Saturday, July 5, 2014

3 Tips That Will Impact Your RAGBRAI Experience

A RAGBRAI host family home in Orange City, Iowa
3 Tips that will impact your RAGBRAI experience
By Kathy Stutzman aka Mama Caruso

Now that the 4th of July is over it’s time to get really serious about RAGBRAI which is in less than 2 weeks and I wanted to share some pointers that I have found to really enhance my RAGBRAI experience. For those of you who do not know what RAGBRAI is it stands for the (DesMoines) Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa – and by bikes, they don’t mean motorcycles, they mean bicycles.

Every year 10,000 to 20,000 bicycle riders mount up and start their trek across the great state of Iowa by dipping their rear bicycle tires in the Missouri and head east…for the brave and crazy ones, that means all the way to the Mississippi River, in 7 short days. Each year the course varies between north and south, hilly and flat, long and short. This year’s course is coming close to my town in Minnesota it is that far north, so of course I am riding. We have a small family
Dipping my wheels in the Mississippi
team and this is one of our annual family vacations.

While I am a relative “newbie” after riding RAGBRAI 7 years, I have learned a few things along the way and thought that I would share the top three things that have really impacted my experience at RAGBRAI, so please enjoy and I hope you find these useful:

Tip #1: Lots and lots of George Washingtons, yes, one dollar bills. No kidding, I have made so many friends by walking around with my daily allotment of 25 $1 bills, I can’t tell you. But I can tell you that several years ago I got moved to the front of a 100 person+ line waiting for pasta because the cashier at the front of the line needed someone to help them make change for all of the $20’s they were getting. I can’t tell you how incredible that felt to get moved to the front of the line, and to have my meal comped because I had $25 in one dollar bills.

If you can imagine, each rider spends between $50 - $150/day consuming calories and fluids to fuel the thousands and thousands of calories that we burn, that’s a lot of money. And, a lot of that is spent on $1 bananas, drinks, brownies, cookies, you get the idea…so by the time the 100th rider has stopped by the cookie lady’s stand at 7:00 in the morning to buy a $1 cookie with a $20 bill – there’s no change left, and in fact, she probably ran out of change after the 10th rider…so riders, and support crews, carry your cash in $1 and $5’s and you will be loved, and you will be fed and you will be able to pay for the food that someone has so graciously provided for you to get replenished.

Tip #2: Snack sized ziplocks. I bring an entire box of 100 snack sized ziplocks with me and our entire family uses them. For what? Riders…tell me…how would you use a snack sized ziplock? Let me count the ways…first and foremost, my cell phone goes in there. It fits in a snack sized ziplock perfectly and it is protected from the rain and the sweat if I am carrying it in my jersey pocket. But the beauty of carrying my phone in a ziplock is that I can still see through it in case I do get any messages. Cell phone use and crashing the bandwidth during RAGBRAI is another story.

We also use snack sized ziplocks for our daily snacks, they are just the perfect size, and I use another one for my money and identification. This is a great travel tip too, I use snack size ziplocks when carrying money in a money belt and it keeps the money from absorbing any sweat or rain that I may encounter while wearing my money belt. Because I also carry a bike bag, I bring quite a few very useful things that all go into snack sized ziplocks; business cards, note paper and a pen – I never know when I am going to want an autograph, or get someone’s phone number for a story, my camera, and any emergency medications I might need, especially an allergy medicine – it seems like there is always something blooming in Iowa.

Most importantly, I keep the addresses of the places where I am staying in a snack sized bag so that it does not disintegrate in the rain or sweat. Once my brain has been challenged by riding 80+ miles day after day, I do not want anything hindering directions to where I am going to rest…and because of the bandwidth problem, I cannot rely on GPS.

The unassuming pacifier pod 
Tip # 3 is a 12 in 1, really…are you ready? The absolute most useful accouterments, something besides my
biking gear that I bring is…a pacifier pod. Yes a pacifier pod, and in fact, I just found some really super cute ones that match my bike and I can’t wait to show them off. Why in the world would any bicyclist want a pacifier pod, and exactly what is a pacifier pod?

A pacifier pod is a very small 2” x 4” pouch with a snap strap made of nylon or other durable fabric with a velcro closure that snaps on and off my bike handle-bars and provides me with quick and ready access to absolutely everything I need whenever I stop. Whenever I stop during the ride, I just unsnap this cute little pouch and away I go. Here is what I carry in my pouch (please see photos to envision the usefulness):

·         Cash – some of those George Washington’s I alluded to before, not all, some;
·         An insect repellent towelette, in case I need to make a quick trip to the cornfield;
·         A credit card in case my tire needs repair at the bike tents along the course;
·         An antibacterial wipe or two for so many reasons;
All of these items fit nicely into the pouch
·         A blister pack of Chamois Butter to keep chafing at bay, especially after 50 miles;

·         Sunscreen stick;
·         Allergy medicine for sudden attacks;
·         A few coins
·         A business card
·         A bandaid;
·         Pepto-bismol tablets and calcium to deal with sudden cramps;
·         A thermometer and compass – it is easy to get disoriented after riding for 8 hours in the blistering heat and I like to know what the temp is for context, sometimes I will hang the thermometer on my bike bag but it swings back and forth and annoys me.

I want each of these items to be available when I need them and don’t want to be digging around for them. And, more times than not, other riders will ask me for almost everything in my pouch – the antibacterial wipes are especially handy for those unexpected pit stops or when the port-a-potties have run out of toilet paper and I usually end the day with most of my consumable supplies exhausted. I used to carry a tiny LED flashlight in the pouch too, but it gave way to the Chamois Butter.


I lock the pod into place with a bandanna
to keep it in place. A bandanna is
another very useful item!
The three tips have really made a difference in not only my experience of  RAGBRAI, but also of the many people with whom I come in contact during that wonderful, challenging and character-building week. I hope you find these tips useful and be sure to let me know if you pass me during the ride…and remember to Ride Right (that means ride to the right unless you are passing!) From my table to your…from my bike to yours…enjoy!

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