“Hello. I’m Dr. Sheldon Cooper and welcome to ‘Sheldon Cooper Presents: Fun With Flags.’”
– Jim Parsons
As I passed through Brooklyn, IA, I found myself thinking how fascinating town names are. How many words are there and yet town names repeat from state to state. When the person who founded the town went to name it, did they say this is pretty much identical to Brooklyn, NY, why not just call it that?
That was not the only question that Brooklyn, IA, inspired in me. You see, Brooklyn, IA, is a self-purported Community of Flags. So many questions. How many flags need to be present in order to be considered a community? Do the flags meet regularly like a Neighborhood Watch situation to keep the community safe? What is the human infatuation with flags? Do we need to have pieces of cloth waving on poles to symbolize state, country, types of tacos being served? Some dude created a flag, waved it about, which apparently inspired some other dudes. That’s fine I suppose, but why then did every other dude go “Yeah, we’re going to want one of those too”?
Before I poke too much fun, a quick perusal of their site states the flag community was started to welcome RAGBRAI riders, so perhaps a community of flags is just what we need.
With some crazy wind from the East, I headed West towards Des Moines (I believe it’s pronounced Dis Moynes). The trip was designed to go anywhere between 120 and 130 miles, depending on timing, as my wife would be meeting me there so we could go to the movies.
The issue with the ride started the day before. Following the weather all week, Saturday called for scattered thunderstorms and lots of precipitation. Remembering the terror of a ride that was the What Cheer weekend, I ordered some legit waterproof pants and waterproof shoe covers from Amazon. I am a proud member of Amazon Prime because I hate shopping in real life and I love not paying for shipping.
The delivery was scheduled and guaranteed for Friday night. However, the 8pm self-imposed deadline came and went so my wife called Amazon and the lady said sometimes packages don’t arrive until 10pm if they’re delivered by FedEx, which this one was… even though the app says delivery by 8pm. Whatever.
I watched the app’s tracking feature and saw to my amazement the message change as the clock ticked past 10pm. Once the 10pm deadline passed, the app stated the package couldn’t be delivered and that delivery would be guaranteed by the following Wednesday. If you are like me, you’ll probably be thinking how weird it is to have a guaranteed delivery time (but not really) and a guaranteed delivery date (but not really) and have it switch once the guaranteed time (plus 2 hours) passes.
My wife called Amazon again and got no legit answer as to what was going on, although they did refund me the $7 expedited shipping fee I had paid to get the package here by Friday night and agreed to a month of free Prime service for the mess up.
She then called the FedEx warehouse the package was supposed to be at and offered to pick it up at 9 am Saturday when they opened, then drive it out to me wherever I happened to be at that time. I vetoed that idea because she would have to skip her first concert band practice just to give me clothes to protect me from the rain after I would have presumably already gotten soaked while biking.
It wasn’t until she got to the warehouse later Saturday afternoon that they told her some such about the package having gotten stuck in the previous city it was shipped through and that it hadn’t ever actually been out for delivery Friday night because it was still on its way to their facility and didn’t arrive there until that morning.
I will add this to my steadily growing list of annoying shipping stories, including the one time that I ordered a luggage set that was 80% off. I wasn’t home and they attempted to deliver, didn’t follow the instructions on the door for the apartment complex, sent it back to the warehouse and refused to re-ship it and the deal had already expired so I couldn’t order it again. Another time, I needed to replace my phone. Verizon does have a great service of one-day shipping when it comes to their phones. However, if FedEx decides to deliver it to the wrong address, they don’t try to fix it, they just send it back to the warehouse and you have to wait until it gets back to New Jersey to request it to be shipped out again. On that phone call trying to figure out what they were doing, I explained to them that as their job is to ship items to the address on the label, they had failed at exactly 100% of their job.
Nevertheless, I woke and got ready. I took some lessons from the previous What Cheer ride, trying to suit up with more layers and bring extra gloves (more than the three pairs I brought for the last rain ride).
I ate my cereal and yogurt and packed my food. I used freezer ziplock bags to protect my phone and battery charger (I fried one battery on the What Cheer ride). I left around 8am and was thoroughly wet by 8:22.
A few things made this ride considerably more enjoyable than What Cheer: First, the temperature wasn’t nearly as cold so I didn’t have to freeze quite as badly. Second, the weather cleared up a few different times, giving a reprieve from the rain. Third, the extra gloves helped keep my hands from staying wet mile after mile. I went through five pairs, total. Fourth, the temperature actually kept going up so that I had to take layers off, ending up with just my jersey and shorts by the end. Although, after taking the layers off, the rain came back just to spite me.
From the moment that I realized that I wouldn’t have the stuff I ordered for the ride, my mind went nuclear. I didn’t want to go out into a downpour in the morning, get soaked, and have to pedal for 7 hours with ice block feet and numb fingers. I even said out loud “I don’t want to go tomorrow.” Such a mentality is a dangerous thing heading into a long ride.
