Another RAGBRAI is in the books

For the third year in a row, we joined 20,000 other cyclist on the world’s largest recreational bike ride from the Missouri to the Mississippi River. Every RAGBRAI is different due to different routes, different weather, and different people. This year was no exception.

img_4606img_4610img_4604With Steve’s brother Gary & our friends Alison and Blaine, we began the adventure in Council Bluffs, Iowa on Saturday for the big bike expo. It was blazing hot, so we were happy to have booked a hotel (with hot tub) for our pre-ride nights.58526209551__157690b6-c7e9-4398-a1e0-2c8cc6d7a7f7

We awoke on Sunday, the first day of the ride to thunder, lightning, and rain. After waiting out the lightning we hit the road and weathered the rain most of the day. What a start to this year’s ride. img_4627img_4628Luckily I’d bought a cute new cycling rain jacket at REI to get me through the 60 miles.

We also passed through a little town called Marne. It’s not spelled the same but close enough for a photo op. Note the Sasquatch in the background. Day two featured clear skies and much cooler weather for our 70+ miles. img_4637Cute towns, farms, and lots of good food (free sweet corn, anyone?) made for a good day.img_4635img_4629

Each evening in camp with our charter the kegs are flowing and there’s live music. Pork Belly Ventures has it figured out.58544778621__901fc20c-f2dc-46c9-b6b4-8e29e8885fb9

Tuesday was our short day with just over 40 miles ridden in perfect weather. The highlight was a stop at Howell’s Greenhouse, a large farm that featured all kinds of fun attractions including melon cannons and goat yoga.img_4663img_4653img_4661img_4664img_4666-1

Wednesday was the long day–90 miles for the rest of the crew. I sat out and enjoyed meeting new friends on the sag bus and in our overnight town, Centerville. Sitting out allowed me to take advantage of the beautiful city pool, which was adjacent to our campsite.img_4673

A warm ride from Centerville to Fairfield on Thursday featured an interesting stop in Lebanon, IA, an Amish town, where we were treated to the most delicious baked goods on the planet. It was a “two slices of pie” day for Steve, and I tried to meet every one of the Amish horses (at least 25) in the paddock. img_4692img_4689img_4676img_4683

A highlight of each day along the route is a stop or two at the Iowa Craft Beer Bus. Gary earned his t-shirt for the second year in a row by stopping at least 10 times. img_4668

Friday, another sag day for me (too much sun yesterday) took the boys through Geode State Park, and they blew through the 70 mile ride, finishing in Burlington.img_4696

That evening we had some fun visitors. First, Steve’s old friend Kent and his family came to visit us in Pork camp. It was fun to catch up on each other’s lives since we hadn’t seen each other for over 32 years!

Our second visitor is a friend of Pork Belly and American Idol winner Maddie Poppe. Maddie is from Iowa and performed for us two years ago before she hit it big. Her appearance was a big surprise to all of us.

We finished the cross-state trek in Keokuk, a small town on the Mississippi River with a pretty 70 mile ride. On the way we visited a few other cute river towns who, as usual, welcomed us with enthusiasm.

In all the guys ride about 460 miles and I did a little over 300 for the week. Now we’ll spend a few days with family and then begin the drive home to rest, get caught up, and pack for our next adventure!

On our way to RAGBRAI

For the third year in a row we are riding our bikes across Iowa. I know it sounds crazy but the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) is really a big celebration of bikes and life. There’s nothing else like it!

On our way to Council Bluffs, Iowa, the start of this year’s ride, we traveled through Kansas, rode a bit, and visited Steve’s brother Gary, his wife Kristy, and their kids Brynn and Hudson.

Our first stop after leaving Denver was Topeka. And our first stop in Topeka was the Iron Rail Brewery. We’re beginning to make local breweries a habit!

A flight at Iron Rail Brewery in Topeka

The next morning we did a nice ride on dedicated bike paths through Topeka. It’s nice to find these trails, which keep us from riding in traffic.

While in Topeka we hit up another National Historic Site (and picked up another stamp in our Passport).

At the Principal’s office

The Brown vs. Board of Education National Historic site commemorates the landmark court case that desegregated public schools and launched further civil rights legislation. The site is an old school, which was of interest to Steve, and we learned a lot about the impact of this important decision that began to shift the nation’s thinking on race.

Murals abound in Topeka

From Topeka we headed to Kansas City, KS and the comfortable home of Gary & Kristy. We love staying in their basement suite with our favorite Weimaraners, Nelly and Ruby, at our feet.

