Category Archives: Ragbrai

Travel Massage Blog Summer 2011

Over the past 15 years as a licensed massage therapist I have found on site sports massage to be fulfilling, both professionally and personally.  This summer I turned more aggressively in a new direction with this concept; more weeklong outings taking the clinic on the road.  Venturing out from the local one-day scene of running events, state mountain bike point series, road cycling, local triathlons and the like.  Heres a quick rundown, enjoy!

Ride The Rockies

Ride The Rockies

The 2011 travel season kicked off with the cycling tour called Ride The Rockies.  June 11-16, a six-day road cycling tour in Colorado that took riders over 11,000 ft mountain passes, into the snow and rain and down in elevation to the heat of the high desert.  The average distance in a days ride was around 65 miles.

Inside Massage Tent RTR, 2011.

There were 23 therapists on the Ride The Rockies trip.  I was one of the newbie’s in the team so I only knew two other therapists, the coordinator and a long time friend.  I was thoroughly impressed with the talent and organization of the therapists in the team.  Therapists came from all over Colorado, a few other states and one from out of the country.  It was so refreshing to see the caliber of work going on in this crew; it was a bit like attending a massage ceu class in talking about findings and techniques and simply learning by watching the other therapists work.  Half way through the first day another therapist came to me with a handful of ice-cold blueberries.  I had an athlete’s leg in my hand, what was I to do, I wondered?  She said, “Open up” and so I did, she put her hand to my face and gently let the berries fill my mouth, she said no more and walked away.  A half an hour later another massage therapist, this time a guy, walks up to me with 3 sugar snap peas in his hand, positioned as if ready for insertion.  He held them about two inches from my mouth and looked at me as if to say, “Open up, it’s time for your medicine.”  I followed suit, opened my mouth and the peas were administered, cold and crispy.  A team was there, and I was part of it.  What a strange group of people: watching out for one another, helping one another out, knowing the struggle of a 7-hour day tableside and doing what they can to help the group survive.  I joined in and went to the store the next day, big, plump, juicy strawberries!  The Doc was in the house, just watch the fingers!  What fun! !  I feel like I met some lifelong friends up there.

Tent City and Massage.

We had one huge (20’x30’?) yellow and white striped event tent, as seen in the images, that was bomber in the winds of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.  There was a great sound system in the massage tent and in the week of doing bodywork I don’t recall hearing the same music twice, and nobody complained about that!

RAGBRAI

Beach Front Property in Carroll, Iowa.

This summer was my third year doing massage at the crazy fun, challenging and HOT Iowa bicycle tour, RAGBRAI.  2011 was my second year with an outfit called Porkbelly Ventures, a full service charter for the riders; we had nearly 1,000 people in our camp alone.  For those unfamiliar, this is the Register’s Annual Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, which typically occurs the last week in July to the first week in August, it’s hot, humid and buggy, with thunderstorms and tornado warnings and so on with the weather of the great Midwest.  With an estimated 12,000 daily riders, several teams, charter services, individuals, groups and pirates, there is no shortage of work to be done at RAGBRAI.  Cycling really is a full body sport; being down in the drop bars causes neck, shoulder, and arm and hand issues.  We know the quads, gluteals, IT Bands, and even the calves get roasted on the long Iowa rollers.  There are a few folks in this group riding bent bikes, saving some of the work up top.  But, this is not a technique article.

Cindy tests the humidity, that's affirmative.

What a mixed bag of folks on this massage crew, I love mixed bags!  You have the party girls, the vets of 23 years, the hungry massage therapists just out of school, and the dude in a kilt.  I love it.  My wife Missy, a therapist of 6 years, came along on this trip to the fields. It was a real pleasure getting to spend the week out in the corn, sweating and working right along side one another, keeping each other hydrated, fed and sane.  Seems as if the massage therapists sort of kept to themselves on this trip, not the  food shares we saw on Ride the Rockies.  But then again, I was with my wife!

The days were long and in the Iowa heat we all pretty much felt the same, hot and sweaty.  For most of this trip and all I was wearing was shorts and a bandana with ice in it. I gave all of my athletes the option of me putting on and wearing a shirt for their session.  I had no takers, thank God.  Okay, some days I wore a shirt, but not many.

Hot Iowa Days, or was it Esalen?

