Monday, July 21, 2014

In Which RAGBRAI Tries To Try My Patience

Team Joe, ready to ride July 20 in Rock Valley.
Riding RAGBRAI is a fun way to see some small towns up close.

It's also, let's be honest, a bit of an ordeal. There might be a reason why a bicycle is not the chosen vehicle for most people wanting to travel trans Iowa. Aspects of a bike ride, like unexpected distances, traffic, bugs and the heat, can be problematic.

Eldon Rocca has a RABRAI fashion sense.
So the first day of RAGBRAI proved. We started off from Rock Valley, and getting out of town proved a bit less efficient then expected. Don't get me wrong, Rock Valley, in general, you rocked. The RAGBRAI stop was 99 percent perfect. What wasn't perfect was finding the way out in the morning. In most RAGBRAI day or week start towns, local constables will direct traffic at busy street corners, so it's easy to get information on where you are going. I'm not sure if Rock Valley has any local constables, if so, I did not see them nor see anybody else directing traffic at a corner. Of course, Rock Valley may lack any corner busy enough to require human traffic control, I will concede.

But RAGBRAI bike traffic was huge. Intense. Tight. Two-wheeled rush hour, like nothing I've ever seen before on day one of RAGBRAI. I don't know what karma you had, Rock Valley, but you drew us bikers in by the thousands.

Heavy traffic for day 1. A hill climb early in the ride.

Well, that just delayed our departure a bit. That did not try my patience very much. The day was delightful—the wind from the south perhaps a bit strong, but a cross breeze beats a headwind any day. The small towns greeted us in typical RAGBRAI fashion, and we enjoyed pie and other RAGBRAI fare. Breakfast at a Reformed Dutch Christian Church, or something like that, in Hull was wonderful.

When we got to Sheldon, we had to walk through a gauntlet of slapping flags to get to food, but it was worth it. The meet up was super easy.

The afternoon wore on a bit. The meet up was less than halfway through the route, and the miles seemed to pile up.  Finally, around 7, we pulled into Milford and thought “80 miles, job well done!”

Then Cate checked her GPS. “Ha, ha,” it said (it's programmed to say that, or it should be), “you suckers have 13 more miles to go on top of the 80 or so you've already ridden. And it will be getting dark and I'll, just for fun, direct you down some gravel roads just to show what we GPS computers think of your silly bikes and trikes!”

Really, GPS? Gravel? And hill? At sunset? Riding hilly gravel at sunset is your idea of fun?

OK, those final miles did indeed try my patience a bit. Besides the gravel and the scary highways, parts of those miles were excellent—under different conditions, I'd like to come back to the Okiboji area and ride its trails. And spray better with bug repellent first.

Well, we finally found our host. And it was a nice couple who have part of a triplex on the lake. The bugs were hungry (and well sated by the time they got done with us), but the scenery and hospitality were excellent.

Sun rises at Spirit Lake. Beautiful start to Monday.

Today, Monday, was my driving (and blogging) day.

Tuesday is the century loop. I'm honestly leaning against it. I always said it would depend on conditions, and it has gotten very hot and humid—the 80 plus miles of the regular ride may be challenge enough. The loop may have to wait for a cooler year.

Besides, I don't have as much to prove. I rode almost 100 miles on the first day, even though I had not planned on it.

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