RAGBlog contains text and audio commentary surrounding my participation in RAGBRAI XXXIII, July 24-30, 2005. RAGBRAI, which stands for the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, draws about 10,000 bicyclists each year for the weeklong ride. Go back to the July 2005 quotes for daily commentary on the ride.

Sunday, July 31, 2005


Some say they do RAGBRAI for the pie.

DAY 7: A Dip at the End

RAGBRAI traditionally ends at the Mississippi River, which forms the eastern border of Iowa.

Iowa began to feel like something other than Iowa today. The roads began to curve, flatlands became rolling hills, towns got closer together, we began to share the road with a few more cars, and everything about the ride seemed to gently tell us that Iowa and RAGBRAI were coming to a conclusion.

I don't think people stopped at the towns as much today. Maybe we were thinking about getting back home.

It seemed like there was a little less complaining about the hills, even though there were probably a few more of them today. This is not to say that the RAGBRAI riders were completely accepting of the hills. One high school age girl I was riding near rounded a corner, saw another hill, and muttered aloud, "Oh, Sugar."

This was the last day of riding in an enormous group. When you are riding RAGBRAI and someone ahead shouts "RUMBLES," don't assume that it means the Sharks and the Jets are about to square off in a well-choreographed knife fight. It simply means you are about to go over rumble strips, which come in groups of three before intersections. They are very rough to ride over and most riders try to avoid them.

My last breakfast on RAGBRAI was at Danny Cakes. Team Cow was there too. They are on the right, wearing cow suits.

This just in: Taco in a Bag (mentioned in the Day 3 audio post) is also known as a Walking Taco. Don't know about you, but I'd prefer that my tacos just lay there.

Team Go Nuts has a demented squirrel wearing a bike helmet as its logo.

It is with deep disappointment that I report that I forgot to see The World's Largest Cheeto in Algona.

There were some nice pass-through towns--including Elgin, the Little Switzerland of Iowa--but the real star of today's ride was the Mississippi River. We reached the river at the town of Guttenberg and dipped our front tires in the water, signifying the end of the ride.

I got my first glimpse of the Mississippi after we emerged from a wooded section of The Great River Road. There were a large number of riders who had pulled off onto a grassy area on the left side of the road. I stopped to see what they were seeing. It was a spectacular river overlook.

After riding down a steep hill--both a sign and a police officer warned us to keep our speed down--we hit the outskirts of Guttenberg. Teams were assembling (in the shade if they could) in order to ride to the end together. Under one tree were the CUBS, who had been so funny doing KYBO Roulette. The Air Force team was massing near another tree. The guy with the enormous ear of corn on his helmet was waiting for friends.

Guttenberg is a charming little town. We rode First Street along the riverfront. It was a wild party atmosphere. I felt a mixture of sadness and relief that the ride was almost over.

The tire dipping was at a boat landing. There was a big picture-snapping crowd there, and it took a while to get the chance to dip. A few people were jumping off a nearby dock. As I was dipping, someone jumped and a little ripple of water sloshed into my shoe. So it was done. Both my bike and I had been dipped.

Here is proof of completion as I dip my front tire into the Missisippi River. If you look closely you can see a guy about to leap off the nearby dock, which caused my shoe to be dipped too.

I had completed RAGBRAI XXXIII.

57.04 Miles

Saturday, July 30, 2005

DAY 6: Hills in Iowa

Today, there were some rolling hills. Some withstood them more gracefully than others.

Those Midwestern riders who were so strong on the flats, so stoic in storms, so accepting of stiff headwinds began to gripe when a few hills came up. Riders who had flown by me on the flats struggled going up the hills. Some of the weaker riders walked the tougher hills. "That last one must have been a mile long," one rider groaned about a not particularly tough hill.

The stuff they fill in the cracks with on these Iowa roads is slippery when your tires are parallel to the crack. After a while you learn to steer around the cracks.

The ultralight crashed yesterday. A two-person crew had been flying over RAGBRAI to shoot a documentary about the ride. There were only minor injuries. No word on whether this dooms the documentary.

Team TP was out. Their signature look? A toilet paper roll on a spindle on top of the helmet. Bizarre, yet functional. And yet another example of RAGBRAI engineering (See the audio post below).

Team TP's motto is "We Give a Sheet."

