Mashley’s Adventures – The Land of Enchantment

St. James Tea Room

Current Location: Albuquerque, NM

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?
~ J. B. Priestley


After getting blown about by the wind in our last email, we continued on west, over the mountains, for a day exploring White Sands National Monument near Alamogordo, NM. Ashley’s had, shall we say, a less-than-thrilling experience in sand dunes before so she wasn’t really excited to visit these. Surprisingly, we both had a really fun time and spent the day laughing, smiling, and feeling like kids. For fun we buried Ashley in the sand, ran and jumped down the dunes, hiked away from the crowd to have an area all to ourselves, and then waited to watch the sun set behind the dunes before heading out for the evening. White Sands is unlike any sand dunes we’ve been to previously in that the sand is made of gypsum, which really does make them white! It felt so pure and beautiful there, with this large swath of glistening white dunes surrounded by mountains. Being composed of gypsum also makes the dunes quite cool to the touch and many areas are hard-packed and easy to walk on.

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Just Keep Pedaling

This is the seventh and final in a series of posts sharing lessons learned while bicycling more than 1,170 miles in preparation for the RAGBRAI bicycle ride across Iowa. You can see them all here.

In less than five months, Ashley and I have moved from thinking that our 10 mile training ride was quite an impressive feat to considering 25 miles a leisurely jaunt. It’s amazing how quickly your perspective can change! Continue reading

Journal entry – 25 July 2015, Sat – RAGBRAI Day #VII

Journal entries are just that – the digital copy of my hand-written entries in my journal. If you aren’t interested in the daily details of our adventure, feel free to skip on to the next “regular” post.

Up and at ’em – last day of the ride. We start just a couple of mintues after 6 (the crew beside us left at 5!) with Scott joining us. The first town is part of the urban sprawl, so the 2.9 miles never have us leaving the city to reach University Heights. We stop for breakfast – picking up breakfast burritos. I ate mine quickly and was both still hungry and also intrigued by the breakfast dumplings that I spotted so I got one to try. Unique and very tasty!


The next 3.2 miles took us through more urban setting and we didn’t realize that we passed through Iowa City until we were well past it. Somewhere along the next 21 miles to West Liberty we left Scott behind on a hill, but he caught us when we paused in town.

It was humid when we woke, plus the terrain was either nice and flat or rolling hills, so we were speeding along. Breezed through Atalissa, 4.9 miles, and again left Scott in the 4.9 miles into Moscow, and headed into Wilton 3.8 further – the day’s meeting town. We were hungry but also too hot to want anything to eat. I got a Bucca Wich, since I’d been seeing them along the trip. Half a sub loaf with saucy filling stuffed inside it. Delicious! Ashley settled on a hot dog.


A mile or so down the road we stopped at Beekman’s for another shared ice cream (chocolate!) to help us cool down. Still delicious, as was just sitting in the shade for a spell.

On to and through Durant, 5.7 miles further. Then paused in Walcott 7.6 miles away. Lots of activities going on in the next-to-last town, including human foose ball.


14.5 miles on to Davenport and a loop around Credit Island and dipping our front tires in the Mississippi River. Stopped and got some photos, holding our bikes up in celebration. We made it! Horray! Hard, but fun, and we finished strong.


Another mile or so away was the luggage pick-up, so we headed over to grab our bags and catch the shuttle back to the RV. Dropped bags in RV, loaded bikes on trailer and went into the air conditioned student center with the atlas to plan the next leg of our journey. Hot, tired and hungry, the easiest option is to return to the Hilltop Event Center for the night, with electric hookups and a pool, and then plan from there.

Scott just got into town and we plan on meeting for lunch before going our separate ways. Many of the vehicles are gone already, but one remains right next to us. We try a few options to get out of our spot and I try pulling forward, angling away from the entrance. Almost make it and the RV’s big behind swings wide and scratches the van’s paint. Argh! We leave our contact info under the windshield, a nice man writes a letter witnessing that it was just a scratch, and we head on to meet Scott.


