Saturday, July 28, 2012

Let's Get This Over With

CLINTON, IOWA

Although I had planned which cycling clothes I would wear throughout the week and I still had clean kits to wear, the RAGBRAI XL and Bike Virginia jerseys were still available, I decided to wear my Cyclists Combating Cancer kit again. I had washed it in the shower on Monday although it's never laundry fresh until it is washed for real.

But I wanted to display my support for Jacob Grecco and took a permanent marker and wrote PRAY FOR JAKE on my jersey. Jake had gone to Germany for two weeks of treatment and responded very well in the first 10 days or so. But just a couple of days before scheduled to return, he had become very ill.

With a feeling of "let's get this over with" and wondering how my legs would respond to a 72 mile ride after 500 in five days, I rolled out of Anamosa early. The intense heat had broken from the storm Wednesday in Marshalltown and it may have been in the 50s when we rolled out so early. It was very delightful.

Early on I passed an older woman with a "license plate" on her bike that said Prayer Requests Taken. I rode by and said "Jake the Hero." She may not have heard me as I kept going. When I stopped at a farm stand for some juice and a muffin, I saw her go rolling by in the crowd. This time I would do it right.

I caught her and told her "Jake the Hero." I told her Jake was in Germany and we were trying to get him home. She said she would pray for him but wasn't sure of his name. "Jake the Hero" is enough, I said. "God knows who he is."

I passed a girl with two flags in her helmet - a Swiss flag and a U.S flag. I asked her if she was from Switzerland and she said she was. Near Zurich. Her sister had been an exchange student and came back to visit her host family so she came with her and rode RAGBRAI.

Coming into Delmar I stopped at a corner Lemonade Stand -- just 25 cents a cup. Two cute kids ran the stand and I was tired of water and Gatorade. I gave them a dollar for a cup and they started to make change. I laughed. "Everything's a dollar (or more) on RAGBRAI," I said. I got a second cup then gave them another dollar and they filled my water bottle with Lemonade. And gave out free Rice Krispie treats.

And a free Rice Krispie treat too - Delmar, Ia.
RAGBRAI means a lot to the communities. Countless people had water hoses turned on. Some were sprinklers where one could ride through; others were looking to spray those who wanted sprayed. When I took the time to stop it was fun meeting people although I would not try to meet people in every town.

Train Depot - Delmar, Ia.

I passed a roller blader -- "The whole way?," I asked.  He said yes. Impressive.

Lunch in Charlotte
At ten miles to go the signs marked each mile. A couple of miles from the Mississippi River in Clinton, Iowa, people lined the streets and sat in their yards. Most were clapping. Almost all had congratulatory signs.



It meant a lot to the people to congratulate the riders. These are good folks these Iowans.

River City Band playing on the route in Clinton, Ia.

I went to the end and although I said I would not dip my tire in the Mississippi, I followed the crowds and did so. I was only reserving dipping for the occasion when I ride across the U.S. and use the oceans as my dipping points. But it was fun.

Yes, this is the Mississippi River
I then made my way to the Brancel Charters end point which was the long term parking area. I found my luggage then pitched my tent to let it air since it had dew on it in the morning. Noticing my mileage, I then went for a 10-mile ride to make it 700 for the week. A good week.
Clinton, Iowa






RAGBRAI THOUGHTS

Aero bars are for solo riding, not with 20,000 people around you. Leave the aero bars at home. Plus I passed every aero rider I saw.

I really don't want to listen to your crappy music from the boom box you're towing 500 miles. You'd ride better without the weight. And that's why God invented ear buds. Plus I passed every boom box rider I heard.

I loved the Spirit of Iowa and greatly appreciated the Iowans who turned their hoses on us.

Some people handed free water on the fly but riders who took the water, drank it, then threw the bottle alongside the rode instead of putting in in their pockets to throw away later are jerks.

I tend to try new events rather than repeat so I doubt that I will be a multi-time RAGBRAI rider unless I am involved in a cancer fighting role.

Out of 10,000 or 20,000 riders I only encountered one cycling jerk. He was wearing a US Air Force Cycling Team kit and was screaming for people to move out of the way of his pace line. But he wasn't representative of the Air Force. Just a jerk.

Everyone should try RAGBRAI once.

I really enjoyed being with Brancel Charters and would recommend Bob, Debbie, and Nicole to anyone. We had our own port-a-johns in camp and were always one block or less from showers. It is priced at the low end of charters so drinks were not on the house. But that's OK. They kept coolers of Gatorade/PowerAid, Water, soft drinks, and beer fully stocked and you paid for what you used.

I asked Nicole to stock Coke Zero -- and she did!

They also provided a mid-week laundry service which I did not use. But awesome!

They also set up tents and a chair for relaxing. And had a great electronic toy recharging station.

As for the riding -- I found it a bit too crowded. Every day an ambulance went by with its sirens blaring.

I learned I'm not fan of camping, especially when it's 100 degrees.

RAGBRAI is designed to get you off your bike. I am at peace when I am on the bike.

Although I doubt that I will be signing up anytime soon, I still recommend RAGBRAI as part of every cyclists' bucket list.





EPILOGUE -- The satisfaction of completing the ride across Iowa or riding 700 miles was brought crashing back to earth within minutes after we started driving home. Jake's father, Mike Grecco, posted on Facebook that Jake was not expected to live through the night. I was devastated.

Although the community of family and friends rallied to raise the money to send them to Germany, that was aboard commercial aircraft. To bring Jake home in his deteriorated condition would mean on a private jet.

We began rallying once more and by Tuesday had secured the flight. Jake would be coming home.

Tuesday night at 9:26 p.m. Eastern Time, Jake's father posted a picture of the two of them hugging with the caption -- "One More Time ...... Please .........."

At 3:26 a.m. German time, just hours before Jake and his mother, Stacey, were to board the medical flight home, Jake won. He left his worn out body to cancer so it could die and got his angel wings.

Six hours difference between the two time zones -- these events happened at exactly the same time.

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