Ottumwa, Iowa to Washington, Iowa
Distance: 70.2 miles
Ascent: 2,541 feet
Cyclemeter app not used
Cumulative Distance this tour: 387.9 miles
I’d set my tent beneath a huge tree yesterday. The advantage is minimal dew in the morning. The disadvantage this time was poop, little white blotches all over my nice turquoise rain fly. I even woke up with a sore throat that I knew was from snoring, and felt that I might be allergic to something in this park, possibly even the trees themselves. I noticed Jack was sawing logs this morning too.
Seventeen miles to Hedrick, our first stop. Pretty flat the whole way except for a moderate climb out of Ottumwa. Just out of town, Jack and I stopped at a church for coffee and donuts and we lost Phil.
The three of us regrouped once again at Farm Boys (er, Kids) in Hedrick. We managed to score 3 comfy arm chairs and sat enjoying our burrito bowls, V8, coffee, OJ, etc. It’s fair to say that it doesn’t get much better, just sitting out there smack in the middle of RAGBRAI, eating eggs, and with cooler temperatures and overcast skies.
Jack and I rode together through tiny Hayesville (population 50) and then stopped for a cat nap outside Sigourney at a farm’s stand where they were giving out free sticks of Land-O-Lakes cheese. We mused about possible team names that should exist:
- Team On Your Left – this one is already in use
- Team Textbook – utilizes all the RAGBRAI verbals obediently
- Team Bound To Crash – rides RAGBRAI in 2-column pace lines
- Team Locust – a swarm of the loudest rear cassettes
At the 53 mile mark we pulled over to the Wooden Wheel Vineyard, along with about a thousand others. Jack and I scored a glass of wine, mine a sweet white and Jack’s cranberry. Roger and Mike appeared so we gabbed with them for at least ½ hour while hanging out in the shade. Ever the alliterate, Jack announced that we had achieved Failure Finding Phil.
Flying with a tailwind, I sped another 5 miles to West Chester, then paused to regroup with Jack. I waited and waited and somehow missed Jack, who I later learned had waited and waited and somehow missed me. I finally took off to buy a piece of rhubarb pie, then took off down the road.
Eight miles later I spied a big sign: “Free Beer Free Water” at a place called Greiner Builders. Such places often are golden – typically local residents or establishments that haven’t purchased a RAGBRAI beer license, but want to hold a party for cyclists, and so give out free beer (and sometimes accept donations for it). OK! Count me in for that. I’d lost Jack and Phil anyway.
I was offered a Busch Lite from one of the Greiner Builder guys, and when I pulled out my wallet to donate to the cause he said simply, “Your money’s no good here.” A couple hundred people were in motion around me, with 3 cornhole games in progress and a big circle of people around a game of Jenga consisting of 2X4 segments. Hip Hop and country soundtracks were blasting. Some of the cornhole players were really good and some woeful. The Jenga game was even more fun to watch. As each piece was pulled and successfully re-positioned, that player would then tap someone else in the circle. Most players milked the moment for crowd drama and laughs.
Some of the hip hop songs got pretty raunchy. After 4 Busch Lites, or maybe more I dunno, the song My Dick by Mickey Avalon came on and, well, I was in stitches. A fun party. In the back of my mind I knew it was getting late, that Jack and Phil would be wondering about me, but what the heck, this is RAGBRAI and I was having too much fun. Thank you Greiner Builders!
I finally rolled in to camp in Washington about 7PM. Phil sat by the baggage area, immediately calling out, “Where ya been?” He led me over to our tent sites, and I found myself laughing a bit too much and slurring words as I set up. Must get something to eat!
We considered the shuttle to town, but it involved a 30 minute wait for the next bus. Fortunately for us, the Kiwanis Club had a potato bar with all the fixings right here in camp, and they were selling rib-eye sandwiches too. There was even a small pavilion nearby with a country-fried band set up, belting out tunes from the likes of Taylor Swift, Heart, and Kenny Loggins.
Finally took to the tent for notes and my rhubarb pie. Another easy ride today. Those partial and full tailwinds sure were nice. Around 65 miles, mostly flat, and overcast. And the beer party sure was fun.
I’m feeling a little sad in thinking that RAGBRAI is about to end, but the three of us are looking forward to full independent touring next week. It may also be a rude awakening.