Let’s Get This Over With

CLINTON, IOWA
Although I had planned which cycling clothes I would wear throughout the week and I still had clean kits to wear, the RAGBRAI XL and Bike Virginia jerseys were still available, I decided to wear my Cyclists Combating Cancer kit again. I had washed it in the shower on Monday although it’s never laundry fresh until it is washed for real.

But I wanted to display my support for Jacob Grecco and took a permanent marker and wrote PRAY FOR JAKE on my jersey. Jake had gone to Germany for two weeks of treatment and responded very well in the first 10 days or so. But just a couple of days before scheduled to return, he had become very ill.

With a feeling of “let’s get this over with” and wondering how my legs would respond to a 72 mile ride after 500 in five days, I rolled out of Anamosa early. The intense heat had broken from the storm Wednesday in Marshalltown and it may have been in the 50s when we rolled out so early. It was very delightful.

Early on I passed an older woman with a “license plate” on her bike that said Prayer Requests Taken. I rode by and said “Jake the Hero.” She may not have heard me as I kept going. When I stopped at a farm stand for some juice and a muffin, I saw her go rolling by in the crowd. This time I would do it right.

I caught her and told her “Jake the Hero.” I told her Jake was in Germany and we were trying to get him home. She said she would pray for him but wasn’t sure of his name. “Jake the Hero” is enough, I said. “God knows who he is.”

I passed a girl with two flags in her helmet – a Swiss flag and a U.S flag. I asked her if she was from Switzerland and she said she was. Near Zurich. Her sister had been an exchange student and came back to visit her host family so she came with her and rode RAGBRAI.

Coming into Delmar I stopped at a corner Lemonade Stand — just 25 cents a cup. Two cute kids ran the stand and I was tired of water and Gatorade. I gave them a dollar for a cup and they started to make change. I laughed. “Everything’s a dollar (or more) on RAGBRAI,” I said. I got a second cup then gave them another dollar and they filled my water bottle with Lemonade. And gave out free Rice Krispie treats.

And a free Rice Krispie treat too – Delmar, Ia.
RAGBRAI means a lot to the communities. Countless people had water hoses turned on. Some were sprinklers where one could ride through; others were looking to spray those who wanted sprayed. When I took the time to stop it was fun meeting people although I would not try to meet people in every town.
Train Depot – Delmar, Ia.
I passed a roller blader — “The whole way?,” I asked.  He said yes. Impressive.

Lunch in Charlotte
At ten miles to go the signs marked each mile. A couple of miles from the Mississippi River in Clinton, Iowa, people lined the streets and sat in their yards. Most were clapping. Almost all had congratulatory signs.

It meant a lot to the people to congratulate the riders. These are good folks these Iowans.

River City Band playing on the route in Clinton, Ia.
I went to the end and although I said I would not dip my tire in the Mississippi, I followed the crowds and did so. I was only reserving dipping for the occasion when I ride across the U.S. and use the oceans as my dipping points. But it was fun.

Yes, this is the Mississippi River
I then made my way to the Brancel Charters end point which was the long term parking area. I found my luggage then pitched my tent to let it air since it had dew on it in the morning. Noticing my mileage, I then went for a 10-mile ride to make it 700 for the week. A good week.
Clinton, Iowa


RAGBRAI THOUGHTS

Aero bars are for solo riding, not with 20,000 people around you. Leave the aero bars at home. Plus I passed every aero rider I saw.

I really don’t want to listen to your crappy music from the boom box you’re towing 500 miles. You’d ride better without the weight. And that’s why God invented ear buds. Plus I passed every boom box rider I heard.

I loved the Spirit of Iowa and greatly appreciated the Iowans who turned their hoses on us.

Some people handed free water on the fly but riders who took the water, drank it, then threw the bottle alongside the rode instead of putting in in their pockets to throw away later are jerks.

