7.31.2014

RAGBRAI Withdrawal Ramblings

I am having a delayed RAGBRAI withdrawal today.

I miss all the people, the fun, the excitement, and the local color of Iowa.

I was fine the first three days of this week, perhaps because I bike commuted to work and didn’t drive my car at all. I also spent some time organizing pictures and posting/tagging them on social media.

Today I had to drive to work because I have a couple of errands to run this afternoon. I don’t really mind driving now that I live in Madison and I am a lot closer to work. But it was a reminder of car culture and my general disdain for it. Of course, someone in a big black SUV had to add insult to injury by racing up to within inches of my bumper and tailgating me on an exit ramp. I did what I always do to douche nuggets of this nature, I slowed down to exactly the speed limit. Naturally, the first chance they had to swerve around me and race off, they took. Goodbye and good riddance.

RAGBRAI is a different kind of vacation, because it is much more intensely a vacation from life as you have come to know it the other 51 weeks of the year. There are far fewer creature comforts (although when you find them, like lodging in someone’s air conditioned basement or finding high speed Internet, they are highly desirable and compelling). You are more exposed to weather and the elements. There is a degree of risk riding a bike on open rural highways, although your sense of security is increased by the presence of thousands of other like-minded bicyclists all around you. The presence of said cyclists also makes access to communication media far less reliable, so even though you can often find sources of power for smart phones, handheld devices, and even tablets (if you can afford to transport such luxuries on the ride), the competition for bandwidth on the information superhighway available in rural Iowa is so intense that these devices become functionally useless for more than rudimentary communication (even texting is delayed, and in a tight situation, you are better served resorting to a good old fashioned phone call, if you can get through). Because you are camping out at night and mostly riding a bike all day, there is very little exposure to depressing and sensationalistic mainstream media. When you stop at various establishments to rest, there might be sports or news on a TV, but unless it is visual media, like weather, the cacophony created by a room full of rowdy bikers makes paying attention to media a futile task. There are far more entertaining things to pay attention to. The daily mileages of the bike ride and the stamina required puts most of your focus on supporting your group or team and seeking ample hydration and nutrition, so the impact of the world’s external happenings, as filtered through a selective mass media bias, become almost trivial. Local news and weather become a higher priority, and most of the relevant news for a RAGBRAI rider comes via word of mouth from other riders (and should thus be assessed very skeptically). In general, on RAGBRAI there is no need for mainstream media news or entertainment. There is plenty of live entertainment to see on RAGBRAI anywhere you look, music, costumes, local flavors and colors, food. News has a negligible impact on your life during RAGBRAI, unless the news is happening to you directly, in which case you don’t need radio or TV because you will already have first-hand knowledge. Generally speaking, this can be said of news and mainstream media in everyday life as well, but when you are in your comfort zone and lacking the onslaught of stimuli provided by a Mardi Gras-like event such as RAGBRAI, your mind seeks stimulation through the media, which in turn establishes the social cues on which you view the world, often as a very depressing and violent place. RAGBRAI allows you to purge your mind of all that negativity and come closer to seeing the world as it really is, pretty safe and generally fun. There were kittens and puppies too.

We did have a guy on our team break his foot (not biking, but getting out of a pool). Also, we heard about a couple of people dying on the ride from natural causes and some bikers being hit by a drunk driver (no deaths there though, thank goodness). But there were no mass shootings. No terrorist plots. As far as I know, all the airplanes that transported people to and from RAGBRAI took off and landed safely, none of them mysteriously vanishing. We did encounter a bridge that had mysteriously vanished, by way of either flooding or the Langoliers, as we tried to shortcut our way back to the bike route after finding some of the aforementioned desirably air conditioned basement lodging in a town a few miles off the actual RAGBRAI route. Our bike team had only one flat tire that I know of during the week, fixed in a matter of minutes. I am pretty sure there was gay as well as heterosexual loving happening in the privacy of tents at night, and I would not be surprised if some of this DID jeopardize the sanctity of marriage for some people (what happens on RAGBRAI…) and possibly raise the rate of abortions post-RAGBRAI slightly. No one was asked for their Green Card. Even the State Troopers turned somewhat of a blind eye to the open carrying of alcoholic beverages outside of designated areas. I saw the troopers carting a woman off in cuffs the first night, but I believe she was one of the local townsfolk and not a RAGBRAIers. Everyone pretty much lived and let live. A couple times, I did feel like the Iowa locals were a bit put off by the RAGBRAIers, but 99% of the time, I felt like they embraced us and were glad for the large influx of cold hard cash. RAGBRAI certainly was not cheap and if I were to have a complaint, it would be that there are too many charlatan vendors charging exorbitant prices for food and drink, because they know they can. This may be RAGBRAI’s fault for charging the vendors exorbitant fees to vend, which the latter have to recoup in order to generate a profit.

