Day 6 – Cedar Rapids to Anamosa (44 Miles)
The second to last day was the shortest all week and we were looking forward to having much nicer weather. We’d decided beforehand that today would be “Hawaiian shirt day” so we traded our cycling jerseys for flowered shirts. Eric won the early judging by forgoing the Hawaiian shirt and opting instead for a flowered tankini that he wore over his University of Michigan team kit. Since we were staying with a construction company their day started pretty early, so despite the late night ours did too. Our hosts brought us a very nice breakfast of eggs, bacon and sausage, and other treats, which we all appreciated and enjoyed. We took our time getting ready to roll out and left close to 8, I think. We also picked up another rider, a fellow also named David, who was friends with some of our Michigan contingent.
Day 5 – Marshalltown to Cedar Rapids (84 Miles)
After the rain storm we woke up to cooler temperatures and winds that had shifted to the west. We were looking forward to both the longest official day, and also the one with the most elevation gain, despite the fact that there were no big climbs. We packed up wet tents and got our bikes out of the garage where they’d weathered the storm overnight. Not everyone was going to be riding today, so we were going to be a smaller group out on the road.
Day Four – Webster City to Marshalltown (77 miles):
The fourth day on the road would be the hottest and windiest day of the ride, our fourth day with temps near or above 100 degrees. We were expecting a front to come through overnight after the ride and someone on the route said, “If it rains, you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to lay down in it and THANK GOD!” No one in my group would have felt much different. We were tired, and RAGBRAI isn’t as much fun when you’re just trying to get through the day’s ride. When it is just too hot to stop and enjoy the pass-through towns. When you need water more than you want a beer.
Day Three – Lake View to Webster City via Karras Loop (104 miles):
[UPDATE FROM YESTERDAY’S POST] So it turns out I did take one picture from the second day. I had run low on cash and needed to get to an ATM, and the only one they had running in town was inside a bar. I went in to get cash and the bar was *packed* with people ordering beers, Bloody Marys, and Vodka-lemonades. It was 9 AM. A few days later I was talking with a guy who’d ridden in 25 consecutive RAGBRAI’s. He said there were two broad types of riders – water bottle riders and beer bottle riders. It was clear where most of the people in this bar fit.
The third day was going to be a long, hot, windy day. The official distance was just over 81 miles and there was an optional 23-mile loop to make the day 104 for those so inclined. We agreed that it would be best to get an early start, so we elected to wake up at 5 and try to be on the road by 6:00. Unfortunately, most of the other teams we were camping with had elected to be on the road by 5:30, so the early wake up was preceded by the sounds of 20 other riders taking down tents and getting themselves moving. As the sun was coming up we got ourselves out of bed, dressed to ride, and packed up. I was tired from not getting enough sleep, but felt pretty good and mostly recovered from yesterday’s effort. Eric and I agreed that today we would take it easy and try to get the Karras loop done with the fewest number of heartbeats.
Day Two – Cherokee to Lake View (62 miles):
We planned to start Day 2, a manageable distance of 62 miles, a 100k metric century, around 7:30 again. After a hot night with a surprise rain shower we were treated by our host to a fantastic breakfast in the morning. She even had Tang. Tang! Narissa wasn’t ready to get up with us, so we didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to our new friend. We took our time getting ready and it was closer to 8 before we were finally ready to leave Cherokee for Lake City.
The route out of Cherokee took us up the same steep hill I’d been happy to avoid the day before. George had made a pre-dawn ride out of town and said that the hill went up for a long time, steep at first and then flattening out to a more manageable grade for a while. With a good breakfast in me I was rearing to go, so I attacked the hill pretty hard. Eric and I both were ready to hit the ground running and as we climbed up away from Cherokee we fairly quickly left the rest of our team behind. Together, Eric and I put the pedal to the metal and made pretty short work of the route.
Day One – Sioux Center to Cherokee (54 miles):
Getting dressed inside a one-person tent is a bit of a trick, but I manage with my dignity largely undamaged and having only put my shorts on backwards once. Getting your gear packed up is an “every person for themselves” activity with this group, and it will be a few days before I have my stuff sorted out properly to have essentials and nonessentials in the right place and separated. Eventually we’ve all got ourselves ready to ride and the van packed up with our bags and tents, chairs, and coolers. We get some pictures of the team on our first day, a portrait and an action “high-5” shot. Pat takes a Sharpie to my legs and writes “Virgin” on my calves so everyone will know it is my first RAGBRAI. It’s a ride tradition, although later in the day I saw a young girl riding her first with “Maiden” on her calves. Classy. By 7:45 or so we’re ready to roll out.
A few months ago I was asked if I wanted to ride in this year’s edition of the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) by Pat Clements, the brother of my best friend from high school. He knew I rode bikes, thanks to the miracle of Facebook, and thought they’d have an extra seat in the support van for me if I was interested in joining the team he was putting together. My sister had ridden RAGBRAI a few years ago and loved it, Lance Armstrong rode part of it the year after he retired (the first time), and lots of other people I knew had ridden it or talked about it. At 40 years old, RAGBRAI is a cycling institution and an event that is on lots of people’s biking bucket lists. I thought it over for about 2 seconds before saying yes. I was going to be a member of “Team High 5!” for the XL edition of RAGBRAI.