Nelly and Ruby

Kansas City, like Topeka, has some great multi-use trails for biking and we explored them. Time with Hudson and Brynn was icing on the cake.

Now we are embarking on our seven day ride across the state of Iowa. Recent floods have altered the landscape at both ends of the ride, the Missouri River at the start and the Mississippi River at the end.

Flooding on the Missouri River

Today’s heat warnings (and high humidity) is expected to break tomorrow with a little rain and then cooler temperatures the rest of the week. Fingers crossed that the weather gods cooperate and our days are comfortable and safe. We’ll provide an update once the ride is complete next week. Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

Running & Biking Colorado

It’s time for the July marathon but we’re turning this one into a big roadtrip. The big event was in Aspen but we made some great stops along the way.

First stop was in Cortez, CO and we were pleasantly surprised with our short stay. If you ever pass through Cortez don’t miss La Casita de Cortez, the best Mexican food we’ve had since Mexico. We followed our heavy meal with a nice 15 mile bike ride through the countryside around Cortez.

Next we headed towards Montrose via Durango, Silverton, and the beautiful San Juan mountains. This was new territory for both of us and it was spectacular. Though we only drove through, the quaint historic mining towns and towering peaks made us want to return.3T8J0TBNRBy0gsRMsXMT3wanZ3VZ21QMSGGRWbEK+8bA3T8J0TBNRBy0gsRMsXMT3w

From Montrose we visited Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. It gave us another stamp in our Passport book, but more importantly, surprised us with its natural beauty.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

With our new friend, Traveler the Terrier

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The Painted Wall

After two days on the road we landed in the Aspen area and met up with our dear friend Sam. The three of us spent the weekend enjoying the bikes on the nearby Rio Grande Trail, eating great meals, and of course, running.

Playing around in Aspen

Steve completed his 7th marathon for the year with the Aspen Valley Marathon. Sam and I did the 5K after cheering Steve through the finish.

Steve finishing, Sam’s high five

Champagne at the finish

Views from the 5K course

Sam showing enthusiasm on the course

Finishers

It almost never happens and was likely due to the small field of runners but I finished second in my age group! It was 45th overall but I’ll take it as a victory!!

After a night at Sam’s place, we’re headed east towards Gary and Kristy’s place and then to RAGBRAI. Stay tuned for more fun!

Missoula Marathon and More

As mentioned in our last post, Steve’s June marathon is in Missoula, Montana. We extended the trip a few days on either side of the race so that we could get a better feel for this part of the country, which is new territory for us. What an incredible place!

We arrived on Thursday afternoon and immediately headed up “the M,” the landmark on Mount Sentinel which towers over the University of Montana. The steep trail was a great way to shake off the plane time and the spectacular views helped us get our bearings.

High atop Mount Sentinel over Missoula

It was great while the weather held off…until we got near the top. Then it began to sprinkle, then thunder, and then rain. It was motivation to get off the mountain ASAP!

We wanted to explore some of the area outside Missoula while here, so we headed north to the National Bison Range to see some wildlife.

A pile of antlers

The area provides a self-driving loop through broad plains and tree-filled mountain tops. Our hope was to see a bear and,low and behold, we did it!! This little guy allowed us to follow him (in the car) and wasn’t bothered a bit. Hope you enjoy seeing the photos as much as we did taking them.

The rest of the visit didn’t disappoint either!

Race festivities began Friday evening and we didn’t miss a minute. The free “Beer Run” was a fun three mile spin around the University of Montana campus. At the end we were awarded a koozie and a beer from Big Sky Brewery.

Enjoying the fruits of the beer run

Stretching is important

Saturday’s big event started at 8am with the 5K, in which both of us participated.

I’m ready for the 5K

A beautiful morning made for a great run, followed by a visit to the local farmer’s market and downtown shopping district.

Morel mushrooms are in season

My new hat

We also drove the marathon course to prepare Steve for the big race.

Missoula is known for its craft beer, so we couldn’t pass up visits to as many breweries as we could fit in. We hit Heartland, Tamarack, Bayern, Imagine Nation, Draught Works, and of course Big Sky. Along the way, we met nice people and learned more about this beautiful part of the country.

A flight of IPAs at Big Sky

Steve’s big day started at 6am at a site about 25 miles south of Missoula. Over the next 3 hours and 45 minutes he traversed farmland, forest communities, and the streets of Missoula to complete his sixth and fastest marathon for the year.

