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Sunday, August 02, 2015

Sirens Part I



Model: Rose Ballentine


I spent most of the afternoon going through photos from the Sirens workshop a few weeks back. Basically I got though the shots I took of four models (out of 13 or 14).

Model: Tara Dactyl Dawn 


Model: Rose Ballentine


Model: Murron Paeth


Model: Murron Paeth


Model: Murron Paeth


Model: Rose Ballentine


Model: Rose Ballentine


This was an opportunity too good to pass up, though I was technically too busy to go do it. Hence the several week gap between when these photos were taken and their appearance here. Basically the idea was to get as many photographers and models together as possible, and to pair off in half-hour-ish sessions on a donation/trade-for-print basis.

Model: Tara Dactyl Dawn


Model: Tara Dactyl Dawn


Models: Rose Ballentine and Greg Chaffee


Model: Murron Paeth


Model: Rose Ballentine


Models: Rose Ballentine and Greg Chaffee


Model: Murron Paeth


Models: Rose Ballentine and Greg Chaffee


Model: Rose Ballentine


For both shooters and models, this offers a sort of instant portfolio, plus it's great networking. I realized as I went, this is speed dating for models and photographers. Whatever we got in the park that day was all good and well, but we'd also know who we might want to work with again, or for that matter who we'd rather not.

Model: Rose Ballentine


Model: Rose Ballentine


That's important from both sides, as I've heard horror stories of models going on a shoot and describing it as Silence of the Lambs, and photographers who hire models who flake and don't show or who don't show up ready to shoot.

Model: Rose Ballentine


Model: Murron Paeth


There was also a great range of experience levels on both sides of the lens. Outside my family, most of the portrait work I've done is more street photography, and I've wanted to branch out and do more purposeful sorts of things.

Model: Murron Paeth


I shot a lot of pictures that day. As in 2,454 frames. Over a dozen subjects. And unfortunately a lot of what I shot is absolute shit. Let me stress, this is not the models' fault.

Model: Murron Paeth


Model: Tara Dactyl Dawn


Giving direction to a model is a skill set of its own, one I need a lot of work on. Then there was my own excitement and nerves, and so many of the shots I took I want to go back in time and dress myself down: Take a breath, slow down and look through the goddamn viewfinder! Your framing sucks, watch for her facial expression to fix, look at the fucking background! I was shooting with all the composure of a rhinoceros in heat and there's some stuff you just can't fix in Photoshop.

Model: Kathryn Choi


Model: Murron Paeth


Model: Tara Dactyl Dawn


Model: Kathryn Choi


Besides sorting through the pictures, there's the post editing. I didn't do a lot of Photoshop to the model so much as removing trolls and background garbage, trying to fix the shadows on eyes due to the harsh overhead sun (especially on these shots which were near mid-day). I've always focused on available light photography, so when I go to try and use a flash in this sort of situation, I make terrible mistakes. I'm always coveting glass, but what I really probably need more is a decent speedlight and some study on how to use it effectively.

Model: Kathryn Choi


Model: Tara Dactyl Dawn


Model: Kathryn Choi


We have here four models, like I say, of over a dozen. Just going through the photos, I've learned a ton, I could totally do a better job if I had the day to do over, click half as many frames and get twice as many good ones.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Is This Heaven? No, It's Iowa—My First RAGBRAI



Day Zero: Sioux City


When I got my email from RAGBRAI that I was in, official wristband number and all that, I was like a sixteen year old boy who just got a girl to move to the back seat of the car. Not too composed, only vaguely comprehending what might happen once there, so excited I couldn't quite think straight. Well, and it was 12:01 a.m., and I was on my computer when the email came in, so it's a safe bet I'd had a few beers.



At 12:04 a.m., my gmail account tells me, I got confirmation of a hotel room for Sioux City for Friday, July 17 for just under sixty bucks. In my excitement and possible inebriation, I was thinking we started rolling Saturday morning and whatever my camping options, if I could get a cheap room to start out in a bed with air conditioning, that seemed the smart thing to do. I think around 12:08 a.m., I grokked that we weren't going to be rolling out for Storm Lake until Sunday morning, that Saturday was for staging only, but this was one of those Orbitz type things, not refundable not transferrable. So I felt obligated to go up Friday night and sleep in the queen bed I'd paid for.





