Haven’t posted in a little while, as I’ve been in Iowa for the past week participating in my first-ever RAGBRAI.

This isn’t meant to serve as the full ride/event report, which will take a while for me to organize in my own head.  But initially I’ll just say, wow.  I had an unreal time. RAGBRAI is a festival for the mind, body, soul and senses.  I loved (almost) every minute of it, and it got into my blood from the first moments.

Good news / bad news:  good news is that, work considerations and family / health considerations permitting, I’ll definitely be back at RAGBRAI next year; bad news is that I have to wait 356 days for that 🙂

Had an awesome time and got some relatively decent pictures. My buddy Linda B went with me and I’ll plan to integrate her pictures with mine for what’ll hopefully do a moderately decent job of capturing some of the flavor.

With my recent weekend twofer of RUSA rides, I have a new personal best for two-day cumulative mileage, at roughly 130-131 miles.  This exceeds my previous personal best of roughly 124ish miles, which was set on the Katy Trail ride last October.

With RAGBRAI just around the corner, though, this personal record should certainly be topped at that time, assuming I don’t need to drop out and SAG.

Day two of my two-day Wander to Welda RUSA weekend twofer.  Day one is posted here.

Day Two – Sunday, July 14th

Character building ride for me today, just continuing to strengthen my randonneur spirit.  I candidly was apprehensive about riding again.  This route is still pretty tough for me, and here I was attempting to do it for the *second day in a row*.  I looked within myself for the go/no-go decision but couldn’t escape the randonneur’s Prime Directive:  the rider must absolutely believe that quitting is the worst thing that may occur.  In my mind that goes just as well for a DNS (Did Not Start) for a ride that you’d committed to doing, as a DNF.  This overriding principle is totally unambiguous, leaving one choice – ride, and if the ride stops you, it stops you.  But give it what you got.

A word of preface – those looking for a ride report featuring a blistering finish time should look elsewhere.  In fact, should look no further than my friend Ron A – but more about that later.  For myself, I did ride today and finished within control times, but, weary from two days of big (for me) miles and difficult terrain, I didn’t set any speed records.

Start time was again 5:30.  I’d rehydrated and recovered pretty well yesterday and, while understandably a little tired, I felt like I could go this morning.  Intended wake-up time was 4:00 with the alarm, but rolling over around 2:30, I flipped on the TV, saw that the verdict had come in in the George Zimmerman trial, and watched the coverage for about 70 minutes.  With insufficient time to get back to sleep and catch Z’s, I turned off the alarm and got moving.  At least I’d have a little bit more time freedom this morning versus yesterday.

Normal morning routine – my “juice bar” of green drink, coffee with cocoa, and water.  Ate some breakfast, packed up the belt bag, final bike prep, and jumped into the shower.  By about 5:20 I was on the road to the starting control, the Short Stop gas station.

Same dude was in fact working there as was there yesterday morning, and last week when Ron & I rode.  By now he definitely knew the drill, and asked me if I was riding again today.  Yep.  Picked up another bag of Chex mix & saved the receipt, got the card signed (5:30 AM for both) and was rolling by about 5:35.

Almost identical conditions to yesterday.  About 70 degrees to start, wind for the day almost identical, and lighting almost identical.  Again first couple of miles were pretty dark with my anti-spiderweb shades on; by about 4ish miles in I could see very clearly.

My hydration and calorie approach yesterday served me very well so it was reprised today.  Banana in the belt bag, 3 bottles of water (one with Perpetuem), all of which were drunk from very liberally between stops/refills, and Chex mix in the bag.

As with yesterday, first stretch passed without much to report.  I rolled into and through the town of Princeton en route to Richmond for my first stop.  Along the way, I once again found every single spiderweb – and once again there were LOTS.  At one point I felt what I still think was a bite on my stomach, and spent some seconds making sure nothing was still alive and crawling around there.  At more than one point I saw a live spider crawling around on the bike on webs that I’d captured as I rode through.  It was pretty funky.

I reached Richmond at pretty good pace – very slightly slower than yesterday, I believe.  However, here I hit an odd time warp.  A combination of feeling slightly cavalier about my ability to crank out ride time when I needed, plus needing to take some time here to really wash off my face, arms, bike helmet, etc of spiderwebs, left me rather unexpectedly in a time hole – or at least, with NO time in the bank.  Looking at the clock prior to pushing off, I was shocked at how long I’d been at the trailhead – it seemed much shorter.  I was essentially “on pace”, but not ahead of pace.  This lit a fire under me and I took off for Garnett at decent speed, running over and over various finishing time scenarios in my head.

Once again the first few miles outside Richmond were fast, although today they seemed not AS fast, which only added to my concern.  I don’t want to overtalk this – I wasn’t panicked or anything, but I was aware that I needed to pedal with intention and to get in and out of my future breaks quickly.

The climb up into Garnett was tough, as usual, but I am clearly getting into better shape – despite having ridden yesterday and therefore being doubtless more tired than if I were fresh, I felt strong during the climb and just grinded through it.

Reaching Garnett, I again took a very short break, to recover for a minute or so from the exertion of the ascent, before continuing to Welda and the turnaround.  Still drinking plenty of water (a gallon or more by this point) and taking in appropriate calories, I felt good – just wanted to give the legs and lungs a second to rest before going on.

Just as I was 15 seconds away from getting on the bike, a cyclist flew past from the north, the direction I’d come from.  In the quicker-than-conscious-thought timeframe that impressions arrive in, I thought “man, that looked a lot like Ron.”  The guy saw me, said “good morning” which I returned, and then he called out, “Bill!” and quickly slowed to a stop, doubling back. It WAS Ron!  He’d decided this morning to ride the route.  Talk about setting a pace – he’d left the opening control 40 minutes after I had and reached Garnett about 5 minutes after I did.

I was thrilled to see him again.  I turned off Pandora, now having gained a riding partner, saddled up and we rode off.  Ron had in fact been hammering it and flown up here from Ottawa with no break and in fast time.  He needed to get home to take care of some things, so initially our thinking was that if he needed to leave me behind and I couldn’t keep up, then he should do so; but quickly he decided he’d ride with me to Welda.  He knew I would take a break there, and he would just turn around and continue.  I was happy to be able to talk to ride with & talk to him again, and happy to have someone light a fire under me in terms of pace for this Welda grind.

