Vintage Schwinns And Riding With Friends

Hank – Tara, Randy, and Tracy, whom we met yesterday, and their friend Robin Bennett, showed up at the hotel this morning to escort us to St Ansgar. Tara’s daughter, Riley, joined us when we got to Mason City. She’s 12 and wanted to sleep in a little. I can’t say I blame her. During our brief stop in Mason City Randy gave me and Kathy the quick tour of the historic Park Inn Hotel, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  The heat and humidity grew more oppressive each hour. Tracy and Kathy swapped bikes so Tracy could see what handling a loaded bike was like. Tara and I swapped bikes for a short time too. You want to know how much of a badass Tara is? She’s riding a fixie for what turned out to be a 60+ mile ride for her. Wearing flip flops. And she dropped four of us while she was on my bike.

Tara took us to Carpenter, IA, where her friend Steve Braun was ready to show off his collectible and homemade bikes. Steve has a ton of Schwinns in what used to be the old City Hall and fire station. He referred to one of his homemade trikes as a suicide bike. You steer with the two rear wheels. Turn with too much speed, which didn’t have to be that much on this thing, and it would tip over and dump you out. I came close enough to feel it want to go over a couple of times. He also had a homemade recumbent tandem that had an ashtray for the stoker–Steve’s wife. We got to check out a whole lot of neat old bikes. We thanked Steve very much for sharing his passion with us.

A few miles later we rolled into St Ansgar. Since it was so hot and humid we checked to see if there was a room available at the Blue Belle Inn Bed and Breakfast. Luckily the answer was yes. I asked to reserve the room and we then went to Paradise Pizza for ice cream. While there I got a call from a newspaper reporter from the Mitchell County News. She showed up an hour later and interviewed me and Kathy. The article should be published next week some time. It’s weird being treated like we’re newsworthy. After the interview we studied possible routes for the next few days while we waited for Tara’s son, Travis, to show up and give everyone a ride back home. It looks like tomorrow we’ll take a short day to Austin, MN, where we’ll check out the SPAM museum. Yes, you read that right. After that we’ll head towards the Root River Trail and take that towards La Crosse, WI.

Travis came and after eating dinner we thanked Tara, Riley, Tracy, and Randy for riding with us (Robin left us earlier) and said our goodbyes. We really hope we get to ride with these wonderful people again.

Kathy – Well today we had a fantastic 51 mile ride that went by so fast with all of our conversations going on.  It was 94 degrees but with the humidity the heat index was 106 degrees.  Yes, it was HOT, but it was bearable with a nice wind to cool us most of our ride.  Riding with this group of avid cyclist was a real treat.  I was more of the newbie bike rider compared to the years of experience and the many thousands of miles these guys and gals have ridden.  This is the first time we have had a group of riders hang us with us and I must say it was very enjoyable.  With our heavy loaded bikes they even went at our …s.l.o.w… pace when they could have easily left us in the dust. I just can’t say enough about how I loved our ride today.  As we mingled between everyone the easy flowing conversations never ended along with the frequent laughter.  We could of talked to Tracy and Randy for days, just great people!  Such a fun day with truly amazing people.  Hoping to see them all again sometime soon.  And a huge shout out thank you to Tara Brick whose generosity, hospitality and willingness to introduce us to so many outstanding individuals was simply fantastic!  You ROCK missy!!  A heartfelt thank you to all our new friends in Clear Lake, Iowa and Mason City, Iowa!!


Buddy Holly And Wooden Bicycles

Hank – Today was a rest day and what a day it was. We met up with Tara and Riley in the morning. Before they arrived a woman walked in and announced, “I’m looking for Hank and Kathy, the bicycle tourers.” It was Tara’s friend, Tracy Stack, who is very interested in touring wanted to ask us all kinds of questions about it. Later on her husband, Randy Cram, stopped by and also pumped us for information. Randy happens to be the architect who helped with the years-long restoration of the hotel in Mason City that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Tara came bearing gifts. She is on a RAGBRAI team named after Zippy The Pinhead, an underground comic character. She gave us some team socks. You can’t get them anywhere else and she warned us that if a team member sees us wearing those socks they may challenge us as to how we got them. But it’ll be okay when we tell them Tara gave them to us. I’m wearing my socks when we leave tomorrow. Tara and Riley left to finish their bike ride and Kathy and I walked around Clear Lake for a bit.