I tend to try new events rather than repeat so I doubt that I will be a multi-time RAGBRAI rider unless I am involved in a cancer fighting role.

Out of 10,000 or 20,000 riders I only encountered one cycling jerk. He was wearing a US Air Force Cycling Team kit and was screaming for people to move out of the way of his pace line. But he wasn’t representative of the Air Force. Just a jerk.

Everyone should try RAGBRAI once.

I really enjoyed being with Brancel Charters and would recommend Bob, Debbie, and Nicole to anyone. We had our own port-a-johns in camp and were always one block or less from showers. It is priced at the low end of charters so drinks were not on the house. But that’s OK. They kept coolers of Gatorade/PowerAid, Water, soft drinks, and beer fully stocked and you paid for what you used.

I asked Nicole to stock Coke Zero — and she did!

They also provided a mid-week laundry service which I did not use. But awesome!

They also set up tents and a chair for relaxing. And had a great electronic toy recharging station.

As for the riding — I found it a bit too crowded. Every day an ambulance went by with its sirens blaring.

I learned I’m not fan of camping, especially when it’s 100 degrees.

RAGBRAI is designed to get you off your bike. I am at peace when I am on the bike.

Although I doubt that I will be signing up anytime soon, I still recommend RAGBRAI as part of every cyclists’ bucket list.

EPILOGUE — The satisfaction of completing the ride across Iowa or riding 700 miles was brought crashing back to earth within minutes after we started driving home. Jake’s father, watch Mike Grecco, posted on Facebook that Jake was not expected to live through the night. I was devastated.

Although the community of family and friends rallied to raise the money to send them to Germany, that was aboard commercial aircraft. To bring Jake home in his deteriorated condition would mean on a private jet.

We began rallying once more and by Tuesday had secured the flight. Jake would be coming home.

Tuesday night at 9:26 p.m. Eastern Time, Jake’s father posted a picture of the two of them hugging with the caption — “One More Time …… Please ……….”

At 3:26 a.m. German time, just hours before Jake and his mother, Stacey, were to board the medical flight home, Jake won. He left his worn out body to cancer so it could die and got his angel wings.

Six hours difference between the two time zones — these events happened at exactly the same time.

Livestrong for Jake

ANAMOSA, IOWA
I had wanted to ride with source link Scott Scudamore and his friends although they constantly stroked my ego by telling me how much stronger and faster I was. Today would be the day. I would stay with them no matter what.
We stayed together nine miles.

We camped on the outskirts of Cedar Rapids and rode to the downtown area. When we came to Czech Village they had “Breakfast on the Bridge” which was very nice. But it also meant confusion in walking across the long bridge over the Cedar River. I found two riders of Scott’s group on a tandem, Nancy DeVore and follow site Coroleen Bean and stayed with them for a couple of blocks as they tried to get the front wheel of their recumbent fixed. And did.

On the bridge crossing the Cedar River
After the repair I slipped into the Chrome Horse Saloon for an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet ($8) and never saw anyone from the group the rest of the day. I honestly tried to stay with them. No matter what.
Chrome Horse Saloon, Cedar Rapids

There were a couple of climbs coming out of Cedar Rapids which slowed many riders. I passed a rider from LIVESTRONG but kept going. At the top of the climb I decided to wait. After a few minutes and thinking I had missed her, I jumped on the bike then more LIVESTRONG riders passed including this one.

One of my favorite team buses – self-deprecating humor

This time I did not miss my opportunity. She was riding in Honor of “Normal” so I asked Eliza Hanson what Normal was. Then I told her I wanted to write on her back. I wanted her to ride for Jake. And she let me. I wrote “ Jake The Hero Grecco” on her back and then left.

Eliza Hanson, Livestrong
Riding for Jake

I was surprised with the ease and my interest in riding with the cycling cancer community at RAGBRAI. Four years ago I wouldn’t have wanted to ride with them and now I found myself seeking them out.