We both made decent time into Welda.  I’m quite sure I slowed him down a little bit, although I like to hope not all that much – he often dials it back a notch on this stretch, and I was pushing it a little bit to keep up with him.  We talked about the Tour, about my back-to-back Welda days, about some older bikes he recently bought and is building up; but mostly we talked about awards, RUSA awards.  Ron’s been in the game longer than I have and has picked up a lot different rando (RUSA and non-RUSA) awards, and we talked about our mutual motivation to keep pushing ourselves through these rides, driven largely (certainly not entirely) by the interest to pick up these items.  At this point I’ve no rewards yet from RUSA – my control cards are the closest thing, and we talked about scrapbooking and preserving those – but it was inspirational to talk about a subject we both like and to look forward to starting to write my own name in the book of randonneuring accomplishment.

The grind to Welda isn’t easy, and during a couple open stretches we hit a determined headwind; but soon enough we made it there.  As per the plan, Ron and I bid farewell and bonne route; he split off back north while I continued to the trailhead to go through my routine.  It was just shy of 8:30 – about 25 minutes before control close (for me, that is – he had left 40 minutes after I had).  Exchanging texts with him later I learned Ron kept up his possessed pace, turning in the fastest 100-km ride time he’d notched in quite some time. A beast.

Now with some time in the bank, I nonetheless moved very purposefully through the control.  I was still feeling good and wasn’t getting tired yet; but I knew that the cumulative miles of the last two days, the fast-for-me pace I’d set from Garnett to Welda, and the absence of a fellow rider to take my mind off the struggle the remaining 32 miles were going to result in feeling tired eventually.  I restocked water, fuel, etc, and had about 1/3rd of the remainder of the banana (I’d taken a few bites back in Richmond).  I soon got back on the trail and was happy to now have the wind at my back.

The section between Welda and Garnett was, as usual, quite a bit simpler than the same stretch heading the other direction.  The last few miles up into Garnett is a climb, but I worked my way through it.  Once again I took a short stop in Garnett to recover.

From here I started feeling the fatigue set in.  I had about 24 miles to go, and the time situation was such that I was going to finish on time barring a MAJOR mechanical issue; so I allowed myself to take a couple of different unplanned breaks on the way back to Ottawa.  I was feeling more and more weary as the ride wore on and needed to allow myself to rest and recover.  I had my usual rest stop at Richmond, where I rested a good while, talking to a couple who had ridden down from Iola and were en route to Ottawa, and I ate most of the rest of my banana.  Leaving there, the intention was to get into Ottawa (only about 14 miles away) in one stretch but I was pretty tuckered out and let myself take a couple small breaks.  Just a mile or two north of Richmond I received a very painful bee or wasp sting, to the inside of my right pinkie – which was awesome.  I let a couple very choice words fly.

The older version of me would have gotten very down and critical of himself for needing to take a couple breathers in the final stretch; and I’m not saying I am FINE with doing it – but I wasn’t feeling like a failure.  This was a very tough two days I’d attempted, and I had done really well. This was a route that just a few months before had caused me to quit on myself, not once but twice, and here I was successfully doing it twice in a weekend.  I was at the same time setting a new personal record for mileage in a two-day stretch, at about 130 miles.  And most importantly, I was able to sufficiently remove emotion from the equation to zoom out and view it in its proper context:  I’m getting stronger and evolving.  I’m continuing to go to the gym and getting stronger; I’m continuing to eat and drink quite clean and healthy; I’m continuing to lose weight (this morning I weighed in below 184 pounds for the first time since starting to drop weight 4 years ago); I’m continuing to become a better cyclist; I’m on my way and I’m getting there.  The words of the unfailingly upbeat Ron A, from last week and this morning too, were a thread in the tapestry of support.  In older days I might have beat myself up for being less than incredible; today, I realized that I’m in fact doing great and continuing to progress.

After deliberately allowing myself enough break time that I would arrive at the control in time albeit without tons to spare, I finally did roll into Ottawa.  Getting off the gravel part of the trail and onto the paved part was great; turning totally off of THAT and seeing the control dead ahead was even better.  It’s a very funny thing, ending a long timed bike ride like this; you’re working, struggling, working, struggling, thinking of the end; and then VERY suddenly, the ride is over.  You’re turning into the parking lot.

I locked up the bike and went in.  This time a DOUBLE chocolate lowfat milk from Nestle (the small difference in calories and sugar wasn’t a concern), paid, got the receipt and got the card signed. It was 12:02 (although receipt said 11:59) – 16 minutes before the control close.

As I did the last two Wander to Weldas (last week and yesterday), I took the chocolate milk over to Subway, where I frequently eat after a bike ride, ordered and sat down to decompress.  And let me tell you, that chocolate milk recovery / reward drink may have been the most awesome thing I’ve ever tasted.

RAGBRAI coming up next weekend through the following weekend, so it’s pretty likely I am done with RUSA rides for July.  I’ll pick up again in August – as early as feasible – in continued pursuit of the P-12.

Thank you for reading!

So, with no particular obligations or plans for this weekend, the idea struck me to do the Wander to Welda RUSA route – same I did last weekend with Ron A – on both Saturday AND Sunday of this weekend.  There’s a certain symbolic satisfaction in this – I still am sheepish/embarrassed about my 0-2 start to the RUSA career on this very route, so now, I’m making a small statement to return and complete it twice in one weekend. It’s also a good statement/test for me because, of my four RUSA rides prior to this one, only one of them didn’t leave me fairly useless from a cycling perspective on the next day. So to do this tough route two days in a row is, for me, big.

Day One – Saturday, July 13th

So, I once again got the control cards from Ron A, one for each day. A planned 5:30 AM start time each day – super early. For a 100-km ride, that is. Lots of established rando’s start at 3 or 4 AM for a 200-km ride, and sometime soon that’ll be me, but not yet 🙂

Woke up at 4 AM with the alarm and went into my normal morning routine.  First what I humorously refer to as my “morning juice bar” – I make a cup of coffee with a dash of hot cocoa, my normal green drink which contains V-8 and several fruits/veggies, and a bottle of ice cold water.  Sat down and worked through that fairly quickly while eating my normal breakfast cereal.  4:50 it was time to make final bike/equipment prep – fill belt bag with Hammer products plus control card and credit card for c-store purchases, fill water bottles, clean & lube chain, top off tire pressure, double check presence of spare tubes and air canisters in under-seat bag, etc. This time I threw a banana in my belt bag, which has become my normal MO for 55+ mile rides but which I did NOT do on last week’s RUSA ride, and which doubtlessly would have saved me some of my leg-cramping grief at the end.