Lunch was ok, not quite what any of us had in mind, but the conversation was delightful. Wrapping up he tours our home and we all head on our ways.
I receive an angry voice mail from the van’s owner and repeatedly call and text to get in touch with him. We stop at Walmart for groceries and head back into Illinois for the night. A week until the Guiney family reunion and roughly 100 miles to travel. Not sure where we’ll spend our time.

Finally hear back from the van owner who is frustrated because it’s an all-original 1972 van that lives in storage for the whole year except the week of RAGBRAI. He’s back out of the country tomorrow. While I feel horrible there is also nothing more I can do. He has our insurance number and contact info.

We set up camp and try getting the fridge working. No luck. Maybe new fuses on the circuit panel will help – will have to pick some up tomorrow.

I head in to town on the motorcycle for a bag of ice to put in the cooler. Ashley grabs a shower and calls our insurance to get the ball rolling from our side.

Pulling into town, it looks odd. Empty lawns. I have apparently grown accustomed to crowds and spectators as I ride in. Haha!

After the heavy lunch we have popcorn for supper while watching a movie.

Journal entry – 24 July 2015, Fri – RAGBRAI Day #VI

Journal entries are just that – the digital copy of my hand-written entries in my journal. If you aren’t interested in the daily details of our adventure, feel free to skip on to the next “regular” post.

Slept right through the concert with no problem and took out my ear plugs. The problem arose about 3am when I hear a generator running nearby and couldn’t find my plugs again. So I dozed off and on until the alarm went off at 5.


Busy morning – everyone seemed to be up and stirring already. There was a line for the porta johns, which is a first that early in the morning. Really pretty sunrise while packing up, though. We hit the road right about 6:00.


Didn’t take long to reach Whittier, 16.1 miles along, though I didn’t realize it at the time. Thought we had another couple of miles to go and that this was just a wide spot in the road. So we headed along until we found Farm Boys Breakfast.

There were only about 4 people in line in front of us, which is unheard of! We got breakfast burritos. I gave instrucitons on how I normally make mine – “I want everything, burritos aren’t supposed to close.” He did a great job, even managed to wrap it, but just barely!

Oh, we had picked up bananas at Walmart yesterday and ate one of those for breakfast before heading out. That and the burrito seemed to really fuel us well – the’re more like something we would fix for ourselves on a regular day.

Springville was only 3.3 miles away from Whittier so it was a quick trip after breakfast. When we pulled out of the breakfast stop there were at least 100 people in line, so we lucked out. The road was a lot less crowded too, so that was great. It’s a lot more enjoyable to not be fighting crowds.

Went through Springville pretty fast and headed on to Mount Vernon, 10.7 miles away, today’s meeing town. A college town, it was really nice with lots of cool architecture. We saw the Beatles, stopped for rhubarb crisp- and were curious about the rhubarb brats but didn’t try any and found “Fuel” a great-looking little coffee shope. Went in and grabbed a latte and a pour-over coffee. Running fast today, we sat in back (on chairs without pedals!) and enjoyed a delightful chat with John, a Brit who lives in Iowa and has ridden 17 of the last 19 RAGBRAIs!


He shared that, unless you’re racing, mountain bike clips are more than sufficient on road bikes, and that they would be really useful on long rides like RAGBRAI. Like everyone else, he was surprised and impressed that we’ve really only been riding for a year. Apparently that’s something rare. Also, our actual practice seems to be rare. It is a big time commitment to get the full training in, but we are so glad that we did! With a couple of rough days when we were tired, we never really hurt and today we’re feeling great.

John also had a different approach to the ride. First of all, he relay drives it. Use a truck and trailer for luggage and bikes – drive to a designated meet-up spot and the driver switches out with a rider and they continue on. So everyone gets to ride every day, at least a part. Secondly, they go off-route, visiting other towns. No lines for food or bathrooms and the town is so excited to see them because they’re otherwise bypassed. Tactics to remember for future visits!

We finished our chat and coffee and checkd the weather before heading out. Looks like rain in a few hours. Maybe we can beat it.