On the ride it was college spirit day. Riders were asked to wear their alma
mater or favorite college jersey. With the NCAA sanctions against Penn State coming down, it wasn’t a good time to be a Nittany Lion. I wore the sweater of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Arriving Mt. Vernon I
suspect that every college in Iowa had a booth on the side of the
streets and this was one you absolutely had to walk through. Slowly.

Mount Vernon is a beautiful town and home to Cornell College.

Camping at the Funeral Home
I arrived in Anamosa, pitched my tent next to the swimming pool — a bad idea — and then — went for a ride. I had promised myself to rest some and not do a fifth straight century ride. I had a feeling that might not be good for my body. Today’s ride was listed at 42 miles although we seemed to be six miles from the start point so we were at 48 by the end.

The Penitentiary

I set out to explore Anamosa. I found a penitentiary, then Riverside Cemetery, burial place of the painter, follow Grant Wood

And I found people camping in the cemetery of the burial place of Grant
Wood. With RAGBRAI, anything’s acceptable. And I assume this was a
RAGBRAI camp site.

RAGBRAI Camping at Riverside Cemetery

Although I wasn’t tired, or overly tired, I had promised myself that I would not turn a 42 mile ride into my fifth straight century ride. But my mileage of 75 gave me 500 for five days. Not too bad.

No More Pace Lines

CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA

I quit looking for pace lines. I noticed that most days I rode faster than just about everyone which hopefully isn’t as arrogant as it sounds. On the few occasions I was passed it was usually by a pace line and often I caught them later.

I started to jump into a line but halfway back was a rider who pedaled fast, then braked, then coasted. Repeat. I felt the advantage from riding in a pace line was not worth the risk of a crash. It was easier to ride by myself.

Tractor parked at one of the farm vendor stands
RAGBRAI brings out all kinds of riders and probably less than the average number of serious riders. I passed amputees with one leg. I passed tons of recumbent riders including three wheel ones for paraplegics using hand cranks. Well done my friends! There were families towing kids, either in trailers or on tandems. Which, in the heat, I think they should be charged with child neglect. Children’s bodies cannot regulate the 100 degree heat for 10-12 hours.
I have no idea what a Fugawee is
(but is apparently a cycling group in Iowa)
There was a banana boat crew – a tandem recumbent that looked like a boat, in yellow, with five wheels. There was a couple who had a tandem painted in the black and white pattern of a cow. And they wore cow costumes. There was even an older lady who dressed up as the tooth fairy.

I was resigned to enjoying the ride when I rolled into Vinton which may have been the first signs of a city we saw since leaving Sioux Center. A guy advertising Pizza Hut was spinning his sign as I rolled by a reminded him we didn’t come to RAGBRAI to eat at Pizza Hut. I went by and stopped — at Subway. It was so inviting.

Air conditioning. And free refills. It hit the spot.

Once out on the road I caught or was caught by watch Cindi and Ken Hart. We then rode together to Cedar Rapids. We could talk about cancer and most importantly, Jake the Hero. I also talked about the 4K for Cancer, a group of college students cycling 4,000 miles across the U.S. to raise awareness and money in the fight against cancer. My “Pedal pal” on this trip is Patrick Sheridan.

Near Cedar Rapids we pulled over for some free water supplied by Jerry Ask, a cyclist and multi-RAGBRAI rider. I asked him about a local ride, since 82 miles wouldn’t be enough. 
Jerry sent me in a direction to “Czech Town” although it is marked as Czech Village. I wondered if that was a derisive term the locals use for it. But I found the path along the Cedar River he recommended and followed it to Ely, Iowa.
At the camp site, next to a swimming pool / water park, the decision was which showers to use. The pool had $5 showers, actually free showers with a pool admission while the shower trailer, next to Pork Belly Ventures, was six dollars. I had heard there was standing water in the pool showers, they were cold, and were spring loaded for only a few seconds of water at a time. I opted for the trailers.

