Wednesday, October 28, 2015

On RAGBRAI - Better Late Than Never

I'm late getting to this - about 3 months late - but RAGBRAI was pretty awesome. On about day 5 or 6 of RAGBRAI, I was less sure about the awesomeness. Looking back now, without all the aches and fatigue, I see how much fun the whole thing really was.

For starters, our trip across Iowa from Cedar Rapids to get to the starting line at Sioux City was pretty crazy. We were pretty hammered by the time we rolled into town and while we were stuck in traffic, three elderly locals hitched a ride with us for a few blocks. They asked us what our team name was. When we told them it was Team HJ, they asked what it stood for.


They looked at each other, climbed off the bus, and didn't look back.

The next morning, we broke camp and hit the route. We were pretty happy to get out of Sioux City. The RAGBRAI kickoff party was kind of bogus; the lines for beer tickets were half-a-football-field long and the bars were packed. The final letdown in Sioux City was when we were nearly run off the trail getting to the starting line by a couple of event staff duders in an ATV. Things got a lot better once we were on the road eastward.

All the days of RAGBRAI kind of run together at this point. Sixteen hours of beer and whiskey consumption while putting down 60-to-80-plus miles each day will do that. We fell into a solid routine all week, though. We rode as a group as much as we could, but breakaways would stop before each pass-through or lunch/camp town to wait for stragglers (I was always one of the stragglers). The first couple days were a blast; our legs were fresh, we were only a few days into a very long hangover, and there was so much energy that it made every mile vibrant and exciting. The legs started to give out starting sometime on day 3, and it took hard partying, great company, and beautiful scenery to keep the energy up. Days 6 and 7 were surprisingly great, though. We finished hard and killed some pretty bitchin' climbs. Those two days felt almost as good as the first two. We even went off route for a bangin' bridge party that caused us to get into camp super late that night.

It would have been even better if I hadn't been the guy that was constantly stopping to repair flats. I flatted a total of 6 times, and spent a fortune on overpriced tubes. When I got back home, my first order of business was to ditch the Paselas and go back to my tried-and-true Kendas.

We rolled into Davenport on day 7 totally wiped, loaded the bikes on the bus, and headed back to Cedar Rapids to unload, party, and crash.

If I had to guess, I'd say I'll probably ride RAGBRAI again someday. But as much as the event itself, I also enjoyed the training. This was the first year that I've spent a lot of time out riding high-mileage routes and joining group rides. Even if I don't do RAGBRAI next year, I'm going to try to spend more time in the saddle and drink a few beers along the way.

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