There was a group giving out Milkweed balls to throw on the road side while riding. Monarch butterflies migrate through the area and solely lay their eggs on Milkweed; the young only eat Milkweed. With agressive mowing and spraying the plants have dimisnished in number, causing Monarchs to do the same. Ashley picked up one seed ball and I received three. Along the route we later threw them off into other batches of wildflowers, hopefully helping increase the numbers of beautiful natural things.
Lisbon is 2 miles on, and Sutliff Cider 2.4 past. Barely slowed for them and took the 10.2 miles on to Solon. Stopped for a break – ate our second bananas, checked out bags and wallets made out of old bicycle inner tubes and headed on.
Coralville Dam was 15.2 more miles. It started to sprinkle on us just was we reached it. It was certainly neat to ride across the top of the dam that was lined with American flags. Just a shame it was raining.


Rained the remaining 5.7 miles in to Coralville. 65.6 miles total and the second hilliest day at 2,955 feet of climb. Lots of them were rolling hills and were fun to ride. Only a couple of long steep ones and only the one after the dam was rough as it was uphill from a flat start.

Arriving in town was confusing. I’m not sure they were quite ready for us and the rain didn’t help. I turned into the Expo area and rode across the red carpet before turning around to catch Ashley. Made it in to the baggage area where she caught me. Grabbed our bags and headed to the far side of the field to set them up.

Still raining, so we set up the rain fly and I held it against the rain while Ashley put up the footprint and tent underneath, keeping them dry. We crawled in and peeled off the wet clothes and swapped into dry ones.


Though it was windy still, the rain stopped soon. Ashley headed off for showers and I set up the hammock (finally!) and laid around for a bit.
When she got back we walked half a mile down to Tierra Coffee for a drink. Arrived in camp about 12:30 so lots of time. Split a cookie and had our drinks while topping off our phones and using the wifi. Finally finished our drinks and walked across the parking lot to see what New Horizons Co-Op had to offer for supper.

We were hungry, so everything sounded good. However, we finally settled on fresh-made sandwiches and split a pre-made salad. I picked up a rootbeer and we grabbed bananas for tomorrow’s breakfast. After paying we sat in the eating nook to enjoy our fare. We were definitely not disappointed!


After eating we sauntered back to camp. Ashley sat at the trolley stop, waiting for me and looking at route options. I went to drop off bananas, grab our water bottles and check that Scott found our tent – he had texted that he’d made it in and asked where we were set up. He had found us. We chatted for a few minutes and I told him about the co-op and library locations before going to meet Ashley.

She was only interested in one of the trolley routes, so we went on down to the main entertainment area on the bus. Perused a wine shop and then walked down the red carpet in search of popcorn. stopped at a first aid station for a band-aid – Ashley’s wet flipflop was beginning to irritate her instep. She thought it odd to have someone apply a bandaid for her; she’s pretty confident in her ability to do so, after all. 🙂


We settled on the free popcorn from the solar trailer. Neat set-up, with solar panels on the roof that power everything, including the popcorn maker. So it was solar grown, solar popped, popcorn!

Taking our dessert we headed back onto the main road to visit a Coffee and Wine bar. Ashley had a sangria and I settled on a lemonade. While sitting I sketched the scene out the window.


Finishing our drinks we grabbed the trolley back to camp. Ashley headed into the tent while I hopped into the hammock, which had become quite the clothesline in our absence. Journaled for the remaining sunlight then prepped for tomorrow and finally bed time. Took a bit to fall sleep. Not sure how much of that is due to the caffeine in the coffees, the sugar in the lemonde, or the band playing just on the other side of the trees.

Enjoy the Ride

This is the sixth in a series of posts sharing lessons learned while bicycling more than 1,170 miles in preparation for the RAGBRAI bicycle ride across Iowa. You can see them all here.

You’re probably riding your bicycle because you enjoy it. Whether you are seeking the thrill of a victorious race, trying to beat your personal best time, or simply pedaling because you like the feel of the wind in your face – it’s fun. Continue reading

Hills Are In Your Head

This is the fifth in a series of posts sharing lessons learned while bicycling more than 1,170 miles in preparation for the RAGBRAI bicycle ride across Iowa. You can see them all here.