We had some close calls on this trip.  Heat exhaustion and heat stroke is gnarly.  On day 2 in Carroll, Iowa, Missy had a gentleman go into full heat stroke on her table.  His legs went into rock solid cramping and then he got dizzy.  She had him sit up, and her next client arrived.  I was in between athletes, so I started to speak with the gentleman, and he continued to get dizzy and pale and less coherent.  I asked if he wanted medical support, he had enough in him to say he thought it might be a good idea.  I ran over to tell the coordinator of the charter service that we needed medics to the massage tent NOW, as I could see this was not going to be good.  I ran back to the massage tent where he was standing like a statue, I had him sit in a chair, I got him a banana and an ice cold electrolyte drink and put a chilled towel around his neck to cool the carotid artery.  He was going out, I kept talking with him, trying to keep him awake, begging him to stay awake in fact.  The next thing I know he dropped his drink, slumped in the chair, and convulsed a few times.  Right at that time, two of the volunteers from the charter crew, who are also EMTs, showed up.  One of the ladies looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I can’t get a pulse.”  I was holding this man up from falling over in the chair; holy shit, the feelings and thoughts that ran through me are hard to explain.  One) I’m holding a dead man.  Two) what could I have done differently?  Three) what will tomorrow feel like?  After about 30 seconds he lifts his head and says, “Oh, sorry, I fell asleep.”  Just then the ambulance pulls up, two medics come over with bags and get debriefed by the volunteer EMTs, who did a spectacular job, and my next athlete comes in.  I’ll never forget that day in the corn.

Missy Bishop, LMT.

All in all RAGBRAI 2011 was a great trip.  I was able to spend time with my family, hear some great bands; I got some fishing and mountain biking in in Missouri and Colorado, and spent time with the kids and wife in Colorado on the way home!

TransRockies Run, 2011

Team Run Flagstaff takes the jersey back. Camp Hale.

Camp Hale, Transrockies Run 2011. Copyright: Klaus Fengler.

From August 19th to August 27th I participated (did massage!) in the Gore-Tex Tran Rockies Run, a 6-day, 120 mile, 20,000 ft of climbing, trail race through the Colorado Rockies. A well oiled machine!  The runners in this challenge are in teams of two, mixed ages and sexes.  One of the requirements is that the teams meet the checkpoints together, and cross the finish line together.  The stages this year were from 14 to 24 miles with elevation gains of up to 5,000 ft daily.  This is an interesting race, not quite an ultra run in the daily mileage, but when they throw down the 6 days together, each stage needs to be fast to win, granted not all of the participants were in it to win. Mike Smith and Jason Wolfe of Team Run Flagstaff did take the overall title.  Cheers boys!

Team Run Flagstaff

On a daily basis the massage team joined the tent crew volunteers and broke down, transported and set up nearly 250 tents for the race participants.  Maybe 4 hours in total.  Once camp was set for the runners, we proceeded to set up the massage tents, 7-9 10’ x 10’ pop ups, 13 massage tables for 13 therapists, sidewalls, massage gear, reception area, etc.  The typical day of massage included 5-7 hours of tissue recovery and preparation work, stretching, avoiding raised toenails and blisters, and checking out the stories of the trail.  Break massage camp, sit by a fire and visit, off to sleep and repeat.  Breakfast was served each morning at 6am.  Good eggs, potatoes, fresh fruit, bagels, toast, sausage, oatmeal, coffee, juice, it was all there!  After breakfast we grabbed a bag lunch of awesome sandwich, chips, and a cookie, and stashed it somewhere in the gear for later in the day.  We then proceeded to help with runner tent breakdown, transport the tents to the next town, set up, repeat as above.  See the flow here?

Jam Session

It was worth the extra effort to help out in camp.  Many massage therapists may be above this, not I, and not many on the Transrockies Massage Crew.  We all worked together to contribute to the total event.  Some of the massage therapists worked checkpoints for the runners early in the morning.  They had fruit to cut, water to fill, trucks to pack, gear to move, then drive out to check point until the last runner came through, then break down checkpoint, drive back to camp, where much of their gear was set to massage, and work a full load of massage.  That’s teamwork, without an “I”.  Get the entire Transrockies Run story Here.

After the long week on Transrockies I slept most of the 7 hour drive home, dreaming of my new mountain bike.  A sweet bike she is!

All in all the summer of travel was awesome!  I wonder what fall will look like?  I know what next summer looks like, hope to see you down the road!

