Riding RAGBRAI
Day Six - North Liberty to Tipton
Friday, July 25th
64 miles; 3,051 feet of climbing
Here's an example of how the "Common
Folk" must shower (i.e. those without host
families). Other options were school locker
rooms and car washes with bays converted
into mass showers.
Solon on Friday morning.
Most towns provided free water.
Lisbon
The melons were fresh and huge in Lisbon.
Pontoon boats make good stages.
Stumpy and Chip, telling the legend of
Frank Iowa.
Miller Time in Mechanicsville and Matt
searches with futility for AT&T wireless
service in Iowa.
We asked a few locals - they weren't
aware of this.
The party rooftops were open in
Mechanicsville.
The Cheney Boys getting groovy in
Mechanicsville.
Sunny skies returned to Iowa on
Friday with a moderate 64-mile ride
to Tipton. We passed through the
scenic Coralville Lake area and
arrived in Solon eight miles later.
Matt stopped downtown for a Bloody
Mary; I ordered up an orange juice.
Funny thing, when you order OJ in a
bar - people ask you how it is. Inside
Smitty's Bar & Grill, I replied "It's
pretty good." I wasn't lying. It was
good OJ. Then those same people
went up to the bar and ordered
Screwdrivers. Interesting.

Matt and I again rode together to
Lisbon, which offered an excellent
spread of food and beverage, and
then to Mount Vernon, where we
found Larry, Darren, Kevin and Greg.
Of all the small towns we visited in
Iowa,
Mount Vernon had to be the
prettiest. It's home to Cornell
College and had the largest number
of food vendors we'd seen all week.
Even the local cheerleaders were
selling stuff. The Methodists sold me
pie with not one, but TWO types of
berries. A little slice of heaven,
served on a paper plate.

In Morley, a town of less than 100
residents, the food was free in the
old school gymnasium (donations were
encouraged, however). The town
reminded me of Stockland, Illinois,
where I attended grade school. The
Morley high school was long gone but
the gymnasium was still standing.
Corrugated metal siding made it look
like a machine shed, but inside was
much like the old high school gym
that still stands in Stockland.

Our next stop was Mechanicsville, the
unofficial Party Town for Day 6. The
place was alive with music and the
sense that this was the last
on-the-road town where most people
would spend quality time partying.
Saturday's ride was to be a short
hop that many would do with few
interruptions, as at that point most
RAGBRAI'ers would just want to
finish up and get home. So
Mechanicsville was it, and the party
was already started when Matt and I
arrived. The Miller beer garden was
serving
boiled Louisiana shrimp,
complete with scales, tails, eyeballs,
and what college roommate Adam
Whipple once described as "the shit
tract".

After 30 minutes of peeling and
eating about 15 shrimp, several
Joyriders showed up to join in the
fun. We sat next to a guy named
Chip, wearing a Florida State
University bike jersey, who was
loosely affiliated with a guy known by
The Louisiana shrimp boil in Mechanicsville
later moved to Dr. Mark Nile's parking lot in
Tipton.
Yeah, I voted.
Ron Schechter and Art Lindo. Chip brought over his buddy Stumpy,
wearing a Corn Head on top of his bike helmet, and thus began the
telling of the Legend of Frank Iowa.

The Legend starts with a guy named Frank something-or-other who did
his first RAGBRAI in the 1970's. Frank loved RAGBRAI and the state
of Iowa so much that he changed his last name to Iowa. Since then,
Frank Iowa has attended every RAGBRAI except the ones when he was
in jail. Several years ago, he made arrangements to be picked up at a
Walmart by some friends on their way to the RAGBRAI starting town.
When his friends arrived, Frank walked out of the Walmart in a blue
Walmart smock with his name on it. He had worked there for the
previous few months to "make some RAGBRAI money." Frank strolled
over to the row of new bicycles on display in front of the store, pulled
out a key ring, unlocked the security cable and wheeled away a new bike
for RAGBRAI. Thus began (or continued, depending on who you ask) the
Legend of Frank Iowa.

RAGBRAI is full of colorful characters like Frank Iowa. Every year has
"that guy", such as
No Seatpost Guy. Seriously, there's a guy who rides
the whole dang time with no seat. I know this because I was there when
he helped Greg Sierra fix a flat. Without a seatpost, No Seatpost Guy
has room to carry a full-sized floor air pump on his bike. I also saw
Large Unicycle Guy just about every day (it's the unicycle that's large;
the guy is actually rather small). He pedaled a big-wheel unicycle across
the state of Iowa.
Chiquita Banana Guy was also a crowd favorite. He
rode a
recumbent bicycle encased in yellow cardboard, which loosely
resembled a banana.

We ate and drank for a couple hours in Mechanicsville before heading
out to Tipton, the final overnight stay of the week. I found myself
riding solo after a few miles, then caught up to Greg Sierra on the edge
of town. Our host family, Dr. Mark and Sharon Niles, lived about a mile
east of Tipton on a gravel road. Marlene had spread the word that the
gravel was loose and unsuitable for road bikes, but Greg and I decided
to give it a try. We pushed our bikes 100 yards up a gravel hill and
were the first of the Joyriders to arrive.

Dr. Mark is a chiropractor. He owns a very nice house with a very nice
shower, and I got first dibs. The rest of Team Joyride had chosen to
stop in downtown Tipton and wait for Greg, Marlene and I to drive the
RV into town and pick them up. We did just that and decided to grab
some food while we were there.

While searching for good eats, I noticed that Dr. Mark has some
competition in Tipton. In fact, he has an unusually large number of
competitors. No fewer than 4 chiropractors have offices in Tipton, a
town of about 3,000 residents. In comparison, the greater Des Moines
area has about 125 chiropractors serving 375,000 people, or one
doctor for every 3,000 residents. Tipton apparently has a lot of sore
backs.

In Dr. Mark's parking lot, the same Louisiana shrimp boilers from
Mechanicsville were setting up for the night shift in Tipton, complete
with their
bright red mascot drumming up business next to the beer
garden. Team Joyride decided to retreat to the doctor's house and get
a good night's rest. We needed an early start on Saturday morning to
wrap up our ride by about 10:30 a.m. We didn't have access to the
inside of the house, but we did have the 3-car garage. My bed was
beside the snowblower.

Read On....