Pedaling up a hill is hard, even if knowing that the other side provides an enjoyable downhill respite. The absolute hardest part of a hill, though, is the mountain that grows in your head.

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Journal entry – 23 July 2015, Thurs – RAGBRAI Day #V

Journal entries are just that – the digital copy of my hand-written entries in my journal. If you aren’t interested in the daily details of our adventure, feel free to skip on to the next “regular” post.

Must have slept pretty well with the earplugs in – probably my best yet, actually. My big concern was missing the alarm but a) I was up just a few minutes before it went off and b) I pulled out one of my earplugs during the night, as I seem to tend to do.


We packed our bags and hit the road about 6:00. Hudson was 8.2 miles away and we were ready for breakfast. Ashley got a tasty yogurt parfait and I went for the Chris Cakes again. Since you can get free refills she ate half of my second plate. We both went by the line and got free bacon,  nice and thick cut – basically ham slices and with excellent flavor!


Before reaching LaPorte City (19.9 miles) we ran across Mr. Pork Chop. Apparently it’s a tradition to eat one of his chops but it always seems to be either too close to having eaten breakfast or lunch. We thought there would be a schedule so we could plan for tomorrow, but no such luck. Chops do look good, though, even if we might have to split one.


In LaPorte we slowed for photos and a Cliff Bar.


Then headed on to Mt. Auburn, 10 miles further. Cute little town where we snagged some more photos before meandering along. 


Vinton, today’s meeting town, was 8.3 miles further. We spotted a BLT booth that sounded great so we both got some wraps with Avacado in it. Never thought of a BLT wrap but it worked really well!


Shellsburg, the next town, 11.3 miles further, was celebrating the 100 year anniversary of it’s bridge across the river. We came in too late to get any cake but enjoyed a nice break and lay down for a few minutes.


Before too long we headed in to Palo, 5.7 more miles. We stopped in for a bag of frozen grapes and a spot of shade. Frozn grapes were a delight – they will make a great snack in the RV as well. We’re ready to be done for the day, though, so we move along. Tired and a bit hot, we are out of energy and ready to stop.


Hiawatha is 7.5 miles away, for a total of 70.9 miles and 2,377 feet of climb. Arriving in town we stop for free shaved ice. It really hit the spot in the heat. We sat in the shade and chatted with Tom who had a stroke a few years ago and now rides 200 miles a week but struggles to speak (but can sing. He sang a line of Amazing Grace for us.)

We headed in, set up camp in the sun and grabbed showers. I used the water faucet and Ashley hit up the shower trucks. I moved to the shade while waiting and ran into Scott.


Ashley got back and three of us went and found supper among the food trucks and then walked down to Walmart. I grabbed strawberries and Rolos for dessert. Darn tasty! We also picked up bananas for tomorrow’s breakfast.

Wrapping up, Ashley headed back to the tent to rest while Scott and I searched out the library. We plugged in to charge and use the wifi while enjoying the water and poweraid they were giving away. They closed just as I finished and before Scott was done so I headed on back to get ready for tomorrow while he scouted out another location to wrap up working.

As I got back a drunk couple began setting up right next to us. Other than fearing that they would fall on us (and they have already sat on our tent) it is sadly humorous.

Eat Today, Ride Tomorrow

This is the fourth in a series of posts sharing lessons learned while bicycling more than 1,170 miles in preparation for the RAGBRAI bicycle ride across Iowa. You can see them all here.

It simply amazes me how much of a difference food and water make on a bike ride.

You can be struggling along, with barely the energy to push the pedal one more time, fighting against the wind and barely beating gravity on the hills. Then you stop for water and maybe a snack. Suddenly the pedals seem to push themselves, the wind is merely refreshing and you realize that the mountain you were fighting was merely a molehill. Continue reading

Journal entry – 22 July 2015, Wed – RAGBRAI Day #IV

Journal entries are just that – the digital copy of my hand-written entries in my journal. If you aren’t interested in the daily details of our adventure, feel free to skip on to the next “regular” post.

