Pagano, Tom Quinn
Arrival - Sioux City. Eddie and Jay stayed with our host Mickey Greer. The Henhaus, the Biking Blue Hens bus carrying our bikes, broke down a half-hour from the Sioux City airport. Mickey, with her daughter Ann, came down to the airport to pick us up, and then drove us to pick up our bikes from the Henhaus. That's just one example of the Iowa hospitality we enjoyed throughout our trip. We never saw the Henhaus again - it was towed into Sioux City and used as a trade-in for a 1991 diesel bus, which we first saw on the last day of RAGBRAI in Muscatine!
The last picture above is of the Diekema family. The parents, Tony and Jean, from Grand Rapids, were doing RAGBRAI. Dave, their son from Seattle, was driving the support vehicle for the ride with his son Peter and a nephew. They were camping in Mickey's back yard, and, after hearing of our misfortunes with Henhaus, offered to take our knapsacks across Iowa for us, since they were going to the same overnight towns. Not only were the people from Iowa friendly, but total strangers from Grand Rapids and Seattle made us feel welcome also!
Day 1 - Sioux City to Storm Lake. Our first day of riding was 70 miles, the last 25 in a raging storm from Quimby to Storm Lake, past many windmill farms (I've seen them in California, but was surprised to see them in Iowa). No pictures that day, but we stayed with David Walker and Bethany Larson, who live right on the lakefront. They both are involved with the arts, so we enjoyed talking to them. We are forever greatful to David for taking our soaking bike shoes and drying them out in the dryer so that we could start the next day with dry shoes!!
Day 2 - Storm Lake to Denison - 67 miles. Our host was Karen Christensen, who lived in a farmhouse on the highest point in the county 7 miles south of town. Again, wonderful Iowa hospitality prevailed - Karen came into town to pick us up, got our bags, and took us back to her farmhouse, where we stayed with Betsy and the boys from Canada - Phil, his brother Ivan, and Ranier, Phil's buddy. Phil had stayed with Karen several years ago (with Carl and Nordval, I believe), so it was a mini-reunion of sorts. The middle picture was taken around 6:30 in the morning - hence the darkness. Since Karen lived on a dirt road, we put our bikes in her pickup and she took us to the main road (we saved about 10 miles of biking). Betsy remarked that she had lost one of her gloves, and, wouldn't you know it, about five minutes later Karen comes driving down the road with not only her lost glove, but her lost glasses that Betsy didn't know she lost!!
Day 3 - Denison to Atlantic - 61 miles. This is the day that Bob Slota flew in to Des Moines. Since the Henhaus was gone, somehow Bob's bike got left in Sioux City. He drove to Sioux City and picked it up and drove back to Atlantic (but not in time for the above picture). Our host, Mary Nichols, had two other couples staying with her - Al and Nadine from Mesa AZ who have biked all over the world, and Don and Joyce from Arroyo Grande CA who were riding a tandem. Mary gave us a wonderful home-cooked dinner of ham, corn, salad, greens, and pie - more gracious Iowa hospitality!
Typical sights along the way: Jay, Mary Kay and Eddie enjoying dulcimer music in one of the pass-through towns; Eddie and a sea of bikes on a tractor line; Eddie enjoying a drumstick at Tom's Tenders; Phil, Betsy, Eddie and Jay at the site of Jesse James' first train robbery (although there were two spots a few miles apart that claimed the same thing); the pass-through town of Irwin, while waiting for Team Slow (here pictured with "Dorothy" from "The Wizard of Oz" - she was wearing ruby red slippers!!)
Day 4 - Atlantic to Perry - 90+ miles to our host home, which was 3-4 miles out of town. this was the first day Team Slow was riding, so we rode off and on with them. Again, no pictures, but another gracious host. Denny Glick, who was in charge of housing for Perry, put up about 50 bikers in his house and camping on his lawn. Bob, Eddie and I stayed in his son's room, which was called the "Wheaties" room because of the son's collection of unopened Wheaties boxes, with all the sports figures on them. Denny provided hamburgers for us since we were so far out of town. Great hospitality once again!
Day 5 - Perry to Grinnell - 95 miles (but, having started from out of town in Perry, we had our first 100 mile day - or, a "century" as it's called). Team Slow's last official day, so they had made reservations at "The Farmhouse," a private dining room in a farmhouse about a half hour from Grinnell. Plans were for Slow to pick us up at 6:30 and drive to the Farmhouse. I brought three dance tapes, and Jeanne brought a tape player. Because of the long day (including more wind, hills - did you ever bike up a windy hill, expecting to coast down the other side, only to find that you had to pedal hard? - and 25 mile ride from the last town), Eddie and I arrived in Grinnell at 6:25, about a half hour after Eddie Lynch got in. Our hosts were wonderful - Ruth and Jim Higdon, a 92 year old retired farmer (retired just two years ago!). Needless to say, we didn't leave for the Farmhouse until well after 7 PM, and were so tired after a fabulous meal that we didn't even dance!!
Day 6 - Grinnell to Coralville (Iowa City) - 92 miles (but, to our host home, another century!!). More hills, wind, and long hours in the saddle! By the time we got to Mary Wall's home (who had hosted some of us several years ago), it was 9 PM. Eddie Lynch, Eddie Pagano and I had waited at the Hawkeye trailer for Dan Kelleher. Once he showed up, Eddie L. and Danny put on their packs (Ed and I had our packs delivered to the house by our new friend Dave Diekema) and we biked another several miles uphill to Mary's. When we got there, she informed us that there were an additional 4 bikers staying. We found out that Phil had learned that his housing in Coralville was overbooked, so he called Margaret Luettjohann in Cedar Rapids (an old friend of the Hens from the early 90's whom I had met when I drove the Henhaus back in '96). So Betsy and the Canadians (and Margaret) were at Mary's when we got there. Mary had enough food to feed an army - tenderloin steak (at least 1/2 pound per person), corn, salad, bread, and fruit and ice cream). Betsy and Phil went back to Cedar Rapids with Margaret to sleep, but were back with us bright and early (7 AM) the nest day.
Day 7 - Coralville (Iowa City) to Muscatine - 52 miles. Easy ride, mostly flat to downhill, going towards the Mississippi. Got to town early afternoon, dipped our front wheels in the Mississippi, and found the new Henhaus about 3 PM. We decided to bike to the motel and shower and rest up. The last picture above (copied without permission) is of our own celebrity, Dan Kelleher, and it appeared on day 7 of "Virtual RAGBRAI," which you can view by clicking the "Virtual RAGBRAI" button below.
Henhaus arrived at the Comfort Inn about 6:30. Put the bikes on the bus, had a good night's sleep, and caught the 10:35 flight from Moline the next day.
Overall, RAGBRAI XXIX was over 530 miles, long days, hillier than past RAGBRAIs, and windy - the most challenging RAGBRAI I've been on. It was a bittersweet experience, with Art's loss and Carl breaking four ribs the week before RAGBRAI. But it was great to see old friends again, even though we didn't have much time to enjoy the scenery - always trying to get to the next town. Tom's Tenders is still the best place for lunch. Best breakfast was in Bouton at the Community Center - eggs, pancakes, toast, ham, home fries, milk, juice, and coffee for $3.50!! Best (and only) gazpacho was in Parnell. I hunted down the Smoothie stand every day - best fruit drink on the ride!