The Donner Party of Truckee, California was having no problem with the hills. Their motto: "We Eat the Slow Ones." Better watch it, Donners, you are what you eat.

Team Road Kill has swung into action. This group of RAGBRAI riders adorns road kill with club stickers and Mardi Gras beads. Disturbing, yet, um, disturbing.

Spillville did an exceptional job as a pass-through town. Among its other attractions, Spillville had had a petting zoo where city types could hold baby chicks or a squealing piglet.

Games included butt darts (don't ask!) and a frozen tshirt contest. For the latter, they had a CO2 tank, so those tshirts were seriously frozen.

Houses in these small Iowa towns almost never have fences. Back yards tend to run together and create a large common area.

The last two evenings I put my TurboCat headlights on the bike and explored the towns of Cresco and West Union after dark. I found that on festive occasions like these, a Trek 520 can be ridden short distances while wearing flip flops.

West Union had a big turnout for its evening entertainment.

Friday, July 29, 2005

RAGBRAI Engineering

The Pork Belly Shower Thingie, where you can sort of shower, is a prime example of RAGBRAI engineering.

DAY 5: Making Headway in Headwinds

The town of St. Ansgar had this nice bicycle-themed entryway.

The ride into Cresco was pleasant and fast overall, but the headwinds at the end of the day were a little rough.

A woman was riding into the stiff headwind, followed closely by two teenage boys. Said one of the boys to the other: "Bob, don't you feel embarrassed to be drafting off your mother?"

People get hurt on RAGBRAI. A bike went down near me as I was riding in a big peloton yesterday. It was near enough to be a little scary, but not so near that I was in any real danger from it. Best thing is not to hit the brakes because that can cause a chain reaction crash when riding in a big group.

A couple of times a day the ambulences will pass, sirens going. The Register said that the emergency vehicles are staffed with first year resident doctors, so that injured riders can get more care more quickly than a paramedic could provide.

We are in Mennonite country. Some of the families came out to watch the cyclists. Their clothes are straight out of Little House on the Prairie. They were curious about us and we were curious about them. All the Mennonite families seem to be big.

One group of Mennonites were selling handmade ice cream. The women were selling it out of a wagon while the men were hard-cranking it out back.

A group of Mennonites was selling ice cream along today's route.

Team Cow was on the road. The cow horns and ears attached to their helmets weren't so exceptional, not for RAGBRAI, but the cow-spotted bikes were above and beyond the call of duty.

Everyone from little kids to retirees come out to watch RAGBRAI pass through their town.

More on The Bicycles of RAGBRAI: I forgot to add in my audio post yesterday that Trek 520s--which I almost never see at home--are very common on RAGBRAI. It is good to see that there are others who appreciate the virtues of this not terribly fast or flashy, but rugged and reliable steel-framed touring bike.

Last Note on The Bicycles of RAGBRAI: There's a guy riding a vintage single-speed bike this week. The sign on the back says: "1941 Schwinn, 1939 Man." He has a second sign that says "Gears Are For Wimps." I passed him on a hill.

The headwind that made it hard to get into Cresco also made it a hassle to put up the tent. When I took the tent out it billowed like a parachute and wouldn't stop. I eventually got it pitched on the outfield grass behind the shortstop position on the high school softball field.

81.19 miles

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Land of 10,000 Bikes

RAGBRAI draws a remarkable diversity of bikes, although this one was only for around-town riding.

DAY 4: Easy Ridin'

Mild, dry weather and a flat route made this an easy and enjoyable day. Here we are in the morning when the riders are more bunched together than we are later in the day.

This was a beautiful day to be on a bicycle in Iowa. It was cool in the morning, and gently warmed to the high 70s by the afternoon. There were some puffy white clouds in the sky and no hint of rain.

Team Loon was out, 22 strong. They wore what looked like black ducks on their helmets and broke out into loon calls when greeting one another.

"Isn't the loon the state bird of Minnesota?" I asked one Loonhead (her term, not mine).

"You betcha," she replied.

The RAGBRAI airborne entry is back in the sky. There is an ultralight airplane following the route this week. I didn't see it after the Sheldon storm, but now it is back in the air.

Sign spotted along the route: "Don't be a Crackhead. Wear a Helmet."