Brancel Charters’ North American Van Lines Cargo Van
Showers on RAGBRAI usually meant a 20-40 minute wait, especially on the men’s side. The women had it better because there were far fewer of them on RAGBRAI.

Dinner was at a church nearby – prepaid when I registered. RAGBRAI campers were spread out through Cedar Rapids. We were camped next to a swimming pool / water park but there were no close by eateries. But there was a church close that served dinner which was presented to us an an attractive option. They served chicken breasts and corn. It was pretty good actually.

Mileage: 115 (First 60 miles were recorded on yesterday’s route). It was my fourth century in four days.

Even Stronger Winds

MARSHALLTOWN, IOWA
I didn’t wear any cancer apparel which would have come in handy today. Riding solo I came to Story City and saw the Spokes of Hope banner on the left. I hit the brakes then went over and introduced myself. 
I met Cindi and Ken Hart, “Cindi from Indy” as she says. Cindi and another rider left without me but I pulled over down the road when she had flatted so I could watch him fix her flat. (I really did offer to help but three people on a flat are two too many.)

Cindi Hart

It was another hot day (100+ degrees) day on our way to Marshalltown.
Other than the brief encounter with Cindi, I met no one and just kept
riding to the city. And looking to keep cool.

Cute kids selling water in McCallsburg, Iowa
Many groups or people sold water. Some gave away free ice water. The Air Force
reserve had tanker trucks on the route at one location per day for free
water. Residents had sprinklers next to the road and some had garden
hoses and were more than willing to hose down riders who wanted drenched.

But my favorite stop was in Clemons where a sprinkler hose was stretched across the street. I removed my cell phone from my pocket then enjoyed the water.

Sprinkler hose stretched over the street in Clemons, Iowa

Arriving Marshalltown, I stopped at a convenience store and talked to the manager. I asked him where the locals ride and he told me of a river path on the levee that goes 10 miles out of town. Once set up I went for a quiet 10-mile ride and found a delightful nature center at Grimes Farm. I even climbed a steep hill, on a grass path, to an observation tower.

In Marshalltown I met Michelle Haalman, a fellow cancer survivor and friend of my sister, Brenda. She is working for Bubba’s Pampered Pedalers and often buys Steelers tickets from me. It was nice to say hello.

Highest point in town
Maybe in Iowa*

After a catered dinner ($9) at the site, I went swimming in the Iowa River. The water seemed bath water warm and wasn’t real refreshing. Plus there were small fish nibbling at me.

Art work on the bike trail underpass

At sunset a storm moved in. Not just any storm but a wicked storm. One hellacious wicked storm. Hunkered down in my tent, I thought the sides would tear. I’m guessing two gusts of wind hit hard. The first was 50 mph and the second 60. Who knows, they could have been 20 and 30 or 80 and 90 — but the second was stronger than the first. If my body weight had not been in the tent it surely would have taken off.

Then lightning and thunder struck all around. This was one where you’d see the lighting and hear the thunder, almost simultaneously. Then the rain came. And I was scared. We were among trees and the fear was a branch could be struck and fall and crush us as well. And Marshalltown was the one place on RAGBRAI where they had no safe evacuation for us. No shelter in schools.

We simply waited it out. And no one got hurt although I heard of damage later.

A note about the mileage: I forgot to reset the Garmin after the ride so it includes the first 59 miles of the next day ride. It does not include an extra mile on the levee at the end of the day when I was charging the Garmin and it wasn’t on the bike. Total: 101.5.

___
*It’s not. Marshalltown is at 942′. The highest point is 1600′.

Strong Winds and a Strong Ride

WEBSTER CITY, IOWA
An old “Service” Station, Lake City, IA
I wore my full FUCANCER kit today, riding for Jake. I packed the tent then asked a stranger to write “JAKE GRECCO” on my calves. Lots of people write “Virgin” on their calves to indicate they are first time RAGBRAIers but from the beginning I told Scott Scudamore that I would only write Jake’s name on my legs.