Our neighbors (of a foot away) were early risers so I started being awake about 4:00. We got up at 5:00 and started packing. Temperature dropped last night so really dewy – the tent was soaked and my nose was stuffy.

Pretty sunrise and nice to watch the sky change as we packed (and for the first hour or so of our ride). We dropped off bags right before 6:00 and began pedaling.


8.8 miles to Steamboat Rock. Ashley got a breakfast scramble bowl and I spotted a toasted sandwich that looked delicious. On the hill into town I downshifted too far and pedaled so fast Ashley said I looked like a cartoon, spinning my legs furiously and barely moving.


Apparently we blinked and missed Cleves. Before we knew it 11.7 miles had passed and we were in Ackley. Stopping for bananas and a cheese danish we saw the Grinch walk by, little dog in tow. After eating we checked out the Cow Pie toss. Real cow pies – they did let you choose your own and provided gloves.


Austinville was 7 miles along, basically a wide spot in the road and we breezed on through. A mere 3.7 miles later was Aplington. The Peppercorn Pantry had some fabulous looking chicken salad croissant sandwiches, with fruit and tasty peach iced tea. We couldn’t pass up the carrot cake, either – everything looked so delicious!


That’s one bad part of the journey – we find some real gems and only get to try a sampling or have to pass it up. We split this meal and it really hit the spot!


On to Parkersburg (5.2 miles) the meeting town. Full, we basically walked through town. They had some cool bike sculptures in honor of the RAGBRAI. We did stop under a shade tree to catch a couple of songs by a pep band. Good music!


Rushing along to New Hartford 9.4 miles away we set in the shade for a rest and granola bar. Behind us were some fun yard games and Ashley and I gave one a try. It’s a mesh tube with dowel sticks poked though it, holding balls up. Take turns pulling out sticks and if you make a ball fall it’s yours. Player with the most loses. One of us won.


Apparently New Hartford is right next to a dam and they really played up their mascot, a beaver. Had shirts that said “You must be a beaver -picture of beaver- cuz dam!”


12.6 more miles and we rolled into Cedar Falls for a total of 58.4 miles and 1,644 ft of climb. Our shortest day of the week, and arriving at 12:00, our quickest day so far. We didn’t stop long at any of the towns and kept ahead of the crowds so we didn’t have a lot of long waits to contend with.


Snagged a spot in the treeline so it is nice and shady. Once set up we headed to the Rec Center for showers. Really nice facility and the showers were great.

There is a football field between us and the band stadium so it’ll be loud tonight with the concert. Fortunately we have ear plugs. When we headed out to the downtown area on the trolley the field was empty, though I’m sure it won’t stay that way for long.


Downtown was really recommended and has been great thus far. Great popcorn shop had delicious samples and we got some kettle corn to snack on while heading down to Cup of Joe, a recommended coffee shop. Great drinks (mocha and a vanilla latte) and a chance to charge and journal a bit while soaking up wifi.


A few blocks down is a great sounding build-your-own burger joint, think we’ll hit that up for supper before heading back to our tent.

Stopped for burgers at The Pump Haus, making sure we beat the crowd. They were just starting to grill out on the front stoop as we ordered. I piled mine with bacon, egg and avacado while Ashley went more traditional. Fries for me and tater tots for her. Oh, was it fabulous, and more than filling! Cost roughly the same as what we were paying from the trucksf or far more food. I let our phones top off while we ate and it timed out almost perfectly.


We took a stroll further down the block after eating and checked out more of Main Street. The art shop was closed, much to Ashley’s relief.

Reaching a gas station we looped back and visited Scratch Cupcakery. They came highly recommended and looked great. There were so many choices! Since I couldn’t talk them into giving out samples I fell back on a perennial favorite, reeses cup – chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting and a reeses cup on top. Ashley went for Strawberry Rhubarb. White cake with strawberry frosting and rhubarb jam in the milddle, topped with pieces of fruit. They were both so tasty, and not overly-iced. The recommendations were definitely accurate.


