Ode to Toppling Goliath

Some people get jazzed on Sunday for the big football game.  Some people watch birds.  Some people go to church and get jazzed about Jesus.  I like beer.  No, I love beer.  So does my wife, Erin.  It is one of many reasons why we go so well together.  It is this love of beer that drives us to endure things that you wouldn’t normally endure if it wasn’t for a deep passion for something.  We confirmed this passion this weekend.

Sometime after Ragbrai, we committed to a two-day ride in Decorah, IA raising money for Adaptive Sports Iowa and supported by Cycle Iowa.  As the date approached, I could tell neither of us were that excited about it.  We wanted to visit Decorah, but I sensed we wanted to visit under different circumstances, and not a two-day bike ride.  
My road bike, a titanium Litespeed, is the only type of bike I would normally use for such an event.  It has been having some problems, and I never took the initiative I needed to fix these problems before the weekend came around.  So, I decided to ride my heavy mountain bike with knobby 26″ tires and regular pedals that I couldn’t clip into.   
Friday night, it rained hard along with very loud rolling thunder.  Saturday, it rained during the ride, and became sunny once we arrived back to camp.  Saturday night, 70 mile per hour winds blew our tent over forcing us to take shelter in a barn.  We didn’t end up riding Sunday.  
That being said, Erin and I had an absolute blast in Decorah.  In fact, it has made the list of cities we could easily live in.  How was it that we could endure the rough conditions and still have a great time? The answer is beer.

Although this year isn’t over yet, we will remember it for being the year of biking in the rain.  I biked through a torrential downpour during the Hilliest FLATS Ride Ever in Kirksville.  On a training weekend in Des Moines we biked from Indianola to Carlisle with my dad, part of which was through a hard rain.  The 6th day of Ragbrai was rainy almost the entire morning.  Although I didn’t bike in it, Erin took off in the rain because it didn’t bother her.  And now, this.

Saturday morning, I woke up a little before 7:30 to begin getting ready for the bike ride that day.  We forgot Ziploc bags for our phones, which was a small bummer.  We registered, received our T-shirts, took advantage of all of the food and beverage available, and then took off.

We didn’t bike very far before having to climb a monstrous hill and get our legs warmed up for the day’s ride.  Just on the outskirts of Decorah, a sag wagon pulled over to warn us of the front moving in.  We told him we didn’t mind, although we were slightly concerned about our phones and we wished we had Ziploc bags.  He said he would go back to town to get some and catch us.  He eventually did, and with pretty good timing.  The rain got a little heavier after that.

We climbed another monster of a hill that I thought was easy with my mountain bike’s granny gear.  It would have been much more difficult with the road bike.  We dredged on for what seemed like much longer than we needed to get to the rest stop with food and beverage.  It was the community center in Ridgeway.  There was a bar next door named the Fireman Inn that people suggested for a Bloody Mary.  There was no need to twist either of our arms.

The bar man served us up a great bloody, but I felt something was missing.  I’ve slowly become accustomed to the beer back with my bloody.  So much, in fact, I don’t think one should be charged extra for it.  The bar’s cheapest beer should be the default beer back at the very least.  They can charge extra for an upgrade if they want.  This wasn’t the case, however, and so I ordered a Sam Adams Rebel IPA for our back. It was both our first time trying this beer.

Bloody’s with a Rebel IPA beer back

At the end of the ride, back in beautiful Decorah

We finished the ride strong with a small tail wind and cleaned up for a late lunch.  We heard good things about T-Bock’s.  Erin and I split an order of 6 wings from locally raised chickens and the Southwest Burger, which involved a chipotle sauce, jalepenos, and bacon.  Yes, please.  At first I was disappointed with the wings until I remembered that these chickens weren’t hopped up on whatever they give chickens now-a-days that makes them so big they can’t even stand and walk around.  I embraced their smallness after that.  They had Bell’s Two Hearted Ale on tap along with some choices from the local Toppling Goliath.

Once we were finished with lunch, we headed to Toppling Goliath for our second round.  Erin experimented with blending a few different brews.  The brewery encouraged it, in fact, which I thought was unique for a brewery.  Since many of the beers on tap were pale ales and India pale ales, I guess it wasn’t that surprising.

