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Normally we would do ragbrai every July but Wifey was unable to get the entire week off. Instead we opted to Leave the thursday before and ride with 3 of our children to a BSA function in southern Iowa. We took all the bikes that had racks and borrowed one set of panniers from a friend. Bikes were a Fisher Gemini tandem converted to touring, Trek 520, Trek FX 7.5 (my commuter) and an old Trek 2100 RSX triple for my daughter (no bags for an easy bike for the person with the least mileage for the year. My wife and I rode the tandem, 14 year old on the FX and 13 year old on the 520 (he is the strongest cyclist of the children).

Day One had us leave our home and ride 11 miles to Carlisle, Iowa where we caught the Summerset Trail to Indianola. The easy part of the ride and thealso the retunr leg. Things were going good until just outside Indianola my son hits a bump that sheared the bolt holding the left side of the FX's rack off. Fortunately, the FX had provisions for disc brakes and fenders so I was able to take a bolt off the fork of the tandem to secure the rack. A little off sided but functional. Milo was the next town. We reloaded fluids at the local convenience store and continued down S23 to Lacona, Iowa.

The sun was beginning to beat on us as were the hills. Somewhere before or after Lacona the tandem was christened "the ambulance" as weaker riders opted to be a stoker for dad. Eventually we made it to Chariton, had dinner and set up camp in Red Haw Lake state park. 63 miles. Unfortunately, it rained from 1030 pm to 6 am. Two inches I was told.

Day two was better. The rain stopped but the clouds stayed and the temperature was 20 degrees less than the previous day. Musical stokers. First my oldest boy mysteriously fell over while leaving the park. I think everyone was stoker that day except for me. My wife woulf take over whatever bike was vacated. 62 miles later we made it to Camp Wapello and secured a shelter building just a mere 3 minutes before the rain began. Since Wifey and daughter are not part of the Scouts they were picked up by my father-inlaw along with our dirty laundary. He did bring us a pizza.

Day Three was an off day from the bikes. Instead we were handed shovels an weed whips for various projects around the camp. I have never worked so hard for a work week end. that night after the ceremony word got to us that we were in a tornado watch. Radar revealed a red band from the Missouri River to the Mississippi River followed by a thick green band moving from the north to the south. Trouble was on its way. Everyone left the camp except for us. We moved from the open walled shelter to the dining hall, the most sturdy building. Got the bikes inside and waited for the storm. Kinda creepy being the only 3 soles in this remote camp. The rain and thunder came but not as bad as it could have been. I slepted like crap anyway. My wife and daughter woke us up about 630 am on Sunday.

Day Four had us leaving Camp Wapello for Camp Collins, a little known BSA camp near Knoxville, Iowa. The trustee was more than happy to unlock it and turn the electricity and water on for us. We would be able to sleep indoors! The day started out rough. My 13 year old broke the bttom of his tooth off while trying to tighten something befopre we left. He was the 520 operator. We made arrangements for his grandfather to meet us in Eddyville to take him and the 2100. My wife would take over the 520 and my daughter would be the stoker unless my oldest son got tired of the FX.

The sun was back in vengence and the temps creeped back into the 90s. After leaving Eddyville we took US 63 for a 4 mile stretch to the Bussey turnoff. Road closed read the sign. This was because of the flooding in Iowa. Having ridden on many closed trails this year I knew we stood a reasonable chance. the water at one time covered part of this road as it is in a low spot close to the Des Moines River. However, the water had retreated leaving several trees on the road and washing out large sections of the shoulder. It was pleasant not to have cars on this stretch. All good thinghs come to an end and by the time we hit the open part of the road it was 2 pm and God's Anvil was beating us on the hills. Death march into town. I was sweating so badly that it was difficult to keep a good grip on the bars. Somehow we made it and found the airconditioned store just inside town. Here were bought our dinner to take with us to Camp Collins--Chef Boyaredee pasta in a can and some other crap to hold us over til breakfast the next day. 65 miles and a nice cold hose shower. It felt great! Joe started a fire and warmed up our "Italian" dinner for us. It rained like hell that night. 40 miles back home in Des Moines 40,000 people lost power from the wind and broken tree limbs.

Day Five had us back track a bit on US 5 back to Attica, Iowa. This town was almost erased by a tornado about a month earlier. Nothing here for us since Kin Folks eatery was not open for breakfast. Instead we got provisions at a store in Melcher-Dallas. We ate cheap--loaf of bread, lunch meat, gallon of juice and chips. Consumed this in a park. After refueling we hit the hills west of town until we hit Lacona.

Once in Lacona we rested a bit and started the reverse trip we made days before. Nice to be in familiar territory as it makes time go fast. 10 miles to Milo and a convenience store to rehydrate and snack on sugar. Here we found another couple bike self contained to Sioux City, Iowa. One guy had a back pack and no racks. His wife had a rear rack but no panniers.. 10 miles to the trail and another 10 to Carlisle.

The trail was pleasant but the skies did not look promising. We did another cheap dinner from the local grocer and made the last 11 miles as fast as we could. Literally I had the tandem in the garage within 30 seconds of the rain. 72 miles.

the next day I left my family at home and grabbed a buddy for a few days of Ragbrai. The tandem stayed home in favor of the 520. 47 miles from Des Moines to our place in Ames. Aonter 56 from Ames to Montour, Iowa. Spent too much time in bars to complete the remainging 7 miles. the 24 oz steak dinner did not help matters anyway. regardless the next day we were heading back to Des Moines so I guess we had a jump on it. It rained for a long time that night and into the next day. I was glad to be dry in my tent and not forced to ride the bike until the rain ended.

First stop was in Gillman at Anders grandmother's house 11 miles away from camp. She prepared us a roast beef dinner completre with potato salad, corn and peach cobbler.. I gained 5 pounds on this adventure. Sometime after we left I noticed that his rear wheel was very much out of true. The bike had been making noise but we could not locate it. Ends up that the sound was all his spokes were loose. My vague knowlegde of this problem had my not once but twice tighten his spokes. Did not have the time nor skill to true the wheel but it looked better and rolled better. 24 miles later we were in Baxter, Iowa, the trailhead of the Chicaqua Trail--20 miles of smooth bike trail pavement. The adventure ended at the other trailhead. My wife was there first to pick me up. His shortly thereafter. 56 miles.


After nearly 430 miles on loaded bicycles I jumped on my Versailles. I almost freaked out that the front wheel was extremely squirrely. Too used to a heavy front end on a bike! Took a mile to get the bike under control.
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