Anyway, I just needed to ramble on a bit about RAGBRAI to try to suppress my withdrawal symptoms. They will pass. RAGBRAI’s insights have suggested some positive changes I can implement in my life, like minimizing my exposure to poisonous mainstream media and not getting too bent out of shape about it when I am exposed. I also want to keep biking and stay fit, maybe even go for a run now and then. I also need to eat healthier, if only to purify from the not so healthy foods I consumed on RAGBRAI. I ate at McDonalds twice during RAGBRAI, which is two times more than I eat there the rest of the year (although I do own their stock, because I am no fool and I realize a lot of people are addicted to fast food). It was fast, cheap, and convenient - all the things that make it a blight on society most of the time were a plus on RAGBRAI. Plus, they have decent and strong-ish coffee and that is hard to come by on RAGBRAI too.

7.28.2014

RAGBRAI DAY 8 - Post RAGBRAI Revelations

Sherry and I set our alarms for 7 AM this morning...except that I somehow set mine for 5:01 AM next Saturday, which benefitted no one. Luckily, I have a pretty good internal clock and actually woke myself up at 6:58, which allowed me to whiz before everyone else got up and usurped the bathroom at Jason Hosch's parents' house in Aplington IA, where we lodged on Saturday night after successfully completing RAGBRAI 2014.

We hit the road in my car, loaded up with our spent RAGBRAI gear, about 8:30 and made our way back to Wisconsin, stopping in Madison to unload at my house before continuing on to Oshkosh to retrieve our dogs from Todd, who was pet sitting for us while we rode our bikes across the state of Iowa for a week. We got a late lunch at the New Moon Cafe in Oshkosh and then collected our dogs and left. Sherry went to Waukesha and I went back to Madison, picking Buddy up at the kennel en route.

I was home by 6 PM and spent some time unpacking and balancing my checkbook before heading to the open jam at Funk's Pub in Fitchburg WI, seeming to have achieved a second wind. The only thing I could think about driving back from Oshkosh was a power nap, in between bouts of dozing off at the wheel. But that feeling had passed once I completed some tasks and realized that RAGBRAI had not drained my bank account, notwithstanding the numerous charlatans on the bike ride poised to fully do so.

RAGBRAI is expensive and increasingly so this year. The charlatan vendors have no scruples in exploiting thirsty hungry cyclists who have no other option than to pay their exorbitant fees. If you are keen, you can find the good samaritan vendors, but it is not easy. Sometimes if you bike into a town late in the day, as we did on Friday due to waiting out morning rain, you can find deals as vendors seek to reduce inventory at cost. $5 pb&j's are unacceptable, yet fully sanctioned by the RAGBRAI organizers, who should all be sacked in my opinion.

None the less, RAGBRAI is always somewhat revelatory and life changing for me. It inspires a very positive outlook on life that compels participation in the event annually. However, the charlatans preclude me from attending more than semi-annualy (which I think means every two years).

One revelation comes from not driving a car for a week and realizing how far you can get on a bike in a week if you are of a mind to. I had to drive the support vehicle a couple times on RAGBRAI due to a lack of a dedicated support driver (something I would like to remedy next RAGBRAI). And I also sagged a few miles in the minivan (courtesy of Team Crazy Bird leader Jason Hosch's dad) too, but not many. Even so, driving on peaceful and virtually empty rural Iowa roads is not much of a challenge. It was when I returned to city driving in Madison that I realized what a wretched thing it is to drive a car. I fully plan to maximize my biking going forward, and minimize my automobile use. That is revelation number one.

Now that I have moved to Madison, it should be considerably easier. I will still need my car for band gigs and road trips to cool places. But there are a lot of things I do not need it for anymore.

Another revelation is the importance of not taking life too seriously. This ties in with another revelation, that mainstream news media is depressing and soul-sucking. When you are biking across a state and camping out at night with minimal technology, you don't waste what access to media you have on useless mainstream news. It is hard enough to find power for charging a smart phone at night, and wasting juice on news media is foolhardy. Your smart phone becomes your medium. You take pictures and videos of all the cool things you see on a big circus-like event like RAGBRAI, but surfing extraneous goings on in the world that don't impact you at all just uses up your technological resources.

But when you carry that to its logical conclusion, you realize there is no reason to access mainstream media in every day life either. Think of your mind as having finite bandwidth and limited power, like a smart phone. If you expend your mind on useless nonsense, like bickering about pointless sh!t on Facebook, that is brain power you can't expend on useful things like creativity and having fun and self-actualizing. In my lifestyle coaching classes, I often make participants do an exercise where they try to abolish all mainstream media from their lives for a fortnight. No TV or radio. Internet for entertainment media only, not news and information. Very few can achieve it, even though some of these same individuals can sustain a 21-day dietary purification program where they avoid all processed foods and eat only natural whole foods from the produce section of the grocery store. Mainstream media is the equivalent of dietary junk food, and once people grasp that, it is a real life changer for them.

