Sunday, July 26, 2009

Week of Stories - July 26

Stories read this week from over at A Year of Stories, Pirate.

Monday: “Transients in Arcadia” by O. Henry * * *
Tuesday: “To Do” by Deb Olin Unferth * * * *
Wednesday: “A Chaparral Prince” by O. Henry * * * *
Thursday: “The Clarion Call” by O. Henry * * *
Friday: “A Retrieved Reformation” by O. Henry * * * *
Saturday: “The Hiding of Black Bill” by O. Henry * * *
Sunday: “Trucks” by Stephen King * * * *

My favorite story of the week was: “Trucks” by Stephen King

From the review: “This is the kind of story that would have really excited me – creatively and in my imagination – when I was a kid and spent my summers traveling by semi across the country, staying many nights in truck stops, constantly surrounded by vehicles such as these monstrous trucks.

Week of Stories - July 19

Stories read this week from over at A Year of Stories, Pirate.

Monday: “Essential Things” by Jorge Luis Arzola -
Tuesday: “The Twelve Oxen” by Italo Calvino * * *
Wednesday: “Seven Pieces of Severance” by Robert Olen Butler * *
Thursday: “Other People” by Neil Gaiman * * * * *
Friday: “Crack and Crook” by Italo Calvino * *
Saturday: “Shoofly” by Richard Matheson * * * * *
Sunday: “The Man Who Loved Flowers” by Stephen King * * *

My favorite story of the week was: “Shoofly” by Richard Matheson

From the review: “Matheson does a fantastic job of showing how someone can become obsessed by a distraction and take that distraction to an unhealthy extreme. It is both funny and sad because I’ve been in so many similar situations.

RAGBRAI XXXVII - July 19-25, 2009

A Rambling Recollection

That was a tough one.

This was my sixth RAGBRAI, and probably the toughest ride of the batch. The course was full of hills this year. The first five days of the ride were all hills – with only a short stretch of level riding to be found. The last two days leveled out a bit and were easier riding, but there was still distance and a few long climbs. It was just a beast of a ride.

The total distance on the bike this ride was 495.29 miles, with a ride time of 38:53:27 hours at an average speed of 12.8 mph for the week. Maximum speed reached was 44.4 mph.

I left for RAGBRAI weighing 230 lbs (the most I’ve ever weighed on a RAGBRAI?) and came home 8.4 lbs lighter. This loss isn’t always the way it goes on the ride. In the past I’ve actually gained weight due to excessive eating along the route and in the overnight towns. This year I brought snacks to keep from eating junk along the route, and limited my eating to just a large dinner in the overnight towns. This worked very well. Okay, the first two days I was extremely dehydrated and exhausted due to the lack of fluids and calories (and more likely, the fact that I was exercising more than I had in months – my body was simply in shock). As the week progressed, the routine became familiar and my body adapted. It was a good system that produced great results.

My ass was SO sore. I never became comfortable on the bike seat. The pain was almost unbearable. My butt has never hurt as bad as it did this RAGBRAI. Sure, it normally takes a few days of RAGBRAI riding for me to be accustomed to the daily grind of a tiny seat and many miles, but in the past I always did just that, became accustomed to the ride. This year it simply did not happen, and I was miserable.
I think this was due in large part to having never ridden on the bike seat I rode this week. It was a wider seat with a lot of gel cushioning. It was the seat attached to the tandem I rode and it should have been replaced with the seat from the road bike I’ve been riding the past 2+ years. I can only imagine what the ride would have been if I’d just thought to change that seat before starting.

This was the year of the tandem. In a spur of the moment, last minute decision, my uncle Jeff and I decided to do the ride this year on his tandem. I’d suggested this a month earlier, but nothing came of the idea. And then suddenly the option was presented to me. I jumped at the chance; I’d always wanted to try the ride on a tandem after seeing couples flying by during my first few years on the ride. In my mind it was a win-win situation: I hadn’t been regularly (or properly) training for RAGBRAI, and in my mind tandems meant I’d be able to go twice as fast. Even the suggestion of having to pull the Burley – a bike cart – behind the tandem didn’t discourage me. This was going to make the ride a piece of cake. Let’s just say Jeff wasn’t as na├»ve as I apparently was. He knew what he was getting into and still said okay. It’s not that the tandem made the ride harder, but it sure as heck wasn’t the magic solution to my lack of training. The ride on the tandem was probably very comparable to how my ride would have been solo on my road bike. The most difficult part riding the tandem was giving up my riding style. As the rider in the second seat I had no control over the gears, breaks, or steering. All decisions, from coasting to speed to road position, are essentially given to the first rider. That’s not to say that Jeff wouldn’t have done anything I asked (and I asked to coast A LOT), but in general, he was the conductor and I was just along for the ride, shoveling the coal into the engine to make the train go faster. Another note on riding style: I must ride out of the seat more than Jeff because I was constantly fighting the urge to coast and stand on the pedals and rearrange myself on the seat, while he prefers to sit and hammer down on the pedals mile after mile.