Showered and dressed and was on the road by about 5:25.

Opening control was again the Short Stop gas station, about a mile from my house.  Arrived there around 5:30, went in to make a purchase and get card signed.  Same clerk was working who was there for my/Ron’s ride last week and remembered me.  I explained I’m a glutton for punishment 🙂  Didn’t mention that I also plan to ride tomorrow.  I wonder if the same dude will be there tomorrow too.

My purchase represented a new experiment for me.  Prior to today my solid-food fuel complement to the Hammer products for very long (50+ mile) rides has been Combo’s, in the belt bag. And while these are really good tasting, and good fuel for the bike, they become progressively less palatable to chew and eat as the miles stretch on.  For those reading who haven’t ridden long miles on a bike, it might not be intuitive but there’s something about the act of chewing and swallowing solid food while you’re churning away for mile after mile that becomes arduous and a real act of will.  It becomes harder to do, which CAN be bad if you need that to get the calories in.  I’ve found Combo’s problematic in this context.  After some few dozen miles, I just don’t want to chew them up thoroughly and swallow them down.  I’ve started considering replacements.  First I was considering Cracker Jacks, which on the whole looked to be decent bike fare, but their sugar content is higher than I’d like to be taking in hour after hour.  The nutritional content of Chex mix looked pretty solid, and their much smaller form factor seemed likely to be CONISDERABLY better than Combo’s later in rides, which turned out to be the case.  A fair amount of sodium, yes – you wouldn’t want to eat a lot of this stuff every day – but for fuel for long rides, and on which you’re going to drink a LOT of water and need sodium to balance, this is what the doctor ordered.

Made the purchase, got the receipt (5:34 AM) and card signed for the same time, and was rolling at 5:40.

Conditions were very similar to last week’s ride.  At 5:40 the sky was getting light but it was still pretty dark. The first mile or two on the trail were fairly dark, as I was wearing my shades to fend off the multiple spiderwebs that I knew to expect.  It was about 70 degrees to start.  Wind for the day was very similar, too – started around 8-9 MPH from the south, gradually building to maybe 12-13.  So a growing, but not substantial, headwind on the ride up and then decent tailwind on the return.  Again, with the tree cover on the PST, neither head nor tailwind is a MAJOR factor unless it’s really blowing.

This time, riding solo, I had Pandora going, my usual MO.  Ride tracking software, check.  Also I’d brought with me a “thank you” gift – a few small gift cards, to McDonalds, Dairy Queen and Subway – for the guy who returned my phone last week, making the title of this blog entry possible.

First several miles were pretty unremarkable, but I mean that in the best way.  It was dark, and I was again proven to be “tete de la course” as I found every single spiderweb along the trail.  At least last week, Ron had cleared maybe 50% of them and I’d cleared 50% – today it was all me.

I was feeling very strong and riding strong.  This past week I’ve been eating and drinking very clean, getting in bike and gym time, and the body is responding.  I’m going to make a post on this point sometime in the next couple days.  I was noticeably stronger/more comfortable on this ride, even, than last week on the same route.

Those who’ve read much of my blog at all know my bogeymen during long (50+ mile) rides is making sure my in-ride calories are sufficient and in-ride hydration is sufficient.  Otherwise, toward the end I tucker out a little and not infrequently border on leg crampiness.  With the intention from the get-go to do two straight days of this route, I knew I needed to be much smarter today.  Drink, drink, and drink more.  Bring the banana as I usually do and eat that.  So, in this first stretch I was drinking LOTS of water.  I had my usual two bottles in the handlebar bag – one with Perpetuem – and a third bottle in the frame.  The design was to drink basically a full 2 bottles of clean water plus a Perpetuem bottle every 16-18 miles for the length of the ride.  Chex mix to balance.  I was gratified very early to realize that my suspicions about the Chex were right on the money – MUCH easier to munch, and I knew that even late in rides this would be very accessible.

Nothing major to report for the first stretch – just drinking lots of water, munching Chex, listening to tunes, and riding through many spiderwebs.  After roughly 4-5 miles the sky had gotten light enough to see perfectly clearly even with the shades on.

I rolled into Richmond, about 15 miles in, and took my first break.  Still feeling good, in fact very good.  When I’m on top of my game in terms of calories and water on the bike, I’m feeling great.  Took a short break here, took about 2-3 bites of the banana, rejiggered water and fuel & took a health break, and back on the road.

First few miles outside Richmond are, again, my favorite section in terms of ease – you just fly along.  I made note this time of a particular mile marker that, on my return, would tell me I was very close to Richmond, because this section heading BACK north is a grunting grind, and I liked having a landmark to look for to tell me when the suffering was almost over 🙂

Soon enough, those few “miracle miles” passed and it was time for the 5-7 mile climb into Garnett.  Still drinking great and munching Chex occasionally, and riding strong.  In Garnett I took a very short break, just to rest up briefly from that ascent, and set the stage for the 7-8 mile grind to Welda.  I got back on the road (trail) after just a couple minutes and it was on to Welda and the turnaround.  The guy who’d returned my phone to me lived just south of the trailhead but I wanted to make sure to make Welda and back in good time, ensuring a successful ride, before peeling off to his place.  Plus at this stage it was not even 8 AM!  Didn’t know their morning routine and didn’t want to wake anyone.

The 7-8 mile “Bermuda Triangle” climb up to Welda (well, after an initial down-sloping-grade out of Garnett) is always a toughy and it was today too.  Fortunately I know exactly what I’m getting into and it’s just head down, find a gear and grind through it till you get there.  It was a few miles north of Welda that I saw a LARGE snake of some kind – a good 2, maybe 3 feet – partially in the trail sunning himself.  I stopped just past him and walked back a bit to get a picture, but this alarmed him and he crawled off into the grass and out of sight.  From the “flora and fauna” perspective, earlier on the ride (in fact, same Welda stretch) I’d seen a turtle right in the center of the trail; and half an hour earlier had been QUITE startled by a deer who bounded out into the trail ahead of me – I missed the first part of his leap as I was looking down at my bike, so to look up and see this huge, graceful animal in mid-air landing on the trail was startling.