The fact is, most news has zero impact on your life. Unless you are directly involved in events happening in the news, they are external to you. And if you are involved in newsworthy events, you already know what they are and don't need the media to explain it to you. Some useful information might be the weather if you are planning to be outside (and you should) and traffic if you are planning to drive somewhere (and you should not). But the rest of the topics covered in the news media are basically fear mongering and downright depressing.

A personal revelation I had is to focus on being more active, and especially athletic and outdoorsy. I am that way already, but not in a focused way. I want to be more actively active, rather than passively so, although passive activity is still beneficial and I won't stop that kind of activity. Perhaps a bit more time with weights in the gym though, to help burn more calories.

I also had a revelation that I want to rock RAGBRAI, literally. I want to organize a band road trip out to Iowa in late July next year and perform at some of the RAGBRAI pass through towns, maybe set up on the top of some team busses and perform for cyclists going by, especially in places where there is a dearth of live music. It would be guerilla rocking in the sense that it would not be sanctioned (or funded) by RAGBRAI's charlatans. But it would provide a much needed resource, rock-n-roll, for free.

It would not be the first time I have participated in the provision of rock-n-roll to RAGBRAI audiences. in 2002 and 2006, my bike team, TEAM CRAZY BIRD, had a full band on board and we brought the gear with us to rock several impromptu venues along the route. The first of these was a VFW in Cherokee IA in 2002. We rolled up and asked the proprietor if he would like to have some totally free rock-n-roll in his venue. He agreed, and ended up giving us $50 because we rocked it so hard and kept so many people in the bar. TEAM CRAZY BIRD ROCKS (our hastily derived band name) also played on top of the TEAM DLO bus. That bike team had a platform mounted on the top of the bus that was perfect for rocking. We ran an extension cord to a nearby house for power and rocked all the bikers going past on the route. We actually rode through that very same town on RAGBRAI this year, as well as another town, Westgate, that was an "off the route" party stop on RAGBRAI 2002, where we also performed. This year, we had a little reunion rock show in Westgate, on the very corner of the block that we rocked in 2002, while competing with a jealous DJ (our support driver had to unplug him twice for violating the truce we had established with him...alternating 3 songs each).

TEAM CRAZY BIRD typically rides RAGBRAI at most every other year, so I thought, "In the off years, maybe I can just go out and rock the event." I have a buddy in Ames IA that is a rocker. He might be interested, and he could also provide a base camp for when the RAGBRAI route passed through areas near Ames. We could basically get up early, haul ass to the preselected town (or farmhouse on the route) we wanted to rock, play for a few hours, and then return to Ames (or even camp out). It would not be a money maker, but we would gain immense exposure with over 20,000 official and unofficial RAGBRAI participants. In addition, we would not need a huge setlist of songs due to the rapid turnover in cyclists going by on the route. We could basically just have a 2 hour set and repeat it two or three times each day, depending on demand and attendance. We could also ask for tips and sell some merch for funding along the way. When you are wearing a wet, sweaty, smelly bike jersey, a clean dry band t-shirt to change into later is just the ticket.

I don't know, maybe it is a pipe dream, but I think if it were well organized and planned in advance, we could totally unleash. I need to find some musicians willing to do it in exchange for extreme fun, rather than money. The VALUE would be priceless, even if it was a net financial loss. Let's face it, RAGBRAI is a net financial loss vacation for everyone (thanks charlatans!). It would be far cheaper to rock it than to ride it, and equally as fun, if not more so. Who is with me here?

I probably had some more revelations, but they escape me now. The main ones were:

1. Don't worry, be happy.
2. Live a good and wholesome life to the fullest.
3. Avoid downers.
4. Bike more.
5. Rock at all times.

7.25.2014

RAGBRAI DAY 6 - The Langoliers

On Tuesday of RAGBRAI, we biked some extra miles along the RAGBRAI route to make it to Clear Lake IA, where we had some pretty sweet and cushy digs. Because of that we experienced "future RAGBRAI" before thousands of bikers violated the route with their excessiveness.

Do you remember that Stephen King story, "The Langoliers?" At the end, they arrive in the future and have to wait for the present to catch up. That is kind of what it was like. But earlier in the story, they are transported into the past, where the Langoliers eat everything.

This morning, we spent some time in "past RAGBRAI," because we overnighted off the route and had to catch up with the ride. So we saw a bit of the route a day later after it was "dead," and there were no more bikers.

Adding to the effect is that we tried to shortcut and catch up with the ride, but were prevented because a bridge was out...no doubt consumed by the Langoliers.

Eventually we caught up to the ride and all was well.

