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As a relative newbie to bicycle riding (actively riding 14 months now), I’m looking back at my year of pretty intense riding for a relative newcomer.  And I’m smiling!  My bike computer says I have done 2574 miles since a year ago, Aug 23, 2009, which is when I started tracking my mileage.  It’s probably closer to 3,000 as there were some days I did not bring the bike computer or it ran out of juice.

I do not at all want this to sound like bragging, but am pretty darn proud of myself for the accomplishment of that many miles in one year, including the bike ride across Nebraska (BRAN) and the ride across Iowa (RAGBRAI).  I was in need of an fitness regime that would provide a good and regular cardiac program and when I discovered bicycling again, I knew this was it.  But having failed at forcing myself to go to the fitness center weekly, just for my heart fitness, I knew I needed some kind of goal to keep me motivated.  In July of 2009 I watched the riders on the first day of RAGBRAI and I knew that was it. I made up my mind then to ride across Iowa.  My typical riding back then was 10-15 miles a day and I knew I was crazy to even think it, but in the short time I had been riding I had discovered that by getting out there every week, more days than not, and adding just 5% more to each weeks ride, I was slowly building up strength and distance.  As I progressed I found my butt hurt and my wrists went numb and stayed slightly numb for days after my rides.  The change to a recumbent bike solved all that.  It has also become a great source of conversation at rest stops on my rides.  Everyone is curious about recumbents and I’m always happy to chat about them.

But I get off subject here, I see.  Nothing short of going on a ride for several days prepares you for BRAN or RAGBRAI.  Why would anyone subject their poor bodies, especially an out of shape 53 year old, to hours of riding day after day in heat, cold, wind and rain?  And what gives you the willpower to get up each day and do it again when your body and instincts tell you that you have lost all sense of reality.  You could be home in the Lazy Boy sipping a cold one, remote control in hand.  Why, why, why did you think you could do this???

I’m not a quitter.  And I love meeting new people, seeing new sites.  I like the adventure of experiencing new things.  So I prepared myself mentally, telling myself it was just one more pedal after another, one hill after another.  I did not try to think of the 82 miles ahead on the long days or the 400 more ahead of me.  I spent the year telling everyone that I was going to do this and did not want to tell anyone I had failed because I gave up or just thought I could not do it.

In comparison, RAGBRAI was a much more enjoyable ride.  It’s a rolling social event, a rolling party as many say. Because I went on a charter I quickly made friends with people too.  Snacks and food was more plentiful and there was so much to entertain the mind as you rode because of the steady stream of riders (hundreds in either direction).  All walks of life, all shapes and sizes, many different bike styles, some really entertaining outfits…it was just fun and the fun made you think less of the discomfort of the ride.

But I’m not really being fair to BRAN, especially since these are the only two rides I have gone on.  BRAN was less enjoyable, but it had much fewer people (675 vs. 15,000) less community involvement and frankly, the killer, was it was simply a hard ride this year for everyone.  Even the seasoned veterans said so.  Lots of hills, headwinds, rain at night, rain two days, and I was recovering from a sprained ankle.  I was simply exhausted and sleep deprived by the last day. And although I enjoyed the experience overall, I was not eager to get on a bike again any time soon.

On RAGBRAI you are never alone and can find someone to chat with every minutes (there is always a rider in front, back and beside you whether you want it or not.   Might as well strike up a conversation.  On BRAN I would sometimes ride for an hour without another rider in site and unless you went with someone, your only evening conversation would be with whomever was in the food line or sitting around you at dinner.  I did know a handful of people though and never felt totally alone that week.

Where BRAN seemed more of a test of fitness, RAGBRAI is a celebration of life.  But one really needs to do both to appreciate the wonders of each.  I can’t wait to do them again and am eager to find new adventures and new friends.

This has been the most wonderful summer in a couple of decades for me.  Although it was strenuous, it was not stressful.  I felt like I really got a lot of bang for my buck given the 3,000 miles and probably 400 hours of experiences and entertainment.  I highly recommend participating in one of these organized rides as the organizers have all the worries of getting you there, getting your gear there, finding the campsites, making sure there is food, etc.  BRAN folks even got us up a couple of nights and into safe buildings when high winds and storms were approaching.

With biking trips, your vacation time slows way, way down and you have the time to really appreciate the scenery.  Up close and personal!  You hear all the birds, the cows, the horses.  You feel the wind, sun and rain and enjoy the many wonderful smells.  You are ready for bed at sunset and up at 4:00 eager to see what unfolds that day.  Food never tasted so good and what a thrill to eat 8,000 calories a day for a week and not have to adjust your belt when you get back home!

I recommend these rides to anyone.  Feel free to contact me with any questions you might have regarding bike trips, recumbents, or anything related.

