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(Day 8) we’ll be back…

… to post lots more pictures in the next day or two. Unfortunately right now we still have a lot of driving to do….20170729_1151_Day7_HarpersFerry-DipB


The Nitwit from Switzerland (Pauline) is the one shown taking a picture so you know these are “real hills”!

These last few days have been beautiful and good hard work.20170728_1509_Day6-Geology20170729_1329_Day7-LansingBridge

We’ll be back to ride RAGBRAI too. What a week!


Day 7 Waukon to Lansing

You’re only as old as you feel!20170729_1122_HavingFun-Eric+Anne-HarpersFerryFour big hills to finish out the week, and even in Montana we would consider each of these as worthy of the name.


Google Earth profile. Total distance ~ 45 miles, vertical interval 50 feet.

Our route took us through the Yellow River State Forest, where even though we knew we’d arrive at different times, we carefully planned a Team Photo that we would later photoshop together. 20170729_100055_KenAnneEric@YellowRiverSFSign

Unfortunately we failed to agree on which sign was to serve as the backdrop for the photo. I deserve most of the blame for texting bad info to the trailing members of the group. I was flustered because there was no cell phone service at all in the deep valleys along today’s route, including the first town of Waterville, so I recommended an alternate sign shown with one Nitwit below.20170729_1008_Anne@YellowRiverStateForest

Luckily most members of the team consistently ignored all my texts throughout the week, so even if we didn’t manage an all-group photo in the Forest, we met up successfully in Harpers Ferry (a very fun town where I incidentally finished up my Quest with an excellent slice of rhubarb pie, and also scarfed some great deep-fried catfish) and again at the “First Dip” site just upriver from town.20170729_115209_Dip

The final segment leaving Harpers Ferry was just as beautiful as the previous few days.20170729_1217_Flower-filledValley20170729_1004_HillClimbThe route somehow managed to include two more modest hills, with the last one mostly bathed in very warm direct sunlight, so it was quite a feeling of accomplishment at the top.20170729_1308_BeckyPaulineFloraAnne@TopOfLastHill

20170729_1327_MississippiRiver+LansingBridgeAfter that it was an easy downhill to Lansing with fine views of the Mississippi River and a stop at the just-remodeled Driftless Center.  It was over much too soon (though unpacking and repacking the van with bikes and gear took more than enough time).

RAGBRAI XLV, the best ever–until next time!

Day 6 Cresco to Waukon

20170728_0732_BeckyAnne+RidersStopped-CrescoGet Peaceful. Get Going. (Or Get Both).
ad copy from

On the map, the routes for RAGBRAI Days 6 & 7 seem to meander arbitrarily to create 50-60 mile paths where 20-30 would suffice. But as MTV used to say about itself, “too much is never enough”–these are some great days of RAGBRAI. Northeast Iowa, aka The Driftless Area, is actually Big Sky Country–and I should know since I’m from Montana.

Welcome sign @ Toppling Goliath BreweryDay 5 was an Introduction to Hills, but on Day 6 the grades were the real deal. The hill immediately after Decorah was probably the hardest hill of the entire 2017 ride, because it started up abruptly and continued relentlessly. Also, we’d just left Nordicfest and the Toppling Goliath Brewery where the draft oatmeal stout was a truly fine breakfast beer in my opinion. Sadly I missed out on the Nordic Waffles topped with salmon.

The route south and east out of Decorah passed beautiful rolling hills and picturesque clouds.20170728_1210_Clouds


First homestead (1848) in Winneshiek County.


Pie purchased @ Zion Lutheran in Castalia helped cover costs of replacing the church steeple; learn more from a local TV news story

Anne and I arrived in Castalia in time to get one of the last slices of homemade pie, served by another angel, this time disguised as a local high school girl, once again confirming my belief that Iowa is Heaven.After Castalia was Postville, a diverse and interesting town with challenging recent history.  It was also a town with a great brisket sandwich and as luck would have it we were ravenous by the time we arrived.

There was still a ways to go after Postville but as usual there were interesting sights along the way (the Mondrian-styled recumbent trike was much faster than any road bike on downhills but I caught up on an upgrade; more views here).


I doubt many geologists in my part of the country would guess “Iowa” for some of my Day 6-7 pictures.20170728_150919_Roadcut-SedimentaryRock20170728_150929_Roadcut-SedimentaryRock

The Day ended with another fine dinner (though the Waukon Presbyterians struck us as being just slightly greedy charging an extra $2 for pie on top of the $10 dinner–all our other dinners cost $8 or $9 and most included dessert….  It was OK since the pie was excellent and put me within easy reach of my goal for the week–this was piece #17!).

We also got back to camp in time to hit Joe’s Wet Shack, our favorite purveyor of “showers in a truck”. And what day would be complete without a few covers by Hairball, who it turns out have quite an enthusiastic following!20170728_211749_HairballOnStage-SideView

Hard to remember where you parked your bike after a show like that.

20170728_1912_Haystack+Bike-WaukonSad that there’s only one day left. But as a silver lining, it has more hills than any of our previous 13 combined days of RAGBRAI, so it’ll be memorable.





Day 5 Charles City to Cresco

Is this heaven? Yes.20170727_0745_Day5-BeckyPauline

The first half of the Day 5 especially. We loved New Hampton.20170727_1000_Day5-Arch

But in our overnight town of Cresco there was not even enough bandwidth to send a text. I’m now in Decorah, Friday morning, at the wonderful main library. I’m just going to post a few unedited pictures below and treat this entry as a placeholder and then I’ll finish this post later. Likely not tonight because Waukon is another small (3,800?) town where we probably won’t get on the Internet. (Note: One week later, I added a few pictures at the end. -Eric)

We’really still having a great time. But these last 2 days have real hills. Talk to you as soon as I can.20170727_1037_Day5-Eric+Piglet20170727_1121_Day5-LawlerBallroomStage20170727_1121_Day5-Lawler-Ken

The pictures above were taken in Lawler, including the Starlite Ballroom which is a very nice place in the spirit if not the large extent of Clear Lake’s Surf Ballroom.  We had a really nice time in this town–I wrote our team names on the wall west of the Ballroom.