I made it to Welda in good time.  Passed the information control at 8:32 AM – 22 minutes prior to control close – and proceeded the short distance to the trailhead for another rest and reset.  I made efficient use of time here, getting in and out in about 10 minutes after eating roughly half of the remainder of the banana, a little Chex, and rejiggering water.  Still feeling good, although I was feeling the effort of the ascent from Richmond.  Back on the trail for the finish.  It was good to have the wind at my back on the return, although that inevitably means it’s hotter, because you don’t have a breeze cooling you off.  I had a really good sweat going.  By this point I’d drank well over a gallon of water.

The Welda-to-Garnett stretch is a whole lot easier (typically) than the reverse.  That was the case today, particularly with the usual prevailing wind from the south.  I made very fast time back into Garnett.  I peeled off the trail to deliver the gift.  The guy was VERY surprised and almost speechless for a few seconds, as he clearly didn’t expect to see me again or for this to happen.  I’d taped up the cards with a note in an envelope, which I handed to him, so he didn’t know what exactly it was till I’d ridden away – all the same, he was very appreciative and we talked for a few minutes.  He mentioned that they also had a nicer smartphone as I do and that if they lost it they’d be lost themselves; and that he’d previously lost a phone and it never was returned or seen again, so he knew how I felt last week. His wife was there this time (she answered the door) and we all talked for a minute or two.  Really nice people.  I shook their hands again, he assured me I could stop in whenever, and I got back on the road to knock out the final 25 miles.

I’d been planning to take a short stop there at the Garnett trailhead, but leaving his house I felt strong and just kept going for Richmond.  Still drinking lots of water on the way, I benefitted from the nice 5-7ish mile downhill from Garnett with fast time.  Eventually the short but somewhat grunting climb into Richmond had to arrive, and it did. Once again, just put your head down, find a gear and work through it.  This was going to be the last challenging part of the route, I knew, and upon arrival in Richmond, it would proverbially (and almost literally) be all downhill.

I made respectable enough speed during that ascent, and soon reached Richmond.  There was a Specialized Sirrus parked there on my arrival, and soon I heard water running in the restroom, telling me its owner was in there freshening up.  I was going through my break-stop procedures when he emerged.  As is customary on trails – a routine I enjoy and appreciate – it was incumbent upon each of us to ask where the other had come from, how far they were going, etc.  This was an older gentleman, very nice and engaging, who it turned out had grown up in Ottawa, moved away decades ago, and was back now in town to ride the trail with friends – who, due to their different pacing, were well behind him to the north, so he was waiting for them.  He regaled me with many stories of his childhood, providing a glimpse into the idyllic small-town past of Ottawa, which is still quite like that.  Nice little hometown, and it was very cool getting this glimpse into its past.  By a funny coincidence, this guy grew up just a few houses down from where good friends of mine, Mr. & Mrs. O, currently live!  Truly a small world.

We ended up talking for a good while, and I truly hated not being able to talk longer.  I’d explained early in the conversation the nature of this timed bike ride I was on and that I needed to get going.  Had I been on a JRA (just riding around) ride, I would have stayed and talked till his friends got there and possibly beyond that, as they took a rest stop there too.  But, I needed to get going. Just before I pushed back, he mentioned that after this trail, they were all going over to ride the Katy Trail!  This is a passion of mine, so I SO much wanted to stay and share my experiences (confirmed with him that he’d never been on it).  I assured him it was a beautiful ride and that he’d love it.  With that, I got going.

I frequently get a little weary late in my RUSA rides, but today was for the most part an exception.  My superior hydration strategy and the banana were helping.  This last stretch I was a LITTLE weary because, after all, it’s a long ride, and I did reduce my drinking a little here (when it was hottest) which I shouldn’t have.  Plus shortly after leaving Richmond I felt like some meteor had rained down and created a crater in my stomach.  I was ready for lunch.  So the first couple miles was a little work, especially after cooling down for a while talking at the trailhead.  By this time in the day it was pretty darn warm, and with the lack of headwind, I was really dripping sweat.  But it’s a special reward of bicycle exertion!

I did take a short break in Princeton, just because I could.  It was clear that, timewise, I was not going to turn in an amazing time due to the conversation in Richmond, but nor was I in any realistic danger of missing the cutoff.  The possibility of a flat entered my mind, but even that wasn’t likely to present a major issue. So I stopped in Princeton, finished off the banana (I’d had a few bites of it back at Richmond also), got my water bottles set for the final stretch, and got going.

The last 8ish miles home were fairly uneventful. Again I was drinking a LITTLE less than I should have, but it didn’t have any big impact.  I could tell I was weary, and was ready for the ride to be over. I was very mindful that I was planning to do this all again 17 hours from now, and wanted to get home in good form, rest and recover.

I made it to the closing control at 11:45 – 33 minutes prior to control cutoff.  So I’d gained about 5 minutes over the RUSA pace from the Welda turnaround, despite the lengthy talk at Richmond.  I was quite content with this.  I bought the time-honored post-ride recovery / reward drink – chocolate milk, and MAN was I looking forward to drinking that – got my receipt, card signed, and it was on to Subway for lunch and to savor the chocolate milk.

Another good RUSA ride in the books, much better form (with the extra hydration, the banana, the Chex) than I have typically done, and as I write this on Saturday evening I’m feeling good.  Ready to get a good night’s sleep and do it all again tomorrow!

This ride was significant in one other way:  if I now, hypothetically, do only one RUSA ride per month for August through December, to continue after the P-12, then I’ll end up with 1000 RUSA km’s for the year and qualify for the 1000-km medal, i.e. I’ve now completed my two so-called “bonus rides” that I alluded to much earlier in this blog.  Of course, it’s my intention to ride a lot more often than once a month, but anyway…

Got July checked off early for my continued pursuit of the RUSA P-12.  Another couple cool things along with it:  I got to finally meet and ride with Ron A, my rando mentor with whom I’d corresponded a good deal; and I finally got my revenge upon the RUSA course that led to my starting my RUSA career a sad 0-2 with two DNF’s (Did Not Finish).

The ride was last Saturday – July 6th.  The course was Wander to Welda, a ~63 mile ride on my beloved Prairie Spirit Trail from Ottawa, KS to Welda, KS and back to Ottawa.  Again this was the course that I tried unsuccessfully to do, before I was really ready to join the ranks of the randonneurs, in late 2012 and again early 2013 (here and here).  I assured Ron at the time, who didn’t know me from Adam, that I was going to eventually be successful in my randonneuring pursuits; so it was a cool kind of full-circle thing that he rode with me today.

