Sunday, June 29, 2008
the official vw camper of ragby; the official bus of cardinal sin;
the official vehicle of the orphange, and of the church of the two-wheeled scam, and the grocery getter of sister nun, of the above;
the icon and home-base for the many thousands of orphans far-flung and nearby for so many years, where stories of discipline and clean-living were told by both sister non, of the above, and later by the mostly reverend, whose divine example all little orphans strive to attain in their daily lives, the official bus of the note-worthy nativity scene of the orphanage, has been sold. as i write this, it is rolling down I-35 toward its new home just north of kansas city. it will begin its new life with a new young family, and although i speak for us all by saying that we will miss it, we wish its new owners all the very best that it has given so many over the fourteen years that it has served us so well.
bye bye, bus.
coming soon: the jack and the magic bean bus--the final chapter
Friday, June 27, 2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Jack had laid out the terms for the lopsided bet with the Beer Czar and the Czar accepted. The wager was whether or not Jack would accept any price the Beer Czar offered for the supposedly magic Ragbrai beans Jack was trying to sell for $500. The stakes were the Czar’s spare bus tire against then entire Short Bus and all its contents.
They begrudgingly shook hands with each other and then while everyone waited, Jack made one last arrangement. “Bring your spare bus tire and set it right out here between us and I’ll set the keys to the Short Bus right next to it for everyone to see.”
The Czar motioned for his crew to oblige while Jack turned to Kelby and held out his hand for the keys. Kelby refused at first, but Jack had such a blaze of fire in his eyes that finally, Kelby reached into his pocket and reluctantly dropped the bus keys into Jack’s hand.
When both prizes were placed on the ground between Jack and the Czar, Jack said, “Well, sir. I advertised the beans at $500. Make your offer.”
A single beer ticket for the entire bag,” came the offer. The Czar pulled a red ticket from his pocket and held it up for all to see.
Jack hesitated for just a moment and stared hard at the beans as a hush ran through the crowd. Then he looked back at the Czar and after another long pause, finally said, “Sold!”
The thugs standing behind the Czar gave a rowdy cheer while Jack’s friends let out a collective moan. The Czar was very pleased with himself and reached out a greedy hand to take the bag of beans from Jack. In exchange, he dropped the beer ticket at Jack’s feet.
“Thank you, sir,” said Jack while tipping the spare bus tire upright. “We’ll just take our spare and be going.”
“What?!” roared the Czar.
“Those were the terms of the bet,” answered Jack as he rolled the tire back toward the eager hands in his group. “We bet whether or not I’d accept any price you offered me for the beans. You offered one beer ticket and I accepted.” Jack bent down a second time and picked up the keys to the Short Bus, tossing them to Kelby.
The Czar turned a bright shade of red and clenched his fists. He turned to his thugs as if to order them into battle, but they were laughing so hard they could barely stand.
Jack could hear the sounds of friends rolling the tire away toward Kelby’s bus, but he kept his eyes on the Czar, who had managed to regain his composure. “There is still one more matter to settle,” said the Czar. “According to our computer audit, you have $120 that belongs the Des Moines Register, and for that, I’ll have you arrested.”“Actually, sir,” a smallish, bookish voice sounded from inside the bus. Jack and the Czar turned to see an accountant, complete with a bow tie and an adding machine, leaning through the door of the command center bus. “I’ve been going over the figures in this most recent computer printout of the Register’s audit. The $120 that supposedly went to Jack Piper has somehow been cancelled out.”
“How can that be?!” roared the Czar in a new fit of rage.
The accountant turned to Jack and asked, “Evidently, Mr. Piper, you delivered the Des Moines Register newspaper to a customer in Colorado last winter. Is that true?”
Jack was caught completely off guard. “Uh, yes, I did. But I only made four deliveries.”“This was billed to the Register’s customer service with their approval at $25 per delivery,” said the accountant.
“But I thought Mr. Karras was only joking when he said that paperboys would charge that much,” stammered Jack.
The accountant shook his head. “No, that was the going rate.”
“But that only adds up to $100!” shouted the Czar. “What about the other $20?”
The accountant took one last look a the printout and said, “Evidently, Mr. Karras added a $5 tip for each delivery. That adds up to $120, which Mr. Piper was never paid. It exactly cancels out the previous discrepancy. There is no more reason to pursue Mr. Piper.”
At these words, the Beer Czar let out such a blood-curdling yell that the thugs standing behind him stopped laughing and nervously filed back onto the bus. The Czar was quaking with rage as he turned to Jack and hissed, “You haven’t won yet.” He jumped to the first step of his bus and screamed, “I’ve got an entire raccoon army on board, crazed by an addicting mix of hops, barley, and newspaper ink. I’m going to feed them your magic coffee beans and turn them loose. When they find you they’ll tear you to pieces.”