Today is the last day, the last 47 miles of a 442 mile bike trip.  This is a sad day as I had been looking forward to this trip for one year, have been learning about bikes and training hard every chance I could get.  As much as I wanted to enjoy the day, I was up against a deadline.  Our bus was leaving Dubuque at 3:00 and as this was a very hilly route I would have to work the pedals hard to get there on time.  Unfortanely, my leg muscles were shot and the hills were next to impossible.  One hill was so steep that I saw 6 people fall off their bikes.  90% of the riders were walking the bikes up this mile long steep hill.  It was so bad many of could not even walk up the hill without taking a couple of breaks.

There were more down hills than up, so I made it into Dubuque by 1:30.  Had to walk a couple of blocks to some pay showers.  Got some dinner and was ready for the bus in just enough time.  I’m writing this on the bus one the way back to Omaha, which should arrive about 11:OO tonight.

The following are some pictures from today.  I appologize sor the quality, somehow my camera got set to some strange mode today, some artistic mode.

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View coming into the first city

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Just another rest stop. Had fun watching this little guy on his toy tractor. He was having fun and oblivious of all the people.

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Yes, he road this unicycle all 442 miles.

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Second beautiful church of the day,

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lf way up Potters Hill. I walked.

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All our gear at the endof the bike ride.

buy cheap Pregabalin online Day 6 was one of the most interesting.  We knew it was going to rain, it was just a question of when and how much.  The goal was to get out early and I hit the road at 6:00, pedaled hard and did over 20 miles before it started to sprinkle.  Today I learned a valuable lesson.  Don’t get wet if there is a chance you will get chilled.  When it started to sprinkle I put on a light jacket that I thought was waterproof.  First mistake, it was not so I was getting wet.  I pulled off under some pine trees and switched to my rain coat and did less than a mile before it really started raining and included lightening.  Luckily this was at a vendor stop at a crossroads called Shady Grove.  Two houses and a big metal building.  I bought the biggest pork chop I have ever had, from the Pork Chop man, and headed into the building for shelter.  Whoa, there was nearly 100 of us in there.  I was there for nearly three hours and getting colder.  I finally realized my raincoat was keeping in all the moisture.  It was hard to force myself to take the coat off, but once I did my wicking bike shirt dried quickly.

The experience in the dark building, with it’s dirt floor, full of huge farm equipment, crowded with people eating pork chops with their hands, well, it will be a memory I will carry for a long time.  And cherish, because despite the bad weather, pockets of people were having fun.  A few adults broke out in song, some older teenagers were doing ring around the rosie, another group played a made up game.  I also met several people and as bikers we always have something to talk about.

I’m learning to take in the towns and appreciate what each has to offer.  Today I stopped in the last pass through town for a much needed rest, listened to the live music and tried to dry out my sandals, socks and my feet.

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Drying out

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One of the more interesting bikes I saw

Not much to report for today, except that it was hot.   And the longest mileage of the trip, 82 miles, so I really had to concentrate on riding to get in at a decent hours.  Still, I hit the road at 6:15 am and got in at 6:15 in the evening.

Overall the day was very pleasant.  I simply enjoyed the ride and enjoyed each town.  In the last pass through town of the day I stopped and enjoyed the music, the dancing in the streets.  Enjoyed a chicken breast sandwich, fresh ear of corn and a beer.  .  An added benefit was leve entertainment for the20 of us there.

I finally found electricity at the golf course club house. An added benefit was live entertainment for the 20 of us there.

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My apologies for not posting the last couple of days.  Power resources were very limited, both my ability to charge my phone and connect to the internet.  My own personal power resources were depleted yesterday with a very long hot ride.

First, I have gone back and updated day two and three if you want to see what I was up to and included pictures as well (worth checking out).  Below is an account of today.

We had quite the eventful night last night with a thunderstorm rolling through, lots of rain and lightening that hit very close to our tents.  I half expected to get up in the morning only to find a neighbor vaporized.  Needless to say, everything was wet, including my bike which I could not cover with the tent rain fly because we were packed in like sardines.

Today we go from Clear Lake to Charles City. After the first painful 30 miles of yesterday I really was worried that I would not be able to ride well today.  Quite the contrary.  It seems it was the position of my seat that was causing most of my problems.  I took off out of Clear Lake doing 20 miles per hour for the first 10 miles.  Must have been a tail wind!  I did well all day and finished the ride in about 6 hours (53 miles).   There was no place to eat this morning as we were camping on the exit part of town.  The first three big food venders had lines with over 100 people in them.  Finally came to a farm house where they were selling delicious breakfast burritos and OJ.  Then in the next two I found a local charity where I two hardboiled eggs for $1, two bananas for $1, bag of cookies for $.50.  One of the next towns I got a grilled chicken sandwich and delicious ear of fresh corn for $6. In St. Charles tonight someone down the street was selling food.  I got two pulled pork sandwiches, chips, sliced tomatoes, watermelon, cookies and a drink all for $7.  That’s a pretty good example of what the food intake is for the day, just different sources.  I try not to eat at the traveling vendors if a local group is selling something as the portions and price are always better and part of the purpose of these trips is to support these little towns.  You can’t imagine what this influx of 10,000+ people can do for each town.  And boy, do they go all out.  People of all ages are out on the streets, on their porches greeting us as we come in, welcoming us to their town.

