This year’s RAGBRAI was a big challenge for me. There was the heat and humidity, which certainly took its toll the first few days. During those first days my friends The Stones kept me company. No, not the Rolling Stones, the kidney stones. They really sap your strength on a bike. My glasses were blown off my face and ran over. I lost my debit card. I destroyed a tire and flatted a Conti Gatorskin within 20 miles. I also experienced a nasty, cold rainstorm on day 6. Then there was the flats. In the Pacific Northwest, I am used to rolling terrain. Sure you might work hard grinding up a climb, but then you can enjoy the downhill. Riding across some contours, changes your pace and adds some lovely variety to your cycling day. Riding the flats does not give this variety. It is actually quite difficult for me. RAGBRAI 2014 was the second flattest ever. However, the biggest challenge of RAGBRAI 2014 was the wind. In RAGBRAI 2013, the wind was barely a memory. It was either absent or a tailwind. It spoiled me. RAGBRAI 2014, the wind, was an angry ever present foe.
Despite the challenges of this year’s RAGBRAI, I was sad to see the final day arrive. I was having too much fun, drinking beer, eating pie and riding my bike. No way in hell I want to go back to the real world. At the same time, I was looking forward to the last day’s ride. The route would be 67.5 miles with over 3,000 elevation gain, the most by far. Finally, we are done with the flats. I get some hills. It would be like coming home. It was clear that many of my fellow riders were dreading the last day.
I had to get an early start. My charter bus provided by Out of Staters was scheduled to depart at 2:00 in the afternoon. What the hell is that? It is hard to enjoy the last day of RAGBRAI with a ridiculously tight deadline. I knew it would be tough to make it to Guttenberg on time and enjoy my final day of RAGBRAI. I would feel rushed all day. I wish there was an option for a charter to depart the following day. Anyway, I hit the road without breakfast. I stopped at Farm Boy’s Hearty Food stand to enjoy the tastiest breakfast burrito I had ever consumed. No wonder they are so popular!
In Lamont, I had a damn tasty cinnamon roll and quickly toured the local museum located in the former Farmer’s Savings Bank. I was wowed by the large strawberry at Strawberry Point. Which according to Jon Stewart isn’t quite up to par. WELL JON STEWART CAN GO TO HELL! Sadly thanks to my deadline, my time in Strawberry point was far too short. The route was mostly flat until Edgewood, IA. From there on things were supposed to get interesting (hilly). I figured it was a good place to fuel up. A local church did not let me down! They had 17 different types of pie. DAMN Tasty! The perfect ride fuel to attack the mountains.
Everything changed after Edgewood. The hills opened up the scenery for some pretty fantastic views. The terrain also allowed me to vary my pace, feel and riding position. Best of all, there was no wind! The climbs were tons of fun. Other than a few strong riders, who were obviously doping :)… The flatlanders made me feel like Alberto Contador. Sure I weigh almost 100 lbs more than Alberto, but today I was king of the mountains! Like the Tour I too had an interesting audience. Lots of people sit out on their lawns to watch RAGBRAI roll by. For the last few days, we were rolling through Amish country. They seemed especially keen to sit out and watch as we rode by.
The ride from Guttenberg also had some lovely descents. Sadly I could not go full-out due to tight traffic and many what appeared to be inexperienced descenders. I did manage to hit 45 mph a couple of times though 🙂 All too soon, my day’s ride was over and we were in Guttenberg. Like last year, I had no time to explore RAGBRAI’s last town.
I arrived at noon. I made excellent time. Unfortunately, I had enough time to do the tire dip, collect my luggage, check in with Out of Staters for my chartered bus ride, shower and grab a snack… Then it was time to go. The bus ride was not pleasant. The seats were like airline seats only MUCH LESS comfortable with MUCH LESS room. Our food stop was 1/2 hour in a Mason City strip mall. I met a nice gentleman named David, in Forest City offered me a ride back to Rock Valley. Unfortunately it was too late to get a refund for my bus ride. I wish I had taken the ride with David anyway. Last year I caught a chatered bus ride with Pork Belly Ventures. The ride was equally expensive, but far more pleasant. If someone wants to offer me a ride next year. I would be more than grateful!