I saw Scott at the camp site but he wasn’t ready and I rolled out at 6:15 a.m. I rode on my own for 20 miles, almost always passing people and rarely being passed. And if I was passed I always looked to see if I could jump in and make or join a paceline.
Lake City, IA
Motto is “Everything but a lake”

Pace lines were discouraged if not prohibited. I already realized that a typical RAGBRAI pace  line was one guy pulling and 5-6 guys wheel sucking. They weren’t pace lines at all — just wheel suckers looking for a free ride.

But then three guys went by me and I jumped on their wheels. It was easy to follow because they kept a steady pace with a constant cadence – no herky jerky pedaling movements. When the first guy peeled off the front and slid back he saw me on 4th wheel. Without saying a word, I slid up to 3rd wheel so he could fall in behind me. Perfect. I was part of a four-man pace line.

They were three guys from Des Moines, Brad, Pat, and Joe, later to be joined by a fourth, Jay. At Mile 52 we stopped in Dayton and ate watermelon. Without a word, we were four. I was waiting for them and they were waiting for me.

Joe, from Des Moines, Stratford, IA
We went 10 miles and turned onto the Karras Loop. This 22-mile loop was designed to allow riders to turn one day into a century. Named for the founder of RAGRBAI, John Karras, he was actually at the stopping town on the loop, Stratford, for photos or a meet and greet.

The winter day I rode at Trexlertown, Pa., featured the windiest gusty day I ever rode. But I think this day was second. None of us knew for sure but 30 mph seemed like the right measurement. And so we rode directly into 30 mph headwinds most of the way. Or a lot of the way. And still we hammered it.

Brad (green) and Pat, in Stratford, Ia.
I stopped in Stratford for lunch and had the most delicious chicken sandwich on the trip. To my surprise or amazement, Brad, Joe, and Pat did too. It meant either I still had someone to ride with or meant more miles of suffering keeping up with the pace.

At Lehigh they stopped to find Jay and I searched for the hill climb. The Register promised a hill climb with a 20-26% grade. I found it. Joe and I did it although it was supposed to be a fund raiser for the town. Lay down $5 and if you can do it in less than three minutes they give you a koozy — a foam cover for your drinks. We did it, neither paid the $5 for a koozy but both in under the three minutes. It was a formidable climb, even in Iowa. I suspect it averaged 15% most of the way up.

It was from these guys I learned how the non-registered riders do it. Being from Iowa they explained they all know someone who knows someone who has a great aunt living in one of the towns. They contact them to pitch their tent. There are port-a-johns scattered throughout the host cities and showers everywhere – in schools and portable shower trucks mostly.  On any given day one person doesn’t ride but drives to the next location with their stuff then often doubles back on their bike part way to meet their group.

(It is always scary and dangerous to meet a rider coming against the flow of traffic.)
Today Jay met us in Lehigh. As we climbed out of the river valley we dropped Pat. I was hoping, even praying, that we would sit up and wait for him but they seemed to think he wanted to ride at his own pace.

And we rode at our pace, which into a strong wind, was hard. Arriving Webster City, we did a rolling goodbye, never to see, or even really know who my friends were, again.

In Webster City we camped next to a middle school. Showers were $5 and the school served a spaghetti dinner for $8. Entertainment was by Three Dog Night, which I did not attend. I didn’t want to stay up that late.

___
This was my second century ride in a row. The legs held up fine with most of the damage from the hard pace into the wind. Average speed was almost 18 mph over these 100 miles which includes time walking through towns. Plus it was 100 degrees.

Mr. Pork Chop

LAKE VIEW, IOWA
Sunday was hot and Monday got hotter. With 20,000 cyclists you will never be first, or last, at anything. Never. Get up at 4:30 to be first? Guaranteed that someone is already on the road.

