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Tales from the RAGBRAI Part Two by Rich Pink
By Janna Trevisanut
Date: 8/4/2002
Tales from the RAGBRAI Part Two by Rich Pink

Tales of the RAGBRAI Part Two by Rich Pink

Read Rich Pink's Tales of the RAGBRAI Part One first!

So now in it's fourth year, having constantly grown in strength while only slowly in numbers, Evil is firmly entrenched in the whispers and the rumors spread throughout the corn towns which RAGBRAI passes through. When in street clothes, I and my teammates have heard little rumblings about us. One man was overheard by 1st Lt. Biddle as having said, "Team Evil. Strong riders," in an unequivocal tone while munching on a pork chop. I have been told by one overly religious woman that, after a brief discussion she "didn't appreciate my Evil." But all in all I am still surprised at the number of new Evil-ites that have come to shake my hand and with firm eye contact say "Evil. All right." I think some people really get it on the primal level, all the ideals I was driving for in part one of this whole tirade of an article. We have left the ideal the same, intact: Black and White, homogenous, strength as one, the team over everything. Reject the sickly, corporate tack RAGBRAI has so dangerously veered off on, and get to the raw ideal of the deep, beautiful nature of what a cycling tour can be. We tinkered only with our pursuit of speed and, of course, looking good. As mentioned in part one, we have gone from old sleeveless T-shirts to full-on super fine threads. All black, all pro race cut jerseys, with our oval logo firmly entrenched in six strategic positions. In fact, I think we received more comments on our looks, especially by the ladies, than on any other attribute, even our riding. Compliments from the ladies are nice. So many of them, and surprisingly, I see more and more competent young women riding. You want to turn me to jelly, show me a strong riding female. As for our clothes though, it was a bit of a one off, as most had but t-shirts, if any kind of uniform at all. The king compliment, if forced to pare it down to one, was one fellow late in the afternoon slurring through Pabst-laden teeth "You guys look so good, and you're so fast, comin' down the road lookin' like a bunch of undertakers." That was tops. Getting called a neo-undertaker by a drunk man. Great. Of course it was easy to stick out against the majority of shirtless, helmeted hordes with mardi gras beads thrown around their necks and wearing loose fitting MTB shorts, as we were all on sleek road machines, skinny as rails (except Bear, more on that later), with Euro caps pulled tight over our eyes and black shades. But I like to think we pulled it off. Oddly enough we did meet a similar bunch of fellows. RAGBRAI being so big it is easy to miss ever seeing entire groups of people, but we managed to find a team of dudes, all decked in their race gear (obviously a team) and their sponsor, whom I have since found out doesn't exist which makes them even cooler, is "Guns Liquor and". And damn were they quick. We had a nice 20 man pace line cooking it up pretty high there for a while. The whole thing was a departure from racing except when riding with them, but it was nice. Good to keep training for the upcoming rides by doing some solid fast tempo work for a few hours.

RAGBRAI is made up of three classes. Good, Bad and Indifferent. The Indifferent ones are those that are up super early, get the riding done, drop a little coin in the through towns, maybe watch some local thirteen year old musicians, harm no one, and swear but once during the whole week. They are harmless, they are the masses, they are what makes the whole thing keep clunking along. They are beautiful in their harmony. They are what the papers print pictures of and above all that, they are in a class by themselves. Usually alone, spearheading the bulk of riders making their way along the pastures and rolling back roads of Iowa. Now, the Good and the Bad, they must co-exist at the back of the pack like so many warring factions of rabid dogs. This can sometimes can be a bit of a conflict. Both of these groups like to party pretty good, but the Bad ones are into carrying supersoakers, listening to Creed really loud, hitting on the locals in such a fashion that couldn't get them laid in a morgue, and generally giving the back of the pack a bad name. Anyone, in my snobby eyes, who lines up to dance, do-rag firmly wrapped on top of their head, to Corporate Beer team's music is in need of some serious therapy, no matter how hot the girls are. Most of the males of this genre have earned the classification of "Cornsquatch". All good people of course, most of them, and I've met plenty, I'd give the shirt off my back, as the underlying theme is just to get along albeit along different guidelines. In my 13 RAGBRAI's, I have witnessed one fight. And that involved a local. However, without the Bad, there would be no Good. Of course, I have steered my team to the side of the Good, or at least I'd like to think so. These are the dreamers, the purists, the riders who ride for love of the machine, but who could easily keep up with the Bad as far as drinking all day goes, but would hammer them into the ground if tempted to tangle on the bicycle. They would help anyone anytime, affix their stickers with a certain degree of class (most of the time), perhaps take their partying a little beyond alcohol if passing a cemetary (read: code). Call it what you will, piety, snobbishness, idiocy, whatever; but in my defense I put to you this, it is all out of my passion for cycling. The ultimate glory bestowed upon he who can master symmetry between himself and his machine, regardless of skill level. For he who is cleansed by the turning of pedals. And what better canvas to master these principles on than the sun and skin fest that is RAGBRAI.

