I’m back on the Trans-Am after a great week of RAGBRAI fun!
Honestly the whole ride kind of blends together because 1) it’s so much fun all the time and 2) I’ve been on the road for a month and a half, so everything is really running together at this point. So, I guess for the first part of this post I’ll just make run-on sentence of a list of all the great things that happened.
RAGBRAI 2012 was great because: I got to see a bunch of familiar faces from Tennessee, I got to meet new faces from Tennessee, Kansas, and Colorado, I got to become reunited with the Team Fly bus, on the second day I demoed the Giant Avail Advanced 0 (a carbon fiber road bike with Di2 electronic shifting! It was incredibly fast and so fun to ride. A nice break from the steel Surly stallion), I ate a lot of pie, drank a lot of beer, rode most of the miles, sagged for the first time ever on a supported ride because I could, had all of my gear carried for me by the bus, booze n cruised the short day with Casey, held a raccoon, participated in a fantastic rain-dance party, learned how to hula hoop the basics (by that I mean keeping it on my hips and halfway performing a trick), playing with the puppies, watching the puppies play, free beer, riding my bike, chatting with other riders, eating home cooked meals provided by Dustin, stealing bongo drums from a drunk neighbor and then returning them later, watching Glenda’s hooping performances, relaxing and resting from the trans-am.
Yes, as you have just read, RAGBRAI was worth the side trip.
Ben’s Colorado car dropped me back off in Hays KS on Sunday morning, where they picked me up the week prior. I ended up getting a hotel room because I was in no condition to start riding again after driving all night and starting off so late in the day with the heat. This turned out perfectly fine because, coincidentally, my former roommate and friend, Christa, was only two hours behind us on I-70! She stopped by the hotel and we went out for a late lunch and beers at Gella’s Diner and Lb. Brewing Co. We both ordered hamburgers, Christa ordered a super-sized beer (not sure how many ounces, but it was a really tall mug), and I ordered a flight of 8 beers (basically samples of 8 different beers, I didn’t drink 8 whole beers!). After lunch Christa needed to hit the road again, so we said our goodbyes. It was really awesome to go from hanging out with team fly and immediately after, get to hang out with a knoxville fairy.
Yesterday I woke up at 3:15 am so that I could be on the road by 4:30. The weather report was calling for tailwinds and I wanted to take advantage of every second. It was pretty amazing, I traveled 64 miles by 9am. I took a little nap half way through because I was kind of falling asleep on the bike. That’s never happened before. It was so hard to stay awake. I was probably jerking the bike all over the road every time I nodded off. I guess that’s a little dangerous…. Anyway, Ness City was the halfway point and I met two ladies, Rachel (the cyclist) and Shauna (the support vehicle driver). They were super friendly, encouraged me to try to get to Scott City, and pointed me in the direction of a restaurant in town that served breakfast. Here’s a link to their blog if you are interested! One adventure after another
After Ness City I pedaled forward to Dighton. Dighton was my original end town, but having heard that there wasn’t much there I decided to go with Shauna and Rachel’s suggestion and continue on to Scott City. When I was in Dighton I was at mile 97… And Scott City was another 24 after that. I took another rest before continuing riding. My body felt pretty good and strong, but I felt really tired in my head and eyes. After my nap I refilled the water bottles, got a cold Starbucks coffee thing from the gas station, and got back on the bike! When I finally got to Scott City I had traveled 123 miles. I have never ridden that far before! A new personal record, that is for sure! I found the bar in town and had a couple of beers, the second one was on the house since they were so impressed with the mileage. Free beer is great. Then I found “the athletic club”. I heard about it from a few cyclists and decided to check it out. Well, it was weird. I would recommend it, but with reservations. There were rules for EVERYTHING. Signs on every wall describing the rules for that part of the room. No running, no food, no drinks, no spitting on the walls, no black soled shoes, no, no, no, no, no! Obviously, it’s all applicable to the facility. Obviously. Of course you wouldn’t spit on the walls! Why the need for all the signage? I suppose there are kids there for the pool and the gymnastics stuff, but I think the owner is kind of a control freak. I finally got kind of comfortable, but didn’t sleep too well because the building was kind of strange. Anyway, it wasn’t really worth the $12. It should have been free out of the kindness of their hearts, especially since there was a severe lack of AC. That’s the whole reason why I went there.
