Heading to Iowa for RAGBRAI XLV

RAGBRAI  (The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), begins on Sunday morning and Luke, Noah and I are finishing up the last minute preparations with the Airstream and plan on heading out later today.

This year marks the 45th ride which always takes place during the last full week of July.

RAGBRAI started in 1973 as a six-day ride across the state by two Des Moines Register columnists who thought they were just inviting just a few friends along.  About 120 people made it across the state that year.  The next year, 2,000 showed up.  The number grew to 10,000 in 1985.    The Ragbrai is limited to 8,500 week-long riders and 1,500 day riders.  However, many non-sponsored riders will ride certain legs of the ride and in 1988, an estimated 23,000 riders had taken part in the leg of the ride from Boone to Des Moines.   The ride can get a little crazy and can be dangerous.  Every year on my previous rides a biker has been killed,  so I am very cautious while doing this.   The ride annually attracts participants from every state and many foreign countries.  Each year, the route changes and eight different communities serve as hosts.   Through the years, the route has averaged 67 miles a day with a total mileage for the week at 468 miles.  This year’s route is actually a short one at 411 miles and only 13,078 feet of climb.

The 2017 route will begin in Orange City and take us through Spencer, Algona, Clear Lake, Charles City, Cresco, Waukon and we end up in Lansing, IA on the Mississippi.

This years route is looking perfect for an old guy getting back in after a few years hiatus…

Today, Noah, Luke and I plan to boondock somewhere in Iowa and roll into Orange City on Friday morning.  The Expo begins on Saturday and the rest of our team will be rolling in Saturday afternoon. While I have done this several times in the past, I had to bow out for many years for reasons not worth explaining, but I am finally back and really looking forward to the time with my kids and friends once again.    I am meeting up with some of my Luther College friends (some riding with me and others hosting us at their homes in the overnight towns).  Noah plans to be the driver and will be in charge of hauling the team Airstream from town to town.  It will be an adventure for all!  On a personal note, this year’s route will take me right through Decorah, home of my beloved alma mater, my boyhood home town (Ossian, IA) and we will ride right past the cemetery where my mother is buried (Waukon, IA).  As such, I feel that my start up back into this was perfect timing in many ways.

Yesterday, in true RAGBRAI form, I decided to split up my late morning 30 mile training ride with a stop at Cheers in Chilton, WI.

A midway stop at Chilton’s Cheers. Where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came…

My old, but good, Trek Dimension One bike with a trailer holding my homemade solar-powered Bluetooth boom box and charging station.

The Airstream this morning is packed and ready for travel

We will be heading out in a few hours and will try to journal some of our trip along the way.  It’s always difficult to do with limited internet access along the way (a problem that I personally enjoy having).    If we can’t give daily updates, I will have a bunch of fun pictures (at least in my mind) to share when I return on Saturday, July 29th.

RIDE ON!!!!!

 

 

Steinthal Sunrise

The Early Morning Sunrise at Steinthal

After an action packed weekend on Take Five, it was great to get back home and enjoy the solitude of the country.  This week I begin preparations for our trip to northwest Iowa and the RAGBRAI.    Luke and Noah as well as some friends from college will be joining me.    We plan to pull the Airstream out of the drive on Thursday morning and will take our time traveling to Orange City, IA.  The first leg of the ride begins on Sunday, July 23.  A 62.6 mile ride to Spencer, IA. where we will be hosted by some long time college friends in front of their home.

Subfloor In

I was planning on working on replacing the air conditioner with a newly purchased heat pump as well as finishing the install of the third and final ceiling pump, the weather here was so cold that I just didn’t want to work on top of the Airstream all day.   We decided to focus our time on the sub-floor replacement and we found that much of the rotting sub-floor is due to a leak around the water heater that was installed by the previous owner. The floor essentially crumbles when touched.  Unfortunately, the only way to get at the floor was to completely remove the water heater and start over with the install and sealing after the new floor is in.    I decided to rip out the water lines as well and replace them with new since I was in this deep.   After spending hours ripping out the rotten floor, grinding and priming the frame, we were finally able to get the new sub-floor in.  What a chore!  Insulation will be going in, then we will secure the sub-floor, reinstall or replace the water heater as well as replace the old water lines.

The water heater was a major cause of our rotten sub-floor. Leaks all around the install. Will probably just replace with new….

Sub-floor out and getting ready for replacement

Water heater out and now to remove the crumbling sub-floor…

Marine grade 3/4 inch plywood templated with cardboard and cut ready for install.

New sub-floor installed and looking awesome! Finally we can walk around without worrying about falling through the lower pan (which also needs to be replaced someday)…

Sub-floor in. The inner “skin” on the wall has a layer of latex paint and vinyl wall paper that I am in the process of stripping, another weekend warrior project that will take me weeks to complete, but the end result will look fabulous!)