Which was a good thing as far as getting up there and getting situated, though it complicated my returning shuttle situation. You ride your bike to Davenport (this year's route anyway), then you gotta get your ass back over to where your car is so you can get home and be at work on Monday. Pork Belly Ventures, the charter I used, didn't offer transit back to Sioux City. They had Des Moines and Omaha options, or you could leave your car in Davenport and they'd shuttle you to the start town.



Day One: Sioux City to Storm Lake
The pros and cons of using Pork Belly Ventures: the pros are you got nothing to worry about all week but ride your bike. The cons are it's kinda pricey. Actually, it only seems pricey until you start to price showers, campsites, electrical outlets, luggage carting, food, beer and so on a la carte the week of RAGBRAI. If I'd bought what I used of Pork Belly on the spot market, I'd probably have spent twice as much and not been guaranteed a plug-in for my CPAP machine every night.



The other con I've heard is that when you're with Pork Belly you don't 'experience the real RAGBRAI.' I guess by experience, they mean scrambling around in an insane game of musical chairs to find a place to camp, something to eat, etc. Once I was in Pork Belly camp each evening, I had no reason to leave, there was Mirror Pond Pale Ale on tap, a solid dinner, generators, 'hot' (read: highly variable temperature) showers, even a trailer with flushing toilets.





The electricity for my CPAP was the real reason I went with PBV. I enjoyed the rest of the services, I definitely used them, but my big worry was whether I'd be able to get good sleep each night so I could take on the next seventy-ish miles. When I talked to Tammy on the phone, she said, sure, no big deal, we get dozens of CPAP users. But when I got to Sioux City and found them, everyone I talked to seemed to have never heard of such a thing.





So Saturday night I ended up camping in a strange spot by the river bank with my extension chord going into the charging station. This was the best idea of a Pork staffer. About ten o'clock, I woke up because I couldn't breathe, climbed out of the tent and found a kid plugging my extension chord back in through a side door on the charging wagon. He'd had to close the back door, didn't know where my chord went but just moved it.





The second night, I plugged in through the side door, woke up again around ten because I couldn't fucking breathe, to find someone running my extension chord through a hole in the floor of the charging trailer because he had to close the side door, too. So then I knew where to run my chord where I wouldn't get woken up by a bit of suffocation. I wondered where these dozens of other CPAP users were, I seemed to be the only one, statistically unlikely in a charter group of 1500-ish.





The Mirror Pond on tap was a pleasant surprise, I didn't realize there'd be an all-you-care-to-drink buffet of excellent beer every night when I signed up with PBV. But I wasn't complaining. Except for Sunday when I got cramps climbing into my tent because I'd drunk too much Mirror Pond and not enough Squincher. This is a situation I'm familiar with, I can drink a lot of beer or ride my bike 70+ miles, but generally doing both in the same day is a mistake.





I was amazed at the variety of bicycles on the ride. Lots of 'road bikes' of course, which is what a lot of cyclists call racing bikes. A Trek Madone carbon fiber bike is a 'road' bike the way a Ferrari Testarosa is a 'street' car. My Surly Long Haul Trucker is a road bike, and it doesn't much care if that road is pavement, gravel, minimum maintenance, etc.





There were plenty of Long Haul Truckers on RAGBRAI of course, but also everything from WalMart Huffy stuff to the aforementioned carbon race bikes to suspension mountain bikes to fat bikes to foldables, tandems, tandem fatbikes, tandem foldables, a Tall Haul Trucker (a tall bike made of a couple of Surly LHTs), ancient Schwinn beach cruisers, BMX, unicycles, even stuff that wasn't a bike at all: there was a roller blader and a few skateboarders out there.





