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.

Evening Moonrise

The evening moonrise overlooking Echo Lake a few nights ago.  There is still a lot of water that needs to recede, but we are getting close to starting our summer season at The Lodge.   The lawn will be mowed today or tomorrow and we are looking forward to our first guests in a week.


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!

Satellites?  Absolutely!!

During the long winter months, I’ve had time to do a lot of research on amateur radio satellites. This is something that has always been a mystery to me and I’ve never really had the resources or time to spend learning what I needed to learn in order to actually utilize them. Well that has changed.

I finally decided to purchase a high gain dual band hand-held UHF antenna along with a radio (or possibly two or three) that would finally provide me with the opportunity to do something I dreamt about since I was a teenager.    I’m also hoping that this could be a fun activity during the summer weekends while camping.   Perhaps I will be the only nerd even remotely interested in this while sitting around the campfire enjoying a beer at night, but at this point my life I’m totally fine with that.

The satellites have changed over the years and are actually easier to make contact with them they were when amateur satellites originated. So to that end I am hoping that on Tuesday or Wednesday I will have the final pieces of hardware needed to try my hand and talk to somebody thousands of miles away using somewhere between three and 5 W of power.

SO-50 Will be the first satellite that is flying overhead and I should be able to reach it Tuesday night at 8 PM.  There is amazing software available now that makes it even easier to find the “birds” and know where they are while operating.  Since they are a moving target hundreds of miles above the earth, it’s very important to know exactly where to point the antenna while operating.   Wish me luck!

The first satellite opportunity I will have tomorrow night

An iPhone app that helps direct the antenna.  Found this from an operator I chatted with on Twitter today.  Makes me feel like I am in a Jedi Fighter!

The handheld antenna that will make everything happen (besides my hand holding the antenna and my other hand which will be on the radio)

Tax preparation….UGH!

Today I spent the majority of my time in the home office going through all my receipts and paperwork in preparation for taxes; one of my least favorite things to do.  Luckily, Alexa was by my side keeping me company the entire day.

Alexa, hanging out in the home office

A Wintery Day

While I took this picture over a year ago while traveling in northern Wisconsin, it fairly depicts the morning drive to work during abundant new snow that started about an hour before leaving home.    I really could use about two months less of the snowy weather, however days like this make living here worthwhile.

Recent snowfall at a farmstead in northern Wisconsin

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