Riding RAGBRAI
Day Five - Tama/Toledo to North Liberty
Thursday, July 24th
76 miles; 3,123 feet of climbing
The weather finally turned on us
during the ride from Tama/Toledo to
North Liberty. We'd dodged storms
earlier in the week and enjoyed
relatively pleasant temperatures, but
our day of rain came shortly after we
hit the road on Thursday morning.
The light rain and cool temperatures
were enough to bring out my light rain
jacket, which I wore the entire day.

My first in-person view of the
dangers of RAGBRAI came shortly
after we left Toledo. During a
moderate climb on a damp country
road with no shoulder, an oncoming
car crested the hill and caused a few
riders to scramble to move into the
right lane. One lady lost her
momentum just as the car was nearly
upon us and drifted left, straight into
the car's path. She began to correct
her line, but I was sure it would be
too late to avoid riding into the side
of the car. The car sped by almost
quickly enough to avoid the bicycle,
but the woman's front tire clipped
the car's rear quarter panel with a
distinct "Whap!" Fortunately, she was
unharmed, and her bicycle also
seemed to be ok. But it reminded me
of the risks of riding in a large
group. It was a rolling accident
waiting to happen. Every day we had
to move over for ambulances.

The rain set in for the morning, light
enough to annoy us but not enough to
do any good. Most of Team Joyride
met for breakfast burritos at a fire
station somewhere in the first 25
miles, but
Larry Baerveldt was so cold
that he skipped the burrito and kept
on riding. He never really did stop
until North Liberty. Larry's
physique
is similar to mine, meaning he has
little natural insulation. In fact, I'm
not sure he has any body fat at all.
He's in his 40's and is more
physically fit than most men half his
age. As best I understand it, Larry
We all had to sign the waiver.
We found these free laminated route
guides in Toledo. They showed mileage
between all the towns on the route, which
roads we'd be taking, a graph of elevation
changes, and total feet of climbing.
I'll never be mistaken for a true roadie.
If the pedals didn't give away my mountain
bike tendencies, the shoes certainly did.
An appropriate t-shirt for Iowa.
helps US Bank buy tax credits from third parties, many of which are
historical tax credits used by real estate developers to finance the rehab
of commercial buildings that have historical significance. The bank buys
the tax credits to reduce what they pay the U.S. government for income
taxes. Or something like that...it's too complicated for my feeble mind.
Outside of the tax credit gig, Larry runs marathons, competes in
triathlons, skis most excellently, and dates an awesome gal named Peggy.
And he shivers when cold and wet.

After Matt powered his way through the strongest headwind of the
week, I was left by myself for the duration of the ride to North
Liberty. Pace lines were forming everywhere in an attempt to beat the
wind. I jumped into various lines that were either too fast or too slow,
and eventually gave up and rode solo most of the way. Every so often I'd
turn my head and see someone directly behind me, using my draft for a
free ride. I didn't particularly care for that kind of freeloading. Had
they simply asked, I would have gladly let them draft for awhile and
take turns leading. But if I sensed freeloading, I sprinted until I
couldn't see them anymore. That there's roadie etiquette, Stichnoth
style.

The second half of Thursday's route included the historic Amana
Colonies, where I planned to take a long break. At 50 miles into the
ride, I was beat. When I arrived at the Colonies, they appeared mostly
uninterested in RAGBRAI. West Amana had nothing of any significance
to a RAGBRAI'er (i.e. no pie). South Amana had one food vendor at the
U.S. 6 junction with a long line, so lunch became a Clif Bar and water
from my Camelbak. Homestead had a full array of food and drink, but by
that time I just wanted a hot shower. I settled for a fruit smoothie
from two college girls who had been working a roadside stand the whole
week, then found Matt Kavan on the road. Good thing, because I had no
idea where to find our host family in North Liberty. Matt's iPhone was
my ticket to that hot shower.

In North Liberty, we were treated to an elaborate pirate display at the
official RAGBRAI entrance. The locals did a great job of congratulating
us for completing a tough day, and I really did appreciate that, but I
just wanted a damn hot shower already. Matt was able to navigate us to
a townhouse subdivision and a
street address so new that it wasn't on
most maps yet.

Our hosts for the night were Jason and Kristin Mueller, a young couple
who are typical of what makes North Liberty one of the fastest growing
communities in Iowa. Jason is a medical student at the University of
Iowa, Kristin a teacher in Cedar Rapids. North Liberty's proximity to
both cities makes it an ideal place for the Mueller's. They were the most
accommodating hosts of the week. Offering floor space inside the house
is one thing; offering floor space in their bedroom was going above and
beyond our expectations (we let them have their privacy).
Darren Van't
Hof was spot-on in his observation that their place in life - one year
removed from college - probably had much to do with their ease in
opening their entire home to a group of strangers. Darren's Iowa
upbringing was, in my mind, at least partly responsible for a number of
interesting observations throughout the week. In his youth he'd had his
taste of power washing the crap (literally) out of hog houses, which
apparently produced the sort of personal epiphany that causes kids to
graduate from college. At some point Darren found his way to St. Louis
and US Bank, but the Iowa in him never left.

We took the Mueller's to dinner at a local bar, slept like babies on their
living room floor, and awoke to sunny skies on Friday.

Read On....