Day One-Point-Five: Team Bad Boy


Like I say, there was a great diversity of cyclists on this trip, but Team Bad Boy passed me on Sunday and I couldn't believe it.



I tried but mostly failed to gain on them enough to get better shots.



Here's the thing: I got a lot of comments the whole week about all I was hauling on my bike, and all I was hauling on my bike was one pannier with some food, analgesics, spare tubes, and my phone it it. And a Camelbak full of Squincher, an underseat bag with a few tools, the triangle bag with keys and lip balm, a lock, my sunglasses, barely anything at all. These Team Bad Boy guys, they were hauling shit like a smoker built from an oil drum, a plywood bar with full liquor bottles on top.



I know I'm slow, but I thought I'd be able to catch up to someone hauling a goddamn oil drum, but apparently not. These were some very fit party animals who really love to show off.

Day Two: Storm Lake to Fort Dodge




A couple of times I ended up camping next to Alicia Rau, designated trumpet chick. I never noticed her playing Taps to end the day but I might have been in line for some Mirror Pond or a shower when it happened. She did wake us each day with Reveille, or would have woke me if I wasn't already awake. I made it a project to be in bed early each night so I could get up, pack up and be on the bike by 6:00 a.m. I missed by a few minutes a couple of days, but mostly I was good about being on the bike by six. And on Monday when it was raining when we got up, Reveille was followed by 'it ain't gonna rain no more.'



So I got to talking to someone as I rode in the Monday morning rain and we got to the first town and I wanted breakfast and I had shifted down through the cassette and then realized I was big-to-big, my 46 tooth outside chainring and my 34 tooth granny gear on the cassette. This is a mistake, a gear combination you should just avoid because of the stress cross-chaining causes but there's another, even more compelling reason. When I realized I was that way, I went to shift out of the big chain ring and all of a sudden my rearl derailleur twisted like a corkscrew and went to the top side of the cassette and through the spokes. If I'd been moving, I'm pretty sure this would have destroyed my back wheel in addition to my derailleur.



I thought my vacation was over. Not quite, it turns out. I think the derailleur I destroyed was a little over $100, and I only had $90 on me (to get through Thursday as far as breakfast and lunch went). They had a $30 derailleur and charged me $20 shop labor to install it. So... Iowa on five bucks a day? Sure, it's RAGBRAI, right?





I started scoping out the free stuff with a vengeance. I explained the scene to Corinna like this: RAGBRAI is what you'd get if you made a smoothie out of Critical Mass, Bike MS and the State Fair. Which means there's not a lot of free or even cheap eats available, but there is some. Like a corn farmer giving out ears of sweet corn dipped in melted butter because he was so darn proud of his corn. Most of which is actually field corn, sweet corn is a total afterthought for Iowa farmers.



Mr. Pork Chop, on the other hand, wasn't an option at $8 per chop. They're big chops, but I was stretching my money. I should have had deeper reserves, but one thing and another, life had gotten expensive, including having to replace my crank the week before RAGBBRAI. But damned if I was going to let poverty ruin my vacation.





It was a embarrassing situation to be in, but when I saw my friend Roger, I went ahead and shared. I've known Roger since the plains were black with buffalo. He drew the Midwest Rock Lobster logo on the masthead of this blog that's tattooed on my left deltoid. He's seen about the worst I'm capable of and he'll still talk to me.





He helped me out with part of what my derailleur cost me, and then when I ran into another of my long time friends, I don't know if he'd prepped her or if she just sensed it, but she floated me the rest of what I was down without me even asking. It's touching to have friends that will save your vacation that way, especially when it means a Mr. Pork Chop when you thought you were going to get by on a peanut butter tortilla.





The vendors that follow RAGBRAI are kind of a fair circuit of their own actually. There's the Amish folks with their fried pies and cream-cheese-bacon-stuffed-pickles, there's Beekman's ice cream with it's one-cylinder century-old engines cranking the freezers, there's Mr. Pork Chop, etc.