Steve crosses another finish line

We’re really proud of his accomplishments and then we met Dave. Dave has done a marathon in all 50 states four times!! He tries to do one every other week but sometimes does three per month. We learned that we’ll see Dave again in November when we travel to Cuba for the Havana Marathon. See, Steve’s not really crazy, as some friends and family have claimed!

After the race we knew we didn’t want to hike but wanted to get out and see the countryside. We drove east to the remote ghost town of Garnet.

The ghost town of Garnet

The heyday of Garnet was in the 1890s when miners flocked here to search for gold. It’s been virtually deserted since the 40s but recent efforts have sought to preserve it.

Trying out the three-seater outhouse

We spent our final full day in Missoula on two wheels. RAGBRAI starts in three weeks and we needed some “seat time.” What a wonderful place to ride. We hopped on the Bitterroot Trail, which is a 50 mile paved path through scenic canyons. Our day took us south for about 15 miles and then back to Missoula to ride a gravel trail along a beautiful river. Why don’t we have trails like this in Arizona?

Steve saw a bison!

Steve’s favorite explorers are Lewis & Clark

At Imagine Nation Brewery enjoying a well-deserved IPA

The next marathon is in two weeks, followed immediately by our annual bike ride across Iowa. Stay tuned for more adventures!

The Year of a Marathon a Month

We’re in Missoula, Montana for Steve’s sixth marathon this year. He’s on a quest to do one a month and he’s on pace. In fact, most of our travel this year revolves around races in the places we want to visit. Here’s a recap of the year so far.

January – Charleston, SC

I wrote about this in a previous post, so I won’t rehash it too much. A part of American history we had not seen, Charleston dripped of Civil War lore, though we were told they call it “the war between the States.” We took a walking tour, saw beautiful old buildings, and ate scrumptious food. Steve has a good race and I easily finished the Shrimp and Grits 5K.

February- New Orleans, LA

We made it to NOLA just in time for the early Mardi Gras celebrations. We caught a parade, took a VooDoo tour, ate beignets, and took in the World War II museum. Oh, and Steve ran the Rock and Roll New Orleans Marathon while I did the 10K. It had been years since we’d been to NOLA – just before Hurricane Katrina to be exact. So it was good to revisit this unique place and take it all in.

March – White Sands, NM

Steve did the March race on his own while I stayed home with Dad. It was probably for the best since this was a “camping” race and it snowed! The Bataan Death March Memorial Race is staged on the White Sands Missile Range and is a tribute to those who endured the unthinkable during this WWII event. Steve had an opportunity to meet several survivors and learn about this piece of American history.

April – Whiskey Man Ultra, Prescott, AZ

April marked Steve’s most ambitious month athletically and one of the most challenging we faced as a family. In Prescott, the “big three” are the Whiskey Man Ultra, a 56 mile trail race around the Prescott Circle Trail, the Whiskey 50 Mountain Bike race, and then the Whiskey Row Marathon. Steve set out to tackle all three.

On April, 13 in the wee hours of the morning, Steve started running. 13+ hours later he crossed the finish line with a smile on his face.

Nine days later, after four days of hospice care, dear Dad passed away just a few weeks shy of his 93rd birthday. It was an emotional time filled with love, family, and friends. And, Steve was still on the start line of the Whiskey 50, on his bike, ready to ride, the day after we laid Dad to rest.

He made it about 40 miles when he cramped up and missed a time cutoff. So, while he can’t say he finished, he did more than the rest of us could ever imagine.

May – Whiskey Row Marathon, Prescott, AZ

He’s done it several times before and this time it was only one week after the 40 mile Whiskey mountain bike race. The May marathon kept us at home in our own beds, which was perfect after a challenging few weeks. Steve proved once again that he’s “tough enough” to complete this 26.2 marathon which includes about 3200 feet of climbing.

June – Missoula, MT

The end of June in Montana is spectacular! Watch for our next post for a full recap of the Missoula Marathon and our Montana adventures.

Bath, Cotswolds, and Oxford

Sadly we had to venture into the English countryside without Zach. It was tough duty, but someone had to do it! With our rental car on the left side of the road we made it to Stonehenge without issue. img_6608The ancient archaeological site has always been on my bucket list and now we can cross it off.

After riding the warm shuttle bus out into a field, we braved the cold and wind to see the rocks from all angles.

