RAGBRAI Extension across Indiana-Illinois
In July 2001 we participated in RAGBRAI, the famed week-long ride across Iowa with the usual group from Louisville that we've been going with off and on for 16-17 years. Among the Louisville group are Pam and Joe Argabrite, good friends of ours, whom we talked into riding home from RAGBRAI. The conversation over the previous winter went something like this. Me: "Let's do some riding!" Joe: "Where?" Me: "Well, since we're doing RAGBRAI, why don't we ride home from Iowa?" Joe and Pam: "Okay!" And that was how a trip was born.
The plan was to carry minimal stuff and do the credit-card touring kind of things across Illinois and Indiana in about five days. We reasoned that since it is mostly flat across these midwestern states, we could make pretty good time.
In all honesty, I don't think Pam and Joe really knew what they got into. Well, perhaps Joe did have some inkling, since he was dragged all over creation a couple of years back when we did a week-long tour in south Georgia and the Florida Panhandle (but that was another story!). At any rate, our trip reached epic proportions the minute we said goodbye to the RAGBRAI crowd on the bank of the Mississippi River in Muscatine, Iowa. The Iowa headwind gave way to triple-digit heat wave, which dogged us all the way across Illinois and Indiana, as the following trip reports recount.
First, a quick summary to the Louisville RAGBRAI participants from Duc.
Date: Fri, 03 Aug 2001 13:58:39 -0400
To: Steve Merker, Cee Geis, Dana Norton, David Runge, Joe Ward,
Mike Hilderbrand, Bob Russell, Marc Norton, Giulia Isetti,
From: Duc M Do
Subject: RAGBRAI Extension
Cc: Joe Argabrite, Paula Do
We're home at last! It's good to have nothing to do but riding your
bike all day, but we've had enough of that, and now it's great to be
We pulled into our driveway Thursday afternoon shortly before 4 pm,
having tacked on another 500+ miles since Muscatine, IA. It was a
great trek, as usual, but this past week's riding through Illinois
and Indiana in the grip of the heat wave was a bit trying. We could
have driven the distance and spent less money on gas than we did on
Gatorade. No wonder Pepsico is trying to buy Quaker Oats--we
personally boosted the sale of Gatorade this past two weeks.
It took us three days to cross Illinois by putting in some long days.
Joe and Pam probably are not planning any trip with me soon after
this forced march. Pam and Paula both notched their longest mileage
day on Sunday, when we pulled a 114-mile ride between Monmouth and
Lincoln, Ill. in the oppressive heat. Thank God there was no head
wind after Iowa. Instead, the blast furnace was blowing in hot air
from the southwest. It was so hot that the tar bubbled to the road
surface and stuck to our tires as we rode, robbing us of precious
momentum. At its worst, we were managing only 12-13 mph. Head wind
seemed like a more desirable alternative at that point.
After the unending flat land and heat-softened tar roads of Illinois,
we crossed the Wabash River into Indiana on Tuesday and were humbled
by the hills of the White River valley near Bedford. It took us 12
hours to ride just a shade under 100 miles Wednesday from Sullivan,
Ind. to Spring Mill State Park near Mitchell. On many a hill, we were
grinding up in the granny gears at 4-5 mph, only to roar down the
other side at breakneck speeds. We hit 48 mph coming down one hill
toward Silverville, Ind. before Paula tapped me in the kidney,
signalling that I should brake for the corner at the bottom of the
grade. But like the horses heading home to the barn, the adrenaline
got us going Thursday to cover the 80 miles between Mitchell, Ind.
and Louisville in pretty good time, despite the ever-present
We enjoyed riding RAGBRAI with y'all, and thought you may want to
know that we made it home more or less in good form.
Then Joe added his perspective.
Date: Mon, 6 Aug 2001 13:25:21 -0700 (PDT)
From: Joe Argabrite
Subject: Re: RAGBRAI Extension
To: Duc M Do, Steve Merker, Cee Geis, Dana Norton, David Runge,
Joe Ward, Mike Hilderbrand, Bob Russell, Marc Norton,
Giulia Isetti, Greg Uhl
Cc: Joe Argabrite, Paula Do
Sorry I'm not as prompt as Duc in getting out email
but just now had the opportunity to open his message
and wanted to add my pesos worth.
Duc was right, the ride home was great and although we
are glad to be home, I am already yearning to be back
out there. Yes it was tough at times but we'd be glad
to do another trip with Duc and Paula anytime. They
are great companions on and off the bike.
It was my first RAGBRAI, Pams second. Steve says it
was a tough one and not to use this years ride as a
standard to compare the typical RAGBRAI experience but
I certainly enjoyed it immensely. Most of all I
enjoyed getting to know some of you that I hadn't met
or didn't know well before the trip. I look foward to
other cycling adventures with you.
I must admit it was an emotional experience to arrive
at Muscatine and dip our wheels in the river along
with the many others who we had seen and gotten to
know along the ride. Likewise, it was a real kick to
arrive home on Field Ave. this past Thursday loudly
ringing our bike bells, announcing to seven year Zak
that we were home.
Duc was responsible for our routing through Illinois
and Indiana. As usual, he selected the most remote
and out of the way roads possible avoiding any that
would be large enough to even have a stripe of any
kind down the middle. Some weren't paved and, as he
said, the worst were the kind that were melting
because of the heat. We complained about the
headwinds in Iowa but I would have gladly traded the
worst headwind for those sticky roads. Even with a
slight tailwind and flat terrain, Duc was right that
11-12 mph was sometimes the best we could do. Pam
confessed that evening that she thought I wasn't
pedaling very hard and that she was having to do all
the work. I confessed that I thought the same about
her! We concluded it was indeed the road conditions
and vowed to try and avoid them as much as possible
the rest of the ride. Despite the sticky ones, Ducs
road choices rewarded us with excellent scenery,
virtually no cars or trucks and a great deal of
enjoyment. Duc may just be the cycling incarnation of
superman, however, and at times I was certain that if
Paula had access to a baseball bat she might have
clubbed him. I now know that I could never achieve his
power/weight ratio and shouldn't even try. But it
won't keep me from doing another trip with he or
The only mechanical difficulties we encountered the
entire ride were two broken spokes both on the rear,
one on the drive side. Just before leaving the house
for Iowa, Duc advised against carrying a chain whip,
the one and tool I needed to replace the drive side
spoke. Stopping at a bike shop the next day in
Charleston, IL the owner refused to repair the broken
spoke saying that I would have to wait until all the
repairs ahead of us were complete before they could
help me out. So I borrowed their chain whip and did
it myself. Then they didn't want to let me use their
truing stand because of their policy of not letting
customers into the repair area. I used it anyway then
left with out payment of any kind. Made me appreciate
our local bike dealers!! Duc and Paula had three
flats and a worn-out tire. Our new Continental
"Gatorskin" tires proved to really be tough and I
recommend them to anyone looking for a tough tire.
So today is my first day back at work. 150 emails; I
don't know how many voice mails and I think I'm ready
to be on my bike again...
Thanks to all of you for a great RAGBRAI, especially
Steve and Sharon for all the organizing and to Kenny
for getting all the best camping spots. See all of
Totals: 500 miles, plus 530 miles on RAGBRAI for a total of 1030 miles in 12 days.
Copyright ©2001-2002 Duc M. Do. All rights reserved.
web posted: 15 December 2001
last updated: 25 September 2002