Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Team Uffda at the Mississippi River
The last day of RAGBRAI XL started early in the morning as Team Uffda got ready to leave the funeral home we stayed in over night.  Four other teams totaling in about 30 people stayed there too, so we tried to be as quiet as we could so not to wake those still sleeping as we got ready. 

When we got on our bikes for the final day, we couldn't help but notice what a beautiful day it would be.  The sky was perfectly blue with cotton candy-like clouds hanging high; the fields of corn and beans rolled on hills and bluffs that those not familiar with Iowa might be surprised to see that not all fields are flat.  Best of all though was the silky smooth roads.  Parts of the route had been a little more bumpy in some areas than what is ideal to ride on, so to be on a road with not ripple, no cracks, no bumps was a huge blessing and a dream to ride on.  Even going up the last bit of hills on this year's route seemed to be easier to glide up and it made for a very pleasant experience. 

Overlooking the landscape of Iowa from our elevation on the route was also very enjoyable.  The three of us riding tried to make the most of it during the final miles as we slowed and pedaled a little more easily taking in the views.  It was in those moments that I think we all felt the presence of Grandpa.  He always loved the last day of riding as it was usually one of the prettiest, and often could be seen gazing around at everything, reflecting on the week.  And so we did too.  We laughed and rode together as a family.

On one turn nearing the last 15 miles or so, we came across a RAGBRAI favorite that not all of us had stopped at this year: Beakman's Homemade Ice Cream!  The lines had been so long earlier in the week that we had chose to pass it up and continue on, not wanting to stand around in the heat any longer that what we needed to.  It was a shame passing it by, as Beakman's is pretty much the best ice cream ever, so you can imagine our shock and happiness when we saw absolutely no line for their tasty frozen delights.  Raspberry and chocolate homemade ice cream were our chosen flavors and every bite of it was absolutely delicious. 

Always being silly
After finishing out ice cream we rode on.  Nearing the end of the ride, we stopped alongside the road to fill our jersey pockets with candy.  Jon had carried a 6lb bag of candy in Grandpa's bike the entire day, just so we could have it at this point.  For several years now, it has been a Team Uffda tradition to throw candy to the kids that line the route to cheer on the riders who come into the ending town of RAGBRAI, this year being Clintion, Iowa.  Grandpa always loved kids and making them smile.  In his earlier years he had worked with children with disabilities in making things with their hands, at the Red Barn (now Genesis Development) and was also on the Board.  After moving to Spirit Lake, Iowa, Grandpa helped build a new jungle gym area at the park for the kids who were visiting family in the campground too.  As a final tribute to him, continuing our candy throwing tradition was just what he would have wanted.  Rolling down the long decline past houses, we tossed handfuls of Jolly Ranchers, Skittles, and Starbursts to kids near the street.  All of them yelling "thank you!" as they scurried to collect their sugary morsels.  It put a smile on all our faces watching them.

Team Uffda having lemon slices on the first day of riding

At last, we were at the Mississippi!  And our beloved sag wagon driver, Belinda, was there to meet us.  It was an emotional moment as the four of us walked down the boat ramp to dip our front wheels in the water, marking the end of our journey.  Even more emotional was to see Grandpa's wheel touching this water.  His bike had made it across Iowa for its One Last Ride.  Most of the riding had been done by Jon, a true warrior in his own right, as he pushed a bike that was both very heavy and a parachute to the strong headwinds.  He deserves a medal for his efforts.

After a few pictures, Team Uffda had one last mission to fulfill.  Grandpa always started RAGBRAI with a lemon in the big bag on the back of his bike.  Each day he would slice a bit of lemon off and suck on it as he was convinced that the vitamins in the lemon would help him along the way.  While that sounds innocent enough, Grandpa rarely removed or refrigerated the lemon during RAGBRAI, which means it was a pretty gross piece of fruit by the end of the ride.  Grandpa also always had Fig Newtons in his bag.  These cookie squares were better than power bars in his opinion and he often snacked on them when we stopped in towns.  In honor of Grandpa, we tossed the remaining gross lemon and one Fig Newton from each of us into the Mississippi River.  I'm sure he would have laughed at the gesture as we watched the our cookies and lemon sink into the muddy deep.

Our support driver & boss, Aunt Belinda!
Back at the top of the boat ramp we all shared some hugs and tears.  RAGBRAI certainly wasn't the same without Grandpa being there with us and I think it hit us all a little bit more now that we were done.  Personally, I am very proud of my Dad (Jon) and my Uncle Steve for riding the whole week and it was a great experience being out on the road with them as we remembered Grandpa.  My Aunt Belinda was wonderful too, and has always been such a breath of fresh air to be around.  My Grandpa adored her, as I do too, and we couldn't have made it without her. 

