Ragbrai ended on Saturday, 7/25, in Davenport. This year, I had a mixed bag experience. Although I completed the whole ride (unlike last year), it wore me down more than I expected. It’s like I got older in between or something.
Day -1: Sioux City
I arrived in Davenport on Friday to leave my car behind and take a shuttle to Sioux City. I made friends with three dirty old men: Bob, Fred, and Bill (I am not making these names up). We pulled into the Pork Belly Ventures campsite at about 9pm, in the waning hours of sunshine. The wind gusted and howled, and my tent desperately wanted to be anywhere but the spot I chose for it. With help, I got the effing thing staked down and put up in the damp heat. We could see a storm coming, but had hopes it would swing north. Alas. Around midnight, the tornado sirens went off, then the storm crashed over us. There’s nothing more fun than watching your tent dance and wriggle, waiting to see if the poles survive. (They did.)
Day 0: Sioux City
In case it ever matters to you for some reason, MetroPCS does not offer service in Sioux City. I had the whole day to do as I pleased, though, so I rode my bike around town, hunting for free wifi. At a cafe recommended by a gentleman entering the library (which had a very weak signal from the outside), I discovered I had fifteen emails, six voicemail messages, a handful of text messages, and partridge in a pear tree. Aside from being hot and humid (again), the day went well. I mostly chilled in the shade, watching the madness of people arriving unfold.
Day 1: Storm Lake
The first day is generally not too bad. You’re fresh, trained up, and excited. This day suuuuuucked. The longest in terms of mileage and worst in terms of feet of climb, the first day drained my soul out. I think it’s still lying on the side of the road between cornfields someplace. Or maybe that was a soybean field. Hill after hill after hill and hill, and on and on and on and on… The intervals between most of the towns were long, too. I left at about 6am and got in at about 3pm. Eight hours to ride 75 miles isn’t bad, but it’s not great either. I should have been able to do it in 7. Value added bonus–my knee braces gave me a heat rash, complete with blisters!
Day 2: Fort Dodge
Ugh, my butt hurt. A lot. And my foot. My thighs thought I was joking when I got up on my bike again around 6am. I TRAINED, DAMMIT. I expected this day to be rough, but it was awful. Although most of the ride was gloriously flat, long intervals between towns again made it harsher than it needed to be. The weather cooperated, being cool in the morning and not heating up until after I got in from this 69 mile day at about 2pm. Why is the sun so intense in Iowa? It’s not like that in WA.
Day 3: Eldora
Something was wrong with my seat adjustment, because my toe went numb, just like it did 2 years ago. As I type this a week later, my toe is still half numb (I can walk, and it’ll be fine. Probably.). Seventy-three miles of Iowa felt like a punishment instead of a joy, but I was awakened early by my neighbors and got on the road by 5:30am. Lovely sunrise (I think this was the day…the morning bits are kind of blurring together already). Fed up with my aching foot and the heat rash/blisters from my braces, I shifted my seat and decided not to wear the knee braces for the next day. What could possibly go wrong?
Day 4: Cedar Falls
The short day! Only 60 miles. Up and out by 6am, in by 12:30pm. Made decent time, stopped and smelled metaphorical flowers, had generally good day except that my posterior still felt it needed to express its general displeasure with my vacation choices. At least I got a good camping spot, and I got to see a friend who happens to live nearby and is one of the biggest reasons I keep going back to Ragbrai every year. My knees gave me not a single twinge, so I didn’t put the braces back on for the rest of the ride (and that turned out okay–I may have trained enough to not need them anymore).
Day 5: Hiawatha
Although today featured 70 miles of riding, the towns were all close together, making it a series of pleasant little jaunts. Just about when my patootie began to scream, another town happened, giving me the chance to walk a bit and sit a bit and not suffer much. On the road by 6am, in camp by about 2pm. I got to sleep inside an air conditioned trampoline place, which afforded the opportunity to have an effing nap. After a bunch of nights of crappy sleep in a row, the nap really helped. I got to see a bit of the Tour de France, as explained by someone who’s actually interested in competitive cycling. I also got to sleep at a reasonable hour and did not wake up until 5am, when someone else’s alarm went off.
Day 6: Coralville
Recharged by my great night of sleep, I slogged through the morning with digestive issues. The dinner in camp the night before had been a cut of steak with some vegetables and whatnot, and I suspect the steak to have been the purveyor of gastric malfeasance. Somewhere around 11am, I, er, had a…extended visit to a kybo, then I had a piece of the best pie in the universe (aside from my own, of course), and then I climbed the first of a series of monster hills. And then it began to rain. For the first time on the ride, I felt AWESOME. I climbed those motherf—ing hills with a jaunty (or perhaps mad) laugh. It rained all the way into town, and had to wait until the storm passed to get my luggage, which the PBV crew had thoughtfully protected under tarps. I <3 PBV.
Day 7: Davenport
Nothing really stood out about this day, other than that the night of sleep before hadn’t been stellar. It was hotter ‘n heckbiscuits and twice as damp. To minimize clothing for the night, I wore my still-damp sports bra to sleep, and it didn’t dry overnight. That’s how hot and wet it was. The ride itself went along nicely, with a mix of long and short intervals, some flat straightaways that I jammed at 20mph, and a few steep hills at the end.
Overall, I’m not going to decide whether I do it again next year until the route announcement. This ride felt harsh, like my body already ticked off the Ragbrai box and wants to find something less rigorous to do for vacation. On the plus side, thanks to my Iowa friend, I have a rough outline for a new trilogy of books, and some additional ideas for what to do to Bobby whenever I get around to writing his next book.
Coming soon: a cover reveal for Al-Kabar, the next Ilauris book!