Entries from July 2006 ↓

The Lance Factor

Yeah, i guess you could say i rode with Lance Armstrong.

That is, a pack of riders 25-plus strong blew by me Thursday afternoon at about 35 mph.

Yes, Lance rode two of the seven days of RAGBRAI this year and is talking about doing the entire ride next year. i have some pretty mixed feelings about this.

For Armstrong to plan to ride the entire route could be a danger to others.

There are 10,000 people on this ride. Face it, most of the folks riding the entire route that fast are doing it starting at 5 in the morning – or earlier. And i’m betting they’re the people fixing our bicycles the rest of the day and into the evenings at the various bike shops.

Even during the brief time Armstrong rode this year, his speed and that of the pack trying to keep up with him was a hazard.

Then there’s the politics of his mission. In a talk to the packed-like-sardines town square in Newton Wednesday night, Armstrong made it clear he’s got his eyes on 2008 and the presidential candidates. He thinks funding for cancer research, detection and treatment should be a No. 1 priority.

So does that mean every candidate running for president will be riding RAGBRAI too? Sure, John Kerry rode some Friday (not that it was on anyone’s radar screen). But having a bunch of candidates and their entourages show up along with Armstrong and his people would make for an even bigger mess.

Lance could have an even huger impact on the event for Iowans, who use the tour through their small towns to raise cash for churches, softball teams, school trips and more. Next year, with Lance along, the towns bidding to host riders overnight also will have to kick into Armstrong’s foundation, according to ride sponsor the Des Moines Register.

Finally, there’s the music factor. Yes, the music. Believe me, i hate classic 70s and 80s rock. i, too, was tired of Lynard Skynard. i much preferred the bluegrass band outside the church in Holbrook, the jazzy cover band in Polk City and the big-band sound of the community band in Sully to the crappy cover bands in the host towns each night.

At a news conference my pal Paula listened to Thursday (they wouldn’t let out of state reporters ask questions), Armstrong said he’d like to see big-name acts like his former fiance Sheryl Crow play RAGBRAI. Um, who’s gonna pay for that?

i hope to do RAGBRAI again, because it’s a sweet ride across the countryside of my homestate, a chance to enjoy the quirky people, places and food of Iowa.

Lance isn’t necessarily a part of that.

Quotes of the Days

Sunday’s is below

Monday: “This is the last hill.” Heard this several times without qualifiers. What, the last hill before the next town? The last hill you can see from here in the valley? The last hill before the next hill?

Tuesday: Man watching ultralight plane rides: “That looks like fun.” Woman riding with him: “Someone died doing that last year.” (It’s true!)

Wednesday: “I just don’t want to hear any more Lynard Skynard.” Right. It’s Wednesday, dude. You’re gonna hear Lynard, just like i did, until you drop your bike in the Mississippi.

Thursday: One guy: “Here’s a cornfield on the left.” Other guy: “Guys, I’m just gonna pee in my shorts. Whatever.” The cornfields along the RAGBRAI route are heavily fertilized, believe me.

Friday: Woman to me as i shovel pasta in under a shade tree: “Are there bugs here?” Me: “We’re outdoors. There are bugs everywhere.”

Saturday: Paula as we head to the Mississippi to dip our tires: “Fish, listen, it’s ‘Freebird!'” It was the second time Paula heard Freebird that day. i heard “Sweet Home Alabama” about 10 miles out of Muscatine.

First night report that never made it

Is this Bicycle Heaven? Yes, it’s RAGBRAI!

So we drove into Sergeant Bluff this afternoon at about 4:30. Hundreds of people were already rolling – on their two wheels.

We’re staying with the Pinto family, in their spacious basement. The youngest son is also a Cubs fan – we’re looking for better days ahead on that front! Tomorrow, we start riding and they head to the Boundary Waters for a really cool canoe trip.

We headed over to the high school to check out the scene after unloading our stuff. As Bob Seeger blasted from speakers at the corner convenience store, Paula said we’d be hearing plenty of ’80s tunage… i had to point out that, um, that Seeger song? From the ’70s, young lady!

We dined on lasagna, followed up by ice cream. Yum, ice cream!!

