I've been told this is the hottest RAGBRAI anyone can remember, and some folks on my team have been on 25 or more of them. They've all told me not to judge it by this week as, to be totally honest, it's been ridiculously hot.
Four days of temps at 102 or higher, add in the heat coming off the pavement and it's a cooker out there. The headwinds the last two days have been so bad, if I stop peddling I go backwards. On a high note, I no longer look at hills as an obstacle though, just part of the ride.
The heat is a good excuse to take a break though, and there are many opportunities for breaks on this ride! I take most of them. Friendly folks across Iowa have opened their yards and wells to tired and thirsty riders. I cannot fully describe the feeling when after riding six, 10, 30 miles or more, I come upon a great big old farmhouse and see a pile of bikes lining the ditch. That means they are biker friendly and it is a welcome respite at 2 in the afternoon. There is nothing like standing in an ice cold sprinkler when it's 104 degrees.
It is also the best place to meet people. As we all sit, sprawled across their grass, sucking down water and stretching tired muscles, the talk turns to "where ya from? How many have ya done? And what team are you with." I've had that conversation hundreds of times this week and will have it a hundred more. Every time it is new though.
As soon as folks hear this is my first one (also known as a RAGBRAI virgin), they have all sorts of advice for me. As soon as they hear I'm on a mountain bike though, their eyes light up and they slap their knee and say, I did "RAGBRAI on a mountain bike ... ONCE! "
Yeah, I've learned my lesson there. I need a road bike. You can absolutely do this ride with a mountain bike ... I just wouldn't recommend it!
Other things I've learned...
When you hear a low whine coming up behind you, pay attention! It's a draft line, 10-30 bikes or more, and they mean serious business. As soon as you hear "on your left" its time to move over or become part of the pavement. And that just gets messy! I look at them longingly as they buzz by me going 20 or 30 mph. I'm going 12.
I've also learned that if you get into town too late, all the pie and blue Gatorade is sold out. I rarely get pie or blue Gatorade. I have, however, eaten pork on a stick out of the back of some guy's pickup, stopped for watermelon in a corn field and tried Kringla. Delicious!
Heat, hills, headwind... So far it's all worth it. This crazy vacation has been harder than I ever imagined it could be. It's also been more fun than I ever imagined it would be.