July 22nd, Rock Rapids to Spencer - 75.7 miles, 1600 feet of climb. Went through Rock Rapids, George, Ashton, Melvin, Hartley, Moneta and Spencer.
So, before I talk about other things, I know it weighs heavily on some, the question, "Did you see Lance?" And yes, I did. But in the same way you'd recognize him if he drove past you on the highway while you were waiting for the light to change. Most times he ran with his posse, the Livestrong Army (like the Kiss Army, but less makeup), and they'd blow past at about 24-28 miles per hour, which wouldn't be bad if you were going 20 or so, but I was standing still both times. The first time I was getting one of my seven broken spokes repaired. The second time I was getting a soda at a small town and the woman who had turned around to get my soda gave me a very nasty look because it was my soda that had cost her her Lance sighting. It may also have been his silhouette in the Livestrong RV with the big screen t.v. tuned to the Tour, but that's just conjecture.
So...day one. At 4:49 a.m. the sound of a truck backing up woke us up, and it was impossible to get back to sleep because that was the universal cue for taking down tents. Some people can sleep through tent pole clacking - I cannot. We hit the road by 6:00 a.m., which seems to be pretty common for the crowd that's there for the cycling as it keeps them out of some of the late afternoon heat, and stopped at the 8 mile mark for pancakes. In later days, we wouldn't stop for pancakes until we hit the 20-24 mile mark. You got a smaller crowd further along and didn't have to carry the pancakes with you all day.
There was already a very good quote before we ever got to pancakes.
Biker 1: "Where's so-and-so this year?"
Biker 2: "I don't know. Didn't he come with Team Stripper last year?"
Biker 1: "Oh yeah. They kept doing handstands and their shirts would fall down."
I also noticed a number of riders with Loons on their helmets, the state bird of Minnesota. They were all from Minnesota, and a number of them turned out to be from my own bike club, TCBC. Every once in a while, when they'd pass each other, they'd trill like loons. I feel it was a wise move not to have been forced into those sorts of shenanigans. I also met the coordinator for the Paul Bunyan Bicyclists ride I try to go on each year. She was riding with another PBB. That's the one I missed this year because both my cars had problems - I didn't tell her she should appreciate all the free money I send them.
Pancakes or belgian waffles are a staple of RAGBRAI. The former are usually all you can eat Chris Cakes. Chris Cakes are assembly line pancake production where you use a drill and a plastic bucket and a paint mixer to stir the batter, dump it into a big metal dispenser and then send it down the grill to drop either 3 or 4 pancakes at a time in a big grid. Works wonderfully well, and the person who invented the system is probably well deserving of his or her fortune. Some riders would go back for seconds and thirds, meaning 7-10 pancakes. I generally stuck to the 3 or 4 I was given, and John's first batch of four made him sick, so he kept it to three after that.
A lot of people stopped for pancakes - you just sort of drop your bike by the side of the road and wander off for food.
Here's an idea of the bike traffic involved in RAGBRAI.
At 14.4 miles, the very first town, I broke a spoke. It would be the first of seven - one every day except the second to the last when I broke two, and the last, when I broke none. It was like my bike threw me a pity spoke. There's something seriously wrong with the back rim, and I'm going to have to take it back, which irritates me to no end. A Minnesota cyclist I met on the ride (and had ridden with on my group's Har Mar ride) told me there had been a bad batch of spokes in the U.S. and it was a widespread problem. That didn't help me much when I ended up laying out $90 for spokes and labor, riding almost 70 miles on a wobbly back tire, and replacing tubes and linings because they were changed so often they fell apart.
Here's John, waiting patiently while they put a new spoke on my bike.
And a bunch of other bikers waiting for me as well. To the left is the line for the repair guy. The first stop was where everyone stopped to address every single squeak and worry with their bike, including odometers that didn't work - so if you can avoid having a breakdown right away, that's for the best.
They could have used this wrench, but chose not to. I guess it actually gets used sometimes with troublesome headsets. The thing is as big as my arm - that's a seriously troublesome headset.
This is Melvin, the halfway point for the day. Pooteewheet thinks she caught my Dad on the Iowa Telecom camera. In case she shows the picture on her blog, it's a picture of him looking for the bathroom.
Everyone in Minnesota knows that weather goes West to East. It comes as something of a shock to find out that this is not true everywhere in the Northern hemisphere. In Iowa, it can blow north, and even northwest, into your face for a great portion of the 477 miles you're traveling in one direction. That's not right. A few times during the first days we slowed to almost 9 mph battling headwinds.
At Spencer we stayed at their county fairgrounds. Showers are generally $3-4 + a buck for a towel (spend it - easier than carrying two towels and/or wet towels), and in some strange places. In Spencer they were in the cattle barn, where the cattle drink and are washed. We stood on the cement grates under the open sun and showered with cold water coming out of kitchen sprayers attached to where the water generally sprayed.
There was a big wait for dinner. And this was our first experience with not showing up for dinner soon enough to avoid a huge wait or no food. We sat in a line for 30 or 40 minutes just waiting from some chef to finish his bowl of all you can eat pasta. By the time he got there, we'd eaten a whole pile of salad and bread while standing in line. At dinner we met a rider, Sara, who was a PhD Ag student specializing in grass-derived ethanol. She'd lost her co-riders and didn't know where they were camping. The next morning when we got up, she popped out of the tent right next to ours.
Another funny exchange, near the Spencer showers:
Girl: "Hey, have you been working out?"
Girl: "But you're in the Army. Don't they make you run and stuff?"
I liked this team bus. So true. In 13 years or so.
I said before that tents can end up almost anywhere. This one in Spencer found a unique place to take advantage of some shade.
Spencer Women of Today run...Casa del Taco. Do they have no shame? Because they can't be clueless. I think you're supposed to focus on that little pink nubbin.
This was around Moneta. It was 88 or 89 degrees or more by the time we reached this town, and it looked like it had been baking for months. Almost every human being in the town was seeking out some shade, even if it was on the shady side of the cornfields.
The anchor towns all have bulletin boards so you can find your teams and friends and maybe a ride back to the start if you don't have any other way to get back. They also give you an idea of how many teams there are, as this is just a fourth of the board.