The people watching here is spectacular. Lots of Cyclone and Hawkeye gear of course (Go Cyclones!), a team of Michigan State folks in green bike jerseys, T-shirts from past RAGBRAI’s (saw two gentlemen with Ts from the mid-70s), Ts from other rides around the country, as well as runs (saw a Bolder Boulder shirt!) and triathlons.

There are all sorts of bikes, men, women and children, and, oh, lots of Iowans too.

Then there are the team buses, old school buses painted up with team names and slogans. Bikes are racked on top and folks are cheering out the windows. One example: Teammate. Their slogan: Ride all day, mate all night. Get it?

There’s beer here somewhere – bet we find some soon!

Many days on the road, no blogging!

Because i’ve had limited Internet access, that requires much time reading e-mail…

But here are some highlights:

Ida Grove architecture is centered around castles. But the people there were wonderful.

Quote of the day Sunday: “Culver’s a moron but Nussle’s a jackass,” one rider to another after passing Nussle (GOP) volunteers passing out free water. He faces Culver (the Dem) for the governor’s race.

Monday: Can you say hills? It was brutal. Truly brutal. About 77 miles worth of hills, and fairly steep, from Ida Grove to Audubon. Carroll County cities – Arcadia and Manning – rocked, tho… The people in Manning (20 miles out from Audubon) were promoting their party in Ida Grove the night before – and it was worth it. Greatest rhubarb pie ever, i tell you!!

Waukee was wonderful – got leid, OK, got a lei on the way into town. They had it all going on. Friends from Hershey, Pa., met us and walked around some. And Tuesday wasn’t nearly as hilly. Glad we were sleeping indoors, because there was quite the storm going on.

Today, Wednesday, was another fun day. Stopped in Elkhart to talk to an old friend and drink the 10 a.m. beer (like to point out that i didn’t get a beer Monday until 9, but managed to start mooching from people at 2 on Tuesday). Lance is riding today i hear, but started out behind us.

We’ve got great hosts here in Newton – they’ve got the beer cooler loaded and they’re making us lasagna for dinner!!

More later!

Morning in Ogallala!!!

Just had to type that!

Anyway, in addition to the name, i’ve always been fascinated by the Ogallala portrayed in the book and miniseries “Lonesome Dove.” On their way to Montana, McCall and McCrae stop in Ogallala, a bastion of civilization, and McCrae (the Robert Duvall character) visits his love, Clara (Anjelica Houston). She knows he won’t stay. All the hands have a wonderful time in town however, at the edge of the frontier.

Of course, it isn’t like that here, what with the fast food, motels and truck stops and such. It’s just another stop on the way to – Gretna, Neb.!!!

Road Trip!!!

Time to pack up the car and head to Iowa!

At some point during nine years in Florida, i began to crave driving across Nebraska. This seemed odd, since i’d never especially liked the state between my home and Colorado in the past.

But after years in a state either thick with vegetation or bathed in urban light and suburban sprawl, the wide-open spaces called. That became clear the night i drove out of Florida to my new home and turned on my bright lights – and realized i’d never used them in almost six years of owning it.

With RAGBRAI set to begin Sunday, i loaded the bike, my clothes, CDs and a bunch of other stuff in the Suburu and headed east.

While i love Boulder, it’s beautiful to get out in the plains. Clearly, the drought is hitting much harder in Eastern Colorado, with plenty of vast, dried up farm plots. A giant sign appeared to advertise water rights for sale near one farm. Billboards for 4th CD Rep. Marilyn Musgrave and gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez, both Republicans, dotted Interstate 76.

As the sun set in the west, painting the sky pink, i rolled into Nebraska. Though i could have driven farther, i decided to stop in Ogallala. The Super 8 even has wireless (or i wouldn’t be posting!). It isn’t as if i’m gonna see much more than the Super 8, the Conoco (source of 24-ounce can of beer) or the Taco Bell (a true cultural experience here, but not multi-so…). But i just love how the word sounds.

Analytical design guru in Denver

Edward Tufte is the ultimate expert when it comes to graphic presentation of data. He’s self-published several books (seeking the highest quality printing and paper), is a Yale prof emeritus, a sculptor and the author of a widely read Wired mag piece slamming PowerPoint, the ultimate biz crutch.

Tufte’s latest book is out (including a full chapter on the perils of PP) and he brought his tour to Denver Friday. The $360 fee for the day seemed a bargain, since you also got all four of his coffee-tablesque books (that’s about half the fee).