7.23.2014

RAGBRAY DAY 4 - A Hiatus in Clear Lake WI

I woke up this morning in an air conditioned condo after a deep, lengthy, restful and much needed sleep. Team Crazy Bird is in Clear Lake WI, a midway stop on today's route, but we got here yesterday because Nick on our team had access to his parents' condo in Clear Lake. The team decided to push through to the condo, rather than camp in the official overnight town of Forest City IA, where we would have been in tents and competing for showers and food. By riding the extra miles, we got the following benefits:

Air conditioning

Beds

Nice hot and private showers

Quiet

A pool

A hot tub

A motorboat

A homemade dinner (thanks Nick's mom!)

An egg breakfast with French press coffee

Today off from biking

We took a short cut from Crystal Lake, on yesterday's RAGBRAI route, to Clear Lake, rather than follow the longer official route.

The cost of this luxury is that we will have to catch up with RAGBRAI tomorrow but with this hiatus, we will be rested and recovered from the last three days of biking. Furthermore, we will take another shortcut to Mason City, tonight's overnight town, in the morning. It's on a bike path, which will be superb.

It looks like we may have lodging at a house on Thursday night as well, courtesy of another teammate's relatives and if the team decides not to ride on Saturday, usually the suckiest day of RAGBRAI, we might not have to camp out again. Instead we will probably head back to Jason's parents' house in Aplington IA and stay there. Or Sherry and I might go back to Madison depending on the car situation. That is, Jason's wife Janelle might ride with us on Friday and take my car from Aplington to Independence IA, where the ride starts on Friday. Then it would be a lot shorter distance to my car at the end of the day on Friday.

Here is a picture of our teammate Shawn drinking a morning PBR.

7.22.2014

RAGBRAI DAY 3 - Catching Up

It is the third day of #ragbrai and I finally have time to write a quick post because I am doing a stint in the TEAM CRAZY BIRD van, between Bancroft and Crystal Lake IA. It is really hard to post stuff, even just Facebook, when you are competing for bandwidth with 10,000 other bikers. But now I might have a shot because we are off the main bike route and on the vehicle route.

I have seen some great stuff the last three days. Sherry was a little overwhelmed on day one but she finally got some rest and understood the concept better. It is all about knowing your limits for both bicycling and partying.

RAGBRAI is full of charlatans trying to make a buck off of everything they can. That is a lot worse than it used to be and for that reason I may do RAGBRAI less frequently in the future. But one of my goals is to undermine the charlatans by going on RAGBRAI and providing free services to people. Like last night, when our team gave a free shuttle ride to some nice people from downtown back to the campsite. The services RAGBRAI provides are usually pretty poor considering what is being charged for them. Some of the vendors do have good things, albeit overpriced.

I also want one or more of my bands to play on the route next year. I have not seen any live bands yet this week, and I want to, so I can play with them.

7.19.2014

RAGBRAI DAY 0 - Nerdy Bird

We just picked up Drew (Nerdy Bird) at SUX (Sioux City IA airport). That rounds out the RAGBRAI gathering of Team Crazy Bird for today and now we are heading to the Rock Valley IA campsite, where the ride begins tomorrow.

We have beer so all is good.

RAGBRAI DAY 0 - Boondocks

Jason, Sherry, and I just merged with some more of Team Crazy Bird at the Boondocks truck stop in...well...the boondocks of Iowa.

Shawn (Strange Bird)
Nick (Jail Bird)
Brad (Dil Bird)

We also acquired the team trailer that will haul our gear all week on RAGBRAI. It is Shawn's. It is heavy and loaded with our gear so it is even heavier. The minivan is ill equipped to haul it, so it takes a good while to get up to speed.

RAGBRAI DAY 0 - Gooney Bird

Sherry (aka Rae Bird) and I (Yard Bird) rolled into Aplington IA around 11:30 AM and pulled into Jason's folks' house soon after. Jason (aka Gooney Bird) was loading his dad's minivan, which will be our support vehicle this week on RAGBRAI. We threw our gear in the back and then Jason's nice mom made us lunch. We put the bikes on the rack attached to the trailer hitch of the minivan and we are now en route to meet three more Crazy Birds at the Boondocks USA truck stop where Highway 20 and I35 meet.

If You Build It...

Sherry and I hit the road at 6 AM this morning en route to Aplington IA, where we will rendezvous with Team Crazy Bird teammate Jason, for RAGBRAI.

The drive has been smooth and we have seen a couple of RAGBRAI team busses on Highway 20 already. We passed Dyersville IA, the home of Field of Dreams, about an hour ago.

7.18.2014

Preamble to RAGBRAI

It's the Friday before RAGBRAI. Tonight, my riding partner Sherry and I drove to Oshkosh with our Boston terriers (terrors) to leave them with our friend Todd who is dog sitting them for us this week.

Anticipating 400 or so miles of biking next week, we went out for ice cream and then ate some awesome stew that Todd had crock potted up for us.