The door to the bus slammed shut and Jack remained frozen in place. Behind him, he could hear Mahk’s familiar South African accent saying, “Let’s go Jack. We’ve got the spare installed and we’re ready to leave.” But Jack didn’t move. His eyes remained fixed on the black command center bus in front of him.
Strange howls and yelps were starting to come from the Czar’s bus. The growls and yelps were getting louder moment by moment as the bus began to shake and tremble. The tinted windows were impossible to see through, but the cries of the men on the bus started to blend in with the screeches of the raccoons until they were impossible to tell apart.
Mahk said one more time, “Come on Jack, it’s time to go,” but just as he finished his sentence, the engine of the Czar’s bus roared to life. The sounds of grinding gears were mixed with the sounds of carnage, and the bus suddenly jolted forward, charging out of the parking lot and onto the lonely county road that ran past the parking lot of the abandoned gas station. The bus careened wildly to the left and right as it shot down the road and out of sight, with the sounds of yelling and gnashing teeth fading away into the distance, hopefully never to be seen again.
Jack blinked and turned to Mahk, as if waking from a trance. “Yeah,” he said, “It’s time to go.”
to be continued...[a serial by little orphan dbax]
When I set my mind to something, there's no turning back, no slowing down, and no excuses. So when I heard about the upcoming 17th Annual Richland County Marathon, I started training immediately. For the last four months, I have been pushing myself to the brink of exhaustion to prepare my mind and body for the ultimate physical challenge: ruining a marathon.
I'm going to ruin the whole thing.
Now, I know what you're thinking. Sure, everyone would like to ruin a marathon, but who among us has the discipline and energy to get up at the crack of dawn morning after morning, through rain, sleet, and snow, and practice handing out cups of vinegar to the frontrunners? Me, that's who. Yes, there are some mornings when it's darn near impossible to keep going—when you feel like you just can't chip one more pothole in the course with a pickax. But endurance ruining is all about pushing through the pain. And when the big day comes, and you make it over that final hurdle, dodge the cops, and shove an old guy into the bushes, you'll know all that training was worth it.
Granted, I've never taken on anything of this magnitude before. Oh, I used to ruin cross-country meets back in high school. And there was that father-son fun ruin I did back in '06, of course, but that was just for charity. If I'm going to needlessly sabotage a full 26.2 miles of road, I have to make sure I'm at the top of my game. No ifs, ands, or buts.
That's why I like to start off my training day bright and early with a full breakfast of espresso, some diet pills, and a small bag of rock candy. It keeps me edgy and volatile when I'm in the thick of disrupting a tight race. Also—and I can't stress this enough—it's very important to stretch properly before and after yelling derogatory remarks at Kenyans. You don't want your legs cramping up on the way to the escape route.
Training rituals like this may seem tiresome and pointless now, but trust me: When you're two hours into terrorizing a highly anticipated marathon, they make all the difference in the world.
After you've been ruining a marathon for a couple hours, your body will just take over and you won't even realize that you're spoiling the day for everyone. I call that getting in the "ruiner's zone." It's like my arms and legs could just keep dumping buckets of cooking oil off a highway overpass forever. When you get there, more than ever, it's important to keep focused and not let your mind wander. You've got a lot of race to wreck, and you've got to keep your mind sharp for what's coming up ahead.
It's good to make a checklist in my mind, so I don't get distracted on race day. Are there any cables or streamers around that I can use as trip wires? Is this a good time to call the fire department to report a massive four-alarm blaze at the 12-mile mark? Do I hip-check the guy in front of me or stop abruptly and trip up the three people behind?
If I make all the right decisions, and really push myself, I could ruin this marathon in record time.
The biggest thing I've learned about training to thwart a marathon is that you have to set small, manageable goals for yourself, and then gradually work up to bigger, more challenging goals. Try starting off with something simple, like printing out "Marathon Continues to the Right" signs and pasting them up by the on-ramp to the interstate. Once you're comfortable with that, you can work your way up to a larger goal, like breaking beer bottles into a sack and dumping them out in front of the wheelchair racers, or loading up on carbs and dairy so you can vomit all over the finish line.
As the day of the marathon approaches, it's easy to psych yourself out by thinking of all the tiny things that could go wrong. The hornets could all die en route to the starting line, or I might forget to slash the tires of the first-aid trucks that follow the runners. But when you're ruining a marathon, you have to push all those little what-ifs out of your head and just go out there and try your hardest.
