Tuesday, July 16, 2013

RAGBRAI Our Great Family Vacation

At our pre-ride respite in Orange City, Iowa
Since January 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, 420 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 3 year old granddaughter (who is too young to participate) and my brother's family are taking care of our house and pets. This year, our youngest daughter is involved in a summer session at the University of South Dakota and won't be able to join us and boy are we going to miss her!!! It always amazes me at the level of support it requires to safely ride across Iowa. With heat indexes, winds, and rain (sometimes even hail) certain to be in the forecast, we will need every ounce of that support. Last year with the temperatures over 105 on some days, the support was the difference between being safe or not and I watched as many riders were taken off the course by helicopter, ambulance and in several cases police cars because the ambulances were dispatched elsewhere on the course.

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 (nor we) 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). 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
This was the last year we "painted"
the car...it took 3 years for the
Iowa sun-baked paint to finally disappear
earth and I love being pampered so. This year we have a variety of host family homes in which we will stay - although with less than 4 days before we leave, there are 2 communities in which we do not yet have a place to stay - so things are a little stressful in the planning camp - actually while I was writing this, I had one host family back out of hosting...argh...3 towns with no place to sleep...places to stay - 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 the 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.

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...

Air Force tent experiencing air force
This is an excerpt form an earlier post and it remains the same highlight...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....

Mama Caruso following the tradition of raising your bike
overhead before dipping in the Mississippi River at the end
of RAGBRAI...the back wheel was dipped in the Missouri River
at the beginning...7 days before
So today I am making the lists, and will begin packing the cars tomorrow. I am hoping to make a few gluten-free goodies, coconut flour cookies and gluten-free monster bars and will be blogging along the way as the band-width allows. The riders using their smartphones and computers to navigate, send photos and call each other uses up a lot of the banwidth and often we are without a reliable communication network for hours competing with each other to use our technology. 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...and of course, there is the new bike that my husband bought at the beginning of the year...his retirement bike a Trek Domani...pretty slick! If you have any questions or anything you wantme to explore as we are riding across Iowa, let me know and I will have some fun doing research! Looking forward to posting updates as my family travels, eats and laughs our way across Iowa on our family vacation...from my family table to yours...Mama Caruso

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