The weather today was the best ever.  Slightly humid at the start, then  cool and cloudy.  Sun came out but it was in the low 80’s.  Forecast for tomorrow is low of 59, high of 80, dry and they say one of best days of the 2010 ride.  Good thing, it’s over 80 miles.

A great afternoon and evening.  Despite a late start (7:45) from the rain I got in at 2:00.  Put my name in for the solar showers, set up my tent, then did my laundry from the week.  Unlike the other humid days, everything will be dry by the time I go to bed.  I did not have to waste over an hour looking for dinner so now I have the evening to catch up on my blogging before I go to sleep.  I’m sitting in a covered pavilion with a few electrical outlets, a very pleasant breeze and off in the distance is a life band  playing something festive.   Ahhhhh, I could live this day over and over.  Seriously!

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The world famous (or at least onRAGBRAI) Pork Cop Man. I hear they are really good, but just sound too heavy to me.

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A typical view down the road. Usually it is more crowded than this.

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Yes, he really is riding this.

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I had to take this one as it really shows the contrast of the past and the future.

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Locals love to decorate anything and everything with a bike theme.

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Stopping for free water at the Black Barn Farm (okay, I also bought some fantastic homemade cookies)

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Ya think it was a tad bit windy?

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Yes, that is a bike (recumbent trike). I have no clue if thedriver was bananas or not. 😉

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I thought this was smart advertising pushing hydration products at this location. It's just the wrong product!

Today we rode from Algona to Clear Lake.  Pretty uneventful day as far as the town but it was eventful for me. See pictures atbottom of post.

I hurt, in several places!  My sandals lock into my bike pedals and the outside of my feet was really  aching.  I’d have to clip out and reposition my feet or I would have had to start.  Also, on these long rides it usually takes about 15-17 miles for my thigh muscles to stop fighting me and do what I want them too.  They hurt up until that point, then they either stop of maybe gets used to it.  Not today.  It took 30 of the 59 miles before they gave in.  Now, there is a reason….

Location, Location, Location!!!  My recumbent seat slides on a rail and is held in place by two clamping systems.  I have a mark on the slide where it should be and it had slid back almost an inch.  Moving that seat back up where it belonged made all the difference in the world.  I did the remaining 30 miles with no problems (and 50 miles the next day without problems).

Rotation, Rotation, Rotation… Your biking lesson for the day.  I really think most people don’t know this so now might be a good time to mention it if you are a novice biker.  The key to biking long distances like this without getting sore and worn out (besides a proper bike and proper equipment placement) is your cadence, the number of times you pedal per minute.  Anything below 80 rpm will make your leg muscles sore.  If you have ever struggled to get up a hill pedaling slowly, you know what I mean.  Instead of struggling, crank those gears down to easier and easier gears.  I am often down the very easiest on a 5% grade and can keep my cadence at 80 rpm.

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I think this was in the town of Britt, who had a Mayberry theme to their main street. This local lady looked and acted just like Aunt Bee.

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More of the Mayberry theme

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These two girlriders have a different outfit on each day. Yesterday they were pretty pink butterflies

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Vendors leave us giant clues.....

Today was a hard ride for me.  Ten hour ride (80 miles), hour wait for a shower, missing two busses downtown for dinner because they were full.  Finally had a delicious and heaping dinner at an oriental place.  When I got to camp at 8:30 I was too tuckered out to post.  Below is information that I was able to post two days later.

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First breakfast stop. There are vendorsevery few miles, I look for the shortest line.

A good ride, long ride and a hard ride.  I was not too sore but I did wear out by the end of the 80+ miles.  Our destination today was Agona, Iowa.  My favorite town today was Pocahontas.  One of the most beautiful small towns I have ever, ever seen.  Here are some pictures. 

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Pocahontas in Pocahantas. The sunglasses ruined it for me.

Another nice town that day was Whitemore, home of the Grato…..pictures to follow.

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The Grato

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A Mosaic at the Grato

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You have to know me to know why I took this picture. (Hint - German engineering)

Slept great!  Had my earplugs in and evidently slept through a crying baby and 12:30 fireworks.  My alarm was set for 4:15 and I awoke at 4:05.  Tore down the tent, rode over to Burger King and got some breakfast, then was on the road by 6:15.  A little cool and humid at the start but the day overall was better than any one day on BRAN ride. 

