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Wade on the Trail with his dog

The heat on RAGBRAI’s third day presented some serious challenges to LMQC’s road-riding blogger Gabe Lareau. But Gabe persisted – thanks to some advice from another long-time rider, the encouragement of thousands of fellow riders, and a slice of pie (or two) along the way.

by Gabe Lareau

You’ll find “bella good” pie on the road in Jefferson.

On the way to Jefferson, Iowa, this morning, I saw yard signs lining today’s RAGBRAI route with a confusing pun. “Jefferson: you’ll have one bell of a good time here;” “You’ll drink a bell of a lot when you arrive in Jefferson in 10 miles!” etc.

The reference was lost on me—did Thomas Jefferson own the Liberty Bell once? It wasn’t until after a few miles of shady neighborhoods that I understood.

Riding into downtown Jefferson, I was greeted with a looming, modern-style bell tower next to a municipal courthouse that must’ve been a hundred years old. Only on RAGBRAI, I thought, could I discover such contrasting structures looming over a thousand bicyclists.

After a quick slice of pie, the Westminster chime tolled eight. I took that as my farewell to this niche setting. It was only about sixteen more miles till the halfway point – my destination for the day.

The afternoon would be too hot.

John Stierman of Buffalo, IA

The afternoon did turn out to be “a little bit toasty,” or so understates former Western Illinois University professor and librarian John Stierman – a fellow cyclist I met right before my quittin’ time for Day 3.

“You know, the heat doesn’t really bother me,” Stierman told me afterward. “I actually thrive in the heat.”

Stierman has good reason to boast such a claim—despite being a Clinton, Iowa native, Stierman has thrived in the heat all of his life. “In eighth grade, my first touring trip with a tent and all was a bike ride from Clinton all the way to Savannah in Illinois. I was hooked ever since.”

Now living in Buffalo, IA, after a career in Macomb, IL, Stierman has stayed active into his retirement with some unique strategies to stay fit.

Stierman fasts each day, not eating until 4 p.m. (Although he indulged today, munching on two cupcakes before his regular meal. It’s his birthday, after all.) He also plays competitive tennis and hits the yoga mat every day.

“The Utica Ridge YMCA has a fantastic spinning studio,” Stierman recalled of his winter training routine. “I try to ride two to three days a week. Once the weather gets nice, I’m hitting the trails.”

Every road has a detour.

Stierman’s fitness journey hasn’t always been a smooth one, however. After an auto accident, Stierman elected to undergo a “preventative replacement” surgery on his right hip in June of 2022.

“For three months, my whole leg was blistered. For two and a half months, I couldn’t drive,” he recalls. One year later though, Stierman is in tip-top shape. “With a surgery and old age, you really have to be attentive to your fitness. You get to see the incremental improvement.”

After a shorter rest day on Wednesday, Stierman is set to finish off the last few days of RAGBRAI four miles away from his home in Buffalo. His secret: “If you’re gonna keep your game up, you gotta step it up.”

My personal challenges

Enjoying a little java juice before the next big ride.

As for me, the heat has been a little over what I can normally handle. From talking to a legion of experienced RAGBRAI cyclists on my ride, the best ways to deal with the heat are as follows: water, electrolytes, and for the love of God, don’t push yourself. That’s why I took this afternoon off, and I’m glad I did.

Meanwhile, tomorrow is set to be a doozy.

The word around town is that RAGBRAI expects anywhere from 70- to 100,000 riders from Ames to Des Moines. And I’ll be one of them. You’ll just have to take my word for it, I guess.

If you were to look for me in a picture, I’d be a speck in a vast sea of bicyclists, all feeding off each others’ energy to take on the road and make the day one “bell” of an experience.

by Gabe Lareau

You’ll find “bella good” pie on the road in Jefferson.

On the way to Jefferson, Iowa, this morning, I saw yard signs lining today’s RAGBRAI route with a confusing pun. “Jefferson: you’ll have one bell of a good time here;” “You’ll drink a bell of a lot when you arrive in Jefferson in 10 miles!” etc.

The reference was lost on me—did Thomas Jefferson own the Liberty Bell once? It wasn’t until after a few miles of shady neighborhoods that I understood.

Riding into downtown Jefferson, I was greeted with a looming, modern-style bell tower next to a municipal courthouse that must’ve been a hundred years old. Only on RAGBRAI, I thought, could I discover such contrasting structures looming over a thousand bicyclists.

After a quick slice of pie, the Westminster chime tolled eight. I took that as my farewell to this niche setting. It was only about sixteen more miles till the halfway point – my destination for the day.

The afternoon would be too hot.

John Stierman of Buffalo, IA

The afternoon did turn out to be “a little bit toasty,” or so understates former Western Illinois University professor and librarian John Stierman – a fellow cyclist I met right before my quittin’ time for Day 3.

“You know, the heat doesn’t really bother me,” Stierman told me afterward. “I actually thrive in the heat.”

Stierman has good reason to boast such a claim—despite being a Clinton, Iowa native, Stierman has thrived in the heat all of his life. “In eighth grade, my first touring trip with a tent and all was a bike ride from Clinton all the way to Savannah in Illinois. I was hooked ever since.”

Now living in Buffalo, IA, after a career in Macomb, IL, Stierman has stayed active into his retirement with some unique strategies to stay fit.

Stierman fasts each day, not eating until 4 p.m. (Although he indulged today, munching on two cupcakes before his regular meal. It’s his birthday, after all.) He also plays competitive tennis and hits the yoga mat every day.

“The Utica Ridge YMCA has a fantastic spinning studio,” Stierman recalled of his winter training routine. “I try to ride two to three days a week. Once the weather gets nice, I’m hitting the trails.”

Every road has a detour.

Stierman’s fitness journey hasn’t always been a smooth one, however. After an auto accident, Stierman elected to undergo a “preventative replacement” surgery on his right hip in June of 2022.

“For three months, my whole leg was blistered. For two and a half months, I couldn’t drive,” he recalls. One year later though, Stierman is in tip-top shape. “With a surgery and old age, you really have to be attentive to your fitness. You get to see the incremental improvement.”

After a shorter rest day on Wednesday, Stierman is set to finish off the last few days of RAGBRAI four miles away from his home in Buffalo. His secret: “If you’re gonna keep your game up, you gotta step it up.”

My personal challenges

Enjoying a little java juice before the next big ride.

As for me, the heat has been a little over what I can normally handle. From talking to a legion of experienced RAGBRAI cyclists on my ride, the best ways to deal with the heat are as follows: water, electrolytes, and for the love of God, don’t push yourself. That’s why I took this afternoon off, and I’m glad I did.

Meanwhile, tomorrow is set to be a doozy.

The word around town is that RAGBRAI expects anywhere from 70- to 100,000 riders from Ames to Des Moines. And I’ll be one of them. You’ll just have to take my word for it, I guess.

If you were to look for me in a picture, I’d be a speck in a vast sea of bicyclists, all feeding off each others’ energy to take on the road and make the day one “bell” of an experience.

Gabe Lareau

Gabe Lareau

Bike Blogger

Moline, Il, native Gabe Lareau is an avid cyclist, a senior English major and saxophonist at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, and an aspiring environmental writer.