Team Uffda would like to thank YOU for reading this blog, for supporting us, and for helping to spread the word about our fundraising for the Alzheimer's Association.  As of the time of this posting we have raised nearly $1,300!  We would like this number to grow, so please click here if you would like to donate to this cause.  We would also like to thank those of you who we met on RAGBRAI this year who came up to us after reading about our mission on the RAGBRAI site, who shared memories of conversations they remembered having with Grandpa on the ride, and who encouraged us as we rode.  Words cannot express what it meant to talk with you, and in several cases, even get a hug or a hand squeeze.  It is so touching to know that there are people in this world who truly care about others and YOU definitely made us feel cared for- so THANK YOU!

With RAGBRAI XL behind us, this is not the end of Team Uffda. We will be back next year and many years to follow as our family grows and acquired new members. We are a team that is all about family and supporting each other, and RAGBRAI brings us closer and makes us stronger.

See you all soon!

Friday, July 27, 2012


Team Uffda with Ann and Don :)
While the route was only 42 miles for the day, we all were hoping that our hosts in Cedar Rapids, Ann and Don, would adopt us and let us live with them forever.  We had such a nice time chatting with them over coffee and breakfast this morning, and watching the sun rise over the pond in their backyard....BUT we had to ride our bikes eventually, so we said our goodbyes and set off on the day's journey.  Going through the Czech Village involved some kolache tasting followed by some good climbs leaving town.  Headwinds were present for part of the ride again today, but the pleasant temperatures made for an enjoyable ride anyway.  The scenery was breathtaking from the bike seat today.  We were up high enough that we could see for miles and miles and the white fluffy clouds and blue skies made for views that are usually only seen on postcards. 

We spent some time at one family's farm eating icie pops that some kids were selling.  After some Uffda encouragement by Jon and Steve, the kids were up at the roadside encouraging cyclists to stop and buy icie pops for a quarter.  It wasn't long that they were running back and forth to the house to get more product to replenish their stock!  One little girl was also squirting riders with a hose as they rode past and it was quite funny watching her aim the water at them, spraying a few in the face instead of their chest.  LOL!

Before we knew it we were speeding into Anamosa.  It hardly felt like we had done much in comparison to some of the other days, but it was nice getting into town early.  After cleaning up at the funeral home we are staying at, we ventured downtown where all the action is and to find some lunch/dinner.  Now, time to get a little bit of rest before finishing up tomorrow.  It's hard to believe that almost as almost as quickly as it started, RAGBRAI will be over after our ride tomorrow.  None of us are ready to be done, but I guess that's how vacations go and eventually you have to go back to reality.  Until later, sweet dreams.


Ready to ride Grandpa's bike on my birthday
"On the fifth day of RAGBRAI, my true love gave to me, a 28th birthday!"  Once again this year I was able to celebrate my birthday on RAGBRAI.  This year was particularly special because I got to ride my Grandpa's bicycle for the day.  The entire time I rode, I thought about him and all the birthdays I had been able to celebrate with him on past RAGBRAIs.  There have been some interesting ones to say the least; all of them involving some sort of cake or ice cream gathering/coordinating.  Grandpa always got such a laugh out of our many birthday adventures together as a family.  As I rode and watched the corn blowing in the wind and the hills rolling in the distance, I knew Grandpa was right there with me watching the clouds in the sky and pushing me along.  It wasn't long before a lady rode up next to me calling me by name.  She said that she had read the article I wrote about my Grandpa on the RAGBRAI site and really admired what my family was doing in riding my Grandpa's bike.  I told her how much I appreciated that she took the time to read it and that it was a tough to be doing this ride 'without' him.  She then reached out her hand to me and gave mine a little squeeze as if to tell me that it was ok and that I'm never really without him.  That meant a lot to me to have this stranger reach out like that.  The support we have had from people has been amazing and this was an example of that same grace.

Jon, Krissy, and T.J
In Vinton, we stopped to get some food and my dad (Jon) needed to have the gearing of his bike checked out, so we stopped at one of the repair shops there.  While standing in line, I was approached by a man in a RAGBRAI button down shirt.  "Excuse me, are you Krissy?" he asked.  As I replied that I was, he extended his hand and said "I'm T.J."  Immediately my face lite up.  If you don't know who T.J. is, you should.  He's the guy that makes RAGBRAI happen.  He's what makes it flow so smoothly and he works his hind quarters off to make sure that it continues to get better each year.  T.J. is also responsible for publishing that email I sent him about the passing of my Grandpa.  I've had the pleasure of exchanging several emails with him and he's turned into someone that I would surely consider to be a friend.  He had been walking by and just happened to see the sign we have on Grandpa's bike, so he thought for sure it had to be ours.  We talked for a bit and I was about as happy as a clam.  To have met John Karras two days prior and now T.J., this was an awesome birthday gift.  I couldn't help to think that somehow my Grandpa had made this happen from above.  How else can you explain "just happening" to bump into these two men out of over 20,000+ cyclists over the course of at least 60 miles a day.....?  This was a needle-in-a-haystack moment that I know was made possible because Grandpa helped it to happen.

That evening we all had a special cake that my Aunt Belinda and Uncle Steve had made at a bakery in Vinton.  It was six cupcakes all iced together with a bicycle on it.  Our hosts, Ann and Don, were so sweet to us as we each had the option of sleeping in a bed, and Ann had even made veggie and fruit pizzas for us to snack on that were fantastic.  When people open their homes up to us to stay in and make us feel like part of their family, it's such a great feeling.  To say that we were well taken care of is an understatement, as we even had our own coffee maker and even a hammock to relax in outside.  All in all, it was another special birthday on RAGBRAI!