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Ragbrai 2010

2010 PBV Letterhead
May 28, 2010
Dear Porkers,

The late, great Jim Woolway had the gift of appreciation.  Always fit as a fiddle, Jim rode RAGBRAI into his seventies, usually bringing along his brother or his kids or his grandkids, who struggled to keep up with him.  His daughter Laurie and grandson Jordan will be riding with PBV again this July.  As we drove across Iowa early this month, looking out at the farmland, I thought of Jim and how he used to say “Every day is gravy.”  He would have enjoyed scouting Iowa in spring: black dirt tinged with the green of sprouting corn, old leaning sun-bleached barns, deer grazing just before dawn, a prairie sunset reflected in a farm pond.  He always loved meeting our generous hosts, tasting their pies, and sitting under their shade trees.

We have done our best to put plenty of gravy into your week, Porkers, and you’ll read about that in a second.  But ultimately, the real gravy comes from YOU and your ability to appreciate—like Jim did—this place, its people, its countryside, and its forces of nature.  We remind ourselves (and you) to cultivate that kind of thinking.  We’ve heard it called “an attitude of gratitude,” but call it “gravy thinking” if you like, just being grateful every day for the good things you find on your pilgrimage across Iowa.  Gravy thinking is a cornerstone of living like a pig, and once you learn to live like a pig, you will want for nothing!

The main purpose of this email is to give you the day-by-day description of our Week in the Corn.  But first, a couple of important digressions.

Hometown Folks

As you read through the arrangements we’ve made in each host community, please bear in mind that none of this could happen without the local volunteers, the campground committees, the willing civic leaders, and the active church members in each place.  These folks take time away from their jobs and families to attend meetings, line up twelve hours of local entertainment, plan menus, pore over maps, explain logistics, and guide us around town to our amazing campsites of 2010!  We’ll mention a few of these folks, and we’ll suggest ways that you can help them as you share their lovely hometowns, one after another.

“Satellite” Camping

Quick lesson for you about RAGBRAI Campgrounds.  Every town is different.  Some towns can put the whole RAGBRAI into a great big “All-in-One” area-a large park, fairgrounds, or campus.  Other towns offer what we call “satellite camping,” which means lots of smaller sites at schools, athletic fields, smaller parks, and green spaces around town, with evening festivities in the town square.   This year, there are more towns offering satellite camping than all-in-one camping (Clear Lake is an exception), but in most cases our sites are less than a mile from the festivities, sometimes just a few blocks away.

Update on the Extras from PBV

In our February invitation letter, we did our best to describe what you could expect from us, but we’ve had a few developments since then.  Rather than five licensed massage therapists working in Pork Camp, we’ll have six.  Though we promised two evening meals included in our Weeklong Support, we will provide three evening meals (three dinners to which everyone on Weeklong Support is entitled).  We’ll also offer one optional evening meal on Wednesday and one optional take-away breakfast on Thursday.  Rather than seven days of showers during the week, you’ll be entitled to one or more showers on all eight days, and they will be located adjacent to our campsites in each spot.  We mentioned that in-camp entertainment would depend on host town approval, and we will have entertainment on at least three nights, including the Elders on Tuesday and Wednesday as planned.  On Monday night, there’ll be one indoor sleeping opportunity at the First Lutheran Church of Algona (we’ll let you know when we can take your indoor sleeping reservations on first-come-first-served basis).  We are still at work on one or more optional hotel stays, complete with transfers to and from our camp.  Please stay tuned for more Pork News as it happens.

Now, without further ado, here’s your river-to-river itinerary, in some detail, starting on Iowa’s West Coast.

Saturday/Sioux City

Like last year, we’ll begin RAGBRAI in a large metro area.  Sioux City, home to 86,000, is right on the Muddy Missouri River, “too thick to drink, too thin to plow,” but just right for dipping rear tires only a mile from our campsite in a large city park.  Some of you will arrive at the park by bus from Omaha, others by bus from Dubuque, and still others will be dropped off by friends or family.  At our campsite, you’ll check in, get shipped bikes ready to ride, hand over your bike-shipping containers for weeklong storage, and get your tents up.  Everything will be easy and orderly, so don’t sweat it.  We’ve done this a few times, and we’ll get you on your way to the festivities in a jiffy. The PBV Showers, free to you, are right beside us, in case you work up a sweat doing your chores.  There’s a swimming pool in the park also.  Sioux City has spruced up the downtown area, less than a mile from our park, and it’s a downright picturesque place to graze food venders and take in the bike expo.  If last year is any indication, a bunch of you will attend the headliner Smashmouth Concert.  Have a ball, but save something for Sunday morning when you’ll start pedaling east into small-town Iowa.

