Riding RAGBRAI
Day Two - Harlan to Jefferson
Monday, July 21st
83 miles; 5,239 feet of climbing
Elk Horn claims to be the largest rural
Danish community in the U.S.
As with the previous night in Missouri
Valley, the early morning storms
stayed north of Harlan and left only
some minor wind damage in and
around town. Our day began much the
same as the previous morning, with a
heavy concentration of riders leaving
town around 7:00 a.m. At 83 miles,
Monday's ride would be the longest of
the week. The route could be made
even longer by riding an extra 17 mile
loop that would bring total mileage to
100 for the day. Roadies call this a
"Century Ride." However, this extra
loop came just 4 miles into the ride.
Sure, your legs would feel fresh then,
but what about 75 miles later? Larry
and Matt and most of the rest of the
team were determined that
Monday
would be a Century day. I wasn't so
sure. My right knee had been
bothering me off and on since my
final 50-mile training ride on my
mountain bike the previous Friday.
When the "Karras Loop" cutoff came,
Larry and Matt awaited my decision.
"Not gonna happen," I said. Guess
I'm too old to sacrifice my body for
glory, and in the end I was glad.

From there I rode by myself to
Kimballton, where I stopped for
biscuits and gravy just like the kind
Aunt Arlene serves at the
Stockland
Cafe. Three miles later was Elk Horn,
a Danish settlement famous for its
windmill imported from Denmark and
reconstructed in the center of town.
Authentic Vikings in full-on battle
gear were posing for pictures with the
RAGBRAI'ers and high-fiving anyone
with a free hand. While I waited for
Matt and Larry to catch up from
their extra miles, the Vikings decided
to demonstrate how a typical charge
This 60-foot windmill was brought over
from Denmark and reconstructed here in
1975. The Vikings were a nice touch.
RAGBRAI is both a cultural and a fashion
experience.
Main Street in Exira
would begin on the battlefield, which consisted of aggressively smacking
their large sword/spear things against thick wooden shields. The Vikings
suddenly turned from harmless to bowel-lightening scary. Then the
shield-banging ended, high-fives from the Vikings resumed, and all was
RAGBRAI-ish again.

After meeting up with me in Elk Horn, Larry and Matt set another
aggressive pace and slowly disappeared out of sight. In Coon Rapids,
they had a delicious rib eye sandwich waiting for me. Climbing out of the
Raccoon River (middle branch) valley, the two sprinted up a long climb
and were quickly out of sight once again. The previous night's wind gusts
were obvious, with trees down along the roadsides. Cutting crews had
just barely removed fallen branches in advance of the bike riders. A
local gal viewing the biker entourage from her home mentioned that winds
gusted to 80 mph. A couple miles later, an empty grain bin had blown off
its foundation and was lying in a ditch on the left side of the road. Its
drying fans settled in the opposite ditch. Many acres of corn were blown
over, leaving what will surely be a challenging harvest. Once again, we'd
dodged serious storms.

Scranton was the last town before Jefferson, 71 miles into my ride. The
final 10-mile stretch was typical of most of the riding up to that point:
straight into a headwind. My theory that westerly tailwinds would push us
all the way to the Mississippi was proving to be about as reliable as a
corn futures price projection. I lumbered into Jefferson, thankful I'd
passed on the Karras Loop. The rest of the team could have their glory
- and their sore knees.

Had I ridden those extra 17 miles, it's likely I would have been caught
in the same heavy thunderstorm near Scranton that drenched several
team members, including our elder statesman Ted Frank. Ted is a
67-year-old grandfather of three and a semi-retired attorney at the
law firm of Arnold & Porter in Washington D.C. His riding pace was as
steady as his determination to ride every mile of his first RAGBRAI.
When he arrived at the county road just south of Scranton that is a
direct east-west link to Jefferson, law enforcement were directing
riders to this road, instead of the meandering RAGBRAI route through
Scranton. When Ted and other Joyriders arrived in Jefferson, they
brought reports of riders struck by lightening. Turns out those riders
had only felt an indirect jolt from a nearby strike, but it was scary
nonetheless.

Bob Mahoney, our host in Harlan, had done us a huge favor by arranging
for a spot to park our RV and pitch tents in Jefferson. The Jefferson
housing committee was unable to find us a host family that night, so we
were prepared to park out in the fairgrounds on the east side of town.
The address was the home of the owner of Wet Goods Bar & Grill in
downtown Jefferson, who had some connection to the Mahoney's
neighbors in Harlan. Our driver, Marlene, had done an excellent job of
scaring off another team's bus that had tried to stake out our spot on
the street next to the house, and she had the RV all set up for us with
cold Gatorade and beer. We didn't have access to the inside of the
house, but a community center with showers was 2 blocks away.

That night, we had more spaghetti at a local church and checked out the
town square. One of the best cover bands I've heard in a long time was
playing that night - the
Johnny Holm Band. As was fairly typical of most
evenings at RAGBRAI, the locals made up about half of the crowd, while
many of the bike riders retired early to get a good night's sleep.
Longest day I've ever done on a bicycle, in the books.

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