Got in a big peloton led by a fellow with a bike trailer containing a boombox that cranked out classic rock tunes. People joined in by singing along whenever they felt like it (although they usually didn't feel like it while going up a hill). The boombox was powered by a marine battery, which is like towing a concrete block across Iowa.

Speaking of concrete blocks, there is another guy towing a trailer containing an imposing-looking concrete block. Or is it a styrofoam fake? I guess RAGBRAI should have its little mysteries.

People drive American cars in Iowa. I counted 50 cars and trucks (business and government vehicles were not counted) and the results were 48 American cars, 2 imports (a Mini and a Lexus). I got the feeling that both of the imports were from outside the area.

Thompson, about 50 miles into the ride, was hopping with live entertainment, mardi gras beads for all, sunflower seed spitting contests, and a whole lot of energy.

The Air Force Team led a nice paceline today. When they pulled off, they were thanked profusely.

We flooded into Thompson, but the town was ready for us with plenty of food, games, entertainment and energy.

I went to dinner after today's ride with Frank and Richard from the same charter group that I am with. Frank, a RAGBRAI veteran, suggested the Methodist Church buffet. It was a good call, for $6 there was plenty of food, lemonade, and pie. Frank asked a church lady how many people they had prepared for. About a thousand people for dinner, she said.

84.83 miles

DAY 3, Part 2: My Dinner with Mr. Pork Chop

The one-and-only Mr. Pork Chop, a genuine RAGBRAI celebrity, visited us at our camp in Algona.

This report is a continuation of the audio post immediately underneath this one.

The charter company that is taking care of me this week, Pork Belly Ventures, arranged for a dinner with one of RAGBRAI's biggest celebrities, Mr. Pork Chop. He is famous for his huge and tasty pork chops barbecued over a corn cob fire sold at the side of the road during each day of RAGBRAI. Merely a sign reading "Mr. Pork Chop 6 Miles" can send murmurs of anticipation rippling through the peloton.

But mostly he is known for his famous "Pooooooork ... Choooooooooooop!" call that everyone tries to imitate, but no one can quite match. And when he isn't cooking or doing the pork chop call, there's a guy with a guitar at the side of the road singing about pork chops. Only on RAGBRAI, huh?

I've provided a link to Mr. Pork Chop's web site on the right of this page.

Turns out our camp site was next to Mr. Pork Chop's son's house. Both father and son turned out to be genuinely decent fellows. Mr. Pork Chop (who is not a young man) posed for countless photos and probably did more pork chop calls than was good for him. But he apparently had a wonderful time.

A lovely evening.

My favorite campsite during the trip was this one in Algona. We were surrounded by several weathered farm buildings and cornfields.

A correction to my earlier report on the storm in Sheldon: The radio station I heard playing Rush Limbaugh when I was desperately looking for a local weather report was not the Sheldon station. It was apparently from somewhere else. The Sheldon station had been knocked off the air by then because its transmitter was blown down by the storm.

More on the Sheldon storm: A local public official was quoted in the Des Moines Register saying, "There were tents all over town. A lot of tents were stuck to the side of cars." Turns out that those who evacuated were often the ones whose tents uprooted themselves and blew away.

One rider died during the storm. A 27-year-old man was in his tent when a tree fell on him. Said RAGBRAI Director T.J. Juskiewicz, "It's kind of a miracle there weren't other injuries."

Getting back to Day 3, this was the day when riders were given the option of a century loop. I completed it in reasonably good shape: 104.26 miles

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

DAY 3: An Audio Recap

Today, riders had the option of doing a century loop and getting a patch for riding more than 100 miles in a day. It was generally a flat and easy ride, although the last part of the ride had strong headwinds.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

DAY 2: Blowin' Out of Sheldon

Merely having RAGBRAI pass through their streets is a huge event for small towns like Melvin, which make elaborate preparations.

The storm was more or less gone as we started out from Sheldon, but the streets were still wet. I didn't stop as much on the ride to Estherville because the milage was longer and I got on the road almost an hour later than hoped.

I didn't see much destruction from the storm as I rode out of town, but George Longoria of Team Besame Mucho apparently did. Here is a link to some photos that show how destructive the Sheldon storm really was.

Some of the roadside people who sell food and drink here follow a policy they call "free will." Pay what you think is right or not at all.