The ride start time was 6 AM.  Ron and I each had other plans for later in the day and wanted to knock this ride out early.  We met at 6 AM at the starting (and closing) control, the Short Stop / Phillips 66 gas station on Main in Ottawa.  Ron had a hike to get here, from up north; I was the lucky one, as I live a mile from the control!  I was slightly overdressed in terms of machinery, riding Storm Paris, my Roubaix, with her freshly minted 28cm tires.  Not a conventional choice for this kind of trail, but I was interested to see how she – and 28cm tires – would handle.

It was good to finally meet Ron in person; we shook hands and wasted little time in going in, making our purchases (gum for me, Ron getting a candy bar for later in the ride), getting cards signed, and we were off.  It was a beautiful start to the morning.  Just getting light out, and quite overcast, which it remained for much of the day.  Humidity fairly high to start and roughly 70 degrees.  It would rise to a high of around 90 for the day.  A wind from the south, which would be a headwind at the start, gradually building in strength but providing a tailwind after the turnaround.  As I’ve mentioned before, on 75% of the trail there’s ample tree cover and wind (both head and tail) has only about 20% the effect it typically would.

Ron and I rode the short ~1 mile paved segment of the trail in town, heading south, and shortly the pavement turned to packed gravel, which is the trail’s predominant surface for much of its remaining 60 miles (of which we were going ~32 and then turning back).  I’d warned Ron several times that he was a stronger/faster rider than I was and would have to be patient with me, and by the grace of God he was 🙂  He revealed himself to be a very gracious and good guy during the day, and I took an instant liking to him.

We were making good time on the trail as we swapped stories about past bike rides, other riders we know, the origins of our interest in cycling and randoing, etc.  The surface of the PS Trail is deceptively tough, and as I’ve said before, sneaks up on you.  Over 5-10 miles, it doesn’t feel all that much more difficult than riding on the road; but after 12, 15, 18 miles, suddenly you realize it is taking some effort out of you.  The surface doesn’t allow for much coasting – which is to say, essentially NO coasting.  If you stop pedaling, you quickly stop moving.  So rolling speeds on the trail are typically a good 10%, if not 20%, lower than on regular pavement.  Regardless, we were making very respectable progress, and both quite happy to have the company of the other.  Having someone to chat with and pass the miles with makes most bike rides easier, and that goes double on this trail.

One thing was clear from the outset – we were the first ones on the trail this morning.  This was confirmed by the amazing number of spiderwebs we rolled through as we made our way!  It was truly sensational.  At several points we had to brush them away from faces, helmets, arms; once I looked down to see a strand of web stretching from my water bottle (in my handlebar bag, where I carry them) to my handlebars, and with a spider still on it crawling around!  Crazy.  We saw exactly one person on the trail – a jogger (or walker) on the paved part of the trail in Ottawa.  This was to be the only person we’d see on the trail until very close to the end of our return.

Passing the first town, Princeton, about 8 miles in, we continued on to Richmond and my favorite trailhead. It’s my favorite trailhead as related here, a story I told Ron while we took a short break here.  My rando style at this point is still to take a short break every roughly 16-19 miles (and occasionally more often if I’m getting tired toward the end), so Richmond at about 15 miles in was a convenient break point.  We stretched our legs for a bit, refilled water and so forth, and got moving again.  As we pushed back, I noticed something that I won’t comment upon here, but it’ll appear later in our narrative.

Next segment of the ride, for a short 3 or so miles, is the easiest part of the trail heading in either direction.  Leaving Richmond and heading south, you pass through a little tunnel underneath the highway, emerging with the highway on the other side of you, and shortly thereafter you are BOMBING along a very generous down-sloping grade. There are no true hills on the PS Trail, but there are certainly grades, of varying length and climb.  This little stretch is a FAST portion, in which you can make extremely good time with almost no effort.  Then, though, comes your opportunity to earn it, as the roughly 6-7 mile stretch from there into the town of Garnett is a decent little climb.  Ron and I continued to share stories here of past adventures, our similar backstory that led to a love of bicycling, and family; we continued to make decent time while putting in some work on the climb.  Ron unselfconsciously continued in his mentor role to me, dispensing many pieces of advice and insights which I soaked in.  He’s been in the game a while and put in well more bike miles, in well more conditions, than I have, and I was & am fortunate to be able to benefit from his experience.

Soon we rolled into Garnett.  As I’ve mentioned before I really love this little town, and always love riding the bike to or through it.  When riding solo I will frequently stop here, but on this rando-paced ride and with a fellow rider accompanying me, we pressed on to Welda.

Around here we had perhaps 5 raindrops hit us; and it was clear from the trail surface that this area had just experienced a little rain shower which we had avoided.  For a stretch of a few miles, it was suddenly really steamy, humid, from the moisture.  The trail was slightly softer from the rain, but fortunately not enough to make any real impact; riding on this trail when it’s wet can be very hard work, like wet beach sand.

The stretch from Ottawa to Welda is the least favorite on this trail of both Ron and myself.  I’ve previously referred to it as the Bermuda Triangle of this trail.  At about 7-8 miles, it’s not long at all; but it is SO deceptive.  Every single time I’ve ridden it – maybe now a dozen times in all, maybe a little less – this stretch has seemed much longer and much tougher than it appears to be.  To look visually at the terrain as you’re pedaling, it doesn’t seem any tougher, steep, etc; to look at an elevation map, such as those on the excellent site bikeprairiespirit.com, it doesn’t seem like this stretch would be, at any rate, tougher than the stretch into Garnett from the north; and arguably it ISN’T tougher, but, bottom line, both Ron and I have always found it to be mysteriously a grind.  Fortunately, having someone to share the miles with did make it a lot easier, and while we were working (I more than Ron, as he, despite his modesty, effortlessly rolled along), we weren’t experiencing as much suck as we normally do riding this stretch alone.

We rolled into Welda on really good time.  We took down the info for the information control at the turnaround, noted our time of arrival (8:38 or 46 minutes prior to control close), and continued the very short distance to the Welda trailhead for another short break.  There we reconfigured water, took our nature break, etc.

Now it was here that the tenor of the ride was to change or at least the tone of the next chapter was set.  Shortly after our arrival in Welda, I looked down to my handlebar bag’s front pouch, where I keep my cell phone, to see if any texts, calls, etc.  One problem:  no phone.  The pouch was empty.  Horrified, I remembered what I’d seen as we departed Richmond:  the phone seemed not as stable in the pouch as it should have been, but with a mental shrug I thought “Meh, it’ll be fine.”  Now, here in Welda, it was not fine.  I stood there horrified for a few seconds saying “Oh no.  Oh no.”  Telling Ron what happened, I checked and rechecked pockets, my belt bag, etc, hoping I’d somehow moved it and forgotten it. Nope.