And that's not to mention the kids with lemonade stands. I think the time I tried this trick the only customers we had were our parents and the trash truck guys. After expenses, I think we made negative 35¢. Kids set up a lemonade stand on RAGBRAI and 10,000 thirsty cyclists go by, even if just a few people break ranks with the Grinches it's the best lemonade stand ever.





I had a second mechanical on Day Two actually, though only a half-assed one. I think when I bound up my chain and hauled my rear derailleur over the top and into the spokes, I torqued my front derailleur out a bit. The bike shop guy who fixed the one thing probably should have checked this out but he didn't and I was so relieved to have a rideable bike instead of hitching back to Sioux City 75 miles into a 500 mile trip, well...



The Air Force had a cycling team out for RAGBRAI and I'd been seeing their uniform kits all day. Three of them passed me and asked if I needed help. I wanted to say no, but really, I knew I was out of my depth. Not only did one of them know how to fix the problem, the other two held my bike as if they were born to be shop stands. When it was fixed, they just said, 'Air Force, we live to serve,' and they were gone.



I was like, you already served. You signed up to shave your heads and live by some silly rules in a dorm full of other guys who signed up to shave their heads and follow silly rules. I should be fixing your bike, you've done enough. Someone told me that not only that, but they weren't allowed to drink beer the whole week. Which, given the way the suds flow on RAGBRAI, is even harder than being volunteer roadside bike mechanics. But those Air Force guys, they had great attitudes.





When I finally got to camp in Fort Dodge, I had almost eight miles more than the official map showed for the day. I think it must have gone city limit to city limit or something. This girl who performed in Pork camp in Fort Dodge, I should have written down her name because she was really good. Someone made a comment that she didn't do any covers, and I was like, well, so far everything she's done pretty much has been covers, but she does them her own way. To have a signature style at seventeen, I expect I'll be hearing her again.

Day Three: Fort Doge to Eldora






Waiting in line for a shower on the third day, I found out why I seemed to be the only CPAP user in camp. Last time I'd priced battery packs for my machine, $600 got you a battery that barely lasted 8 hours and took all day to charge. There were dozens of CPAP users in Pork camp every night, they plugged in their battery packs on the charging station each morning and collected them before going to bed. For half what those old batteries cost, they told me, you can get a fast charging battery that lasts two nights.





Of course batteries have gotten better for CPAP machines in the past ten or twelve years since I priced them. Batteries for everything have gotten way cheaper and way more kickass. It's obvious, in hindsight. Such batteries also have the potential to completely open up my bike touring options. Having to camp where there's a 110v outlet in extension chord range often means routing illogically and camping next to motor homes. Being able to just throw the tent up wherever it's quiet, I don't even know what that's like. I'm getting me one of these batteries as soon as possible. Also, for when the power goes out: I was about to get a gasoline generator for home because of a recent multi-day power outage, but a two day battery pack that charges in a few hours would have gotten me through that just fine.





One of my daily stops on RAGBRAI was the Iowa Conservancy. I missed them a couple times, once I think I got to talking to someone and spaced that I'd blown past them. The last day I don't think they were out. But they had free bananas (and during that window where I was doing an impersonation of the Greek economy, those were a godsend), and postcards. They accepted donations, which I caught up on later in the week when my finances had recovered, but basically you could fill out a postcard, they'd stamp it and mail it gratis. I sent Corinna a card each day through Friday, sent one to my Mom, but I didn't have addresses for anyone else. My phone got zero internet most of the week, and my contacts only had phone numbers for folks, not street addresses. My Mac contacts have that stuff, but my Samsung phone docks with my Mac about as well as horse trailer docks with the International Space Station. So if you didn't get a postcard from me, it's because I haven't switched to an iPhone yet. Sorry.



Actually the day I spaced the Conservancy I did buy a postcard for Corinna at LaPorte and mailed it. I'm glad I did because I think otherwise I would have had to repeat one of the Iowa Conservancy cards, they might have had six designs but I think it was only five.





