Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Touring Series: Introduction

A Guitar Ted Productions series

In 1994, I was only about a year into my career as a mechanic/cyclist, at least in earnest. While I had been an off-road cyclist since 1989, and while I had been a fan of cycling, and maybe more serious about cycling than many, I was far from being "good" at anything on two wheels yet. I knew very little about cycling techniques and road riding was absolutely alien to me. I had taken a mechanics class, and my year of wrenching had taught me loads, but I was far from being "accomplished" at the mechanics and definitely far from an accomplished cyclist as I could be.

Welcome to "The Touring Series". This series is a re-posting of a story I told here on this blog in 2008. The story is about what I named the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". This was a fully loaded, self-supported bicycle tour from just Northeast of Waterloo, Iowa starting in a little village named Dewar and the goal was to get to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada in one week's time. The plan called for us to be picked up there and taken home by car.

When I returned home from this tour I wrote a rough draft manuscript of about half of the trip. It is 27 pages of hand written stuff, front and back, and this is what I will be posting to begin with. You'll be able to identify the 1994 manuscript material by my using italics to post it here. After the manuscript information ends, the rest of the story will be picked up from memories written down in 2008. That will appear as regular text here. As mentioned last week, cameras, smart phones, and the like did not exist for us in 1994, so images will be few. There are some though, and I will sprinkle those in when they are relevant.

Following will be the first bit of this story. I suspect this series, which will appear on Sundays, will take just about the better part of this year to get out there. Thanks for reading! Now, on with the story.........

Late one evening, I do not recall exactly when, Troy was longing for a vacation. A much needed respite from the daily grind of the bike shop at which he and I were employed. This vacation, ironically, must include cycling. This was Troy's only stipulation. A vacation mounted on a two wheeled steel horse off to anywhere. Wind in your face, freedom from daily drudgery.

The easy solution was RAGBRAI. Registers Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, that's what it stands for, you know. A week long extravaganza spanning the state from West to East taking in a great number of small villages and towns along the way. Its reputation is well known nationwide. Drinking and dancing along the way. A veritable bacchanalian bike ride for the behaviourally challenged. This is; however, NOT Troy's idea of a bicycle vacation.

Troy was on RAGBRAI once. Once. He did not relish the experience. Troy hated it then and I know he really hates it now. Not just because the weeks before RAGBRAI are insane at our bike shop. No, he also dislikes the attitude of people associated with it. It reminds me of the day a cyclist came into the bike shop and says," Don't you go on RAGBRAI?" To which Troy flatly replied, "No." Then this man retorts back with, "Well, do you race any other time of the year?"

This boiled Troy's blood. You see, Troy is an accomplished racer by all accounts. Therefore and here after, Troy has dubbed RAGBRAI as the "bike ride from which all cyclists are judged." I suppose that this sarcastic description is what I think as well.

Since RAGBRAI was now out of the question, Troy declared that this vacation must be something epic. A trip that would be understood by even the simplest of cycling fools as a great challenge. No beer sodden ride through Iowa pasture land for Troy! He must make a fully self supported effort. Full bagged and loaded type touring.

A worthy destination was needed. How about Canada? Could Canada be reached within a week? Some muddled late night computations were done in our minds. The answer? Hell yes! But with whom? Troy was not willing to go it alone.

I did not offer up myself as a companion, as I did not have the bike or the base miles to do such a thing. I instead offered up the name of Steve. I knew him as a touring nut and a RAGBRAI trooper. Troy was stoked and when he asked Steve a couple of days later he said "Yes"! The trip was on! 

Notes: Troy was a racer/ex-college student/bike mechanic I worked with at Advantage Cycles. For the locals- Troy also was the founder of the "Bike Tech" shop in Cedar Falls. "Steve" was/is a local school teacher, and ironically ended up becoming my son's Principal  at the elementary school level years after this tour. At the time of this tour Steve was a die-hard RAGBRAI fan and had just come off the '94 RAGBRAI.

Next week on "The Touring Series": I Had No Business Going- But I Did!

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