Even if you wanted to sleep in, which on RAGBRAI is until sunrise, it’s almost impossible. With our charter we had a camp site and all tents were close together. Someone was always up before sunrise tearing down their tent and dragging their roller bags to the truck. And talking. And so I was up before sunrise.

The daily routine was to roll up the sleeping bag (used to lay on, never to crawl in), dress for the day’s ride, smoosh the clothes back into the suitcase, tear down and pack the tent, then take the two bags to the truck. Check the air in the tires, jump on the bike and roll. Breakfast, if at all, would come on the road.

I wore my new Cyclists Combating Cancer kit, thinking of 8 year old Jacob Grecco getting hyperthermia treatments in Germany. 

Schwan Ice Cream Man. Very nice.
RAGBRAI is a celebration of Iowa. Maybe of cycling too, but mostly Iowa. For the host towns it is a major event to be selected. But even for the pass-thru towns like Schaller, it is big.

Churches, schools, civic groups, clubs, and sports teams all come out to greet and welcome the riders. And to sell things, mostly food. But not everyone is selling. Like Punxsutawney with the Groundhog Queen or Meyersdale (Pa.) with the Maple Queen, and thousands of communities with their various themed queens, this town wanted to greet us with their best. And I met Schaller’s 2012 Popcorn Queen, Heather Hansen.

Heather Hansen
I only had to walk a few meters through Schaller before being able to jump on the bike and roll. Once back on the road I met Rod Ambelang from Kansas City. We were wearing the same CCC jersey so we talked about — cancer. We rode for a while before I joined an ill-formed paceline and went down the road.

I wasn’t with the paceline long and we broke up when we came to the roadside stand of Mr. Pork Chop, a RAGBRAI tradition. Unfortunately, so is the stupid tradition of rides going by yelling “Mr. Pork CHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP!” For $7 I got a chop so thick that I could not eat the entire thing. But I tried it.

At Sac City I stopped to see the World’s Largest Popcorn Ball. It’s a celebration of Iowa and the Sac City natives were proud of their ball.

After Sac City I caught Rod again. We rode together the last 10 miles to Lake View and then said goodbye.
Rod Ambelang, Barry Sherry

Once I got to camp and set up, I surmised the situation. I just rode 65 miles. It was 100 degrees. I could shower, put on clothes, then sweat through them. Or —  I could ride.

I asked a local how far it was around the lake and she told me seven miles. So I did five loops of the lake trying to keep cool. And seeing if it was foolish to ride 100 miles before tomorrow’s century ride.

After a shower I took a shuttle (a wagon pulled by a tractor) into town for a $9 spaghetti dinner at the United Methodist Church. The line, unbeknownst to me when I entered it, was more than one hour, the first 30 minutes spent in the 100 degree sun. Inside we were ushered into the sanctuary until our number was called to eat.

I sat beside a couple and asked Emily Fuhrman where she was from. She said Fort Wayne, Indiana and introduced me to her boyfriend who was from Houston, Ohio (pronounced House-ton, by the way). A small town about 40 miles north of Dayton, I attended school there in 1966-1967. Small world indeed.

Me and 23,000 Friends

CHEROKEE, IOWA

I waited for Scott Scudamore and his group of friends and they asked me to lead them out, joking that I would soon drop them. We went 150 meters and I pulled over to look for a friend, go site Mickey Haalman, who was working with Bubba’s Pampered Pedalers. They rolled on without me and I never saw them the rest of the day. And I didn’t see Mickey either.

Rolling out of Sioux Center

We rolled out of Sioux Center. The fire department hung American flags high above the road for our roll out. Thousands, 10,000 registered and estimates of 23,000 total, rolled out of Sioux Center. And I was alone. With thousands.

Marcus, Iowa

Once on the open road one can ride at speed. Mostly. But entering the small towns you often come to a complete stop. So many people are stopping and dismounting that more often than not you have to dismount and walk your bike through the town.