There's lots of photo ops on RAGBRAI, as you can tell. The cast of Spamelot, a Tardis, Sammy Soil, but it's also Iowa. Which means Presidential candidates. O'Malley was handing out free water. Well, not personally, but earnest college kids were handing out water for him. Ditto Trump. I rode up to the Trump bus a couple of times that week and demanded to talk to Donald, only to get free water from frat-boy types who I found almost as annoying as I find Donald Trump himself. I was like, damn it, the water is all well and good but I want to touch the toupee, produce the goddamn candidate!





I guess I was doing my part with my Vermin Supreme for 2016 spoke card. I was a Presidential bandwagon of sorts myself, right?



Before my friends bailed out my comically overtaxed wallet, I stumbled on free will offering pork burgers in Buckeye, Iowa. They weren't really pushing the donations so hard as they were trying to give away burgers. They were fanatically proud of the product, pushed two sandwiches at me and told me to come back by if I wanted a third for the road. That's the flip side of the state fair gorge and gouge ethic, there were signs on one stretch making fun of the way everything is for sale and at a premium price: Rat on a Stick $5/$10 cooked; Cedar Rapids Goat Sodomy Festival, Bring the Family!; Weevil Infested Hard Tack $5. That element is definitely a part of the ride, but then you run into a town of 150 people, throwing a hell of a party for 10,000+ strangers, just wanting to feed you and thank you for spending your vacation in Iowa.

My helmet is off to Buckeye, if I knew 10,000 people were coming and I only had 150 helpers, I'd freak out and go on the lam.





Day Four: Eldora to Cedar Falls




There are some definite institutions among the RAGBRAI vendors like Mr. Pork Chop, but for my money, the Amish get top billing. Fried pies filled with actual fruit, with pastry crusts made with real lard shortening. They're what a Hostess pie ought to be but isn't. That, and they had pickles, fermented dills not vinegar brined, stuffed with a mixture of cream cheese and bacon. A stuffed pickle and a pie, about 15 miles into the day (which was generally when and where you'd find them), that's fuel for the ride.





Another institution was the Medicine Man. He'd typically set up more like 20 miles before the end of the ride with cheap bananas, free pickle juice shots (everyone else was charging for pickle juice) and free drugs. Not weed or anything like that, just naproxen, ibuprofen, antibiotic ointment, that sort of stuff. SPF lip stuff for your inexplicably swollen lower lip, thanks Medicine Man! I didn't know I could get a sunburn there, but I sure as shit did.





I did bring a different Aloha shirt for each day of the ride. Pork Belly had a mid-week laundry service I did utilize (which meant four sets of shorts got you through with a fresh pair every day), but I wanted to fly a different freak flag each day on the shirt front.



The Tall Haul Trucker, by the way, this guy said he'd actually ridden this thing across the country. He was looking to sell it, but I like my collarbone in tact.





Day Five: Cedar Falls to Hiawatha




Day four hadn't hurt as bad as days two and three starting out. Don't get me wrong, I was still saddle sore as hell, using maximum strength Vagisil and Chamois Butt'r (the latter is a good lubricant/preventative, but the 20% narcotic content of the former is the best thing I've found for what's already sore–it's not just for pussies you know).



But day five, well, it didn't hurt so much to start out. There was a base line of fatigue in the thighs but my butt didn't really hurt at all and the muscles warmed up fast.



There was free bacon as we rolled into LaPorte. Or was it Hudson? I can't remember for sure, but it was kickass bacon, nitrite free, thick and crunchy. The guy with the Elvis glasses and bacon shorts was announcing that avoiding bacon didn't make you live longer, it just made life seem longer. This is, I suspect, part of the reason I actually gained four pounds by the end of the week. 513 miles in the saddle but then there was free bacon, irresistible Amish fried pies, dinners catered by the Cattlemen's Association, and so on.





I did feel a bit underdressed for RAGBRAI. I got lots of attention for my spoke cards and stickers, but I always roll with that stuff, ditto the helmet mohawk. People dressed up for RAGBRAI. Meanwhile, the one thing I'd planned to do, I spaced. I had a stuffed Kenny (from South Park) I picked up a thrift store last month, and I planned to tie him to my rack or fender in such a way that he appeared to be being run over the whole week. A great idea but I left him in my car in Sioux City.



