7/25/12 Day #4 of RAGBRAI – Webster City to Marshalltown – 90 miles
Okay, it was only supposed to be a 77 mile day. It turned out that we got an extra bonus 13 miles. More on that later.
No rain through the night and I was actually quite comfortable camping once the temp went down a little. Got up around 5 am – there were several others already up and stirring, including Ramdy who had indicated he would probably sleep in. I talked Randy into going to McDonalds for breakfast so I could use the free WiFi to get the journal out and make a reservation for my flight home after the trip – I finally made a decision as to when and where and the airfare was decent.
We got the first shock of the day when we reached McDonalds and there were no lines! I am still not sure how that happened. I had prepared myself for a 30-40 minute wait at least. I stepped right up and ordered breakfast, including the largest cup of coffee I could get with half and half. That meant a great start to my day.
We headed out and the riding for the first half of the day was quite pleasant. No real headwinds and nice roads. The best part was the overcast skies, which kept the temperature reasonably comfortable. I found myself thinking about how much I love my bike. I have a Trek 520 Touring Bike that I bought in 2005. A guy named Jimmy at Freewheeling Bikes in Austin did such a good job fitting the bike to my body that I have honestly never had a single day of neck or back pain. He replaced some standard parts and made adjustments. So if you are ever looking to buy a bike, get someone who knows what they are doing to fit it to your dimensions. I guess it is like when my sister talks about finding horses that are a good fit. Anyway, my bike is so fun to ride and I am amazed at how smooth it still is after almost 3000 miles over some less than ideal road conditions at times. Other than the recurring flats early on, which I was able to fix with the guys’ help, no major problems.
All the smooth sailings and mindless musings changed radically around noon when the clouds dissipated and the sun came out full force again. It was very hot, and we still had 17+ miles to go, we thought. I drank tons of water and Gatorade, stopping at each little town to refill water bottled and the camelback. Also, tried to snack frequently to keep the fuel coming, but eventually I was really struggling with the heat. Then, occasional headwinds started in when we would go in a certain direction, and I started having flashbacks of almost losing my mind in the Montana headwinds. Finally, about 6 miles from the destination town – Beekman’s Homemade Ice Cream, and those root beer floats appeared in a field next to a church. Since yesterday, Randy and I had made a pact that no matter where or when a Beekman’s opportunity arose, we would not let it slip by. Again, the root beer floats were fabulous – no disappointment there.
The last 6 miles to Marshalltown were brutal – 100 degrees interspersed with occasional headwinds. I almost felt desperate to finish. At last we came into town. The townspeople were lined along the streets cheering us on and some had water hoses to shoot water spray at you to cool you down. The directions Randy had received said to go through town and past Kum N Go convenience store toward the interstate. We found the Kum N Go and kept going, but something didn’t feel right. No interstate and we were in an industrial area and there wasn’t much in the way of neighborhoods or houses. I said, “this doesn’t look right” and we turned around and went back to the Kum N Go. Finally, Randy was able to get one of the others on the phone and we learned that the directions he had were for the lunch stop in a previous town, not the destination town. The correct address was some 5-6 miles away, and we had to backtrack a good 3-4 miles through town, then ride another 3-4 miles out into the nearby countryside up and down a few sizeable hills to the house where we were staying. Mind you, it is 100+ degrees, you have already ridden over 80 miles today, on the heels of a couple of other long days, and you learn you still have a ways to go when you thought you were finished.
To get to the house, there was this very steep gravel driveway. About halfway up, I had to stop again to rest from the heat. When I finally got to the top, there was this beautiful house with an unbelievably beautiful view. Horses roamed in the pasture below. The owners, Dick and Linda, welcomed us and treated us like royalty. Linda led me to a lovely master bedroom bathroom, and I had the best shower. She also had laid out a wonderful spread of fresh fruit, sandwiches and chips with salsa. I got to eat inside in the air conditioning, which was huge after being out in the heat all day. The ultimate clincher was that we got to wash clothes. I felt like I had experienced another one of those mirage experiences. Too good to be true. I felt like a human again. I kept telling Linda over and over that she had no idea how much I appreciated everything, and how happy she had made me. I heard myself talking and I am sure she must have thought I was out of my mind – which I had felt a number of times during the late afternoon ordeal. Linda and I had an opportunity to talk and she told me all about her children/grandchildren in Tennessee. I also learned that she loves horses, and she told me a little about her horses. There is no way to adequately describe how wonderful Linda and Dick made me feel after my earlier desperation.
Eventually, everyone in the group made their way to Linda & Dick’s house. They decided that they wanted to go out for pizza later in the evening. Not me – I wasn’t leaving this Oasis for a late night outing – I had had about as much fun as I needed and was thrilled at the opportunity to chill out alone. Plus, there is yet another 80 mile ride tomorrow. So, here I am by myself at the house. Even Linda and Dick went for pizza. The house is so big that there are beds, couches and plenty of floor space for everyone to sleep inside in the A/C. Plus, it is raining so even better that everyone will have a dry space to sleep.
Another one of those amazing days that turned out better than expected. I have almost forgotten those 10 or so “bonus” miles.