Some of Tufte’s key observations (apologies for bullet points, which he dislikes!)

Content is the basis for everything. “Design cannot salvage failed content,” he said. If only more people – or even most – in the news media would pay attention to that!

The first question before presentation: What cognitive task is the presentation supposed to help with? A good analytical design is “clear thinking made visible,” Tufte said. Often, the design process works inside-out, with solutions looking for problems to solve (or fancy bells and whistles looking for something to illustrate?).

An interesting observation in his most recent book, “Beautiful Evidence,” is that the passive voice is evasive. He illustrates this with a passage from the 9/11 Commission report that illustrates plenty of problems, but in the passive tense doesn’t identify anyone specifically who was responsible.

Presentations should tell what the problem is, why people whould care and what the solution is upfront. That goes for news stories, too!

That’s just a taste of the Tufte message. Check out his books if you’re interested in more!

About the Bikes

As i remember it: One spring, when i was 6 or maybe 7, apparently it was determined i should have a bicycle. My parents purused the free classifieds and located a girls, 20-inch, blue Schwinn bicycle in Marshalltown, Iowa. We drove over and bought it. Maybe it had training wheels, but i don’t remember that part. It was similar to the bike at left!

i loved riding my bicycle. My brother says i once got us in trouble by riding around the country block in an attempt to get away from him – and he followed me. The country block ended with a good half mile on a busy highway and a big uphill. i remember none of this.

i do remember trying to ride without hands in fourth grade and falling flat on my face. My lip was totally swollen and i refused to go to school because i didn’t want other kids to make fun of me. Mom let me stay home, but i had to stay in bed all day long. That day, a package arrived from our uncle, who was serving in Vietnam, including these dorky camoflauge hats. i wore mine almost every day.

Later, when i was 14 or 15, 10-speed bicycles became all the rage. One summer, when my cousin Bob was visiting from Idaho, he took me to Ames and we checked it all out, eventually buying a blue 10-speed – not a Raleigh, but something comparable. i loved riding that bicycle around Collins, Iowa, in the summer. It was a great way to check out what was happening – who was driving around, what boys were shooting hoops or hanging outside the school grounds.

Later i took it to college and used it to get everywhere on campus and often too and from work. i remember riding home from Gold’s Veritable Quandry (yes, they misspelled it!) at about midnight once and zooming through a red light on Lincoln Way. My pal Zulfi who was riding with me gave me a big old lecture. (So he was right!)

But that bike got stolen one winter. And by then, i’d decided to ride a motorcyle. Later, in Florida, i got a fat-tire bike to ride around on. Then when we moved to Colorado, Jim got me a really cool Schwinn 21-speed mountain bike. While i’m not much for the single track, i loved to ride up hills and around town.

Then Paula, a friend at the Dallas Morning News, convinced me to ride Ragbrai with her this summer. Along with this, i was convinced to buy the 12-speed road bike, pedals with those funny clipping shoes, a bunch of funky maxi-pad shorts and a range of other gear.

The ride across Iowa starts Sunday, my journey to the home state begins Friday evening.

More later!

Another Tri at Mediocrity

So, during the winter, i thought i might do the Danskin Triathlon in Denver, even had it on my calendar. But then, decided it would be quite enough to do Tri for the Cure in August, especially since i despise swimming.

But then, my friend Michelle’s friend Barb (now my friend too!) hurt her back and thought she’d be better just doing the swim on a team, with Michelle and i finishing up the bike and the swim. But then, Michelle decided she wanted to do the entire tri. Then, at the Rocky Mountain Team Survivor Breakfast, which we also drug Madeline to bright and early Saturday morning, Barb became inspired by our fellow survivor stories and decided to do the whole thing by herself. Thus, i, too, decided to go it alone!

Did i mention i hate the swim??

So i made it probably two-thirds to three-fourths of the way through the swim before crying for help form Gene, Barb’s friend the swim angel who was assisting two other survivors. (Would i do this thing if i couldn’t start in the second wave of an all-women’s race? Not at my age, baby!) Gene encouraged me and kept an eye on me the rest of the swim.

The run wasn’t that great either, i walked a lot! My overall time was something like 2:03, at least 10 minutes slower than last year’s Tri for the Cure. Guess i really should practice swimming – or, more like, give it up… at least after Tri for the Cure!!