel road the 26 miles. Burne was smart enough to say, "Eff that!" and find us a nice quiet paved road back to Clear Lake...If only Uncle Bill could get over his cramping. Burne's girlfriend had some electrolyte tablets and Uncle Bill tried those. They seemed to do the trick and we pedaled on. A little later, I got a text from John with a photo of a van and he said he got a ride from a guy who would take him to Clear Lake. I was glad he took the photo, in case the guy was a serial killer.

We finally made it to Clear Lake, about 114 miles, many issues and 12 hours after we started. John had run to the store and bought some beer for us. He had also checked out places to eat and drink in town on a Sunday night. We went to a place called the Surf District. The owner was closing but he told us to come in anyway. He was a great guy. He told John he'd be happy to take him to the next town in the morning to get his bike fixed.

We had a beer and then headed over to the pizza place and ate dinner. By the time we went to bed, we were all exhausted. It had been a rough day for all of us. The next day we would ride to meet up with RAGBRAI, at least if we could get John's wheel squared away...

Monday, August 28, 2017

I Just Turn Around and You're By My Side

Flowers from our garden.
I'm interrupting my OOBRAI posts in order to bring you this special announcement. I had my one year after my lumpectomy mammogram and check-up and everything looked good. Whew! I have another couple of years to meet with the oncologist and if those are clean, I'll go back to normal check-ups. As usual, John was a rock for me while I was stressing out last week. I am so lucky in so many ways...

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Here Comes Your Nineteenth Nervous Breakdown

Hey, since it's getting close to the end of August, I thought I'd FINALLY write about OOBRAI/RAGBRAI.

It was eight days of riding, eating, drinking, minor nervous breakdowns, imaginary bike trails, pond swings, and run-ins with wild parsnip, and laughing with friends and kin. In other words, a fun Summer adventure.

The first day we rode from Iowa City to Waterloo, Iowa, mostly on bike trails. We had to bring bags on our bikes, but we only needed clothes, a few supplies and toiletries, since we were staying in hotels the first couple of days.

The bike trails were nice for the first part. We did have to fight off some wild life and I got to see a baby skunk for the first time in my life. Fortunately, we didn't scare him or piss him off, since we all smelled bad enough by the end of the day without getting sprayed by a baby skunk.

We made it quite a ways before we ran into some closed spots on the trail. Other people had gone around it so there was some single track trail to take. It was just hard to ride on with the heavy bags on our bikes. More adventure!

I also ran into some more cows in water this week. They thought I was weird, but didn't give me much grief. I did tell them I loved them I got the feeling they weren't all that impressed.

We finally made it to Brandon, Iowa. It was a cute little town but had the saddest gas station/convenience store I've ever been in. There was very little stock and what there was, seemed like it had gone long past its expiration date. The woman running the shop was one of the many cranky, old, curmudgeons with a heart of gold.

The most exciting thing about Brandon, Iowa is that it was the home of the World's Largest Frying Pan! You know how much I love kitsch. So, we took a bunch of goofy photos and got back on the trail.

Not long after, we found a beautiful field of wildflowers. Since John and will probably never have a real honeymoon, this was going to have to do.

Just before we got to La Porte City, we were all starting to fade a bit. We stopped at a park and found a pretty gazebo. You know you've been riding with your friends too long when you all sit as far apart as possible when you stop to even get a semblance of alone time.

The trail closed right after this area and there was no way around it but to ride on the road for a bit and find the trail down a ways.

Lucky for us, that road took us to ice cream. I blueberry shake was just what the doctor ordered.

We rode past a cool old gas station and hooked back up on the trail.

After 98 miles, we finally hit Waterloo. We were all exhausted, but glad that we made it.

Our hotel was in an area where there were just a bunch of other hotels, but there was a bar/restaurant across the street and they had lovely fired chicken and beer there. The good thing about riding 98 miles is that you can eat and drink whatever you want (at least in my head you can). Our bartender was another old curmudgeon. He practically threw our beers at us at first, but then we talked to him for a bit and he was very funny and nice. Iowans...

Our hotel didn't have a bar, but they had a little store where we could buy beer. They also had a nice patio. We had one more beer before we all hit the hay. I fell asleep immediately. I knew the next day was going to be at least 106 miles and I wanted to be ready for it. If it was going to be anything like this day, we would need our rest, but we'd have so much to look forward too...

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Iowa, Iowa. Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall...

So, hey. I'm finally on the last day of my birthday weekend. Monday, July 17th. It started out on the deck of the caboose with coffee and tea and the fresh raspberries that I just picked, admiring the beautiful horses. What a great way to start our day.

We finally had to leave our caboose haven and head out to do the fun things on our last day.

John always teases me about how I want to try and do everything humanly possible when we go on a trip. In my defense, I don't have a lot of time and money, so who knows if I'll ever get to go to any place again. I might as well try to do and see what I can while I'm there.

On our last day, we decided to go back and do the couple of things we did a little bit with the girls and just do them longer. Which meant that John and I would go back and ride the whole trail around Decorah.

We made it back to the fish hatchery and rode around there for a bit before we got back on the trail.

Everything about the trail was beautiful and it was so fun to ride.

We stopped often to take photos and check out the views.

Also, it was a beautiful day.

Oh, Decorah. You are so bike friendly. We were happy to spend our money in your town.

We had a nice lunch after our ride and then went back to the tubing place.

We wanted to do the longer route before we headed back home.

The whole float took us three hours. We had a strong headwind the whole way, but we didn't mind.

We had cold beer and wonderful company.

We had a few obstacles in our way, but they were easy to work around.

Of course, this being Iowa, our biggest obstacle was floating through the cattle.

I was a little worried, but like John said, there weren't any babies around and as we floated through them, they just moved over and stared at us like they had no idea why we were messing with their watering hole. So, we drifted on by and said goodbye.

We also got to see some nice birds - my favorite, a great blue heron and several eagles. Lucky us.

We finally made it to the end of our float and headed home. It was a lovely 4 days and we only had four more days until we took off again on another Iowa excursion. Again, lucky us.