RAGBRAI is an enormous event for the little pass-through towns. Riders can outnumber townfolk 10-to-1. A good example was Melvin, which was so busy this morning that you couldn't ride down the town's main street.

After Melvin, a pretty good headwind came up and I got into a paceline with a group of riders from a bike club in Pella, Iowa. We kept up a good speed into the wind all the way to Milford, where I stopped for lunch.

Milford is home to the University of Okoboji, which I thought was a joke, then I thought was for real, and finally realized it was a joke after all. They do have a realistic-looking university seal. And they offer MBA degrees (Masters in Bicycling Activities).

I prefer riding in the afternoon, although the combination of heat and humidity isn't a whole lot of fun. In the morning everyone is on the road at the same time and the heavy bicycle traffic is a little unnerving. One rider makes a mistake and a lot of people can go down. By afternoon, it is less crowded. Some people don't ride the day's full route.

I saw a fair number of bikes upturned on their handlebars, which is the RAGBRAI sign of surrender--a plea to the SAG wagon to pick the rider and bike up.

Came in through a nice state park into Estherville. Didn't get to see much of the town because there was a tornado warning. I paid a few extra dollars to stay inside on the gym floor at Iowa Lakes Community College. Turns out the big storm missed us this time and the people outside only had to deal with a little rain.
When I got to Estherville, the forecast was for another big storm to blow in. Along with many others, I opted to spend the night indoors at Iowa Lakes Community College. I slept on the gym floor. Thankfully, we were not in the storm's path this time and only got a little rain.

87.49 miles

A Confession/Realization: Before this trip, I had never pitched a tent and had to rent one for this trip. In Le Mars, I was so incompetent at putting up the tent that two guys in my group came over and more or less put it up for me. In Sheldon, I pitched the tent myself for the first time. I was thinking about that as the storm was hitting full blast.

Monday, July 25, 2005

A Scary Night in Sheldon

The violent storm that hit Sheldon after midnight had pretty much cleared up by morning. RAGBRAI went on.

DAY 1: Sensory Overload

The Chicago Urban Bicycle Society (CUBS) entertains the portapotty-awaiting masses in "KYBO Roulette."

The first day of RAGBRAI lived up to its reputation as an amazing festival of bicycling. All types--not just fast, fit club racers--ride this ride. Bikes range from beaters to the best that money can buy.

The headline in today's RAGBRAI special section in the Des Moines Register: "Ready, Sweat, Ride." It was hot, but temperatures probably did not get above the low 90s.

And there was a lot of fun on Day 1 of RAGBRAI. Kybo Roulette--where people bet on which portapotty door will open up next--was hilariously run by the Chicago Urban Bicycle Society (CUBS).

Team buses were all over. Some have rooftop decks and huge sound systems. In some of the pass-through towns bike traffic was so heavy that things slowed to a walk. Lines could be insanely long, but some things were oddly lineless.

Orange City was a particularly tidy little town on today's route. A nice little house was for sale in the residential district. Nice yard. Asking Price: $76,000.

Had my first RAGBRAI church meal from the Spalding Catholic Church. As with most, this was a fundraiser. Bratwurst and kraut.

Riders put lots of funny stuff on helmets: plastic ducks, dinosaurs, Twinkies, and one guy who had a 16-inch plastic ear of corn that looked more like the Hindenberg.

Met a man who rode the infamous "Soggy Monday" on RAGBRAI in 1981. He said the day was more cold than wet. He told me the way to deal with those weather conditions is to put baby oil or olive oil on your legs. It's warming and water-repellent.

A man with a 1980 or so touring bike said he wants to be buried with it: "What if you die and you find out it's one big bike ride up there."

Got to Sheldon, the overnight town, and one sign said:

$6 with band
$7 without band

I thought, that must be a pretty awful band.

(Turns out "band" meant the wristband given to all registered RAGBRAI participants.)

67.6 miles

Postscript: A whopper of a storm hit Sheldon after midnight. I'm a soggy survivor. Details in the next post.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Heat and Fireworks in Le Mars

According to this sign, it was 104 degrees in LeMars when our bus pulled into town at 6:30 in the evening.

Big Day for Elevation Gain

My seat on the plane to Omaha was right over the wing. It reminded me of the "Twilight Zone" episode where William Shatner sees a strange monster out there messing up the engines. Thankfully, my flight was uneventful.