Pedaling is hard enough when you are pumped about it. When you are dreading the ride, each stroke is that much more difficult.
I was also at such a low point Friday night that the thought “something bad is going to happen tomorrow” actually crossed my mind. I would like to point out that thoughts like that are where confirmation bias comes in to make people think they can sense things before they happen. If something did happen, I could claim that I knew that was going to happen. Nothing did so I just forget about it and move on.
Notice the vagueness of “something.” What does that even mean? A bunch of somethings happened on the ride, most of them “bad.” My chain fell off while I tried to quick shift going up a hill, I got drenched by rain, I ran out of energy, and so on. I could use any of those to say that my premonition was true. This notion that we can sense the future, read the aura and energy of a situation, or even the more generic egocentric idea of “everything happens for a reason” is absurd in the extreme. I thought something bad was going to happen because I was not pumped at all for the ride. Nothing bad did happen so all is forgotten. If something bad did happen, it didn’t occur because I thought it might beforehand. Life just… happens.
Overall, the bad attitude heading into the ride didn’t have too negative an impact, but it was a dangerous mentality to have and something I need to avoid, if possible, in the future. Let’s quit pretending we know anything more than we actually do.
Although I was able to get through the longest ride of the year, coming in at 119 miles, this ride was definitely the most brutal on my body. I ran out of power and energy by the end of the ride, needing to meet my wife at an earlier stopping point than originally intended. My legs were sore, as expected, along with my neck and back. The damage was mainly in the form of chafing. I think the wet conditions caused my shorts to move around a lot more than usual and the chafing was much worse than usual, including the addition of an open sore on my left bum cheek. Overall, by the end of the ride and the end of the day, I felt worse than I have compared to any other ride this year.
I have had my new clipless shoes and pedals for a few weeks now and I am still not entirely used to them. My quads hurt more than ever with these pedals, presumably because they require the use of more muscle groups and different motions. My feet hurt, presumably because I am not used to the shoes and they aren’t broken in yet. Because of all this, I cannot say with any certainty that the shoes and clipless pedals have enhanced my efficiency in any way.
Given my saddle sores and general fatigue, I headed out Sunday with no intention of getting the 50 miles I would have liked to log. I settled for 31 miles, giving me 150 miles total for the weekend. Not much to say about this ride outside of the howling wind. I was able to avoid more significant damage to the chafing situation by slathering my nethers with Bag Balm, paying extra attention to my positioning, and making sure to stop and readjust when needed.
Heading into next week, a few things to note: First, my weekly commute miles will be lower than normal because I will be trying to recoup as much as possible from this weekend before attempting a minimum of a 150 mile trip this coming weekend and because my bike needs to spend some time in the shop. When coasting, the bike lets out a very jarring grinding sound and my front tire is wearing (whereing?) through. Second, this coming weekend will hold the last rides of the month and heading into June, I will be taking part in the Great Cycle Challenge with a goal of pedaling a minimum of 1,000 miles and raising at least $500 in donations for the Children’s Cancer Research Foundation. June will also mark the last full month of training and the introduction of back-to-back century rides by mid-June.
Biking through the town of Newport, IA, on Saturday, I was trailing a silver Jeep when they pulled to the side of the road into a parking spot. As I went past, an older woman held out what appeared to a single dollar bill, tri-folded (#itsallaboutthewashingtons). It took a few seconds to process what happened as I went by so I waved as I passed before I realized she was holding out the money for me. I thought, “Well, that’s weird.” I suppose she could have mistaken me for a Lady of the Night with the hair…although it wasn’t night and my hair was back. I kept pedaling and at a red light, now on my left, the Jeep pulled up next to me again and she yelled, “You don’t want this?” brandishing her single dollar bill in my direction. I said, “Oh, no thank you” and pedaled away, leaving her with a perplexed look on her face. I don’t know what her motivations were for this random act. Did she have the dollar out and was just waiting to find a mark to give it to when I came by? Did she see me presumably looking miserable and immediately started digging in her purse for a dollar as she drove? I will never know, but there you have it.
Editor’s Note: Joe didn’t directly experience this but I thought it interesting enough to deserve mention.
I was setting an appointment to get my hair cut early Saturday morning while Joe was on his way to Des Moines and before I left to meet him. I was on the phone with the owner of the salon, whom I had just discovered was an avid cyclist himself after mentioning my husband’s ride that day. So I also briefly mentioned that I hoped the rain wasn’t too bad because his package with rain pants and shoe covers never came in last night as they were supposed to.
At this, the owner, whom I had never met before and only had one other previous phone conversation with the day before, said I should’ve mentioned it sooner because he has several extra shoe covers Joe could’ve borrowed.
Having lived in Iowa for about 5 months so far and having only heard tales of “Iowa Nice,” it was very surprising but pleasant for the both of us to have these separate, kind hearted interactions in the same day.
A special thanks to the lady in the Jeep and to Tommy, the generous owner of Buzz Salon in downtown Iowa City, for embodying “Iowa Nice.”