Sure, you might not end up ruining every inch of the marathon, but just imagine the looks on their faces when 300-plus people fail to cross that finish line.
Race day's tomorrow. No more excuses. No more letting my own fears, or my wife's sobbing pleas, or the combined efforts of city and state law enforcement agencies get in the way of me accomplishing my goal. No, sir. Not this time.
I've trained too hard for that. --the onion [by the way, the fella shown is NOT snowdog]
by the way, snowdog seems to have sold the now-famous "snowdog" pickup truck. his wheels nowadays is an early-90s mustang [NOT the cool new retro-styled ones, but the boxy version] with vanity plate "FIVER."
BE ON THE LOOK-OUT FOR "FIVER."
Monday, June 23, 2008
Friday, June 20, 2008
Thursday, June 19, 2008
while it's NOT the strategically-placed grand avenue leg-buster from last year, it is much better than the dualthlon route which had caused me to threaten to recommend hammocks along the route. while they won't admit it, i suspect that promise was enough for race officials to fudge the bacteria test results down into acceptable levels.
in any event, a map of the revised-revised bike route is included:
i suggest that plenty of cold beverages should be included in your heckler's pack. we will be on fuller road, just west of its intersection with 35th street.
i suggest you bone up on water-borne bacteria, as i'm certain that the bikers will be covered with it. a little mass-contagion hysteria never hurt anyone.
be there early this sunday--
the first wave of amateurs hits the petri dishes at 600 am.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
The dark bus lurched to a halt and sat idling for a minute before the motor cut off and the bus doors swung open. Jack and the others watched as
a stout, pompous man strutted down the steps and onto the concrete. He stood with his hands on his hips and a sneer on his face like a warden in a bad mood. He wore sunglasses and a baseball cap with “Beer Czar” embroidered across the front. When he yanked off his sunglasses his eyes darted from one person to the next until they settled on Jack.
“Orphan Jack Piper,” said the Czar, spitting the words out as if they were rotten watermelon seeds. “Predictable, pitiful Piper. The criminal always returns to the scene of the crime. We lost you in Iowa City last fall, but I knew we would only have to wait until the next Ragbrai.” Then, as if to add force to his words, several other people stepped down from the bus,
a gang of young men who ran the gamut from mischievous gremlins to dangerous thugs. Some wore Miller and Budweiser delivery shirts and caps. All of them looked like frat boys who had just found out that spring break was cancelled.
Muscles in the Czar’s jaw twitched as he continued. “And now you are up to your old tricks again? The price seems a little high for coffee beans, don’t you think?” The crew behind the Czar laughed. He was referring to the plywood sign Jack had set up on the interstate, advertising magic Ragbrai beans for $500.
“Not at all,” answered Jack, surprised at the calmness in his own voice. He met the Czar’s glare with steady eyes and held up the small SIDI cleat bag with the beans. “If they were regular coffee beans, I’d be selling them at five dollars a bag. But these are
special magic Ragbrai coffee beans.”
The Czar broke into a mean laugh and turned to his gang of ruffians saying, “As special as the kids who ride your bus? So special I never heard of such a thing!”
Jack replied with patience. “I’d be surprised if you had heard of them. These beans were grown in soil enriched with
Chris Cake’s pancake batter, seasoned with spices from
the Pork Chop man’s grill, and watered with
beer straight from the keg.”
“They look like plain coffee beans to me,” scowled the Czar.
“Sure, they do,” continued Jack, warming up to the sales pitch. “But the roots of the coffee plants that produced these beans have been feeding on the same stuff that makes KYBO fertilizer so rich. Mark my words, a single bean properly roasted and ground could make you a pot of coffee so dark, so powerful, that it would satisfy your entire army of Ragbrai beer garden volunteers for the full week.”
“Hogwash!” scoffed the Czar. “Don’t you think I can
recognize regular coffee beans when I see them?”
Jack paused thoughtfully, scratched his chin, and said, “I see you’re a man who likes to drive a hard bargain. I’d like to sell you these beans. Make an offer.”
“We don’t need ‘em. I’ve got all the coffee we’ll need for the entire week already,” snorted the Czar.
“Sir,” said Jack drawing himself up straight and looking the Czar squarely in the eyes, “I’ll make a bet with you that I’ll accept any price you offer for the entire bag of magic Ragbrai coffee beans.”
“Any price?” said the Czar, with renewed interest?
“That’s what I said and I’ll stand by it. Any price,” said Jack.
The Czar rubbed his hands together while turning and smirking at the thugs standing behind him and asked, “I’m going to enjoy humiliating you before I have you arrested. How much do you want to bet?”