Sunday/Storm Lake

Do any of you long-timers remember our last Storm Lake campsite, a deep piece of lakefront real estate peppered with tall shade trees?  We loved it back in 2001, and we’re back in the same spot, only this July we’ll have our own hot showers and a delicious Welcome Supper served by our old friends at the Family Table.  Terry, Tim, and Curt will be grilling and setting up serving tables in the afternoon.  Some of you will remember their signature wine-marinated turkey filet sandwiches, complete with hot cheesy potatoes, sweet corn, pasta salad, and dessert.  The Welcome Supper is included for all weeklong Porkers.  We’ll host a little shindig tonight, and with the sun setting over the water, it’s going to be beautiful evening on the shore.  That is, if Storm Lake doesn’t live up to its name.  Again.

Monday/Algona

A narrow street separates the Bertha Godfrey Elementary School and the First Lutheran Church, both of which are home to PBV tonight, and both of which offer lots of shade trees and lush grass for camping.  Our showers will be located in the church parking lot, as will the kybos.  Your supper tonight will be prepared by Julie Murphy, Kevin Benschoter, and the good folks of First Lutheran.  A classic “church supper” menu is in the making, so try not to spoil your appetite at the church pie booth, where you’re free to sample dutch apple, cherry, rhubarb, banana crème and all the other flavors, all homemade by the church ladies, all afternoon, proceeds to the church, of course.  Your dinner tonight is included for all Weeklong Porkers.  Here is a place where you can help our host congregation with its technology needs by contributing in some small way.  Buy a slice of pie.  Pay the paltry price to sleep in a Sunday School room.  Drop a few bills in the collection box.  Let’s be extra kind to our Good Samaritans at First Lutheran.

Tuesday/Clear Lake

This is one town where much of the camping is in one spot, at the high school, and our campground chair, Ernie, has given us a lovely stretch of pristine grass between the school and a row of trees along the street.  This is a very short cycling day, so after your next-door shower, plan to see what’s happening downtown-only about six blocks away.  This lakeside community has a lot of cozy pubs, as well as a downtown lakeside park filled with yummy food venders.  Clear Lake has done an amazing job lining up all-day, all-evening entertainment for you-they got everything from a national jet-ski competition to an evening performance by the Spin Doctors.  Plan on a late lunch in downtown Clear Lake and a late supper there, too.  In between, we hope you can make it back to our site for an early concert from our favorite Irish band, the Elders.  Tomorrow night, they’ll be your main event, but today in Clear Lake, they’ll do a kick-arse job of warming you up for the town’s incredible bands and shows.

Wednesday/Charles City

We have a little history of Wonderful Wednesdays-knock wood-and Charles City, or “Chuck Town” as RAGBRAIers know it, will sustain that tradition.  This place is on par with our campsites in Tama in ’08 and Chariton last year.  Wendy, the campground chair, kindly directed us to the Charles City VFW, and counter to our usual modus operandi, we didn’t bother to look further.  You know it when you see it, Porkers, and the VFW owns the prettiest park in town, with the VFW bar-and-grill building up toward the road and a deep, wide meadow with scattered trees out back.  And just to carry us right over the top, a babbling brook with a quaint bridge runs along one side of the property.  Our shower vender will be right along the street beside us.  Ginger, the co-chair of Charles City RAGBRAI, is finding just the right menu for an optional Pork Meal this evening.  She’s leaning toward a savory lasagna with yummy sides.  (This meal will be optional, not included, and you’ll be invited to sign up for it at the Front Desk in Sioux City on Saturday.  Menu and price to be announced.)  Carry your plate out back and take a seat under the canopies for our foot-stomping, heart-lifting, ear-tickling highlight of the week.  Knock wood, weather permitting, God willing, and the creek don’t rise, it is shaping up to be a gorgeous night for an Elders Concert.