Team Uffda in Cedar Rapids


Day 4 was another day full of sunscreen use.  We started out early leaving our wonderful hosts in Webster City around 6:30am.  Among the yummy bites of food we enjoyed were some delicious cinnamon rolls made by friends of our family, the Echelberger's, who live in Kamrar.  After fueling up we continued on our way.  We were all very excited to get to Story City since it is a Norwegian community and Team Uffda was definitely well recognized as we strolled around town in search of grub.  Jon did the majority of riding Grandpa's bike today so he once again was had to punch through the wind.  Once we made the turns heading east it was smooth sailing with a crosswind mostly at our backs.  It was a lot of fun cruising along with some folks on the Livestrong team and Air Force group too.  Both of those teams are always really enjoyable to be around and do so much good for others as well. 
When we got to Marshalltown we were greeted by our hosts, Darryl and Eileen, who opened their home up to us for the night.  Several other teams were staying there too, so their neighbor was kind enough to do some barbecuing for us all.  It was certainly a nice treat.  As always, we were thankful to be sleeping inside, and even more so on this night since a strong storm swept through that night.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Day 3 was a day of epic proportion.  Jon and Krissy (me) had decided a few days prior that they would do the 100 mile route option this year, rotating who would ride Grandpa's bike and their own.  We woke up really early, and were on the road just before 5:00am.  We quickly found out that we weren't the only ones trying to beat the heat as there were a ton of other "dark-time" riders out.  The cool air made for an enjoyable ride and we made good time meeting up with our other Uffda teammate, Uncle Steve, in Lohrville.  From there we rode together for a bit until we parted ways so we could head on the John Karras Loop option just outside of Dayton.  The terrain was "scenic" as Iowans call it, which is just a pleasant word for "hilly," but it was a very pretty landscape so we tried hard to not pay as close of attention to the headwind and hills.  As we rolled into Stratford we were thrilled to find that John Karras himself was there talking to riders, and we had the great pleasure of meeting him.  A while back I had written an article for the RAGBRAI website about my Grandpa and and Mr. Karras took the time to email me after he had read it.  Both of us had been hoping to meet up during RAGBRAI, but with 25,000 riders on the ride it's like looking for a needle in a haystack.  Mr. Karras knew right who we were when we approached him, and it meant the world to see him smile from ear to ear when he talked to us about our cause.  It was definitely the highlight of the day.
Jon, John Karras, and myself (Krissy) in Stratford, Ia

Finally, we had to press on.  Jon (my dad) was a bulldog on the hills for most of the day.  Eighty miles on that heavy bike plus the wind catching sign on the back, made for some difficult riding, so I offered to do the last 20 miles on it.  From the moment I got going, all I could think was "how did he do this for 8 miles?!"  The amount of strength and perseverance to get through even one mile seemed like too much for me, and I'm a pretty strong rider, but this was crazy!  With my dad by my side though, we made it, and rolled into Webster City in the early evening hours.  It had been an extremely long and tough day, but one that meant so much to both of us.  When we got to our overnight house we hugged for a minute, not believing we were finally done, and full of emotion from knowing why we were set on finishing that day.  All of this was for Grandpa.


The youngest Uffda, Rachel, with her fav cousin
Team Uffda spent the night in Cheokee at the home of Team members, Jim, Sue, and Kara Nelson.  It was really fun to all be together to catch up and share some laughs.  Before the sun was up though, the Uffdas were ready to start Day 2 of RAGBRAI.  Jim tried his best to be aerodynamic on what basically is a tank pulling a parachute, and that made for an entertaining site for the rest of us.  He also enjoying ringing the bell on the handlebars excessively.  Kara on the other hand, chose to riding at a good pace but was less 'goofy' about her pedal time.  It was a bummer that Jim and Kara had to end their riding in Nemaha since they both had to work, but it was nice to have most of our crew together on the road, even if it was just for a short while. 

Uncle Jim and Kara pedaling away

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Day 1 of RAGBRAI proved to be a challenging one due to high heat and headwinds, but we were anxious to get Grandpa's bike on the road.  Team Uffda talked to a lot of folks today about Grandpa, and it was really touching to hear from a couple people who had actually remembered riding with him on RAGBRAI in the past.  One lady said that as soon as she had mentioned being Swedish to Grandpa, the two had a nice chat while they road.  We also met a lady who had lost her grandmother in April 2011 to Alzheimer's and it was nice to talk with her and hear her story.  As the week continues I'm sure there will be more stories from people, and in a somber way these stories will make us stronger and bond us with so many others who have been in a similar situation as my family. 

Today Grandpa's sons, Jon and Steve, and oldest granddaughter, Erin, rode his bike, and we rolled into Cherokee, Iowa just after 3pm.  If you see us on the road, please be sure to ask for a special Team Uffda sticker!