7/28/12 Last day of RAGBRAI – Anamosa to Clinton, IA – 69 miles
I started the day off a little crabby. Immediately after I retired to my tent to go to sleep at approx. 10:00 pm, some men that were not with our group started noisily pitching their really big tent practically on top of me. I think they left to go join in last night RAGBRAI festivities, returning at approx. 2:30 am. Then, at approx 4:30 -5:00 am, I awoke to some really strange sounding noises coming from their tent, that I assume were some sort of variation of snoring. It was impossible to sleep, so I crawled out of my tent and spotted Randy next to his tent, which was on the other side of the big tent. We sort of rolled our eyes at each other and in our most passive aggressive manner started talking loudly about how it was impossible to sleep with all that noise. Our efforts were wasted as the person snoring just kept right on going, even as we broke down out tents and packed the bikes for the day. My recommendation is that whoever that young man is with the strange sounding snoring noises should be tested for sleep apnea. It could be a problem.
I walked over to the city park to stand in line for 10-15 minutes to use the portable toilets set up there. By now, any illusions I may have had yesterday about liking RAGBRAI and camping had evaporated. I was back to reality. One analogy that came to me during the week is that RAGBRAI is somewhat like volunteering to be dropped in a war zone full of refugees, standing in long long long lines for necessities such as food, water and bathroom facilities. And these necessities are not free or cheap. I do realize that I am
unusual, and that RAGBRAI faithful have a totally different view. And there was great scenery and the opportunity to visit with other riders from all over the country. Despite my whining, I am glad I had the opportunity to do the ride and I think I made the most of it. The ride is legendary among bikers everywhere, and I traveled with some really nice people who went out of their way to make me feel welcome. A special thanks to Beth, Ben, Carrie and Mike.
Back to the ride. After standing in another long line for a cup of coffee at a nearby convenience store, my mood started improving and we set out. It was the perfect day for riding – cool weather and a little overcast. Rolling hills with steeper inclines than previous, but doable and no wind factor. The countryside was lush and green, in stark contrast to the brown grasslands, and there were more and more trees, some very large. It was beginning to feel more and more like the terrain where I grew up. I liked that feeling.
Everyone seemed more quiet and subdued, either because of late night partying or out of a sense that this was the final leg, or because they were just plain tired. Maybe all three. I think everyone was relieved that this was the last day – 471 miles in 6 straight days of riding, several of which were over 80 miles in hot weather and challenging winds and hills. I spoke with one long time RAGBRAI rider who said this was one of the most challenging rides he remembered.
We stopped and waited in another long line for breakfast about 17 miles into the ride. I noticed the house next door had some sunflowers bordering their yard and asked Randy to take a picture. Sunflowers are my favorite flower.
After another 15-20 miles, I stopped for my last strawberry smoothie to tie me over until Beekman’s at the end of the day. I had been trying different vendors each day as a sort of smoothie contest, and this was definitely a finalist for best smoothie. Icy cold and very strawberry. Randy had a peach smoothie and agreed that this vendor was one of the best.
We rode on. The last official town before the finish was about 13 miles out. As soon as we passed through, those big red Beekman’s signs appeared and we let out a collective cheer. For the most part, Randy has a pretty laid back disposition. But he started lighting up like a Christmas tree those last few days whenever those Beekman’s signs appeared and on the last day we almost ended up in a sprint to the field where Beekman’s was set up. I grabbed someone to take a picture of us celebrating our final Beekman’s root beer float.
We finished the last few miles of the ride with Marti, Jan and Allison, three women from our group in the bus. It was fun to ride with them. At last, we reached Clinton, and followed the crowds to the banks of the Mississippi river for the traditional tire dipping. Attached are pictures of Marti, Randy and I at the dipping.
Reaching the Mississippi River is another huge milestone in the overall cross- country ride, and I found myself feeling quite emotional, even more so than when we crossed into the Central Time Zone. The realization is setting in that we are down to the last 1000 miles or so, and the trip is nearing the end. I intend to make the very most of these remaining 4 weeks.