As we rode back to camp for the BBQ dinner that came with registering for the bike ride, I remember contemplating the seemingly indirect relationship with happiness and knowledge.  The reason I was thinking about it was because I was happy, and wanted to understand the balance.  I thought that maybe because I was half drunk, that I was foregoing knowledge, and therefore happy.  And then I thought that maybe that is exactly what beer and marijuana are good for: to suppress knowledge for a spell so that one can be happy.  Whether this is bullshit or has some grain of truth to it, I felt it to be a revelation in my state, which made me more happy.  But that means that it must not have been very knowledgeable according to the argument.  Hmmm.  Oh well.

During the BBQ dinner, one of the race directors got on a microphone and announced that the Decorah Police Department had been in contact with him to warn riders of the potential 70 mph winds coming in.  He also welcomed riders to set their tents up in the building we were all dining in at the moment.  During the next few hours, Erin and I went back and forth in a debate on whether we should bring our stuff in or not.  We settled on putting our sleeping bags and pillows in the car just in case and leaving the tent where it was while we sheltered in the barn.

We were in this barn at the time of the picture.

In hindsight, we should have stayed with the tent, so that we could have manually held it up inside during the worst part of the storm or brought the tent in the barn.  The tent was destroyed.  Tent poles were busted, and the rain flap and tent were torn.  

Our demolished tent

The support staff were absolutely amazing, and did what they could for all of the participants.  They set us up in an extra tent inside the barn above.  In the morning, I let Erin sleep in and I went to assess and clean up the damage.  I took the tent apart and found that all of our tent poles were either broken or bent beyond repair, and we had tears in the rain flap and tent itself.  

There was a very chilly and brisk wind that morning blowing from the direction we would have to travel first if we wanted to ride that day.  Erin was suffering from the previous day’s ride (after not having ridden since Ragbrai) and I was on the fence anyway so it was easy to convince me not to ride.  We went to brunch at an amazing place called the Rubaiyat instead.  
Parked outside the Rubaiyat in downtown Decorah

The Rubaiyat had a build your own Bloody Mary bar.  We ordered coffees, waters, and a Bloody.  I built mine using their house made bacon and garlic infused vodkas.  I went for spicy, while Erin went for burn your mouth and set a fire in your colon spicy.  Again, I wondered where our beer backs were.  The bartender told us we were being too progressive for Decorah thinking that a beer back would be the standard.  Since pseudoSue was on tap, we had that as our beer back.  It felt sacrilegious to have such an amazing beer as a beer back to a Bloody, but we quickly got over it.

Toppling Goliath didn’t open until 11, so we killed a little time by walking around and enjoying the downtown.  Our purpose at Toppling Goliath was to purchase a lot of their stuff to take home and to have one last beer.  We bought 6 pseudoSue’s and 6 Golden Nuggets to take with us.  At the bar, we enjoyed a pint of Intergalactic Warrior.  On the verge of closing the tab, we decided on one more.  I had a pseudoSue while Erin experimented with a beer that was 2/3 pseudoSue and 1/3 Intergalactic Warrior.  
I’m glad we stayed for another, because a beer rep from Mispillion River Brewery walked in who was on a beer trip, as well as this other guy with a Pleepleus hoodie.  Erin freaked out and shouted that we had to “Sheet it Forward.”  After purchasing the guy in a Pleepleus hoodie a beer, he told us to hold on a sec as he raced out to his car to give us a can of Surly Over Rated IPA.  The Mispillion River dude finally pipes up (he was kind of reserved) and tells us to hold on another sec while he gives us two cans of Reach Around IPA (that’s right) and two cans of Beach Bum Joe.  It is so blissful being a beer geek in this world.  We left with smiles on our faces.  The further we got from Decorah, the faster the smiles disappeared.   
We “Sheeted it Forward” to this guy.  He gave us Surly Over Rated.  I’d say he’s one awesome dude.
This is my ode to Toppling Goliath.  We traveled a long way to get to what felt like the middle of nowhere.  We endured the horrible storms.  We biked through rain and wind.  And we did it for you, Toppling Goliath.  We would probably do it again, too.  Especially if some friends wanted to join us.  

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