Chainsaw Challenges

Sunday’s challenge of the day (well actually one of many) was to eliminate some of the tree overgrowth in the backyard.  One task was to take care of a birch tree that had grown over the back patio of the house.   There were also a few tree limbs over the back yard immediately behind the lodge that needed to be trimmed back.  Using the chainsaw is serious to me and I really try my best to be very safety conscious.  I leave all the large tree cutting to the professionals and try to only cut up trees that have already fallen to the ground.   Today, however, I was faced with a relatively simple task and decided that I could do this myself.   It is interesting to note that I was on call last night (very sore from running the chainsaw the evening before) and had to look at a foot x-ray of an 85 year-old man.  The history on the study read:  85 y/o male using a chainsaw to cut down a tree and branch fell on foot.  Foot Pain.

In my mind, this x-ray does nothing more than justify my use of the chainsaw at the meager age of 50 and now I know that I have at least another 35 years to go before I need to consider hanging it up (the chainsaw that is).    Looking forward to a few more chainsaw challenges in the years to come!

The birch tree falls within inches of the Airstream, exactly as I planned. Really!

Nearly complete with the birch tree removal and not one piece of it ended up damaging any persons or personal property!

Afterwards, a Sunday evening celebration at the nearby Smiling Moose Saloon where a live band was playing amazing classic rock!  I smelled like gasoline and hadn’t yet showered after my chainsaw fun, but I was definitely the best dressed and probably the best smelling guy in the bar!  Heaven!

Fantastic Vents

Spent a large part of this weekend working on the Airstream.   There was a significant leak in the back of the camper and the subfloor has been removed.  I have purchased the marine grade plywood to replace the floor, but before I do that, I need to get to the source of the leaks.  There are three vents and one large AC unit that are probable culprits and all of it is going to be replaced this spring before camping begins.    Also that ugly TV antenna is going to find its way into the dumpster as soon as I have aluminum to patch the hole.  We don’t need to receive TV while camping.    Finally, all windows are going to be re-caulked before any new flooring goes in.  I never thought I would find myself doing this, but it has been rewarding (albeit frustrating) so far.

The vents are a great piece of technology, completely automatic with thermostats, remote control and a rain sensor that closes them when it rains.  Pretty fancy for me!

The Airstream ready for some new vents

The rear vent prior to being removed. Why not enjoy a good cup of coffee while sitting on the metal roof of an Airstream?

Drilling out the many rivets. I am going to be an aluminum expert when done with this thing… In 10 years…

Rivets out. Now time to scrape of the cement-like sealant they put around this thing. Finally had to use a grinder to get it off.

The inner fixture hanging by the 12V wiring Previously this was a combination vent/light, but the entire interior lighting is being upgraded to LED fixtures.

It was unbelievable the bugs and old wasp nests I found hiding away. The new vents will make that an impossibility as they are completely sealed and covered when not in use.

The old vent removed and now I needed to cut the inner and outer aluminum skin to fit the new square vents.

One of the two forward vents completely installed. Butyl tape looks messy and will be cut once it has a chance to sit for a few days. Then I will caulk with TremPro 635 polyurethane sealant.

The rear vent complete. Air conditioner will be replaced with a brand new low profile unit next weekend. Just need to figure out how to hoist the 100 pound behemoth onto the roof….

Before I complete the fan installs with the interior trims, I need to strip off old latex paint and wall covering. Eventually the interior skins will be shiny aluminum. Will never understand why the interior skins were covered in the first place.  This is a HUGE project!

First Snow

Spent much of the weekend working outside and getting prepared for the inevitable snow.  As it turns out, I timed it perfectly.  The first snow came on Saturday night, mere hours after the tasks were completed!

Installed the snow plow this morning and ready for some action!

Installed the snow plow this morning.  Ready for some action!

Airstream

The Airstream was relocated near the pole shed in preparation for a new sub-floor to be installed this winter.

First Snow

The first snow, early Sunday morning. Eventually we had over 3 inches of accumulation

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Airstream Agony

After finishing the winterization of the Airstream, we decided to pull out the bed and take a look at the soft floor we were feeling over the summer.  I was worried the subfloor was deteriorating, but just hadn’t had the time to really explore it.   Now that we are done with camping for the season, it seemed time to finally figure it out.

Unfortunately, the subfloor is completely rotted out in the back of the trailer.  This was obviously known by the previous owner (and conveniently undisclosed to us) as it was clearly patched once before.  The underlying problem seems to be a leak on the top of the trailer and I suspect that the culprit might be coming from a vent.  Needless to say, we are now faced with having to patch the subfloor in the back of the trailer and track down that leak that caused it in the first place.    Winter project!

We have decided to keep the camper parked near the house for the winter and will plan on spending our winter months repairing and remodeling the interior.     The subfloor will come out, the water heater will need to be removed.  I also plan on replacing the water lines with PEX tubing which is so much easier to work with (although I have never worked with it personally…. GULP….)  New overhead light needs to be replaced and new bed framing with better storage options will be planned and created. Wish us luck as we are novices at this, but always willing to take on the challenge!

