Day 1 – Chautauqua to Ellicottville
There were twenty-four of us, 22 riders and a two-man support team that would haul our gear and handle logistics and food. Frank, our 25th member, was healed enough to ride a bike and was driving up from Austin to meet us in Buffalo. Our SAG vehicle was a black Suburban nicknamed “Zip Code” towing a U-Haul trailer. Inside the U-Haul were nearly a dozen plastic bins, each carefully labeled, with food, snacks, kitchen implements, and various luxuries to make life in camp as nice as could be. It was as good, or maybe even better, than a commercial tour operation.
We woke early and started breaking down camp while the second half of our support team, David “Dirt” [Last Name Redacted], took care of getting us coffee and food. Dirt is a fantastic cook, runs his own software company, and did a fantastic job of feeding and caring for us all week long. He also never smiled that I can recall. We enjoyed some Starbucks Via instant coffee (not bad) and yogurt with granola. With our tents packed and everyone fueled up we were ready to hit the road by 9AM, a full hour and a half before some of us had thought we’d be leaving based on last year’s slow starts.
What is it?
Bicycle Beer Time (BBT) was the name that a group of friends, mostly students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, came up with for what became a weekly ride from Ann Arbor to a neighboring town with a good brewery and pub on Monday nights. They’d ride the 10 miles to the pub, eat, drink and play games, then ride back to Ann Arbor. Eventually, one of them realized that there were a number of breweries around the state and the Extra-Large version of BBT (BBTXL), a multi-day bicycle tour as an excuse to do a lot of beer drinking, was born.
This is the third year of BBTXL (pronounced “Bubba Tixle”) with the first two editions taking place in Michigan. Ben Shultz took on the task of organizing the ride this year and he elected to take it back to his home state of New York. Growing up in Rochester and going to undergrad at Cornell, Ben was familiar with the beauty of Western NY, and with recent changes to NY laws he was also aware of the growing craft-brewing movement that was starting up. A little bit of research showed that a riding tour of breweries was possible in the Finger Lakes region of NY, and that’s just what we did. With the help of Google Maps and Google Earth a route was put together that promised nice scenery, safe passage, and enough stops for beer to keep everyone happily pedaling along.
A major bicycle manufacturer sent me a personal message. Now, if only they’d send me a bike…
Heading out to school past all of this to get into the car for the second day of school. Both kids had the “best day ever” yesterday.
Our new second and first graders headed to their new classrooms. It was all down from here for Zach, his drop off was tearful and he wanted his blanket, but once we left he was fine (I peeked in his class when we came back with his blanket). Dena will be taking the kids to school this year, so our daily photo diary is done.
Day 7 – Anamosa to Clinton (70 Miles)
The last day of RAGBRAI kind of stinks. We’d ridden a lot of miles without a rest day and were only getting 5-6 hours of frequently interrupted sleep. We’ve only had one day of decent weather, preceded by 5 days of draining heat and constant sweat. I wake up for the last day, and I’m tired. My legs feel fine, but I could really use another four hours of sleep. It was pretty cool overnight and my throat is scratchy as I get up, like maybe I’m getting a cold. My bladder woke me up before my alarm, but when I get to the kybos there’s a line and for several minutes it isn’t moving. I go back to camp and take a bottle into my tent to solve that problem. I get dressed, donning my Oscar the Grouch jersey for the last time. Everyone is slow getting started. Tired, but also sad that this adventure is coming to a close. We may not be rearing to ride, but that doesn’t mean we want to go back to the real world.
Day 6 –
Cedar Rapids to Anamosa (44 Miles)
The second to last day was the shortest all week and we were looking forward to having much nicer weather. We’d decided beforehand that today would be “Hawaiian shirt day” so we traded our cycling jerseys for flowered shirts. Eric won the early judging by forgoing the Hawaiian shirt and opting instead for a flowered tankini that he wore over his University of Michigan team kit. Since we were staying with a construction company their day started pretty early, so despite the late night ours did too. Our hosts brought us a very nice breakfast of eggs, bacon and sausage, and other treats, which we all appreciated and enjoyed. We took our time getting ready to roll out and left close to 8, I think. We also picked up another rider, a fellow also named David, who was friends with some of our Michigan contingent.