7/22/12 RAGBRAI Day #1 – Sioux Center to Cherokee – 61 miles
Awoke early and packed up the tent and gear to load on the bus. It actually rained last night for a bit. I told Randy this obviously meant that the solution to the drought in the midwest is for me to pitch a tent, since it seems to rain a lot when I camp, unless it is cold instead.
I am traveling with a group of probably 20 people that Randy has ridden with in several RAGBRAIs. They have this converted old school bus painted red & white with the seats in the front half of the bus arranged in a sort of horseshoe configuration. There are 2 huge coolers in the middle that ice sodas, water and beer. The coolers also serve the dual purpose of being a foot rest when closed. The rear half of the bus is arranged with bins for each person to store their belongings and shelves for the camping gear. Mike and Benny switch off driving duties. They drive to the lunch spot so everyone will have access to the cold drinks and for a rest, then go ahead to the final stopping place for the night. Once you reach the stopping place, the camping gear and bins are unloaded and everyone sets up. It has been nice biking without panniers.
RAGBRAI is something else. 10,000 or more bicyclists shoulder to shoulder that looks like a massive sea of humanity. It is a bit overwhelming. The good news is that they block off the highways so there is no motorized traffic. However, the roads are filled with the bicyclists. The fun part is people and bicycle watching. People wear all sorts of outfits and ride in all sorts of groups. But what I really like looking at are all the different types of bicycles.
All along the route there are various vendors selling food/water/drinks, mostly as a way to raise funds for a particular cause or activity in the community. As you enter each town along the route, traffic comes to a complete standstill, bikers dismount, and walk along the main street where there are more vendors offering more extensive food choices and often goods for sale. In the town of Orange City, the theme was Dutch, and there were tulips and people dressed in traditional Dutch garb and speaking Dutch (I think) at you.
At the city designated as the lunch stop, even more vendors and food choices. Today’s lunch stop was Marcus. I had a hamburger, sweet corn on the cob grilled in the husk, a strawberry smoothie that was out if this world.
The ride to Cherokee was pretty much flat and an easy ride, except for the fact that it was very hot and humid. It doesn’t help being packed in shoulder to shoulder as you walk through the towns and wait in long lines for food.
My thought most of the day went along the lines of, “Glad I got to experience this, but definitely not my cup of tea…I feel claustrophobic … My anti-social tendencies are kicking in. ” In short, I can’t honestly say I find this type of riding fun, although I will say it is hard to be bored.
We arrived in Cherokee, the final stop for the day. We are camping in the yard of the father of one of the women (Jody) in the group. One huge surprise when she announced that her Dad would be cooking dinner for everyone. Actually it turned out to be an unforgettable feast. He grilled steaks, pork chops ( best I have ever eaten), made spaghetti, garlic bread, salad, grilled onions, etc. For dessert there were apple and cherry pies, and watermelon. This definitely ranks up there with one of the best dinners on the entire bike trip. And because it was unexpected, that made it that much better.
Another unexpected pleasure was the opportunity to just sit around and visit with the folks in the group before dinner. There are some very interesting and nice people in the group, and I found myself enjoying the visiting more than I expected. One of the men I was talking with commented on how nice it was that we have no cell service so no one was on a phone or texting. People were talking and engaging with one another. A lost art these days. Everyone seemed so relaxed and not stressed out. It was a neat realization.
Haven’t been able to connect with Glada’s friend to get my clothes because there is no cell service and we have been unable to communicate. Hopefully, I will catch him tomorrow.
Jody’s Dad is going to fix breakfast for us tomorrow morning. I told him I couldn’t imagine what that would be like after dinner – he smiled broadly and mentioned 2 types of eggs, regular and some name I had never heard of. When I asked about those, he said, “you’ll just have to wait and try them.” I am curious.