We watched a couple new episodes of Hemlock Grove and then retired to our bed chambers. We have an early morning tomorrow to get out to central Iowa by noon to meet our bike team, TEAM CRAZY BIRD. Then we'll all travel together to the starting line, camp out, and start biking across Iowa on Sunday.

It is really amazing that Sherry I were both able to make it on RAGBRAI this year between landing new jobs and selling our houses. But neither one of us had to bail and now we're on our way.

Sherry has no idea what she is in for...

Idea Box

I had an idea for a chronic practical joke.

Find something your friend is phobic or obsessed about and then subliminally drop the thing into conversation at weird times. Then play it off like you didn't.

Example:

My friend hates black olives with a passion. So while loading the car for a road trip I might say, "Please put the black olives in the car."

This would naturally be confusing to anyone but especially someone who hates black olives.

So she might say, "Put what in the car?"

And I would reply with the thing I really meant to say, were I not yanking her chain.

"Please put the bike boombox in the car."

"Oh, I thought you said black olives and I was like, 'what did he just say?'"

"What? Black olives? No. That's weird. Cuz you hate black olives."

Then I do it again another day, say going in for a high five...

I raise my hand in the universal high five signal and say, "Gimme a black olive!"

"What?"

"Gimme one up top...high five...don't leave me hangin'!"

RAGBRAI 2014

I am officially on my RAGBRAI vacation, though not officially on RAGBRAI until some time late Saturday afternoon.

Stay tuned to this blog and my social media sites for some vicariously indulgent samples from one of the funnest events ever conceived of...it's not the same as actually riding your bike across Iowa, but perhaps it will spark some inner child in you as a reminder that you only live once.

Engage and embrace.

YB (my alter ego...if you read the prior post...)

Vacation Brain - RAGBRAI

I have vacation brain, and I am pretty sure there are at least eight to ten thousand other people who have it today as well, because that is about how many people will be participating in RAGBRAI next week, the massive seven day bicycling event across the state of Iowa, where you become a different person for a week and live a completely different nomadic life.

For anyone who has not experienced vacation brain, it is when your brain becomes fixated on an impending vacation and you cannot focus on your present circumstances very well, such as your job. I have to use all my might to focus my brain on the handful of loose ends I need to tie up at work today before my alter ego as ”Yard Bird” of TEAM CRAZY BIRD takes over my persona completely.

I think I have participated in RAGBRAI either fully or partially at least 12 times since I first experienced it in about 1993, a year into my graduate school tenure at Iowa State. RAGBRAI has definitely changed and benefitted me. A few of the ways that come to mind are as follows:

Teamwork. Riding with a team of great fun people and sharing in the obstacles and thrills of a 450 mile bike ride builds team like you cannot believe. This has benefitted me in my personal life throughout the year.

Media fasting. When you are riding a bike through remote cornfields in Iowa, and camping in tents at night, there is very little access to the demoralizing and depressing mainstream American media. It’s refreshing and the elimination of all that negativity only amplifies the positivity of the summer fun of RAGBRAI. Let me tell you, examining the wet t-shirt clad bodies of nubile bicycling fanatics at a farm party in the middle of nowhere or throwing yourself down a 100 foot beer slide totally trumps examining the geopolitics of…well, just about anything. You really get some perspective on the fact that life is too short for not having as much fun as humanly possible, and this philosophy usually carries me forward in a haze of positivity for a few weeks or months after RAGBRAI, until the brutality of Wisconsin’s winter forces me to indoor misery. Over the past few years I have tried to maximally eliminate the mainstream media from my life and to be very selective about my consumption of pop culture. This is largely due to the lessons of RAGBRAI. I have no TV. I have cable only for Internet and I choose what media to expose myself to via the Internet. I have a radio, and I do listen to NPR most days to keep abreast of any existential crises facing the human race. But let’s face it, short of an actual existential crisis like a massive asteroid hitting the earth, or nuclear war, or drastic climate change, there is really not a lot of news that you can’t live without (except the Tour de France, which usually coincides with all or part of RAGBRAI most years). If anything bad happens to you, you are going to know it before the media does, most likely. Everything else just does not need to be taking up anxiety real estate in your brain, to be frank. Plane crashes and mass shootings are tragic and sad. But you know what else they are? Rare. The media makes us feel like we have an epidemic of shite storms in the world. The truth is (and you can verify this on Google), statistically, you are safer on an airplane than in your own house, and you are more likely to be shot by a police officer than a mass shooter or a terrorist. You are also safer riding a bicycle…when you are riding it with 10,000 other bicyclists who have completely taken over a small Iowa county highway, greatly reducing the risk of encountering automobiles (devices also far more dangerous than airplanes, statistically).

