Waterloo to Manchester - 61.6 miles
The 2010 version of RAGBRAI was advertised as one of the flatter
routes in its history, and Thursday's ride was a good example of this.
Had those 87 miles been hilly, I'd have probably felt a little rough on
Friday morning. But I was fine and I had an incentive for moving
onward quickly: the rain was almost here. Actually, we'd already had
some light precipitation during the night and the tent was damp.
Whether we could outrun the rain remained to be seen.
A few miles into the route, Michelle needed a caffeine boost from a
mobile cappuccino/latte/coffee vendor along the roadside. Anyone who
knows me and has been paying attention should be aware that I am not
a coffee guy. In fact, I'm not a guy who drinks anything remotely
related to the coffee family. But my girlfriend needed some, and I
was fully prepared to dutifully stand by her in line. In the rain. In the
cold. For 30 minutes, while the Pacific Northwestern vendor
painstakingly mixed and stirred and blended all sorts of beverages with
names and ingredients I cannot remember nor care to know, all the
while delivering a message about the benefits of organic coffee beans
and the evils of forest logging or global warming or whatever
tree-hugging agenda was on his mind. He was a nice enough guy, but I
was cold and wet and I knew I was about to hop on my bike and ride
straight into a cold, wet rain. Speed it up, hippy.

The semi-water-resistant jacket I'd bought the night before in
Waterloo proved to be useful for about 10 minutes. After moisture
finally penetrated its seams, I was as soaked as I would have been if
I'd ridden with only my jersey. We stopped at a farmstead where
Michelle urinated in a cornfield with about 100 others, and we huddled
inside a machine shed next to an Allis Chalmers WD tractor like the
one my dad has back at the farm. I found that if I remained
completely stationary, I wasn't quite as cold. This required walking
around like a statue, which humored Michelle and kept me feeling just
a tad bit better. But once we started riding again, my body began its
uncontrollable shaking.

After a couple hours in this light but steady rain, Michelle inquired as
to why I was so miserable, which had much to do with being too damn
skinny. The jacket seemed like a good idea, considering I'd brought
nothing else warm, but it had failed me for the most part. While I
was pondering how I could be so uncomfortable on a bicycle in the
rain, yet feel mostly warm riding a dirt bike in the rain, Michelle's
rear tire punctured. We pulled into the driveway of a farmstead and I
began pulling out tools from my Camelbak. I reached for the wheel and
nearly lost my hand as Michelle warned that she would learn how to
change a flat and do it herself...in the rain, on the side of a road, in
the middle of Iowa. I suggested that the warm, dry confines of my
garage might be a better place to achieve these skills, but that just
wasn't going to happen.

So we changed the inner tube together and Michelle learned a few
things about bicycle repair. As we finished up, the rain ended. Later in
the afternoon, we sat in a grassy field in one of the pass-through
towns, basked in the sun and dried out. We met up with Larry and
Chris that evening at a residence in Manchester, where our "Old Blue"
gang had secured a spot for the night. The hosts had provided a
camper trailer with shower facilities, which was a much better deal
than the portable $5 showers.

The ride had been flat once again, but the terrain was about to
change. On Saturday, we would finally be challenged with hills.

Onward to Dubuque....
July 30, 2010