Welcome Shagbrai to Orange City

The first town I came to was Orange City. Dead stop. I thought I could stay on my bike but came to the realization that so many people would just stop and turn that it was safer to walk.

Farm girl and Stephen

I met up with a young man, Stephen, from Chicago and we rode together the entire day. It was nice having company. We stopped at a farm stand selling water, Gatorade, and bananas, a RAGBRAI staple.

A real Iowa farm girl

RAGBRAI is a celebration of Iowa. In the towns and cities where it passes they bring out their firetrucks and hang banners. Churches, schools, scout and civic groups all set up stands selling food. And in between the towns, the farmers set up stands selling food.

In Marcus we stopped for more drink and watermelon. But mostly we pedaled. We did a rolling farewell when we arrived Cherokee, never to see each other again. “Nice riding with you – have a great week.”

Once I arrived in Cherokee, and it was a bit early, I did a little riding around town. I found a nice swimming pool but the line was too long to get in. That would have been the best deal going. At RAGBRAI everything, including a shower, costs money. Rather than pay $6-$8 for a shower I could get a swim and a shower for $6-$8.

Plus I was a little uncomfortable leaving my bike outside the pool without locking it. I don’t carry a lock. My bike is in my car, in my house, or between my legs. Or at RAGBRAI, in my tent.

Marcus, Iowa

I found a restaurant where I could leave my bike outside the window and watch it while eating in my booth. If you want to know, it was a Pizza Hut. But it worked.

Charging station at Brancel Charters

I ate dinner then went to the campsite where I put the bike in my tent, showered, and enjoyed some good company of others before dark. I also found the recharging station that we had at our camp. It was generator powered and I grabbed two spots – one for my phone and one for my Garmin.

As soon as it was dark I went to bed. I’m boring.


 

RAGBRAI

SIOUX CENTER, IOWA

It’s called the Des Moines Registers’ Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa –
aka RAGBRAI.
Some cyclists want to do it every year but most every cyclist
wants to attend once. The circumstances worked out that this would be
the year that I rode RAGBRAI.

Logistics can be complicated but I attended with my friend and one-time veteran, Scott Scudamore, which made it easier. We drove to the finish city, Clinton, Iowa, on Friday and took Registers’ Annual Great Bus Ride Across Iowa on Saturday to the start city, Sioux Center. Brancel Bicycle Charters transported our bikes in a moving van to Sioux Center.

And for me, RAGBRAI began in Sioux Center. The city center was transformed into RAGBRAI headquarters and so it began. Arriving around 4:30 p.m., I set up my tent and then went for a bike ride.

Tent City in Sioux Center
RAGBRAI is the ride across Iowa and it seemed disingenuous to not start at the Iowa border yet claim that one rode all the way across Iowa. And although it was hot, something that would dog us all week, I put two bottles of water on the bike and headed west — searching for the South Dakota border.
Lots of Jr. High Humor and Innuendo at RAGBRAI
I found Oak Hill State Park which led to the Big Sioux River, the border between South Dakota and Iowa. There were only a few riders here and each dipped their rear wheel in the river. I didn’t.
Big Sioux River. South Dakota is across the river.

I have been in 44 states but never South Dakota and wanted to cross the river. I thought about wading or swimming to the other side but there was no welcome sign.

I left the park determined to follow a road until I came to South Dakota. Heck, I might even have to ask someone for directions. But I didn’t need to.

On Hwy 10 I found the crossing into South Dakota. Now I was ready to return to Sioux Center in the knowledge that I was about to bike all the way across Iowa.

Barry’s start of RAGBRAI
A RAGBRAI tradition is for rookies to write VIRGIN on their calves. Part hazing but good fun. Jake the Hero Grecco was weighing heavy on my mind and I never allowed anyone to write Virgin on my calves — only Jake’s name would go on my legs.