Because we were there early in the day, there were not a lot of others to impede our photos but we didn’t lollygag. Soon we were back in the warmth of the exhibition with photos to prove that we were really there.img_6612

From Stonehenge we headed west towards Bath. Rick Steves gives this city three triangles, so we had to check it out. Boy are we glad we did! We stayed at the cute Chestnuts House, just a short walk from the center of this ancient town.img_3787

Upon arrival we joined the free city tour and learned about the city’s Roman founding in 900AD through the 18th and 19th century links to royals and travelers. Most came here seeking medical benefits from the natural spring waters around which the town was built.

Incredible architecture and racy stories gave us a sense that this is the place where people have come for serious R&R for over a thousand years.

The next day we toured the Roman baths, using the great audio guide included with the ticket. The Romans built a temple and an elaborate complex of baths using the natural hot springs.img_6649 The site was used for religious as well as medicinal and social purposes. Today, it’s one of the best examples of Roman life outside of Rome. We even got to taste the water, which is still rich with minerals.

After our time in Bath we headed to the Cotswolds, the collection of small medieval villages that dots the countryside north of London. For three days we wandered the cute hamlets, checking out old market buildings, churches, and a few pubs too.

Our home base in the Cotswolds was the cute Old Stocks Inn in Stow on the Wold. Yes, the stocks are still there and yes, I put Steve in them!

One day we visited the Cotswolds Falconry Center and saw a great display of birds of prey.

In this rural area, Steve braved the cold and rain while running on a few of the many footpaths that link the small little villages in the Cotswolds. Even though our weather was not too great, we made the best of our time here.

Stratford upon Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare, is also in this area, so we used one day to explore the realm of the Bard. Amidst pouring rain and wind, we checked out Shakespeare’s birthplace, and other sites related to his life.

It was interesting to learn about his life in the 1600s and about how people have been making pilgrimages to these sites to pay their respects since the 1800s. What took us so long?

Our final stop before heading home was Oxford. Honestly we weren’t sure what we were in for, but we left feeling like we only scratched the surface. 72766C08-3A4E-4DC5-8627-EB81ACB1651BWe took a walking tour of the University of Oxford and learned about the college system (kind of like our dorms/Greek life system). Most impressive were the old buildings that define the institution, many of which date to the 1300s. While we aren’t big Harry Potter fans, it was cool to see many of the buildings and areas where the movies (as well as many other films and documentaries have been filmed). Hopefully a longer, more in-depth visit to Oxford is in our future.

For now, we’re back in Prescott for awhile, planning our next adventures.

Stonehenge and Bath 🛁

After we dropped Zach at Heathrow for his long flight home, we rented a car and braved the left side of the road into the English countryside.

Our first stop was Stonehenge, a site that had been on my bucket list for years. Why? I have no idea, and the visit was just okay. At least we can cross it off the list!

We braved a very cold and windy day to travel by shuttle bus to see the mysterious rocks, which are situated on a vast plain.

My nose looks almost as big as Stonehenge!

Surrounded by ancient burial mounds, Stonehenge was certainly something significant and an engineering marvel. But, once you’ve seen it…

We headed on to the ancient city of Bath, where we spent two nights at the cute and comfortable Chestnuts House. The Mayor’s Office offers free walking tours of the city each day, so we jumped on it. The tour told us about the history of the city which dates back to the Romans in 75AD when they built a temple and enormous bath house around the UK’s only hot springs. People came from far and wide to bathe in and drink the so-called healing waters.

The city eventually went into decline but was resurrected again in the 1700s as a place for healing. The baths were re-established as a place to come for health and social reasons.

Medieval Wall in Bath

As such, the town developed as a wealthy place for R&R, and it remains that way today. In fact, Bath is one of only two European cities (the other being Venice) to be designated as a UNESCO Heritage Site.

Our visit to the archaeological site of the Roman Baths was fascinating. We saw how the ancient site, originally constructed in early 100AD, had been buried over the centuries. New facilities were constructed on top of the Roman site by the British and now excavations have discovered and preserved the original site, as well as the more recent facilities. Layers upon layers of history can be seen in this one place and it makes you wonder what’s below every street and building in this city.

Here are more photos from our time at Stonehenge and Bath:

Freezing at Stonehenge

Goddess Minerva at the Roman Baths

Bath’s mineral-filled waters

The Roman Baths

Roman Baths with Bath Abbey behind

The River Avon

Look who I met!

Along Bath’s canal

Pub time!