We checked out the museum at the Surf Ballroom, which happens to be the last venue where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson played before dying in a plane crash here. There have been too many entertainers to list who have played at the Surf Ballroom. While I was checking out one wall of photos, a young man of about 10 years old came up and pointed to a autographed photo of a band named Buckcherry, whom I’ve never heard of. “They played here?” he asked. “I guess so,” I answered. “Wow, that is so cool.” I had to look up Buckcherry. They were active from 1995-2002 and then from 2005 to present. Sorry, kid, I’ve never heard of them.

We ate lunch at what seemed to be a more artisanal restaurant. I ordered a ham, egg, and cheese sandwich on on a combination of ciabatta/focaccia bread. The menu said it came with oven roasted breakfast potatoes. When the plate showed up it had tater tots. I’ve never heard of tater tots being referred to as oven roasted breakfast potatoes. I guess it depends on where you order them.

In the afternoon Tara picked us up and took us to Mason City. We met her husband, Matt, who builds wooden bike frames. Tara installs the hardware and components. He had four wooden bikes–three of which he and Tara made–at his furniture store. The one bike they didn’t make was made in Greece. The wooden saddle was surprisingly very comfortable

After a short refresher course on using a coaster brake they took us on an art and architectural tour of Mason City. For a town of 25,000 people the city has a ton of art. We checked out the MacNider Museum, which includes a large display of puppets made by Mason City’s Bil Baird. He made the puppets used in The Sound of Music. We also stopped by to see the Zippy team bus. “Yow!” It carries bicycles on the roof, team gear on the roof and in compartments, and can hold up to 25 people but usually has about 14. There are couches inside instead of the old school bus seats. If it works out that we’re near Iowa this time next year Tara says we could ride RAGBRAI with the team. That would be cool but it’s way too soon to plan for right now.

After our tour we stopped by a brewery to have a beer with Matt while Tara went to get the kids, Travis and Riley. At the brewery we also met Brad and Patti Peterson who were thrilled to hear about our adventure. Brad thought it was newsworthy and called the newspaper who then took my name and number. A reporter may be calling me tomorrow. We had an excellent dinner with the Brick family who we seem to click with so well. Matt and Tara are just plain awesome people and their kids are great reflections of them. Matt loves to immerse himself into his wood working creative process. Tara is an energetic firecracker who rides 90-100 miles a day. They are kind, considerate, and compassionate human beings. We could have stayed out with them all night. But it was getting late and we needed to get back to the hotel and video chat with our kids so we called it a night. Tara and her friend, Tracy, are going to meet us in the morning and ride with us to our next destination, St Ansgar.

Kathy – Well, it has been a wonderful rest day.  We explored Clear Lake, Iowa and visited the Surf Ballroom museum.  This is a wonderful little town with many cyclists riding about and very friendly people.  Since it was our day off from riding Tara picked us up in her car and gave us a ride to Mason City, Iowa which is about ten miles away.  This is where we rode Matt and Tara’s super cool wooden bicycles. They take a little time to get used to, but they were a lot of fun to ride.  Having a drink with Matt and talking with his many friends was enjoyable.  Lastly, having dinner with Tara, Matt and their two children Travis and Riley was really sweet.  Our conversations never stopped.  It was fantastic to meet such outstanding people and share stories.  We really felt like we just met some new life long friends.  This doesn’t happen often on our trip but today we just clicked with these amazing people.  We hope sometime in the future that we can meet up Tara and Matt and ride in Washington, Iowa, or some place in between.  More great people that we were lucky enough to cross paths with.  Over all it was a pretty suburb day.