I guess my analysis of RAGBRAI as a combination of Critical Mass, Bike MS and State Fair is missing the Mardi Gras element, so there's that in the mix as well. I didn't see any bared breasts, but plenty of costumes and beads.



RAGBRAI issues license plates along with the wristbands for each rider, you write your name on one line and your team or where you're from on the other. By mid-week I had made a game of seeing if I could meet someone from each of the 50 states on the ride. I came close, I think the only states I couldn't account for in the end were Hawaii, Wyoming, Rhode Island, and Maine. In addition to the 46, I also met people who had come in from Indonesia, China, Scotland, South Africa, New Zealand and Canada. Some of those international riders were Americans living abroad, but not all. The guy from Scotland was actually a twofer, telling me in his definitely Scottish accent he was really English, he'd just lived in Scotland the past 25 years. He assured me he didn't sound Scottish to actual Scots, I guess that's like someone from Alabama who moves to Wisconsin in their teens, and by age 40 they sound pretty Wisconsin to the 'Bama ear, but to anyone from Green Bay there's still a drawl.



The 8:45 a.m. Bloody Marys are a bit of a Mardi Gras element, too I guess. You roll into a town and there's an Elks Club or a dive bar promoting Bloody Marys and there's a line for them and you realize that while, yes, you have been on the bike for hours it's not even nine in the morning. Early in the week I avoided these things, but after the free beer wagon I found myself making more and more exceptions.





I think the second or third day was the first time I had a beer before I was done riding. There were signs along the road and huxters shouting free beer, and it was when I was at my most broke and I'd decided that anything that had calories and was free had to be taken advantage of. Right? That was the corn ethanol lobby people using ethanol cleverly to get people to sign a petition for more corn ethanol. I'm skeptical of corn ethanol as a fuel, but a free beer? Sure, alright. They had a mechanical bull, too.





But the fifth day was when I found the ultimate free beer situation and was initiated into true RAGBRAI degeneracy. This time the call for free beer didn't come with a petition to sign but a full pour of really good craft beer. I didn't get the skinny on the spot, I just drank the free beer, but I heard later the store was these people had just buried their Dad who'd been a big RAGBRAI rider, and they decided to try and get us all drunk at ten in the morning as a tribute to him. They were celebrating each time a keg was killed and saying if they ran out they'd just go get more. These weren't small beers either in serving size or alcohol content and even a hard liver such as myself was buzzed after three of them.





At which point I realized I had like 45 miles to go to get to camp. They'd have gleefully poured three more strong beers down my gullet, and part of me wanted to let them do exactly that but a bigger part worried I'd fucked up and would end up on the SAG wagon for my intemperance.



But it burned off faster than I'd have thought possible. In terms of the buzz if not the calories. But a 10:30 a.m. beer buzz made an 8:45 Bloody Mary the next day seem somehow, uh, moderate?



Oh, and the prosthetics you see on RAGBRAI. Or adaptive technology in general, hand-powered trikes, prosthetic legs that hook into stock egg-beater pedals, a hook for a hand that fits a clip on a handlebar. I guess some of this is a spin-off of the godawful wars we've been in since 9/11, but compared to what I remember growing up, when you'd be told to just go sit in a corner and feel sorry for yourself, it seems like progress of a sort.





I suspect the musicians who set up on the street with tip jars cleaned up just like the kids with lemonade stands.



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By this point in the week it all got to be a bit of a blur actually. Or maybe that was those beers by the roadside in the middle of the morning. But a good blur, it's a festival everywhere you go.







Well, and a primary season.





The end of the fifth day was also the second indoor sleeping option Pork Belly had offered. Tuesday's, I was actually in the bag asleep by 7:00 p.m. I'd have to wait until it started to get dark and cool off on the tent nights, which generally meant ten-ish. Thursday I was up slightly later but not by much. We were in a trampoline facility and I couldn't talk the teenagers working it into letting me actually sleep on a trampoline but when I hit the floor I was out in about two seconds.