Unsure exactly what to do, my first thought was that there was no recourse but to just double back and look for it.  We were going to turn around here anyway, which was good, but my fear was that I’d need to just let Ron go on while I rode very slowly and deliberately on “my side” of the trail looking for the phone.  Soon I hit upon a better idea:  contact the cell company to ask them to ping my phone and tell me if they could locate it.  Ron generously let me use his phone, but after seemingly minutes of navigating through touch-tone menus, I was no closer to talking to a human.  Suddenly a much better idea hit me:  I’d been tracking my ride with online ride tracking software, as I always do.  So I just needed to log into the site, check my ride, and wherever the thing stopped advancing, there’s where my phone lay.  Not getting a great internet signal in Welda and getting impatient, I called my dad to ask if he could log on and check my ride.  He answered the phone with “Do you know where your phone is?”  Huh. No, this is why I’m calling, I said – why do you ask.  What I thought he relayed to me turned out later to be slightly misunderstood (by me), but basically a guy way back in Garnett had found the phone at an intersection of the trail and a road, called a couple of the contacts in it, and given them his address.  My dad relayed this to me, and I to Ron.

With a major shot of adrenaline fueled by fear of the unknown in terms of who had my phone – which contained much work related stuff and much personal stuff I didn’t necessarily want someone running through – we both set a hot pace back toward Garnett.  It wasn’t wise on my part to throw away so much energy blasting back at that pace, and certainly wasn’t considerate toward Ron, for which I later apologized profoundly.  Fortunately, his patience with me wasn’t stretched to the breaking point by this, for which I’m grateful.

We reached Garnett in simply amazing time, which is good because we’d (I’d) burned up a lot of time in Welda trying to nail down what occurred.  Upon reaching Garnett, a confusion that I had about the address dad had given me led to a little more lost time, but fortunately, Ron was on the money and found the house.  The funny thing is that when he first knocked on the door (I was further up the road knocking on other doors), nobody answered.  I was crestfallen to hear this when Ron and I came back together, but at his suggestion we both rode back to the house.  This time, as we were walking up to the door, before we even knocked or even said a word, the home owner opens the front screen door and hands me my phone!  I shook his hand, thanked him profusely, exchanged a few words, thanked him again and we got on our way.  We still had another 25 miles to go and, thanks to my panicked dash back from Welda, we’d thrown away a lot of energy.

We returned to Richmond at a more appropriate pace.  That little climb back into Richmond is one that we both hate – not terribly steep, but just a grind, especially on this surface.  I was starting to seriously feel the effects of my adrenaline dump now – a consequence that I anticipated and somewhat dreaded.  Anyway, by and by we did reach Richmond, where (lest I die) we stopped again for a break.  Ron rode a short way off the trailhead into town to look for a place to get a snack, while I went through my usual trailhead routine – water, fuel, etc.  After a few minutes Ron returned, having found a place to get frozen candy bars and a popsicle (if I recall correctly).  We got moving again, with roughly 15 miles remaining.

The remainder of the ride was fairly hard going for me, and again I thank Ron for his patience with me.  I announced a time or two that I needed to drop the pace a little bit.  I was feeling the effects of the earlier exertion and adrenaline dump; and, un-awesomely, my legs started BADLY cramping up around this time.  Fortunately I was able to suppress that by drinking water aggressively, but the rest of the ride the legs remained right on the border of cramping.

It was around this stretch – somewhere between Richmond & Princeton – that Ron, unfailingly cheerful and optimistic, gushed “two guys, two bikes, two phones – all’s well”.  Bing, I said to myself.  Blog title.

I was chagrined to tell Ron at Princeton that I needed to stop again for a short break – this was only 6 miles down the trail from our last stop.  I told him if he WANTED to go on, I wouldn’t blame him – I felt badly for needing a short breather.  But I was feeling pretty frazzled and needed to marshal my strength for the final stretch.  A great guy and good friend, Ron wouldn’t hear of it and betrayed no impatience with me at all, stopping with me as I recharged.  Pretty soon we got going and covered the remaining miles back to Ottawa.  All along the way, Ron’s enthusiasm and kind words of encouragement bolstered me, something I’ll always remember and hope to pay forward someday to some poor schmo who is self-effacing even as he rides 70 miles (once our “bonus mileage” was thrown in).

I won’t say I was disappointed to leave the gravel part of the trail behind and ride the ~1 mile on pavement – with tailwind! – back to the Short Stop closing control, visions of a chocolate milk recovery/reward drink dancing in my head.  We each bought a chocolate milk there and got our cards signed at 12:10 PM – 38 minutes prior to control close.  Factoring in the MINIMUM 30 minutes, if not 45 or more, that were lost to the “phone incident” plus bonus mileage, we made very good time for the route.

Another successful ride in the books and a crazy narrative of a bike story for the memory books.  It was good to check off July for the RUSA streak and was excellent to meet Ron and ride with him.  I look very forward to sharing more RUSA rides with him in future, on this or other routes.

A much belated writeup here of a ride from a few Saturdays ago…

On Saturday, June 8th, Mr. V (of our October Katy Trail ride fame) and I drove up to Iowa to check out the Raccoon River Valley Trail (henceforth RRVT).  I first posted about this trail on this blog here, shortly after first learning about it; and I’ve been looking forward to riding it since that time.  The trail, another rail-trail conversion like the Prairie Spirit and the Katy, and whose official website is here, is one of the longest paved bike trails in the United States – and, with the recent completion of its “northern leg”, it contains THE longest paved bike loop in the country, at ~70 miles.  The trail, whose overall layout can be seen here, forms a kind of “boomerang” shape, with that interior of the boomerang also fully closed off into a loop.  It’s that loop, the ~70 mile route, that we chose to ride this day.

I’d been eagerly keeping tabs on the updates to the trail’s official site for the past several months, and had developed a  kind of “fondness at a distance” for this spirited little trail and its enthusiastic stewards.  The website was fairly dynamic with new content or posts fairly frequently, in contrast to the slow-motion, almost “time forgot” quality of a lot of rail-trail websites.  I’d come to view the RRVT as almost like a “sister trail” to my own beloved Prairie Spirit Trail, in that the length was comparable, the grades were comparable, the countryside both go through are similar, the spacing and sizes of towns, etc etc – both could just as well have been mirrors of one another, with the distinction that one was gravel and the other paved.  I found this a cool thing.

