I know you've all been holding your breath for the past couple of weeks, waiting desperately to hear how RAGBRAI turned out for us. Herein lies a tale.
RAGBRAI, as you may recall, is a seven-day bike ride across Iowa that takes place every year at the end of July. Laura and I had been training for months, and more than once during that time we had to talk ourselves out of bagging the whole adventure and selling our bib numbers to hardier folks. But our friends who would be riding with us assured us that, despite the predictions of very hot weather, we would do fine and have a great time.
So it was that we were ready and waiting when those friends, having driven through the night from New York City in two SUVs, arrived at our place in Chicago on the morning of Friday, July 20. After they had rested up for a while, we loaded up our gear, strapped our bike rack to the back of the Jeep, and hit the road.
The seven of us stayed that night in three hotel rooms in Dubuque, Iowa, about three and half hours from Chicago. We had an early birthday dinner for Laura at a very fine restaurant in town, though the tenor of the evening was one more of forced hilarity and final meals than of pure celebration. A band was playing in the town square beneath the clock tower later, and we joined the party for a while before retiring.
The next morning, Saturday, July 21, we continued west. I was impatient to get started with the ride, and excited. We crossed most of Iowa in daylight, moving from U.S. highways to narrow county roads. Throughout the day we began to pass converted buses painted in bright colors ("Team Bad Monkey," "Team Love Shack") with ranks upon ranks of road bikes in racks welded to the roofs. Clearly these were teams with far more commitment to RAGBRAI than we had. It was fun to honk at them and have them honk back, but I also found their very existence intimidating.
We reached Sioux Center, Iowa, the start town, in late afternoon and soon found the house where Team Nasty had arranged to spend its first night. Team Nasty is a group of about two dozen cyclists mainly from the DC and NYC areas who've done RAGBRAI together a few times before, and that's the team our little subgroup was part of. The house belonged to relatives of one of the team members, and we all pitched our tents in the back yard.
We rode our bikes into town to get some food and beernot as easy as it might sound, given that the small town had swelled with 10,000 riders and their support teamsand to wander around the RAGBRAI expo. Then, full of that Iowa specialty, the giant breaded pork tenderloin sandwich, and corn on the cob, we headed back to our tents.
The forecast promised nothing but hot weather for the next several days, but that didn't prevent all of us from being awakened by thunder in the middle of the night. Our back yard campsite turned into a surreal scene of silent zombies lurching around dragging their gear into the shelter of tents and porches before the downpour began.
Welcome to RAGBRAI.
[ to be continued ]