Yesterday was a travel day. The hectic and somewhat grueling way it unfolded kept me from posting. Today is the first day of RAGBRAI and things are much better now.

My flight out of charmingly unpretentious Long Beach Airport on America West was a little strange. The connector flight to Phoenix was on a Bombardier CRJ900, a Canadian aircraft that was surprisingly tiny. As I was bording I saw the luggage going up the conveyor belt and I wondered "How will they get my bike case into that little cargo door?"

Quite a few people in the airport had laptops, but I decided to go minimal on electronic equipment on this trip. Baggage trucks, camping, and the land of the sudden thunderstorm all argued against any sort of computer equipment.

As I was going to my connector flight at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix I fell in behind a guy in a wheelchair being pushed by an energetic airport employee. First paceline of the trip!

Bought the Arizona Republic and read it on the flight. The Question of the Day to local Columnist Clay Thompson began: "I have been thinking a lot lately about electric eels. Could enough of them power a house?" Mr. Thompson prefaced his answer by saying this is the sort of question that comes in when the weather gets hot and people are cooped up indoors.

I'll tell you about my arrival in Le Mars and my first impressions of RAGBRAI in the next post.

Friday, July 22, 2005

The Cruel Art of Packing a Bicycle

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Packing, Boxing and Camping

This thing is getting close. I've started filling a borrowed duffle with clothes, biking stuff, personal items and whatever will make a week of bicycling and camping with a lot of other people more comfortable. One example: earplugs. Never owned 'em before, but I'm guessing they'll make the nighttime campsite chaos a little more managable.

I'm bringing a sleeping bag but am renting a tent from my charter service. Hope it comes with a ground cloth because I don't own one of those either. Wonder how long it will take me to learn to pitch the thing?

And today is boxing day, as in boxing the bike. I've borrowed a hard-shell bike case and and am taking my bike to Doug at Glendale Cyclery, my local bike shop, to partly disassemble it for the case. I shouldn't have too much trouble reassembling the bike. (I'm a little better with bikes than with tents.)

Expect another audio report soon.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A Short History of RAGBRAI

83-year-old Clarence Picard (right) was one of 114 riders to complete the first RAGBRAI in 1973.

RAGBRAI, which the Des Moines Register touts as "the longest, largest and oldest bicycle touring event in the world," began as an attempt by a couple of newspaper guys to generate some human interest-type feature stories during what was apparently a slow news summer in Iowa.

With only six weeks of advance notice, "The Great Six-Day Bicycle Ride" drew a surprisingly robust turnout of about 300. Among the 114 participants who completed the route that year was 83-year-old Clarence Picard, who rode a used ladies Schwinn and wore a long-sleeved shirt, trousers, woolen long underwear and a silver pith helmet.

The reading and riding public was captivated, the next year's ride drew 2,700, and a classic event was born. Here are a few more historical tidbits:

•By 1975, it had become customary for the ride to begin at the Missouri River and end at the Mississippi River. At the beginning of the week riders would dip their back wheels in the Missouri and at the end of the week dip their front wheels into the Mississippi. This custom has not been rigidly adhered to in recent years, however.

•July 27, 1981 may have been the worst weather day in RAGBRAI history as temperatures plunged to the 40s, the wind howled, and a drenching rain discouraged most riders from completing the route that day. According to the Register's account, "Farmers and townspeople pitched in to haul riders into Lake City in cattle trucks, campers, pickup trucks, etc. The campgrounds in Lake City were under water so residents came to the rescue and put the riders up in homes and garages, and even on the newly refinished gym floor at the high school."

•The 1999 ride may have been the hottest on record. On July 30 it was so hot that the stuff used to patch cracks in the road reportedly turned into liquid. Riders said their tires made splashing sounds as they went through it. A county engineer said the pavement temperatures had to be at least 120 degrees to do that.

•The 2004 ride was relatively uneventful, except for a sudden deluge that caught many riders just as they were travelling the only dirt road on the route. Many riders turned large trash bags into makeshift rain slickers and residents offered garden hoses and other means to help unclog bicycle drivetrains suddenly caked in mud.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

RAGBRAI Coverage, and Lots of It

Monday, July 18, 2005

Des Moines Register Pre-RAGBRAI Section

Here's a link to the Des Moines Register's pre-RAGBRAI coverage. It looks like the towns along the route are doing all they can to create a remarkable event.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

RAGBRAI Is Irrational

I like to think of myself as a rational being. RAGBRAI, however, is not rational. At least not for me.

