Wednesday, July 18, 2012

RAGBRAI...a fun family vacation?...Absolutely! From our family table to yours...

Our support crew ensures
 that we can find our support car
pie theme was a fun year!
For the past six months, every family gathering has focused on planning, strategizing, preparing and making lists for the first of several of our family vacations this year - RAGBRAI. RAGBRAI is a 7 day, 471 mile bicycle ride across the State of Iowa with 20,000 of our closest biking friends, and while it may sometimes be associated with lots of partying (which does exist) we are finding more and more families who are taking the time to spend with each other traveling and eating across Iowa during the last full week of July. Our family team consist of myself and my husband, a close friend, our two daughters and our oldest daughter's husband - but the family support does not stop there - our daughter's in-law's get to spend the week with our 2 year old granddaughter (who is too young to participate) and my brother's family are taking care of our house and pets. It always amazes me at the level of support it requires to safely ride across Iowa. With heat indexes predicted to be in the over 100 range, we will need every ounce of that support.

So what happens on RAGBRAI that requires an entire entourage? Our support crew is worth its weight in gold - they are a finely tuned machine and have worked many hours to coordinate the safety and support of the riders. The first responsibility of our crew is to help us get out the door by 6:00 am with all of the "stuff" we will need before we see them again at the meeting town. Some days are more difficult than others to get the riders up and out and usually by the 4th day, they are not as nice as on the first day in kicking our butts back out on the road...something about tired bodies and sore saddles.... After the riders are off and riding, the crew packs up all of the bedding, tents, chairs, everything and heads to the meeting town where they try to pick us out of a sea of 20,000 riders - so they have to remember what we are wearing to be able to find us - for me this is the hardest part of the job. When we check in at the meeting town they assess us, what do we need?, how are we?, what will we need at the end of the day?...I always feel so spoiled when I leave the check point and I have seen so many other riders come up to them asking them for help (which they willing provide). This year we got them a screened in porch to make shade at the pit stops and I anticipate quite a gathering of riders by the time I get to the meeting town each day.

And, my favorite part of what our crew does each day for us is they go to the overnight town and find our place to stay and set up our air mattresses and beds so we can crash or take a nap when we arrive at the end of the ride each day - my set-up includes a cold Starbucks coffee drink, a Beck's dark beer, a red Gatorade, and a cold bottle of water - everything I need to hydrate, stop and take a nap...it is heaven on earth and I love being pampered so. This year we have a variety of places to stay, some family homes, a church, a community center, 2 hotels, a host family and a YMCA...we think - housing is a great challenge and we work especially hard to find a place with air conditioning so that we can recover from the crazy heat. People along to routes have always been so kind to all of us and staying in people's homes is a highlight for all of us, it is humbling to see how gracious people are when they open their doors for our family.

This year we have something very special happening , our crew chief and eldest daughter will be riding the first day and we will have the opportunity to support her as she undertakes a great challenge. I am honored to be able to support her. Our youngest daughter will become crew chief for the day and I have all the confidence in her - she put her time in on the RAGBRAI route a few years ago and I got to support her on that ride...she is 17 so how awesome is it that?...she is out there hanging and helping her family during summer break? I am so fortunate. My brother who has also been an extraordinary support crew is unable to assist this year because of work conflicts and so my daughter's father-in-law will be filling in for the day that she rides on the support vehicle side - then he gets to go home and spend the week with our granddaughter - fun fun fun! Not only could we not do this without this incredible support, we wouldn't want to...this is family vacation at its best, working together, supporting each other, eating together, playing games, cheering each other on, laughing and working it out together - I couldn't ask for anything more...

One of the times we all laughed a lot was on the day that this picture was taken. We had just settled in to the campgrounds on a church property and a little dirt devil came up and blew some of the tents from the row near us up, up...and away...we all watched in amazement as this tent got caught on the church steeple and the show was amazing as the fire trucks had to come and rescue the tent. I was standing under a shade tree watching as part of the Air Force Team pulled up and one of the riders recognized her tent as the one perched on top of the church...one more reason to have a great support crew - to make sure that the tents are staked down before moving onto the next set-up....but oh my goodness, we all laughed and laughed...including the rider who watched her tent extricated from the steeple - it made for a great story which we told over and over again each night while sitting around, hanging out on our family vacation...RAGBRAI....

So today I am packing the cars, hoping that it cools enough to bake those incredible coconut flour cookies, am connecting with gluten free riders for interviews and am seeking out gluten free vendors on the ride to be blogging with. This will be a fun year on RAGBRAI - lots of firsts and lots of fun. Like all travel adventures half of the fun is in the planning and we have been having a great time with that - 5-6 phone calls a day, texting and checking things off of the lists. Looking forward to live blogging as my family travels and eats our way across Iowa on our family vacation...from my family table to yours...Mama Caruso

1 comment:

  1. So I have had people ask why I posted the support car decorated with 2009 decoration? Well, it really was one of the favorite years for our team - the pie theme was yummy...but the real reason is that those "decorations" ended up staying on the support vehicle for several years after being baked onto the van by the intense Iowa sun for 7 days...and in fact, some of that pink and blue remains today.

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