I got up this morning and ended up taking a lot of photos at dawn. Somehow the Kansas scenery changed over night. It went from monoculture farmland to practically desert. I think that one of my favorite things about bicycle touring is noticing the changes in the terrain, plant species, animal species. Usually it’s pretty subtle; new plants start showing up while the familiar ones fade with the road behind me. But today, it was really sudden and noticeable. I gained over 2000 ft of elevation since yesterday, so that probably has something to do with it. There are a lot of scrubby looking plants that are reminiscent of coastal regions. I saw a HUGE jack rabbit looking thing run across the road early this morning and a few miles later I came upon a couple of falcons(?) or maybe hawks that we’re calling to one another. They certainly didn’t like me stopping to take photos and video; it was apparent with the extra screeching and low swoops. I continued on, following the old railroad. It’s a shame that they don’t use it anymore, it would eliminate a lot of the semi trucks that pass me so carelessly everyday. There’s a lot of cattle out here, too. Not the happy cows with hectares of field to roam in, but sad cows crammed together in a pin, living in each others shit. It smells awful and when you’re on a bike it takes miles to escape the odor.
I met another eastbound cyclist today, Adam. We hung out at large-ish gas station truck stop in the last town before nothing. There was one of those “oversized load” trailers parked outside. It was hauling a rocket ship (well, they said it was a booster, photos to come)! It was huge!!!! We marveled at it for a while and exchanged tour stories. It’s great meeting the people coming from the east. We get to trade tips and figure out where the good places to sleep are located. It’s also really fun because you hear about the other cyclists that are either a few days ahead or behind you. You almost get to know the individual without ever meeting them. It’s even better if you happen to meet in real life!
After Adam and I parted ways, I eventually passed all the cattle farms, the dried up corn and soybean fields start to dissipate, and the land becomes completely desolate. Each town is at least 25 miles from anything. The only structures between the tiny towns are the grain elevators; “the sky-scrapers of Kansas,” as the postcards say. At this point, all you can see for miles in every direction is dried up wheat stubble. Every now and then a tree or grain elevator will dot the horizon. It’s amazing and for some reason, for me, it’s also mesmerizing. I can’t really grasp what I’m looking at and the fact that it persists for hundreds of miles in every direction. Yet, I can’t say that I enjoy looking at it all the time; it can make me feel slightly claustrophobic – even though it’s quite the opposite. Maybe I feel that way sometimes because there is nothing to shelter you from the vastness. There really is no escaping the elements on the high plains…. hmmm lost in thought
Also, we’re making progress on raising beer funds! If you don’t know what I’m talking about check out the “buy me a beer” page. However, we’re still pretty far behind. I’ve ridden over 2000 miles. The goal is a dollar per mile, so in theory we should have $2000 in donations. I’m serious when I say that there is a doner willing to match half of the funds if we raise $4000 for a cycling cause. Speaking of the cycling cause, I’m still trying to figure out which organization the money will go to in the end. If you have any suggestions, please leave a comment with the organization’s name and I’ll check it out! Maybe I’ll construct a poll if there are some good candidates. I need to update the beer page soon, I’m just too tired to do it now and this is kind of a hefty post as is.
Alright, I need to wrap it up. I’m hungry and want to go to sleep soon. Highlight of the day: I crossed into Colorado! Wahoo! It still looks like western Kansas and will for another few hundred miles. I can’t wait for that moment when the Rocky Mountains start to “peak” out above the horizon!
Pedal onward! Even if it is just around your town, at least you’re pedaling 🙂
PS – I’ll hopefully have some more photos up on the blog and Flickr soon.