Would I ride a tandem again on RAGBRAI? I don’t know. If I did, I’d sure as hell train on one before putting in close to 500 miles. And I wouldn’t pull 45 lbs of cart and gear behind me.

Jeff and I were thinking – the tandem, slowly moving up hill, was loaded down with close to 450 lbs of man and gear and cart.

I can’t say enough about the wonderful pizza buffets we had for dinner. Two great nights at Pizza Hut and one at Pizza Ranch. My favorite part was the giant plate of cool salad covered in dressing at each buffet. And I always enjoy pizza. Those were perfect meals. The other couple of nights were McDonalds and a Wendys. Each of these evening meals lasted hours. We’d sit in the air conditioning, slowly eating, reading the newspaper, until we’d had enough or the rain was finished outside or the crowds waiting to be seated in our spot looked restless. No church meals for me this year! (I hate the church meals.)

Things bought from vendors while riding: 1 glass of lemonade, 1 small bag of Lay’s potato chips, 2 bottles of Gatorade, 1 banana, 1 strawberry banana smoothie from the Garden of Eden, 1 root beer float from Beekman’s.

Things bought in overnight towns: 1 camp chair from Bass Pro Shop (an AWESOME purchase in Council Bluffs that helped make the camping experience so much better), 2 quart containers of skim milk, 1 camp pillow, 1 Salted Nut Roll candy bar, 1 gallon of water, 4 shower (with towels).

Went to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in Chariton. Arrived for the movie an hour before it started and were allowed to sit in the air-conditioned theater. All told, that was 3.5 hours of air-conditioned goodness in padded seats. And it was cheap! Admission was $3 and treats (popcorn and a large Diet Coke) $4. I wish movies and concessions here were that inexpensive.

Took $126 with me to spend. And that was all the week cost me. Factor in the registration and jersey, snacks purchased for the ride, and this “vacation” cost me about $350. That’s eight days, Saturday to Saturday, at about $44 a day. Cheap.

Steve drove me back down to Indianola and rode with us to Chariton. The first half of the ride he rode mainly with Craig, ahead of Jeff and me. The last half he rode with us. It was fun having him there for the day. It’ll be great when he is fully recovered and able to ride again next year. I know he’s looking forward to next year already.

Thanks to mom and Dan for driving Jeff and I over to Council Bluffs to start the ride. They took us in my Nitro and dropped us at the campgrounds around 1 PM.

Thanks to grandma and grandpa for driving down to Indianola to pick me up and bring me back to spend Tuesday night at home, in my own bed, in the air conditioning. They also picked the three of us up from Burlington on Saturday and brought us home. The ride would be much more difficult without people so willing to help drive us back and forth.

The overnight towns on this year’s ride: Council Bluffs (starting town – camping right off the interstate, near the Bass Pro Shop at exit 1B), Red Oak (Sunday – camping at a house, a connection of Jeff’s), Greenfield (Monday – camping at the high school), Indianola (Tuesday – camping at Simpson College – only Josh came home), Chariton (Wednesday – camping at the softball fields), Ottumwa (Thursday – camping at the park), Mount Pleasant (Friday – camping at the Old Threshers campground), Burlington (ending town – no camping; end of the ride).

The ride to the river this year wasn’t too far – only 5 miles each way. We rode north from the campgrounds to a new pedestrian bridge by the Harrah’s casino on the river. It was a very high bridge over the Missouri River. I tried not to think too hard about that fact as we rode over to Nebraska before turning around and “officially” beginning our ride across the state.

Every town we entered the first half of RAGBRAI had a steep, steep uphill approach. Made me wish we could bypass the towns altogether.

It figures that the baggage truck would have to be at the bottom of the steepest hill of the ride in Red Oak. This wouldn’t have been so bad if he hadn’t already gone up the hill to find the home we were camping at that night. All told, we had to ride up that hill 3 times instead of the one time most everyone else had to conquer it.

You don’t know how spoiled you are to have a support crew until you go a year without them.

This is the first year in 3 years that I rode the entire RAGBRAI. Last year I missed a day of riding to drive the support vehicle. The year before that I missed the 3 middle days to come home and interview for my teaching position. The year before that I missed one day because of heat exhaustion (and yarking up a Pizza Hut supper). This means that I’ve completed 3 full RAGBRAIs and participated in another 3. Plus there’s that RAGBRAI from when I was a small child, pulled in a bike cart with my baby brother that ended halfway through the ride in Pella.