Living in the moment. RAGBRAI is a very zen experience. The only knowns are the suggested RAGBRAI bicycle route, and even that is negotiable most of the time. You don't know who or what you will see. Every moment is an adventure. On more than one occasion, my bike team has simply forged a new path, taking a different route to get from point A to point B. Sometimes we stay in one place longer than we are supposed to. Because of the lack of media, weather can be a surprise, a threat, or a blessing. You need to be able to accept change and adapt minute to minute. This is valuable in life. You can't be too obsessive or controlling in life. Most of the time you can't change the world and worrying about it is just wasting brain power. So, be like water...flowing, surrounding, adapting. Do not be like ice, rigid and unfriendly. Do not be like steam, fizzling away too quickly and missing all the fun. Be like water.

So, people, I’m checking out here pretty soon, for a week. “Yard Bird” will be taking the helm of this fairly robust shell of flesh, bone, and sea water (essentially) for about a week. He’s a lot more adept at melding with the shell of metal, plastic, and digital music that is his “riding machine” for RAGBRAI. I, Joe, will sit back and observe his fully indulgent shenanigans.

Ciao!

7.17.2014

Phat

I always love receiving phat checks in the mail unexpectedly. The one I got today comes just in time for RAGBRAI, the week long excursion across Iowa on a bike that I will do next week, with 10,000 like minded individuals.

As a private contractor, I have to take my vacations unpaid, and this little stipend more than compensates for the week's wages I am sacrificing to enjoy one of the funnest events I have ever participated in. RAGBRAI is by no means a cheap vacation. Even though it is travel by bicycle and lodging by tent and sleeping bag, there is no shortage of charlatans trying to exploit the event for money. Food and beer are overpriced. The bike shops that support the riders charge basically double their normal retail prices, and even the towels cost money when you want to take a shower.

So this recent influx of cash will make me less aggravated and pugilistic when I encounter there highway robbers. Thus I will be able to enjoy RAGBRAI quite fully.

Tomorrow is the Friday before the ride and it is going to be very difficult to focus at work. I am at a good stopping place on my projects though so I will manage. I take Buddy to the kennel in the morning and then my friend Sherry and I are taking Foster and her dogs, Bella and Curella, up to Oshkosh Friday night where we will stay over at Todd's, the friend who is dog sitting the Boston Terrors for us during RAGBRAI. We head out to Iowa butt early on Saturday morning to hook up with our bike team, TEAM CRAZY BIRD. After that all is unknown...

7.15.2014

Summer Fun in the Sun (or Lack Thereof)

It has been a few days since I wrote a post, and that is probably mostly attributed to the GUPPY EFFECT rock-n-roll show last Friday night, to which I had been giving considerable attention. My dedication to honing my rock skills paid off, because the show exceeded my expectations and wowed our small but appreciative audience.

Even though we got paid about the hourly wage of a Chinese sweat shop worker, once you factor in all our weekly rehearsals leading up to the gig and the four hour gig itself, the end result was priceless. It was a great time and there is even a video sample of it somewhere, but I need to get that up on YouTube for all to see.

So getting ready for the gig took up a large chunk of last week. On Saturday morning, my friend Sherry and I biked down to the Madison Farmer’s Market, my first one as a new resident of Madison WI, while my cleaning woman was beautifying my new house. We met another friend, Jessica down there, and I even saw an old acquaintance, Stephanie, there too. I scored some ground emu meat, in keeping with my penchant for eating a hunter-gatherer diet (80% compliant).

In the afternoon, I fell victim to a power nap, because I did not get much sleep between the end of the rock show and the farmer’s market. In the evening, I met my friend Shawn downtown. He was in Madison (from North Carolina) for a scientific conference and we had some catching up to do. We stumbled upon the Fete de Marquette street party and hung out there for a while before getting dinner at the Weary Traveler (an establishment that makes a fine tofu curry dish). Then we bar hopped along Willy Street and Shawn had his first PBR ever. We both agreed that as we age, quality microbrewed beers in smaller quantities have displaced larger quantities of cheap beer. In college, we used to drink fair amounts of a cheap beer called Huber, which is a cheap beer in good beer’s inexpensive clothing.

Shawn had an early Sunday morning flight, so I dropped him off on the UW campus, near the dorm he was staying in, and went home to get a good night’s sleep.

On Sunday morning, my friend Wendy came over and we did yard work together. She lives in a condo and was eager to take me up on my offer to do yard work and mowing, since she enjoys it but can’t indulge it in her current living arrangement. I paid her for the assistance, of course. We talked about planting some late season crops in my small garden. She did some research and determined that beets and broccoli can be planted as late as August and still yield veggies before the end of the growing season. So after RAGBRAI, we might get a few veggies going.

In the early afternoon on Sunday, I went to Home Depot with the $100 gift card from my realtor, and bought some essentials for some small home improvement tasks I want to pursue. I got some handles for the closets in my new house, which the prior owner I guess never got around to doing. I put those one as well as some extensions on my gutter downspouts, and I put protective covers over the basement window wells too. I also got two towel racks for the bathroom and some hooks to place around the house, although I have not had time to install these yet. I might get to that Wednesday or Thursday night, but if I don’t, it will have to wait until after RAGBRAI.