I stayed the prior night as guests of Mr. and Mrs. V so as to get a good early start to the drive to Iowa.  We made some final bike prep the night before, a little bit of packing, and tried to hit the sack early for some rest before the next day’s adventure.

We woke up around 5:30 AM, and with the prior day’s preparation, wasted little time in getting ready prior to heading out.  We stopped for breakfast on the road (a McDonald’s just outside Iowa) and made good time for our intended 9ish AM start time.  Our plan was to start at Waukee, the southeasternmost town in the loop, and ride counterclockwise, i.e. the Perry-Herndon-Panora-Redfield direction, ending back at Waukee at, we targeted, maybe 4-5 PM with lunch and breaks.

We’d been watching the weather for the day.  Wind would be a factor – it was going to be pretty strong out of the south/southwest all day, so some of the loop would have a favorable wind but some would be a battle.  Rain was a possibility in the forecast; but factoring in the times of day we’d be passing through various towns, the probability always stayed 50% or lower and was 30% or lower most of the time. Our guess was that we might ride through some sprinkles but hopefully nothing worse.  We were wrong  🙂

We did arrive in Waukee right around 9 AM. Like an excited kid, I noticed at a certain point that the trail (the “boomerang leg” piece of it that extends beyond the loop we were doing) had appeared and was running parallel to and mere feet off of the road we were on.  Many, many cyclists were seen on this stretch – many with nice road bikes and full kit, and more than a couple RAGBRAI jerseys, as I anticipated – and a few joggers.  This was my kind of place 🙂

We unloaded the bikes, filled up our water bottles and so forth, and chatted with a couple of the folks in the parking lot who arrived around the same time and were preparing for their own rides, got some suggestions as to places to eat (we were told PJ’s in Panora was a good place, which worked great with our plans, as our timetable had called for us to probably eat in Panora and we had read about PJ’s online) and particularly pretty parts of the trail to see. Got a couple of pictures of the start, and we were off!

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The first portion of the trail we were heading north and slightly west.  For the most part the wind was with us here, on a nice clear beautiful day.  The trail was beautiful!  Exactly as I’d pictured it (I’d of course read a fair amount about it and watched some YouTube videos, too).  It was beautifully paved and quite flat – just a nice enjoyable weekend ride.  There were several folks on this counterclockwise loop with us, although the groups were spaced out fairly well – we were only passed maybe once or twice, and we only passed others maybe once or twice. In general, we saw fewer and fewer folks as the day wore on – which was partially due to our chosen route and partially due to the weather which lay ahead.

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We paused briefly in the towns of Dallas Center and Minburn…

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…but we didn’t take our first true break until we reached Perry, which was the northeast “corner” of the RRVT.

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An interesting note, Perry is actually one of the overnight towns on this year’s RAGBRAI!  So I will be back in this little charming town in just a few weeks time.  In fact it’s the overnight town at the end of the monster day two – the longest mileage day on this year’s ride (82 miles standard, 100+  if you choose to tackle the optional Karras Loop).  So I will hopefully arrive in Perry alive on July 22nd and having successfully finished my longest single day of riding ever!

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As you can see, Perry is a very charming little town, clearly enthusiastic about cycling, as is a lot of Iowa.  I found these hand-painted pictures of bikes by local children, displayed on the inside of the trailhead building, to be very charming:

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Above 2 pictures:  Train car displayed just across the street from the Perry trailhead.RRVT_25_smRRVT_26_sm RRVT_27_sm RRVT_28_sm

We pushed on past Perry, now heading west toward Herndon, with the town of Jamaica in between.  This was the recently-completed “north loop”, which had its grand opening only several days prior to our ride.  Prior to that being officially completed and open, the RRVT wasn’t yet a fully closed “loop” within the boomerang shape.

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First town was Dawson about 6 miles past Perry.  We captured a few pictures in passing but didn’t stop here.

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Next, another 5 miles down the trail, was Jamaica.  As you can see from one of the pictures below, this stretch (which I do believe was the last completed) is VERY fresh and new – the pavement here is fine, but the area to the sides of the trails is super fresh.

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We reached Herndon, the most northwest town on the loop. Cumulative mileage to this point was ~33 miles, so we were close to halfway through the day’s distance.

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Above:  The stormy weather rolling in.

At Herndon we met a couple who had been following along behind us for the past couple miles.  We kept assuming a single file line thinking these folks wanted to pass, but they never did; instead, they were benefitting (rather by intention or not) from my rather large profile drafting the headwind for them 🙂  We stopped at Herndon and so did they.  Nice couple, who regaled us with some tales of last year’s RAGBRAI (as I’d commented on at least the guy, I think, and maybe the girl as well, sporting RAGBRAI jerseys).  They had started in Waukee also (if memory serves) and had no particular route in mind for today; so they spent this break debating whether to double back or continue with the full loop.  The wind seemed to be a big factor in their decision.  I was trying to convey that since this was a loop; we were basically at the midway point; and the wind wasn’t shifting, pretty much either direction they went was going to feel roughly the same from a wind perspective.  Finally they decided to do the loop and left a minute or two before we did, headed south, same direction we would go.  Just as we were leaving, we chatted with another guy who’d just arrived, who was doing (if I recall correctly) a two day tour of the full trail.  He was blown away that we were doing the full 70 mile loop in one day, assuring us we were “animals”.  Being still pleasantly new to my own fitness level that allows me to do things like this, I was pleased with the compliment  🙂

We pushed on toward Yale.

Yale was only 5 miles down the road, but a combination of nature calling plus the STIFF headwind which was directly in our face during this stretch prompted our mutual agreement to stop there briefly.  We were surprised to see our RAGBRAI-riding friends from the Herndon trailhead, the couple we spoke to earlier, coming back up the trail toward us!  They announced as they rode by that “the wind is coming up” and they’d changed their mind.  I still maintain they really didn’t gain much at all, as they’d be facing it on the east side of the loop anyway; but, that was the last we saw of them.  From this point on, going first south and then east to complete the loop, we saw essentially NOBODY on the trail, as I recall.  The only person I remember seeing on the trail beyond this point was a guy we either passed or who passed us (don’t recall) on the final few miles, going into Waukee.

