Monday, July 30, 2012

Bike America Days 36-38: Milestones

Thursday-Saturday, July 19-21, 2012

Thursday's distance: 52.77 miles
Overall distance: 1,877 miles
Friday-Saturday: R&R

Please accept my apologies for leaving my readers hanging for so many days. I have been caught up in the excitement of Ragbrai and never found any time to plug in my computer, let alone compose a decent blog post. Now, life on the road is back to "normal" and I'm ready to catch you up. I'll start by telling you about the few days leading up to the great ride across Iowa.

Milestone #1: Entering my mom's home state

We left Centerville, SD early Thursday morning and it felt like we could already be in the hawkeye state. There were nothing but farms and cornfields all around. My mom drove ahead while my dad and I biked and discovered that there was no "Welcome to Iowa" sign on our planned route. The state signs had been a fun part of the trip and the one in Iowa was especially important to my mom since it is her home state. 

We altered our route and she and my dad switched a few miles from the Missouri River so she could ride her bike across the state line. We stopped to take pictures and failed many times at getting a decent shot of the three of us under the sign. 

Upon crossing the river, we recognized the familiar terrain of Iowa's country roads. IMHO, the state has the best kind of rolling hills that are steeper and often shorter than they'd been any time on the trip. I was very excited by this. Another fifteen miles and we were in Sioux Center, IA where Ragbrai would start three days later. We were the second people to set up camp and had nothing to do but await the arrival of the other 19,997 riders. We swam in the local pool, went to a mexican restaurant for dinner and then tucked into our sleeping bags under a beautiful sunset.

At dinner, a woman approached our table and said "I can see you are riding Ragbrai [based on our wristbands], do you have a place to stay?" She was a complete stranger but could not have been more welcoming. We told her we had already set up tents and she gave us her address and told us to come over if we wanted to spend the next two nights in beds. She had 25 people staying over on Saturday night in preparation for the ride but we were welcome to make ourselves at home on Thursday and Friday. We were very grateful but opted to stay at camp. It was a perfect example, though, of what is so unique and awesome about Ragbrai and the mid-west in general. I don't think that kind of thing happens much in DC or anywhere on the east coast.

Milestone #2: Ragbrai already?

Friday was the first official night of camping on Ragbrai. All day, we watched food and vendor tents get set up, porta-potties get placed, and other riders arrive. Though we spent most of the day attending to errands, I had an overwhelming sense of excitement and sadness at the fact that Ragbrai was really about to begin. As far as milestones on this trip go, it felt like third to beginning the trek in Anacortes and riding home into Georgetown. I can't explain why exactly but I can say that a lot of planning had gone into Ragbrai alone. From helping coordinate Josh, Nathaniel and Ben's trip there from DC to making sure that my wardrobe was full of bright and fun clothing for the week. It was more than halfway through the ride and I knew that once it was over, the remaining three weeks of Bike America would fly by.

But still, I was incredibly excited for the week and I planned to do nothing but enjoy it. First, though, I'd enjoy my two rest days in Sioux Center. I began Friday with my first run in six weeks. Three miles at an average pace of 8:47 were harder than they've been in a long time and a tendon in my knee hurt a lot by the end. But I was glad to have done it. I know that I'm in great shape from all this biking but it was interesting to see how different running felt on my body.

I spent the remainder of the day doing laundry, writing postcards in the laundromat, cleaning my bike, eating lunch at Casey's Cafe and blogging at the library. 

I had leftovers for dinner and chatted with a 72 year old Arizona man about the Grand Canyon and a Salt Lake City woman who has made a lifestyle out of bicycle touring. Finally, after nearly 25 hours of driving, the boys arrived from DC and we sat in our grassy "living room" drinking beer. This was Josh and Nathaniel's first Ragbrai and Ben's second. Josh would be splitting riding and driving with my mom so he'd be riding half of each day. It felt very surreal to have them all there. We were having much more fun than the guys in the picture below would have you believe.

Milestone #3: 25 Years Young

On Saturday morning, I woke up in the happiest way.

I couldn't sleep in because I'd be driving Josh and Nathaniel an hour south to the Sioux Center Airport to drop off their rental car but I'm always excited to wake up and start celebrating early on my birthday. I have a horrible tendency to be disappointed at least once on my birthday because I expect the world and can get temporarily sad if everything isn't perfect every second. In general I have very happy birthdays but that is a bad habit that I've always been ashamed of. One would think that three hours of seemingly pointless driving, and a chill day of non-celebrating might lead to some disappointment but it turned out to be a very happy and humble birthday without even a minute of wanting more. Maybe it's a sign of getting older but, for the first time, I could have cared less, and often forgot that it was even a day worth celebrating.

I spent the afternoon walking around the Ragbrai expo, eating pizza and a smoothie on the go, and playing frisbee and pool basketball.

I have a very sweaty man.

For dinner we went to the craft beer garden at the local Fruited Planes Cafe. They were serving a spaghetti dinner which provided the perfect carbo-load for seven days of biking. With it, Josh and I shared an agave wheat beer and a pale ale. Then we shared a carrot cake (my fave) which my mom specially ordered from Casey's Cafe in town. It was smeared with icing that read "H.B. Carrie 25". The six of us shared about half of it and I nearly finished the rest by myself. I may have been more humble than normal about my birthday but I can eat a hell of a lot of cake and some things never change.


  1. I love following this whole experience - it's so fascinating! Glad you had a wonderful birthday!

  2. Yay happy birthday Carrie!!! I'm glad you had a ton of carrot cake...reminds me of the house in Gainesville haha. I love reading all of your adventures :)

  3. Hey Carrie,
    Glad you and your family and friends made it through RAGBRAI. It is interesting reading about Sioux Center from a visitor's perspective as I consider it my second home. The lady you met at the Mexican restaurant is Barb Mellema, who is a personal friend of mine along with her husband.
    Also the Fruited Plain Cafe with the craft beer is a great place. Year round they have great craft and seasonal beer that you won't find elsewhere along with amazing food.
    And Casey's Bakery in town is an amazing bakery. I am just surprised I don't weigh more than I do with all this great food in town.
    May you and your parent have a tailwind the rest of the way to the coast.