Unlike BRAN where the towns can be 25 to 50 miles apart, there were food stops every 5-10 miles and I stopped at a lot.  First town I  had a breakfast burrito, second town a Gyro, third town a burger and apple.  That kept me until about10 miles out from our destination, where I  saw a sign for pie and ice cream.  Yum, yum. 

Riders for as faras the eye can see

In case you wonder where many go when they have to go!

A huge home made waterslide someone made for the bikers

All was well until the "Bad Boys" came to town

I slowed down those last 10 miles, about 70 total miles for the day.  Arrived in Storm Lake sometime  around 4:00, set up my tent and took my first solar shower.  Actually not bad.  The charter service has three shower tents.  Then I used one of their tubs and washed my bike shorts and socks.  I learned on Bran you wash every chance you get, because if you wait you may have rainy days and nothing will dry .

Lakeside view near our camping spot

I road several blocks to the United Methodist Church and was the last one let in for a pasta dinner.  All out of salad, but they gave me a discount and a heaping plate of pasta.  I think I drank four glasses of iced tea.

Now back at the campground and listening to a free concert, a wonderful female vocalist. 

Free outdoor concert while I did my blogging

Our camping site is right near the lake, which we could see several times as we rode in on our bikes. 

I should be asleep by 9:00 tonight and the same routine for tomorrow, what is forecast to be a repeat of today, except the route is over 80 miles long.  But as long as it is not raining and no headwind, I don’t care how far.  I’ve done about three 80 miles days so I know I can do it.  Oh, I am bound and determined not to walk the bike up any of the hills and today was a struggle, but I did it while many others did not.  We’ll see how my legs feel tomorrow, though. 

A very interesting bike I saw today

Today I met with about 100 folks in Council Bluffs at Mall of the Bluffs to load up the trucks with our bikes and our bags on the bus.  I chose Lost and Found Adventures Charter service for three reasons, one they were local, two they were referred by an avid cyclist and three I know the owner indirectly.

Bus ride to Sioux City

They did a wonderful job on the bus ride to Sioux City of informing us of important safety issues on the ride and many other tid bits. 

Once we arrived in Sioux City we set up our tents and socialized in the shade (80’s with low humidity), then around 5:00 had a wine, fruit and wine social.  All the first timers to RAGBRAI, including me, lined up for pictures, then the corralled us together to write VIRGIN vertically on our legs (It’s a ride tradition, trust me).  Needless to say, I felt much younger.  😉

GETTING THEIR VIRGIN TATTOOS

 

My tattoo

 

I rode my bike into Sioux City, had dinner and a beer and enjoyed a wonderful conversation with a couple from Iowa City.  Needless to say, there is always something in common with cyclists to talk about. 

Found a very nice souvenir t-shirt and headed back to the camp.  It’s about 8:30 and I plan on being in my sleeping bag around 9:00 so I can get up at 4:00 to tear down my tent, load my gear in the truck, find breakfast and be on the road out of town by 6:00  am.  It always takes longer than I hope but I do think I am much better organized than I was on BRAN.  The new tent alone will make tear down much faster. 

Tomorrow’s weather is a dream, low 80’s and low humidity, low wind.  Perfect, perfect, perfect!!!!

Recumbent riders are sometimes referred to as “Bent Riders”.  As someone who took up bike riding in July of 2009 at the age of 52 I could not resist the Bent Out Of Shape Rider tag line for my blog.  In the beginning I was simply the Out of Shape Rider, but after riding my first 1,000 miles and then signing up for two state wide bike trips this summer, I suspect Bent Out of Shape Rider is now more appropriate.  As When I tell the family I’m going for a short ride, returning home six hours and 45 miles later, yeah, I’m sure there are some that consider me a little bent out of shape.

If you have not read Lance Armstrong’s book, “It’s Not About The Bike”, you should.  For me, it’s also not about the bike, it’s about a state of being.  It’s about getting in touch with your mind and body to achieve great things.  After I started riding in July of 2009, riding five miles down our trail and five miles back was achieving that greatness.  Every month I achieve new milestones in both distance and feet climbed during my rides, and reaching 1000 miles for a month is now easily reachable.  And it does not hurt that all this exercise has me in the best fitness condition of my entire life.  The added bonus to this all, and you really don’t realize it until you achieve the kind of miles a week I do, is this type of conditioning is the fountain of youth.  I feel 25 again and have a stamina for physical activities long lost.  It’s a wonderful feeling.

I created this blog as a place for friends and family to follow my riding adventures, along with a photographic diary.  It should also provide a source of information for those considering recumbent bicycles or trikes.

I hope you enjoy my blog and my musings.  Feel free to post your comments!  And for those you who have provide your support and encouragement, Thank You!  It really means a lot and gives me the willpower to get back on the bike when I am tired and sore on those state wide bike trips.

Click on image to enlarge