Packed lighter this year, but still took too much stuff with me. One of these years I’m going to be able to bring just the right amount of stuff.

I HATE searching for my bag in the mess of bags dumped from the baggage truck. Unless I was able to be among the first bags on the truck (one day I actually was the first bag on the truck), it took me forever to find my stupid bag.

Still having trouble feeling my large toes on both feet. They are numb and sort of tingly. They aren’t black, they don’t feel right. I hope it’s just shock and my poor circulation and they come back to normal life soon.

I was able to put my contacts in every morning with no difficulty at all. That’s never been the case before. I remember having to spend quite a bit of time some days forcing those bad boys in. It was just my year for contacts, I guess.

I slept terribly. That wasn’t a surprise for me. I usually sleep poorly on RAGBRAI, out in the wild, on the hard ground, in the heat (and sometimes chill). The last night, in Mount Pleasant, was especially bad. Exhausting.

I’ll keep an eye out for some of the pictures Craig took during the ride and post them on the blog later. That might help refresh my memory about the ride later on. At this point I’m drawing a blank. The days have blurred into an endless stream of riding.

Thank you Jeff and Craig for riding with me this year. Extra special thanks to Jeff for putting up with me and my insistence on coasting while riding the tandem this year. It was fun – and I say that now, with the ride finished.


Week of Loss - July 26

This week I lost 7.4 lbs., and am within 52.6 lbs. of my goal weight.

Continue to monitor my progress and other health and wellness information over at A Year of Loss and Health, Pirate.

Week of Loss - July 18

This week I gained 0 lbs., and am within 60 lbs. of my goal weight.

Continue to monitor my progress and other health and wellness information over at A Year of Loss and Health, Pirate.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A Brief Interruption

I'm off to ride RAGBRAI this week. I'll return to posting (sporadically) next weekend. 442 miles of riding, here I come!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Week of Loss - July 12

This week I gained 5.6 lbs., and am within 63.8 lbs. of my goal weight.

Continue to monitor my progress and other health and wellness information over at A Year of Loss and Health, Pirate.

Week of Stories - July 12

Stories read this week from over at A Year of Stories, Pirate.

Monday: “Utriusque Cosmi” by Robert Charles Wilson * * * * *
Tuesday: “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” by Richard Matheson * * * *
Wednesday: “So Far from Anything” by Benjamin Percy * * * * *
Thursday: “Wind in a City” by Italo Calvino * * *
Friday: “Ma, a Memoir” by Lynn Freed * * *
Saturday: “McHenry’s Gift” by Mike MacLean * * * *
Sunday: “N.” by Stephen King * * * * *

My favorite story of the week was: “N.” by Stephen King

From the review: “The story does include the “Pandora effect” that many horror stories suffer from – that curiosity that always leads to disaster. Here it fits the story – the curiosity created for the characters is overwhelming – and the results, while tragic, make the story enjoyable, and a little scary.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Carpet Cleaner, Carpet Cleaner

Carpet cleaner, carpet cleaner, carpet cleaner. I hate that once an idea gets in my mind I can't let it go.

I went to grab what I thought was an empty can of Diet Pepsi and managed to spill some of it - not a lot, I think - on the floor. Needless to say, I was not pleased.

Now I've convinced myself that if I don't clean the carpet - with carpet cleaners - I'll have ants and centipedes and other crawlies invade my living room. (I don't know where these thoughts come from, but they are the first thoughts I always have.)

So, I guess I'm off to the store to buy some carpet cleaner.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Week of Loss - July 5

This week I gained 1.4 lbs., and am within 58.2 lbs. of my goal weight.

Continue to monitor my progress and other health and wellness information over at A Year of Loss and Health, Pirate.

Week of Stories - July 5

Stories read this week from over at A Year of Stories, Pirate.

Monday: “Ten True Things” by Miranda July * *
Tuesday: “The Moves” by Miranda July *
Wednesday: “Mon Plaisir” by Miranda July * *
Thursday: “Birthmark” by Miranda July * * *
Friday: “A Kidnapping Story” by Deb Olin Unferth * *
Saturday: “How to Tell Stories to Children” by Miranda July * * *
Sunday: “Popsy” by Stephen King * * *

My favorite story of the week was: “Birthmark” by Miranda July

From the review: “What a difference a touch of narrative can have on a story.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


I have a comic book on my shelf that is selling for $400 (or more)!

Holy shit, how rich am I?

What else do I have on my bookshelves?