Day Six: Hiawatha to Coralville Hill Ride




By the time I was rolling on the sixth day I wasn't even bothering with creams for my butt. The nerve endings were so fried I just hopped on the bike and waited while my thighs remembered what to do. I realized I could probably do this indefinitely at this point, just so long as I didn't take a day off.





I got a lot of comments on my 'guitar' shirt, but they're ukeleles. I have guitar shirts, but this wasn't one of them.



I missed the Amish fried pies Friday morning. I don't know if I rode past them or if they weren't out. I made up for it with some Methodist Church Lady blueberry pie in the first town, which was also where I was able to hit an ATM and access my paycheck to ease the finances a bit more.





When I stepped up to the ATM there was already $20 laying there. I couldn't find who had just left, the other people in line said it was a woman but nobody seemed to be able to spot her. Me and another guy hemmed and hawed for a minute about what to do. Neither could return it to its rightful owner, neither wanted bad karma from taking it for themself.



There was a folk singer outside the bank, not a great one, but with a tip jar. So I said, why not she just tips this guy, she doesn't know she's so generous and he'll get a kick out of knowing someone tipped him $20. So that's what we did.



Then it was on to what might have been my favorite town of the whole trip. That's a hard call, there's a lot of awesome towns on RAGBRAI, but Mt. Vernon was the one I really hated to leave. Home to Cornell College (the other Cornell), a lot of cool dive bars, and a hippie vibe straight out of California, I really, really liked Mt. Vernon.





They even had a camel.



This was also where I ran into Grant. Fellow traveler. I got a surprising (to me anyway) amount of attention for my spoke cards the whole week, and after concluding I was the only guy out there with them, I saw them in Grant's front wheel. On a Schwinn beach cruiser towing a stereo on a B.O.B. trailer. Grant's also a Hawaiian shirt guy and one of his spoke cards says 'this ride ends at the bar.' Fellow traveler, like I say.





The forecast when I rolled out that morning was for 'oppressive heat.' It felt like it when I left camp, not that it was already hot but that it was heading that way. I knew from the elevation on the map that meant climbing serious hills in oppressive heat. But instead of the heat we got rain. I heard some whining about this, I saw a rider go down taking a steep curve too fast, but generally I'm like bring it on. I'd much rather climb those murderous hills in rain than heat.



As I got closer to Coralville, there were kids out with lemonade stands and the usual, but there were some who wanted me to hold their chickens. How can I refuse? Pucker up, Gracie!





Cheap Trick was playing a gig in Coralville and my RAGBRAI bracelet would have got me in the door. I like Cheap Trick (unlike Hughey Lewis in Sioux City who posed no temptation at all for me), I don't remember the last time I listened to them but Cheap Trick was a great band. But again, once in Pork camp, why leave? There's that camp pad right there, go the hell to sleep.





They were cheating on the 'Hawaiian Shirt Day' thing in Pork Camp but I was exhausted. The Ramblers were playing in camp and they were good, but I didn't have the attention span for it. I tried to talk to Corinna on the phone as I got in my tent and between the band, the generators, the people standing outside talking over it all I couldn't even hear her, and it was just easier to go to sleep than fight it.



Day Seven: Coralville to Davenport




The last day. I was sad it was about to be over. I really did feel I could keep going across Illinois, Ohio, whatever. Just bring my two bags, buy more Mirror Pond, I'll meet you 75 miles from here, no problem. Indefinitely.





There were couples who got engaged on RAGBRAI. I heard there was someone who had a heart attack, coded out, regained consciousness after the ambulance shocked him back, only to be scolded by his wife, 'I told you you weren't ready for RAGBRAI!' I couldn't credit the story entirely, it was too perfect, but I couldn't totally dismiss it either.