“No money,” said Jack. “As you can see, we have a bus with a flat tire and no spare. I’ll bet our entire Short Bus and all the contents against your spare bus tire that I’ll accept any price you offer. If you win the bet, you’ll have our bus and
you’ll have ruined Ragbrai for everyone here. If we win the bet, we’ll keep your spare tire.”
The terms of the bet that Jack laid out were so lopsided that he Czar couldn’t pass up the opportunity and the thugs standing behind the Czar made it impossible for him to back down from the bet in front of them.
to be continued...[a serial by little orphan dbax]
if we fail to act, this could be one of the last rides we can lawfully do like this. don't get me started on what i think about THAT. [million dollar liability coverage...]
WHO: Dallas County Board of Supervisors
WHAT: Proposed Bicycle Event Ordinance
WHY: To show support for bicyclists and learn more about this ordinance
WHEN: June 24th at 9:30 am
WHERE: Adel City Hall, 301 S. 10th Street Adel, IA 50003 (
HOW: Just be there. Drive or ride your bike if you have the time
clear your schedules, and plan to ride with us. you can join us anywhere along the route: hickman and highway 6. cue the "convoy" song... [wince]
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Magic Ragbrai Beans $500
Without taking time to explain, Jack asked Kelby to help him, and they ran with the sign up the steep embankment to the interstate and propped it up on the bridge railing so that traffic could see it.
As Jack and Kelby turned to climb back down the embankment, they heard a horn honking and saw a pickup towing a camper flash by on the highway. The driver hit the brakes hard and pulled onto the exit ramp just in time while Jack and Kelby made their way down to the abandoned gas station parking lot
where Kelby’s stranded Short Bus passengers waited.
At first, Jack wasn’t sure what to make of the pickup truck and camper rolling slowly toward them in the parking lot. He saw the Texas license plate on the truck and could barely see past the glare on the windshield to make out the Texas-sized grin on the driver’s face, but Kelby was already laughing and shaking his head.
The truck came to a stop, and a young man wearing black horn-rimmed glasses and a child’s straw cowboy hat stepped out onto the running board proclaiming,
“I’m Mayor Dean G. L. Berry, mayor of Ragbee! Vote for me … I did! Welcome to Iowa. Here’s your ham!” He went on like this for a while longer as others climbed out of the truck behind him.
Based on the hugs and backslaps, Jack could see that everyone in Kelby’s group seemed to already know the new arrivals, and eventually, Jack was introduced to
Bowlingball, his wife Trixie, Roger, Choi, and Mike.
Roger said, “We saw two hooligans putting up a sign about magic beans and then at the last second, we recognized Kelby. We had to stop to see what you guys were up to.”
“We were going way too fast for that exit ramp,” added Trixie. “We almost went into the ditch.”
“I had it under control the whole time!” exclaimed Bowlingball. “I’m thinking about taking the rig back up there to try it again a little faster. Trixie, get my blindfold!”
Then, there was a pause as all eyes shifted to the other vehicle in the parking lot. “Nice bus,” said Bowlingball. “Why are you parked here? Ragbee’s that-a-way.”
“We’ve got a flat and no spare,” said Kelby. “We don’t even have the tools to change it.”
“Well, I’ve got the tools, but our spares won’t fit your bus,” said Bowlingball.
Roger stepped forward. “We’re just a few miles from Missouri Valley. I used to live there, and I know where we can get it fixed. We can use Bowlingball’s tools to take off the flat, and we’ll drive it up to town and get it fixed. Then we’ll bring it back and you’ll be set.”
“That sounds like a plan,” said Kelby, and within minutes they were breaking the lug nuts loose and jacking up the bus. A few minutes more was all it took for the flat tire to be taken off of the bus and loaded into the camper.
Everything was going smoothly, but before Bowlingball and his group got in the truck to leave, Jack noticed a sinister-looking full-sized school bus making its way down the exit ramp toward the parking lot.
The bus was painted black and had tinted windows that hid what was inside. Words in imposing capital letters were etched across the side of the bus.
RAGBRAI SPECIAL COLLECTIONS BRANCH
to be continued...[a serial by little orphan dbax]
during his lifetime, glen wicks gathered even more bicycles than i have.
mrs. wicks [crystal] and i talk about her late husband's dreams and wishes for his collection. i think they've gone to the right place. look for these kool old bikes to be hitting the streets soon. want one for yourself? then volunteer to help us rebuild bikes. leave a comment, or stop by the des moines bike kollective any saturday from 900 am until noon. we're located at 617 grand avenue, downtown.