The laminate partially removed over the soft spot.

The laminate partially removed over the soft spot.

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OH NO!!! Wet and rotten subfloor along the back wall of the camper.

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Kohler Andrae Halloween Campout

Last weekend was the last camping weekend for the year spent with friends and family at Kohler-Andrae State Park.   Every year, this park turns into an amazing Halloween themed event that draws thousands of local residents for trick or treating on Saturday evening.    The weather was perfect!   Already booked for next year and I am considering setting up a Rocky Horror Picture Show theme at our future campsite.   Why not?

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Grill time

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One of the many elaborately decorated sites

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Our quiet neighbors to the north.

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Weekend at Lakeview Campground

Spent a short weekend getaway at Lakeview Campground north of Chilton, WI. (close to home).  Unfortunately, I was sick and it rained the entire time we were there.  Luckily my friend Jay was able to make the most out of the bad weather and decided that he should go fishing in one of the ever enlarging puddles forming next to our fire pit.    What a surprise was had by all when he pulled out a beautiful perch!  Dinner was served in style that night!

 

Jay casts out in the puddle...

Jay casts out in the puddle…

SURPRISE!!!!!!  Simply unbelievable!

SURPRISE!!!!!! Simply unbelievable!

The Michigan Trip

Had a great time taking the Airstream (Dragonfly) over the big pond (Lake Michigan) during the last week of August.  We had a little help from the S.S. Badger Ferry that conveniently shuttles people, cars, trucks and just about anything else back and forth over Lake Michigan between Manitowoc, WI. and Ludington, MI.  It’s a 4 hour cruise and for the most part one can enjoy their relaxing travel time playing cards, bingo, trivia or in our case (at least on the trip to MI.) watching countless people puke all over the place.  Bad weather and large waves made for a roller coaster ride that even made some members of our party a little queasy.  Although none of us let er rip on the decks of the ferry.  Whew!!

We headed to Duck Creek RV Resort, which boasts the only swimming pool in the United States shaped like a duck and they pick up your trash and deliver your fire wood.  Just a little over the top for our tastes (but the duck foot shaped hot tub was sure nice)!   I also think the cement to grass ratio was a little on the VERY HIGH side!   Also Michigan’s Adventure was a great local amusement park where I nearly lost all semblance of myself as I was strung up on a cable and dropped 110 feet on the Rip Cord!    The whole time I was acting “brave” so that Brynn (also scared shitless) wouldn’t take off running and never looking back.  I so did NOT want to do that.  In the pictures of the event, I think you can see just an ever so faint glimmer of a tear in her eyes.. (and mine).   Let’s just say it ripped some of my back muscles loose when we started the 90 MPH swing over the pond.  It was AWESOME!!!!!

Then off to Grand Haven State Park during some bad riptide events (we made sure to take a lot of pictures of all of us on the break wall while the water leaped over the edges…. No worries) and finally Silver Lake State Park where we had a ton of fun playing in dune buggies or breaking them in the case of my 21-year old daughter!  Despite her insistence that it was her fault for driving 50 MPH straight down into a 30 foot diameter hole, I managed to silence her long enough to explain my version of the “story” to the rental company and surprisingly we left without any additional expenses.  Perhaps I should have gone into used car sales….

We also had a small amount of time to spend with my sister and her family!  She is, without any doubt, my favorite!!

Below are a few pictures of our adventure.

Leaving Steinthal for Manitowoc, WI. and the ferry

Leaving Steinthal for Manitowoc, WI. and the ferry

The last vehicle loaded onto the ferry

The last vehicle loaded onto the ferry

Stormy weather during our departure – Manitowoc in the background

Camping at Duck Creek RV Campground - Can you say CEMENT?

Camping at Duck Creek RV Campground – Can you say CEMENT?

Luke and Emily enjoying the cot bunks.

Luke and Emily enjoying the cot bunks.

I tried to read. Tried....

I tried to read. Tried….

Me digging out our dune buggy after a failed attempt at playing King of the Mountain

Emily's buggy after and hour of pounding hell. Pretty sure the wheels aren't supposed to turn inward like that (broken tie rod)...

Emily’s buggy after and hour of pounding jaw-shattering hell. Pretty sure the wheels aren’t supposed to turn inward like that (broken tie rod)… oooops

Playing on the beach at Grand Haven State Park

Playing on the beach at Grand Haven State Park

Terrified before the 110 foot free fall at Michigan’s Adventure.

Getting ready to ride a scary roller coaster!

Getting ready to ride a scary roller coaster!

Grand Haven, MI.

Grand Haven, MI.

Bowling in Rockford, MI. Home of The Dunnums (My sister’s family)

Emily working on school applications….

Luke reading while waiting for the ferry – Ludington, MI.

SS Badger arriving in Ludington and we prepare for our trip to Manitowoc.

and Lukas won a prize playing B-I-N-G-O!!!! He was so happy!

All the rest of the pictures can be found HERE.

 

 

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