(You will also have the opportunity to purchase a Thursday morning take-away breakfast served at this site-probably a sandwich of Canadian bacon, cheese, and egg on an English Muffin, with a piece of fruit and bottle of juice.  The price is $4 to those who pre-purchase with PBV.  On Thursday morning there may be extras on site, but the price will go up.  Our vender plans to serve from 4:30 to 7:00 a.m.  You can sign up for this breakfast at PBV’s Front Desk in Sioux City.)

Thursday/Waterloo

Naturally, as we drove toward Waterloo, we were thinking “city.”  Not that it isn’t nice to have a city stay now and then, but imagine our surprise to find ourselves able spread out on a spacious farm owned by Sandy McLain.  Sandy and her husband used to farm the property, but since her husband passed away, things have changed.  The town has slowly crept toward her farm, and now, right across the road from her front yard is Lost Island Water Park and The Isle Casino.  Her back yard, though, is a green rural paradise looking out across fields and farms.  Turns out Sandy’s son is (we aren’t making this up) the owner of P.T. Grillers, whose specialty is catering outdoor barbecues.  Get ready for Pork Belly Sausage Night, courtesy of Tom McLain, a very funny guy, and his happy crew of servers.  Choose from Italian Sausage, Polish Sausage, or Cheddarwurst on a bun with condiments (including peppers, sauerkraut, and the usual mustard and relish), along with hot cheesy potatoes, veggie and pasta salad, and a medley of fresh fruit.  This meal is included for all weeklong Porkers.  Showers and kybos out front.  The wet and wild theme park across the street.  Supper straight off the grill.  Tom Woods and the Thunderbirds playing blues on the Pork stage.  Life is good.

Friday/Manchester

You’ve heard of the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota.  No?  Well, it’s listed among the most famous corn monuments in the country.  And every summer, Dean Sherman, retired mail carrier, uses some kind of laser technology to create a more temporary type of corn monument.  Pork Belly Ventures will occupy a large, shady city green space, and we’ll also lap over onto Dean’s property, where he grows acres and acres of pumpkins and squash and keeps a kind of artistic flower garden of barbed wire sculptures and painted wooden doors and other neat rural artifacts.  His place is very pretty.  But his favorite hobby-and he has a few hobbies-is growing his famous and intricate annual Corn Maze.  He showed us aerial photos of the previous mazes, the spider web, the spreading tree branches, and the pumpkin.  But the maze of 2010 tops them all-a locomotive pulling a coal car and a caboose.  PBV has paid your admission to the maze, but how about we agree that nobody goes in without a buddy?  We don’t like to think of you lost in the coal car, gnawing on raw corn until Dean harvests his crop in October.  Plan on a Farewell Shindig tonight, a short walk to the downtown food venders, and if Dean can swing it, a cow-chip toss.  He’s checking into the chips.  Between now and July, you could put some oatmeal in a Frisbee, Porkers, and practice tossing.  Manchester is going to be a real Iowa fond farewell!

Saturday/Dubuque

Sad to say, but this Saturday usually ends up being a scramble, and there’s hardly time to say goodbye.  There are a whole lot of logistical details that we’ll put into the June Letter.  For now, we will just say that you will be riding directly to the river for your front-tire dip, before being routed on to us at the Kerper Longterm Parking Facility.  In other end-towns, you have had the option of coming to us before dipping, but not this time.  So enjoy your river dip, Porkers, and don’t get lost in the party.  Because it’s a short cycling day, we may have departures for Omaha as early as 1:00 p.m.  Enjoy your last day, but come on over to Kerper for your bike-shipping, showering, and bus-boarding.  We hope to be out of town by 2:30 p.m.  Again, more to come on Saturday, the 31st.

That’s it for now.  We have only described campsites and activities here.  You can expect instructions and directions, regarding Sioux City and Dubuque in particular, in our comprehensive June Letter, coming to you soon.  Update #10 has given you an idea of what we are doing to give you the gravy and make your week in Iowa as hilarious, nourishing, and relaxing as possible.  The June Letter is your chance to return the favor.  If everybody reads it carefully and does what it says, you’ll make our next several weeks easy as pie, and we’ll appreciate it!

Have a good long weekend, Porkers.  We hope you have a couple of bike rides planned.  This Memorial Day, we’ll be thinking of dear Jim Woolway and reminding ourselves how lucky we are to have our memories of him.  And our lessons from him.  Remember:  think gravy.  Until next time, we remain,

Your friends,

Tammy and Pete

Pork Belly Ventures L.L.C. email to petephillips@cox.net or tammypav@aol.com

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