Tonight is DRIVEWAY THRIFTDWELLERS (country band) practice at my drummer Jon’s house. They are training a sub bass player for a gig on July 24 that I cannot play because I will be on RAGBRAI. I don’t technically need to go to the practice tonight, but I will for a couple of reasons. One, I like the music. And two, I want to record the jams so the other bass player has some guidance on the arrangements of songs. The gig is just over a week away and I am not sure he has been woodshedding the songs as hard as he should to be ready for the gig. I shouldn’t care, but I feel some responsibility for the bass player role, even when I am not playing it. It is a reputation kind of thing. So I want to do all I can to make his performance stellar.

I’ll be packing for RAGBRAI on Wednesday night and probably Thursday night as well. Friday morning I will take Buddy to the kennel and then on Friday after work, Sherry and I will drive up to Todd’s in Oshkosh to unload the “Boston Terrors,” consisting of my Boston terrier, Foster, and her two Boston terriers, Bella and Curella. He’ll dog sit them for us while we are on RAGBRAI.

We’ll stay over in Oshkosh Friday night and then drive to central Iowa early on Saturday, where we will meet up with our cycling team, TEAM CRAZY BIRD, and make our way to the start of RAGBRAI for a week of “off the grid” bicycling and camping. It is such a great time, getting away from it all, with no TV or depressing “news.” Only friends, bikes, beer, brats, corn, sun, debauchery, and fun (although this summer visit by the so-called “polar vortex” has the whole sun thing in question…it feels like mid-fall in Wisconsin this week). We’ll return to civilization as positively changed people some time on Sunday 7/27, retrieve the Bostons from Oshkosh and ease back into reality. If I am feeling rested enough (the ride ends on Saturday, so I might get a good night’s sleep that night), I will try to make it to the Funk’s Open Jam on Sunday night. No guarantees. It is going to be a long arsed day as it is.

Well, that’s my week. I didn’t talk much about my job, but it’s fine. Same old same old. I am still enjoying it and it is a laid back and flexible work environment. The nice thing about being a contractor is I can take a week of vacation, with my boss’s approval, albeit unpaid. My boss was totally cool about RAGBRAI.

Well, I gotta skedaddle off to DWTD band practice. I might take some video samples of the jams and post them to my FACEBOOK or live stream them HERE. So if you want to check them out, cool.

7.09.2014

My Poor Neglected Car

I did not drive my car this whole week until tonight, because I had to go to the store and buy dog food for Buddy and Foster. Were it not for that errand, I would have been car free for 3 full days. I rode my bike to work every day this week, and I found a slick bike route that avoids a lot of car traffic, although it took a little trial and error navigating the yuppified labyrinthine subdivisions of Middleton WI.

Coming home from work tonight, I tried an alternate route following High Point Road, but the car traffic was excessive and it wasn't much of a difference in distance, so it saved me no time, because I had to stop at a lot of traffic lights and what have you. I had to try it though, so I could know it was not great. It did have some more hills which I liked, because it helps in my RAGBRAI training. I also saw some unique establishments along the way, including an Asian market that I would like to check out sometime.

RAGBRAI is just a few days away, and I am pretty geeked for it. I am feeling pretty strong. I need to adjust the seat height on my cruiser bike (note to self). I am hopeful that Sherry and I can get out for a bike ride this weekend, since she is going with me. However, this is a busy weekend for us both. I have to do some Home Depot shopping for my new house and I also have a college buddy in town I want to meet up with. Sherry is moving into my house for a couple weeks while she looks for a place to live in Madison, because she got a job here, so she is moving in some stuff on Saturday afternoon. I think my new house is too small for her to stay here long term, not that she wants to, but the rent money would be nice. However, four dogs and two people is way too much wildlife for me, notwithstanding my awesome fenced in backyard.

Tomorrow is Thursday, a day that sometimes requires me to drive my car, because it is my CSA pickup day and it is a bit of a hassle to carry my veggie loaded CSA box on a bike. However, with a bit of doing I can put saddle bags on my cruiser and load the veggies into them from the box, leaving the box behind. At the moment, this plan is confounded by the fact that my bike boom box is on my cruiser bike, in anticipation of RAGBRAI. It's a pain to take it off, and I can't put the saddle bags on it simultaneously. However, after RAGBRAI, I can remove the bike boom box and then I will try to get my CSA stuff by bike a few times in August and maybe September.

The other confounder is that I bought an egg share through the CSA this year, and transporting a dozen eggs by bike seems like a challenge, even though this too I have done before, successfully (measured by not breaking any eggs).

