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!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

T-Shirt Time

After years of requests, Team Uffda is finally making t-shirts available to the public for a limited time.  Check out our Uffda Shop page for more info on how you can make this shirt (which is perfect for pillaging attire) yours!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Ready for the Long Haul

It just wouldn't be RAGBRAI without our Team Uffda trailer. We've had a couple different versions and they've all been rebuilt and updated since we first began using one around 1995. Our current trailer carries five regular bikes OR four regular bikes and one tandem. It just depends on how we're feeling. This year along with some fresh coats of paint, the Team Uffda trailer received a few new signs. The left side now presents one of the Alzheimer's Association's slogans, "Have Fun. Do Good. End Alzheimer's," and the back shares our mission and why we ride: to end Alzheimer's and remember Grandpa. This year our official Sag Wagon Driver will be Aunt Belinda, as she has so graciously offered to drive our support vehicle with our trailer. We're confident she will obey all posted speed limit signs, and keep her hands at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel. May the Force be with you, Belinda!


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

One Last Ride

Once again, July is here and Team Uffda is gearing up for another RAGBRAI.  This year is different for us though, we are missing the most important member of our team- Grandpa Nelson.  On April 18th, Grandpa passed away after battling cancer and the slow moving monster we call, Alzheimer's.  You might imagine that it has been a tough few months for us as a family.  We miss Grandpa Nelson every day and wish he was physically here with us, but we have vowed to honor Grandpa and continue what he started so many years ago.

As a tribute to Grandpa, we will each be taking turns along the route riding Grandpa's bicycle across Iowa for One Last Ride.  As we pedal, we will also be raising awareness and funds for the Alzheimer's Association, so please be on the lookout for Team Uffda members. 

While he was here, Grandpa Nelson helped so many people and always put others before himself, and we wish to do the same.  It is especially important to us to be teaming up with the Alzheimer's Association in this venture as we hope that someday Alzheimer's disease is something families no longer have to see pull their loved ones away.

RAGBRAI will definitely be different for Team Uffda this year, but we are all so blessed to be able to come together once again and enjoy a ride that has brought us so many wonderful memories with Grandpa Nelson.  Without a doubt, every time we feel the sun on our face and the breeze at our back, it will be Grandpa smiling and pushing us along the roads of beautiful Iowa.