For that matter, I think it was Monday, the rainy morning, when I came to some train tracks and a cop was shouting for people to slow the hell down and be careful. Fair enough, I've slipped on tracks before, they can be treacherous. But he was so specific, 'We've had 700 people fall already, five transported!'



I thought, I know there's 10,000+ out here, there's a motorcycle medic and ambulance shadowing us the whole week, and they had plenty of chances to run hot. But 700 fell? Were you using a tally counter?





I guess Frank Tuesday rules apply to an endeavor such as RAGBRAI: someone will get hurt, someone's bike will get broken, no whining.





My bike got broken. I got sore, if not actually injured, but like I say no days passed without that ambulance was running lights and sirens with some poor soul with a truly ruined vacation. Bike riding has its risks, though, and even if it didn't, invite 10,000 people over for a sleepover and don't be surprised if there's a medical emergency before morning.





I guess the last day thing got to me because that was the day I actually had a Bloody Mary at 8:45 a.m. Because really, when is that ever going to be appropriate? It might not be even on RAGBRAI but at least there's 50 co-conspirators to spread the blame around to. And ice cream, I had Whitey's in Wilton, then five miles down the road I realized I'd heard Beekman's one-cylinder engines all week and had never stood in line for a scoop of the goodness. So that four pounds I gained? Yeah, two ice cream stops after a Bloody Mary might account for such.





The one-cylinder 1913 Ford motors are a pretty good lure from the road, but if you stand in line for 45 minutes they get annoying. The peach flavored ice cream was stupendous however, and all was forgiven.







Mr. Pork Chop wasn't on the route the last day or I'd probably have topped all that ice cream off with a huge hunk of pork. I'd already had one on RAGBRAI but I wondered where he was headed. When I inquired, they said they sold 600 to 900 chops every day on RAGBRAI, so where did they move off to where they'd sell as many ore more than that?





I guess it doesn't matter. I got plenty to eat the whole week thanks to good friends and the fact that America will serve you a 2,000 calorie salad if you just point at the menu and say, 'Salad.'





I did have to wonder about the snowmobile crossing. Really? In July?



Davenport and the Pink Floyd


The diciest part of my trip was the ride back to the car in Sioux City. My friend Dr. Greg promised me they'd never left anyone in Eastern Iowa but naturally I feared I might be the first. Floyd wasn't a free ride back but it was cheaper than several alternatives and it was there.

When I saw the bus in downtown Davenport and waved the driver waved back and I thought that was Dr. Greg but then two blocks later I was face to face with the dude himself, and the dude was trying to figure out where the hell the bus was.



Pink Floyd is a real and proper RAGBRAI bus. With stories going back before the current incarnation (a 1985 Ford) was a new school bus. Floyd is officially a mobile home, a distinction that allows a broad cross-section of amateur to drive it plus I think has some tax implications. So Floyd has a toilet, just don't take a dump. Floyd has a stove, a fridge, a space heater, a generator, just don't plan on using any of those things. They have to be present, it makes it a mobile home, they don't have to be operational, that would make it too expensive.





So Floyd was my inexpensive way back to Sioux City. I might have sucked down a few beers, especially when I realized we weren't getting all the way to Sioux City on Saturday. If I'd had to switch to my own car and drive, I was going to shut that shit off pretty quick. But when all I had to do was drag my ass into a basement and go to sleep, the beers just kind of marched down my throat.



I liked Floyd and its character (and its characters) so much, in fact, I found myself inquiring how one might do another of his own, say if Floyd quit flying and you needed to cook up your own RAGBRAI bus.



But really, I'd rather just roll with Pink Floyd again. They already have an awesome bus and my share of the ride back was $50 less than any charter option I found. Not free, the bus doesn't run on wishes, but the ride came with good friends and a fair price.



I guess for what I spent in total between charters, rides, meals, bike repairs, I could have done a modestly priced cruise. Meaning I'd go eat for days on end on a boat in the Caribbean. Which strikes me as beyond dull.





Basically, RAGBRAI is the best vacation I've ever taken and I can't wait to do it again.