As we wrapped up there was a trolley parked across the street at the stop. We hurried over and were just able to catch it.

Back at the school we meandered through the stalls at the shopping area and headed back to the tent. Ashley read for a bit as I aired up the bike tires and got ready for tomorrow. Chatted with a couple of guys for a while, until we were told that a fellow was riding with a parakeet and dog. This we wanted to see so we headed over for a brief visit.

Indeed, the dog rides along behind and the bird has a cage on the handle bars in place of a basket. The owner has a spray bottle to help keep them cool.


The others headed on to catch part of the concert while I went back to the tent. Watched a pair of ultralites tooling around while I got ready for bed.


The band was just getting warmed up as I prepared to turn in. I put in my ear plugs and thought I’d give it a try!

Proper Equipment Is Important

This is the third in a series of posts sharing lessons learned while bicycling more than 1,170 miles in preparation for the RAGBRAI bicycle ride across Iowa. You can see them all here.

Without equipment (like, say, a bicycle) you won’t get very far. Without proper equipment, you will get there but you might not enjoy the ride.

Road bikes are made for the road. Their skinny tires and longer wheelbases provide less rolling resistance and more stability. With no suspension they’re not designed to be cushy rides, but since they live on (theoretically) smooth blacktop they don’t need a lot of springs to take up huge bumps and holes.

Mountain bikes are made for off-road. Their wide, knobby tires are made to provide grip. Lower gears mean they won’t win any speed trials but they will allow you to get up those hills and over any obstacle you encounter. Modern suspension systems help smooth out the rocks, roots, logs and holes you’ll inevitably encounter.

They Make A Bike Just For You

No matter what type of riding, in what type of setting, you want to do, there is probably a bicycle made for it. Road touring, mountain, BMX tricks, sprint racing, recumbent, and even one-wheeled unicycles! Don’t sell yourself short by just buying the cheapest set of wheels you can find. Research, talk to knowledgeable people at local bicycle shops, try out a variety of bike styles and sizes, and learn what will best fit you and do what you want to do. Then get the best bike.

Yes, this might mean that you need more than one bicycle. Personally, I have two – a mountain bike for off-road and a touring bike for on-road. Both have their places and are appreciated when I use them. They are not interchangeable – I have ridden the mountain bike long distances and was exhausted the next day. Likewise I have tried to ride the road bike through sand trails, without any luck.

It’s Not All About The Bike

There are hundreds of bicycle accessories. And all of them have thousands of varieties. Once you start riding, if you’re anything like me, you will feel downright out-of-place when you don’t have all of the gear. So many other riders look like professionals in their clothes and with their accessories – you’ll feel like you stick out like a sore thumb.

After 1,170+ miles, I still don’t have a jersey, spandex shorts, or bicycle gloves. While I can’t tell you what you do and don’t need, I can share what I find invaluable from the gear that I have.

If you saw me ride past, you might notice that I’m wearing a wicking short-sleeved sport shirt from WalMart. Or spot the running shorts that I’ve had for years. Maybe you’d notice that I have on ye-olde running shoes sitting flat on my stock pedals – no fancy clipless pedals for this guy.

Some Things You Just Have to Have

You would see that I have on a helmet, at all times. Likewise, I hate riding without my clip-on rear-view mirror (due to my handlebar configuration the only place for me to put a mirror is on either my helmet or glasses.) Unseen would be the padded bicycle shorts that are underneath my shorts – these things make world of difference and were less than $20 on Amazon.

The water bottles in my two bottle holders are the same 23.7 oz SmartWaters that I picked up on a road trip months ago. They fit well in the holder and have an easily accessible flip-top lid that I can use while riding. Refill after each ride and I’m ready to go.

Maybe They Make A Difference

I hear good things about riding gloves. And everyone seems to be wearing a jersey. What kind of a cave-man doesn’t use clipless pedals?

Maybe there are benefits to all of the other accessories that I am simply unaware of. One day, I’m sure that I will test them out. Until that time, I am a biker because I pedal.

Start with the bicycle and helmet, have fun, and build from there!