So there we are. A team. Myself. Cheever, an absolute renegade of a Minnesotan, loose as a goose and master of the flyer. Sometimes they were sideways, off-road flyers, but Cheever was always wise to get up the road to force others in our lines to do the work. Sovern: a very large dude. Tall, thick, big. But a heart as big as his body that's for sure. Sov also works for a certain bicycle part wholesaler, which really came in handy in the Schwag dept. He's also the only guy that could provide an absolutely wind-less draft. Biddle, a soft spoken twisted wit like no other. He doesn't say a whole lot, but when he does you had best listen because he's hilarious. He catches everything anybody else would miss. Bear, the true engineer of the team. Bear was the poor sot who, by virtue of his mechanical knowledge, would be perched under our 1973 RV, coaxing her to perform as best she could. Our RV broke down a lot, and Bear was the only guy who could get her running again using, among other things, tin foil, zip ties, particle foam, and of course duct tape. He got the nickname, because he looks just like one. And one night, after showering in somebody's lawn using a garden hose, I got to witness his ponderous drunken bulk frolicking nude around the RV, all jiggly and glistening, all the while spouting out his most infectious laugh saying "The Bear is a filthy animal! Do not feed the Bear!" Carter, the driver of the RV. Good dude, stops and collects odd antiques with which to fill the Falcon (RV). Among them this year, an old 70's robot toy, a Pat Cooper album, and nameless other trinkets and whatnots. All of which add to the sublime flair this team has cultivated since its inception, and all of which attributed to Carter. He's also the dude that follows up some early morning Ravi Shankar with side one of Led Zeppelin 4 before we roll. God bless him.

So the week began like all before it: hot, green, and hazy. But mostly green. There is no deeper shade of green than late July Iowa. The corn stands tall, the soy waves endlessly towards the horizon, and the grass even, despite the lack of rain, grows thick and green. The air is permeated by the scent of fresh ripe corn, it's nature's closest pheromone to human sex I swear. Heady and sweet, it can get into your blood something fierce. Despite the her bad rap as being flat (for those who have only traveled it along I-80), Iowa is nothing but rolling hills. Some parts of the state have valleys, especially near its east and west borders, the rivers. Around Decorah they have what's known as the "Iowa Alps", and they are formidable to say the very least. And above all, from the vantage point of a bicycle, the state harbors some of the most benign and spectacular beauty one could ever hope to see. In the morning, the lower valleys are full of majestic mist, and in the evening, the 360 degree horizon you are sometimes afforded entertains you with sunsets that could rival California's. Couple that with the irresistible beauty of the local women, and you have midwest heaven for those who cannot get down to Rio, New Orleans, Paris, or Hedonism.

We set out the first day after a rough journey. Leaving Chicago at 10:00am on Saturday, due to breakdowns, we arrived close to the start town at 5:30am Sunday morning. No kidding. It was a tough way to start a vacation, and my temper was kept in check only by the salvation of being on my bike the next 7 days. The Falcon was NOT cooperating, she stank, spit fuel, whinnied a whole bunch, cried, chugged, up and quit, stomped her feet...well, you get the idea, but we got her there, or BEAR got he there. We slept what we could, got up, and joined the fray.

I could give you daily descriptions, I could regale you with humor pieces, and what he said-she said, but I have decided against it. We did have one catch word for the whole trip, and the is the meaningless, all-encompassing word CHORT. It can be anything. It could be used in all contexts, and as any part of speech. "My chort hurts" "You have something hanging from your chort" "I'd like to see HER chort," capiche? Say it once to yourself, it's fun. Chort. And how the week turned out, it was spent all in what we had come to know as The Chort Stream. All was good. It was like an interstellar wormhole right there in Iowa. It was a disruption of time and space, it was a tube from which no one could escape until the ride ended. It's walls were lined with warm Old Milwaukee, sweat, and 700x25 tubes, and we, its inhabitants, were warm and fuzzy the whole way through. The Chort Stream kept us warm from the rain, cool from the scorching mid-day Iowa heat, unappealing to the Huey-sized mosquitoes. It was the thick scaly barrier between us and reality. It was god and satan holding hands, it was peace in the middle east, it was mom's cooking, and above all it was RAGBRAI, in the truest sense of the word. It takes a day to two days to get in the Chort Stream. You start off by putting a foot in it, and holding back from jumping in while what's left of your rapidly exiting common sense tries to convince you otherwise. But once you're in it's all over. It riddles you like the most aggressive cancer, filling every pore, every nook and cranny. You are submersed in Chort. That's why there is such a thing as "RAGBRAI Withdrawal" and it should be a clinical term. Anybody who has suffered it knows what it is about. The urge to sticker a nun. Or have warm bad beer for breakfast. Or the way you never will look at a cemetery the same. It is the crashing sound of truth being driven home as you realize all the methadone in the world couldn't help you. It's your own little whipping post, and it takes a while to get untied from it. As I write I suffer from it. It will take many days before my faraway look regains a semblance of focus. My wistful westward gaze will be with me for a while. These words come not from me but from beyond the chort. It is cycling nirvana. It is ride all day and all night pretty much, sleep under the stars, wake and do it once again. For seven days. Only those not in the know say we're crazy, and we probably are. But again, the recurring theme here is passion...Love. Escape. Life. Bikes.

Rich Pink

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