On Friday this week, I may bike commute with a friend and ex-coworker who both lives and works not far from me. I think I will ride the cruiser with boom box on Friday so we can have tunes, but also so I can work on adjusting that seat height on the cruiser. When my seat is too low, it causes a popping in the cartilage of my left knee, and even though it does not hurt at all, I don't like the sound of it, and it can't be a good thing long term, me thinks.

GUPPY EFFECT is playing a show at Mr. Roberts Pub in Madison WI this Friday night. I am geeked for that. Then the band does not rock again until September, which is disappointing, but I am out for two weekends due to RAGBRAI and the drummer is out every weekend in August for travel and family stuff. Rocking consistently is an ongoing challenge, but one I hope to someday surmount. It would be nice to be playing gigs most weekends.

Ciao.

7.08.2014

RAGBRAI

If all goes well, a fortnight from now I will be somewhere in north central Iowa, probably somewhere near Clear Lake. I may be sleeping due to riding my bike for many miles that day. I will be on RAGBRAI.

7.06.2014

Sunday Jamz

I wish my band liked playing the Funk's Pub open jam on Sunday nights as much as I do. For me it is a great way to end the weekend, notwithstanding working on Monday morning, because it doesn't really go all that late and it is super convenient since the venue provides all the gear and we don't party too hard usually. That was a bit of a run on sentence.

Rocking is one of my main passions in life, if not the main one, so even though the jam is every week, I never take it for granted. It is an easy and convenient way to rock, especially given the fact that I live in Madison now. But even when it was a 40 minute drive from Cambridge WI, where I used to live, it was still worth it.

My new house has a really nice finished basement space for jams and I fully intend to make use of it for such. There will be house concerts o' plenty. If everything goes to plan. We can record videos down there too. I want to do a video to promote GUPPY EFFECT for live shows. I can mike everything and make it sound good.

7.01.2014

Things Could Not Have Gone More Smoothly...Almost

Things went very smoothly yesterday as far as the house closings and subsequent moving into my new house.

I closed on the sale of my old house in the morning, and then I was technically homeless for about 6 hours before my afternoon closing on my new house. I had put Buddy and Foster into the kennel for the day, so as not to inconvenience them with my transition to new digs. I was a little worried about putting Foster into the kennel, because he is very sensitive and timid in stressful and unfamiliar situations. But he was in a run right next to Buddy so there was some familiarity there. After closing on the new house, I made an executive decision to go pick up the dogs, notwithstanding the coincident arrival of a severe thunderstorm. Most of the drive to the kennel outside of Cambridge, WI was in a torrential downpour that only let up as I was pulling into the driveway of the kennel grounds, fortuitously. I had planned to go pick them up early the next morning (this morning), but I am glad I got them sooner than later, notwithstanding the bad weather. Once I was on the road to the kennel, it made less sense to turn around and go back home, because traffic was terrible. So I just “rode the storm out,” as they say in the vernacular. Buddy and Foster also got a little more time to acclimate to the new house.

My new house has a fenced yard too, great for the dogs. I am going to make an effort to take them out for morning and evening walks. It will be a good way to check out the new neighborhood and maybe meet some new friends and neighbors. Being so much closer to work, I suddenly have a lot of extra time on my hands that would have been given over to commuting, in the ballpark of 60 to 90 minutes of extra time each day. I can certainly give a portion of that time to Buddy and Foster so they can get out more. My drive to work is less than 15 minutes in light traffic now. I can also bike commute to work, which I will probably attempt tomorrow, in about as much time as it used to take me to drive to work from Cambridge.

In my new house, the living quarters are fairly modest and more economical. I sacrificed some habitation space so that I could maximize on music/jam space. I need to embrace expanding the amount of space I give over to my number one passion in life, which is the making of music, both live and recorded. The new house has a fabulous finished basement where I can really set up a nice studio for band practices and live audio and video recording. It’s also big enough to host some house concerts (August 16th is the target date for the first one of these at my new pad, and it will double as a house warming party).

My old house was bigger than my new house, but a lot of the space was underutilized, so I do not mind the downsizing. My current yard is smaller too, which means less mowing. I have a friend who is gung ho to help with mowing and yard work. She lives in a condo and doesn’t get to indulge her penchant for outdoor work and gardening. So that will be a win-win. I am totally going to pay her too, and since she is newly self-employed, the income stream might be helpful to her. Self-employment is all about multiple income streams. Speaking of income streams, I may not hit my full 40 hours at work this week. I took Monday off because of the closings and even though I will work longer hours the rest of the week, I have too much going on to comp back the full day of lost wages. It’s not a bad thing though. I came out of my house closings with a decent chunk of cash, so I can rationalize the reduced hours at work. My boss is totally cool with it and being that Friday is July 4th, I get eight hours of vacation this week too, which helps. I’d work on Friday to make up the lost time, but I made plans to go on a fun camping trip with friends, and sometimes VALUE is more important than MONEY, even though VALUE does not pay the bills directly.