By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer
Kellen Schneeberger of Clinton rides his bicycle downhill, in the rain, on an unfamiliar Texas road.
As he and his fellow riders push on, a recreational vehicle trailer blasts by, nearly throwing the three into a bridge.
Slightly shaken, they keep going — at that point they were only in the first 50 miles of what would be a nearly 1,500-mile trip from Texas to Iowa, and now across the state with RAGBRAI.
“We had committed to the trip,” Schneeberger said of himself and friends, Ian Hembry and John Cernohous. “We thought, it can’t really get worse.”
Schneeberger, 30, a Clinton High School English teacher, has ridden RAGBRAI seven or eight times, but said he’s never tackled a ride as trying as the one he just completed from near Austin, Texas, to Emerson, Iowa. That’s not to mention the second phase of the trip: the more than 450-mile ride across Iowa the three began Sunday.
It’s a trip Hembry, formerly of Clinton, but now attending school in Texas, and his friend Cernohous had been planning for a year. This year, Schneeberger had the summer off, Hembry had just gotten married and Cernohous had vacation time saved, making it an ideal time for the trip. When Schneeberger announced he’d join them, he said the most common words he heard in reactions from friends and family were “crazy,” “stupid” and “tough.”
“We said let’s just do it and see what happens,” Schneeberger said
The three started their journey on July 7 and 800 miles, four states and 10 days later landed in Emerson, Iowa, before being taken to Sioux Center by a friend. Riding 90 or more miles and 10 hours a day was a regular occurrence to make it to the beginning of RAGBRAI in time for Schneeberger and Hembry to join their team, Team Strangebrew, and for Cernohous to join his, Team Los Chupacabras by Saturday.
Throughout the trip, the three planned to camp, but full campgrounds and other obstacles caused them to sleep on the floors of friends’ hotel rooms, or even camp behind the hotels where they wouldn’t be spotted by management. Besides the spontaneous sleeping arrangements, the trip was also filled with bike issues, reminders to stay hydrated, terrain battles and sweltering temperatures above 100 degrees.
“It’s cool to get to test yourself. A lot of these days weren’t easy,” Schneeberger said.
The trip was also teeming with good memories. One of the greatest parts for Schneeberger was meeting different people along the way, including an 89-year-old bike shop owner with Parkinson’s disease named Mel Cude who helped them with bike repairs, and a bed-and-breakfast owning couple named Eileen and Ernest McMullen, who took them in for a night.
“The people we met were just so friendly, open and warm,” Schneeberger said.
He said he’s also excited to end the trip dipping his bike tires in the Mississippi River at home in Clinton with the rest of the RAGBRAI riders this Saturday.
“It will be nice to see some familiar faces and share the stories of what we saw and who we met,” he said.
More information about Schneeberger’s trip as well as photos can be found on the blog he’s maintained throughout the ride at kschnee.blogspot.com.