We did stop briefly at the Yale trailhead.  At this point we were a little over halfway through the day’s distance.

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Above:  Gotta love how the toilet paper is always locked down on these trails.  Cmon people, if you can afford a bike to ride the trail, you don’t need to be swiping toilet paper 🙂RRVT_45_sm

Above:  The Blue Nexus, ready to roll again…RRVT_46_sm

…and Mr. V’s trusty steed, AKA “Tank”.
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We pushed on toward Panora and lunch!

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The Panora trailhead, as you can see below, was also very charming.  I loved this little place.  I always love rail-trail trailheads that retain a bit of the original track, as this one did; it also retained a track car and some signage.  The little bikes and trikes placed throughout were very – at risk of overusing the word – charming.

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From the trailhead it was a short mile or so jaunt to PJ’s, our intended lunch destination.  Pulling off the trail, we locked up the bikes and headed in to order.  I got a grilled chicken sandwich with fries (shown below half eaten, as I forgot to get the picture before starting!) and Mr. V got some kind of sandwich with onion rings, some of which I stole.

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Nice little place, PJ’s – and I was proud of myself for fighting off the temptation to order ice cream dessert here, which I’m given to understand is a must!  If you’re in Panora on the RRVT, eat at PJ’s.

It started sprinkling about halfway through our lunch.  Very light at first, and not troubling to us.  If anything it would help to cool us down (not that it was all that hot out) and be just refreshing.

Finishing lunch, we pushed on toward the town of Linden, 6 miles further. It was sprinkling on us as we deparated, but not bad.

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We stopped briefly at the Linden trailhead for a few pictures, but soon got going again.

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RRVT_75_smNext was Redfield, 6 miles away.

As you can see from the pictures below, by this point it was actually full-on raining and not sprinkling.  The tree canopy overhanging most of the trail was serving well to keep us pretty dry; but we were definitely getting rained upon.

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Just outside Redfield, one of the strangest things happened that either of us has experienced on a bike.  As we rode, just several feet ahead of us, as we watched, a rotted dead tree fell from its leaning position over the trail and with a loud smack, hit the trail!  As you can get some sense from the pictures below, this was not a small object.  The “footprint” of where it fell crossed where Mr. V was riding; and quite literally if it had fallen just seconds later or if we’d reached this point seconds earlier, the thing would have HIT Mr. V.  The day would have turned out very, very differently – broken bones at a minimum and perhaps worse.  Very strange.

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After taking a couple obligatory pictures of the tree that almost had Mr. V’s number, we cleared it off to the side of the trail and continued to Redfield just a few minutes away.

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At the Redfield trailhead, we were surprised to see a merchandise shop!  I’d done a decent amount of reading about the trail but was unaware that it had a merchandise shop along the route.  A very kind older lady ran the shop.  Mr. V and I each bought an RRVT shirt, which was already updated with the new northern loop (remember, it had only been formally open for several days), and I also captured a picture of the large RRVT trail sign she had behind her.  I find such things very cool, and both of us were reminded of our Katy Trail ride from last year.

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Let me take this time to again thank Mr. V for shoving all of this merchandise in his rack bag, as I had no real accommodations on my bike to carry this.  He threw both our shirts in there, as well as a couple pamphlets he’d picked up for us in the town of Perry.  Many thanks Mr. V.

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Above:  Yes kids, this is what happens when you don’t rock the fenders in the rain.  You get the muddy wet strip up the back.

At this point we only had roughly 16 miles to go.  My old bogeyman of either insufficiently hydrating or fueling caloriewise (I think the latter) began to appear about here.  Prior to this point in the ride I’d been feeling great, although I was aware I probably should have been fueling a little bit more.  It started to catch up to me here, and I still feel badly for Mr. V that I wasn’t such great company for this final stretch.  During such times on the bike, I talk only very little – I’m never outright rude or snippy but I just don’t speak much and instead focus my energy on just getting through.  For this remaining stretch I was civil enough, but the combination of the rain, which had only gotten progressively heavier, and my starting to feel a little tired, was weighing on me.

We stopped briefly just past the town of Adel, mostly at my request – needed a short break. We took a few pictures at a very beautiful old bridge, and just generally got rained on.  A fittingly symbolic ending given the way I was feeling.

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From here it was roughly 5 miles to Waukee – and the last few of those miles were WIDE open, in the same kind of terrain as the road-paralleling trail I’d seen as we drove into town.  We were getting openly and unapologetically rained on during this stretch, and commented to one another how pitiful we must have looked out there in the wide open to the folks driving by on the road.  The remaining miles to Waukee ticked down and finally the trailhead came into view.  We rolled in to find several cars still in the parking lot – which surprised us.  We’d each brought a dry change of clothes and Mr. V had brought a towel for each of us.  Mr. V changed at the trailhead restroom while I packed up stuff in the van; when he was done, I changed.  It was absolutely heavenly to get into dry clothes, especially dry socks.  We loaded up the van and headed back to KC.  It was roughly 4 PM or so, and we would be back in our hometown by early evening.

All in all, a VERY fun day on the RRVT.  I’d been looking forward to this ride for some time, and was really glad we got a day to break away and do it.  We have plans to return, hopefully sometime this summer or so, and possibly with a few other friends, who enjoyed our narration of events and are interested to do it with us.

Thanks for reading!

This being the first of the month, I had my ceremonial “official” weigh-in this morning.  Tipped the scales at 184.4, down 2.5 pounds from June 1st and a small 0.4 pounds away from my second major weight loss goal of 184 pounds.  That, again, will represent a total weight loss of 100 lbs since I began losing back in July 2009 – almost exactly 4 years ago. It’s been a long road, but I’ve kept at it and done well.

With this mark, I’ve now gone 12 consecutive months of being lower on the first day of the month than the prior month – a streak with which I’m very content.  Later I’ll possibly post a chart of my weight by month, but suffice to say that initially I lost a lot of weight over several weeks, then gradually regained some, lost some, regained MORE, lost some, etc…I was losing the battle for a few weeks and then following that I was treading the water for several months; but I’ve most definitely broken through that over this past year and have been consistently losing small amounts of weight (between 2 and 7 pounds or so per month) each month.

Next milestone, of course, is 184, which I should reach in – well, days 🙂  Then comes my next target of 174 pounds.  I’m still thinking I will be quite content when I reach 168, which is a mere (but hard-fought) 16.5 pounds from here.

Off to the gym now to add some muscle and aid in cooking off body fat…