After Lawler our route headed north and then took a short detour east to the Czech settlement of Protivin, where the residents put on a great effort for a town with a population of 283 according to Wikipedia.

Kolache pastries

Kolaches in Protivin

At the impressive Catholic church outside of town, riders with enough arm strength could ring the steeple bell.  I managed one gong.

The second half of this day seemed very long to us.  The generally-easterly winds have gotten a bit tiresome.  But the countryside is beautiful and the campsite Jim found us in Cresco was somewhat secluded and fairly quiet by RAGBRAI standards.

Once we hung up our wet clothes (not a lot drier than they were at the end of rainy Day 4), we referred to our site as “Hobo Camp”.  It was colorful.

Campsite at Cresco

Campsite at Cresco, end of Day 5



Day 4 Clear Lake to Charles City

Bike riders on wet road

Pauline, Flora and Becky leaving Rockwell

“…these showers and storms will be highly efficient rain producers.”

That was my favorite phrase in the late morning weather forecast discussion for Charles City, produced by the nearest NWS office which happens to be La Crosse WI. We spent a fair amount of time this morning going over the forecast and the radar imagery, and NWS did very well with a complex weather system. Some of us (me and the women in the photo above) rode through a zone of “severe weather watch” but there was never any lightning close to us, and the rain in our area was moderate. We got wet but we were happy.20170726_1146_Day4-PieTruck

The day also included the usual assortment of food and drink, and we spent a pleasant lunch break in Rockford, where the weather and our early (7:05–early for us anyway) start somehow resulted in no lines at all to get our pizza and pie.20170726_1238_Day4-RockfordPies

We had our first “traditional RAGBRAI”* dinner at the Lutheran church near our campsite. (*note: traditional in this case compares to our 2014 introduction to RAGBRAI when we ate dinner at churches every chance we got). $8 or $9 gets a balanced meal like tbis…20170726_1804_Day4-Dinner

…and check out the dessert diversity! Lutherans are doing better since we left Mallard.20170726_1801_Day4-DessertTable

One more item that’s out of sequence and surprisingly not about food: the Fossil Prairie park west of Rockford is beautiful and well worth a visit. The displays inside the visitor center are great, but today I was most impressed with the flowering prairies around the center. Very appealing in the mist and rain.20170726_1156_Day4_PrairieView

The weather forecast for the remaining 3 days of our ride is so favorable that I hate to jinx it by saying anything about it. So goodnight moon, goodnight stars, and goodnight to 10,000 bicyclists sleeping near the banks of the Cedar River tonight. Talk to you again soon.


Day 3 Algona to Clear Lake

Riders passing windmills east of Algona

Anne is the rider closest to the “No Passing Zone” sign

Today was a good day to be a windmill operator in northern Iowa.

It was a short distance day but still tiring with strong crosswinds and headwinds and only a few miles od tailwinds. Also, bandwidth is marginal tonight so this is a short post.

Our group made it to Clear Lake in good shape, with interesting stops end route including the Hobo Museum in Britt and the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. My personal objectives for pie and beer were very well met. Mulberry pie from the Catholic Daughters of Wesley is the best of 9 slices I’ve had so far this ride. (Just slightly ahead of my goal of 1 slice per 25 miles).20170725_0846_Day3-MulberryPie

Anne and I got a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich (good, not great) tonight as well, so we’re checking lots of things off our list.

Tomorrow we may check off “Riding in thunderstorms”–the forecast is pretty brutal but we hope to leave here early (before 7:00 would be good) and stay ahead of a slow moving trough* of low pressure aloft. (*It’s like a cold front but even more likely to produce strong unstable lifting of air). Dewpoints are around 72°F here and in Charles City, our overnight town tomorrow. Very humid. I’m not worried about severe storms during the ride, I’m worried we won’t be able float the Charles City Whitewater Park on inner tubes.

For anyone about to ride, this t-shirt should be a caution:20170725_1005_Day3-tshirt

I still think there’s a good chance I’ll be posting here tomorrow night.  Cheers!

Day 1 Orange City to Spencer

It was a great Day 1, pleasant temperatures in the 80s and about average Iowa humidity. A strong NNW wind gave us an extra workout for about 10 of today’s 63 miles.

Anne riding RAGBRAI Day 1

Anne around Mile 54 past Hartley

With 3 slices of pie today I’m on pace for my goal of 1 slice/25 miles, or a total of 17-18 for the week. Our team also found enough other food and beer to keep us going another day. Tomorrow is the longest of RAGBRAI XLV, about 72 miles plus some optional extensions. Hope to tell you more about it.

Campsite with van at Orange City

12-passenger Ford Transit carried 6 of us with bikes and gear from Colorado. Nice ride so far.

Camping was nice in Orange City but it was a real luxury to have a beautiful house to stay in at Spencer. Wifi facilitated my posting this tonight, though so far we haven’t had the limited bandwidth issues common along our 2014 ride.

The weather forecast is good for tomorrow, but then a chance of rain and thunderstorms by midweek.  At some point in the week we’ll probably have some uncomfortably warm temperatures too, but you know what they say about those kind of days:20170723_202606

Anyone can ride RAGBRAI. Maybe you!

I’ll be back tomorrow.