I need a time machine.
I need to go back, back to January or maybe November. I need to go back and ride my bike all those days that I didn’t ride my bike. The days when it rained. The days when it was cold. The days, so many of them, when I just didn’t feel like it. I need to go back. Because I’m not even halfway through Day 1 of this six day ride and I’m watching the wheel of the person in front of me, the other half of Team Caboose, get away from me. I dig a little deeper and climb back, but the fuel tank is basically empty. I’m gassed, burnt, spent. We’re halfway through the day and I’ve gone five times further than I had on any one ride this year, but I’m not going to be going much further.
I need a time machine.
What I get instead is a ride in the giant Mercedes Benz Sprinter van that serves as our SAG vehicle for the rest of the day. This van will be how I ride back to San Francisco, not on my bike, because I wasn’t ready for BBTXL:NorCal. Not even close. I knew this before I left, but I thought maybe I’d be able to fake my way through it. Turns out that I can’t. Read More
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.
Day 5 – Marshalltown to Cedar Rapids (84 Miles)
After the rain storm we woke up to cooler temperatures and winds that had shifted to the west. We were looking forward to both the longest official day, and also the one with the most elevation gain, despite the fact that there were no big climbs. We packed up wet tents and got our bikes out of the garage where they’d weathered the storm overnight. Not everyone was going to be riding today, so we were going to be a smaller group out on the road.
Day Four – Webster City to Marshalltown (77 miles):
The fourth day on the road would be the hottest and windiest day of the ride, our fourth day with temps near or above 100 degrees. We were expecting a front to come through overnight after the ride and someone on the route said, “If it rains, you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to lay down in it and THANK GOD!” No one in my group would have felt much different. We were tired, and RAGBRAI isn’t as much fun when you’re just trying to get through the day’s ride. When it is just too hot to stop and enjoy the pass-through towns. When you need water more than you want a beer.