1. It's expensive to get to RAGBRAI from Southern California.

2. It's hot and stormy in Iowa in Late July. (I'm still dealing with the idea that you can have both at once.)

3. Living conditions on RAGBRAI are primitive. (I'm a big fan of solid walls and indoor plumbing.)

So why do it?

1. It's not just a long bike ride. It's a happening. They number RAGBRAIs with Roman numerals, like Super Bowls or Star Wars movies.

2. It's a rolling piece of Americana. Church ladies bake homemade pies. Small town mayors personally greet the flood of strangers. Riders wear funny things on their helmets.

3. But most of all, it's a meeting of the tribe ... Bicycle Nation's annual convention ... a week where the road ahead is a sea of bicycles.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

My First Audio Blog Post

Fear and Weather in Iowa

I'm not particularly intimidated by the length of RAGBRAI. It's about 70 miles a day, for a week. I can do that.

I'm not worried about hills or headwinds either. Low gears can knock both down to managable proportions.

It's the weather in Iowa that has me a little concerned. In the Los Angeles area (where I'm from) we know about high heat. We also have some experience with high humidity. But rarely do we get both at the same time.

In Iowa they do. I just checked with the Yahoo! Weather readings for Le Mars, Iowa ... home to Blue Bunny ice cream and the start town of this year's RAGBRAI. Today's high temp is 97, low is 79. At this moment--just after 4 p.m. in Le Mars--Yahoo! Weather says it feels like 104 degrees when factoring in the humidity.

Tomorrow's forecast is a high of 94, with thundershowers. And it will be windy.

Apparently things could be worse. The Des Moines Register, which runs RAGBRAI, has all manner of weather tips on its Severe Weather Guidelines page. I'll pass along some of the headings to give you an idea of what RAGBRAI riders might be in for

In case of lightning on the road

In case of hail on the road

In case of a tornado on the road

In case of lightning in camp

In case of hail in camp

In case of a tornado in camp

The severe weather condition that is totally alien to me as a Southern Californian is tornados (or is it tornadoes?). I can imagine an Iowa tornado whirling its way toward the trailer camp on the edge of town, hesitating, then making a beeline toward all those dorky bicyclists in tents. I wake up high in the air with two guys in a rowboat just beyond my tent flap, waving at me.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Why Create a RAGBlog?

Riding RAGBRAI and publishing this blog are both things I am curious about and want to experience. So I'll do them both at once. The bicyclist in me wants to see what it will be like to share 500 miles of Midwestern highways for a week with 10,000 other cyclists. The educator in me wants to see if this blogging thing is all it's cracked up to be.

Blogger was an attractive choice to host RAGBlog because it allows audio enhancement. Sounds pretty cool to pick up the phone, use my calling card to call the Audio Blogger phone number in San Francisco, speak my piece, and have it converted into MP3 and placed alongside my written comments. Furthermore, the price is right: free, except for the phone calls to San Francisco.

My plan is to post in the days leading up to RAGBRAI and to create a sample Audio Blogger sound bite or two. Then, when I am on the ride, I'll try to post each day from the public access terminals set up along the route by Iowa Telecom. I also plan to call SF each day of RAGBRAI and file an Audio Blogger report.

We'll see if things go according to plan.

The Road to RAGBRAI

This is my Trek 520. I'll be riding it on RAGBRAI without the panniers. I'll have a charter service to take my bags to each overnight town.

I've followed RAGBRAI over the Internet for years.

A fortunate break in my teaching schedule has allowed me to participate this year. This blog will be a running account of my RAGBRAI XXXIII experience.

It's a little more than a week until RAGBRAI and I already feel like I've had to do a lot: buy airplane tickets, buy a wristband that registers me for the ride, make arrangements to have my bike partially disassembled and put into an airline-friendly bike case, select a charter service to get me and the bike to and from the ride and to support me for the week, and begin to gather stuff to make a week of riding and camping comfortable and fun.

Here are my major decisions...

Bike: Trek 520 (touring bike)
Airline: America West (League of American Bicyclist members can save on bicycle transport through America West)
Charter: Pork Belly Ventures