Glenwood, Iowa to Shenandoah, Iowa
Distance: 54.1 miles
Ascent: 2,029 feet
Cumulative Distance this tour: 56.9 miles
A very muggy night last night – no discernible breezes. I actually did not sleep badly but Phil got almost no sleep, stating that his sleeping bag was useless and way too warm to use. I do understand that.
Accordingly, Phil got up early and packed up. He waited for Jack and me for a while, but I think when he saw how leisurely we were moving decided to take off down the route. Jack and I arose around 6:30AM – somehow we have our internal alarm clocks in a sort of sync. Gathered our stuff, and packed up our duffels, which included panniers for the follow-on week, all by around 7AM.
This year, RAGBRAI was doing something new and utterly ridiculous: weighing every rider’s duffel bag to a 50 pound weight limit. For what purpose? To spare the workers’ back strain? To save on tractor-trailer diesel fuel? The result was a slow line of at least 300 riders in front of the trailer, waiting simply to load their bags. I mean, really, what’s next, a TSA-type screening?
I’ll go further to express that this type of procedure is contrary to the spirit of RAGBRAI. Hear this RAGBRAI organizers: Keep it simple and keep it cooperative. This weighing is a barely useful measure, at the time cost and annoyance of every rider. Please ditch it.
Both Jack and my duffels were in the 32 pound range. In the case of us and 99+% of other riders, the wait in line was useless.
Out into the sea of RAGBRAI riders, or more like “the Amazon River” of riders. We were immediately immersed into the weird world of RAGBRAI verbals. The most common:
“On Your Left”
Some riders take their duty to utter these verbals very seriously, and it’s quite a source of entertainment to those of us who do not.
The 1st host town was Malvern IA, where I lost Jack but found full breakfast options with long lines. Malvern did a nice job preparing for the onslaught. I found a local place, C&M Café, serving breakfast with short lines, and they made me a delicious egg and sausage sandwich with OJ and coffee.
Like the last two RAGBRAIs I’ve done, it is actually difficult to write about what goes on. It is a spectacle that must be witnessed. It is a self-propelled journey that must be weathered. It is a spirit of bicycle kinship that must be experienced.
We pedaled rolling hills through to Tabor, stopping for lunch. There was a fun band belting out tunes, and it was there I found Roger, long time club friend and one of our “Ride Across America” team in 2011. He introduced me to Mike, a rider he’d paired up with on his current cross-country trek along the traditional Trans-America route. We chatted for 20 minutes, during which time Jack joined us. As always, it is amazing how friends can find one another in this massive parade.
Jack and I noted that the band made a cardinal sin. They stopped for a break, but then played pre-recorded music louder than their own music. A letdown once the band started back up again. In the meantime I enjoyed a delicious strawberry pineapple smoothie. Gotta love all the food vendors following us around.
On to Randolph, off and on riding with Jack. It’s difficult to stay with someone among so many riders. In Randolph, we noted with some dismay that we were already ¾ through today’s route and it was only 11:30AM. Certainly we had to start farting around more.
I visited a booth whose gimmick was to very loudly call out orders. So I very loudly ordered a lemon slushie. Jack and I also spent some time looking at girls (just looking!) and Jack took note of an outdoorsy hippy type from Colorado a couple booths down.
There was an 18 mile gravel option to the route today which we readily dismissed, so there were only 17 short miles left to today’s end town. Jack and I considered a nap. We also considered Beekman’s ice cream, but the line was too dang long. So we soon finished up the rollers in to Shenandoah.
The town was decked out with decorations and lots of greeters. Unfortunately, it was a mess finding the RAGBRAI trucks more than a mile out of town. Phil had gotten in around 2PM and had kindly saved us tent sites, and we were soon set up.
By the way, the mileage and ascent numbers topping each post in this tour are sourced from the Cyclemeter app running on Jack’s phone. It was Phil’s and my job to remind Jack each morning to turn it on, which we consistently forgot to do.
A roll into town and a visit to the beer garden. In one place there were trash bins to put your beer cans. One was a vote for Trump and the other for Clinton. In trying to express my indifference to both candidates, I ripped my beer can in half and fed both cans, to the immediate dismay of Jack. What followed was a thoroughly lively conversation with Jack, who declared me at least half an idiot for the perception of a half vote for Trump. I love such discussions. Politics is great entertainment to me, and I always enjoy hearing the polarized sides of a topic.
Following dinner, the rains came pretty heavily. For a while, we calmly remained seated on a street bench getting soaked (a free shower), but finally ducked beneath the sidewalk awning of a hardware store until the rains subsided enough to ride.
Back to camp by 6pm and we soon hit the tents. As early as that sounds, we were all a little tired, and were looking at a long riding day tomorrow. My thoughts passing out were that RAGBRAI is simply great laid back fun.