Manchester to Dubuque - 47.5 miles
Saturday, the final day, brought about two highlights. The first came
about 20 miles after Manchester, outside of Dyersville. Baseball and
movie fans know Dyersville as the town where
Field of Dreams was
filmed. The farm house and baseball field are still there and are open
to the public. The Field of Dreams house was a couple miles off the
RAGBRAI route, but I didn't want to miss it. Neither did thousands of
others.
When we arrived at Field of Dreams, a long line of RAGBRAI'ers were
taking turns in the batter's box, trying their hands at whacking a
softball out of the infield. Every part of the farmstead was lush and
green, including the kind of grass I aspire to grow in my lawn. The
baseball field is still the same as it appeared in the movie.

Near the town of Graf, approximately 34 miles into the ride, came the
second highlight of the day and the toughest physical challenge of the
week. The terrain changed markedly as we approached the Mississippi
River Valley and was highlighted by a 400-foot descent, and then
about the same level of climb. The descent into Graf took me to 45
mph, the highest speed my bicycle computer had ever registered. We
had heard rumors of what would come next: Potter's Hill, a steep
climb out of the valley that took us to Graf. How steep it was, we
didn't know, but a rest stop in town was in order. It was here where
various groups were relishing the final moments of RAGBRAI, laughing,
hydrating, and snapping group photos with inappropriate instructions to
smile ("Everybody say...Penis Wrinkle!").

We decided it was time to tackle the hill, which came at us just
outside of town. The hill began gradually and then
steepened...dramatically. I had not used my lowest gear for a long,
long time, but I could have used an even lower one. Potter's Hill was a
beast, but I powered my way up without stopping. I was humbled by
many strong riders who passed by with seemingly little effort. While
RAGBRAI is filled with casual bikers, there are some strong legs in
the crowd.

As we approached Dubuque, our plan was to leave the marked route
near the Walmart where I hoped my Blazer would be waiting for me.
Larry and Chris had finished earlier and were already on their way
back to St. Louis, so we had to find the Blazer and then drive
downtown to locate Old Blue. My phone battery had died just as I was
pulling up Larry's number to give to Michelle, for her to call or text
for directions to the bus. We were on our own now, but I was
confident we could find our way. We came to a road crossing where I
was pretty sure we should leave the route, and the crossroad did
indeed take us straight to Walmart. We loaded the bikes and drove
towards downtown, where a huge traffic jam was in process. Eventually
we found a way around, parked the Blazer in the general vicinity of
downtown, and began our search for Old Blue.

The bus was about a mile away, which in the hot July sun was about a
mile further than we cared it to be. When we found the bus near the
riverfront, there was a small problem: the bus was locked and nobody
was around. Little did I know, Larry and Chris had left me a text
message with directions on how to unlock the bus. We still had to
carry our gear back to the Blazer, and after a mile walk, we had no
intention of lugging back our heavy bags the same distance. By the
time we got back to the Blazer and drove into the bus parking area,
the Old Blue group had arrived and we loaded up our gear. Our
RAGBRAI was over.

Michelle left Dubuque determined to come back to Iowa in 2011 and do
the full week of RAGBRAI. I left Iowa remembering why RAGBRAI is
such a unique event. If you are remotely interested in biking, do
yourself a favor and take off for Iowa for one week in July. You'll
have no regrets.
July 31, 2010
Left: Dyersville downtown. Right: Field of Dreams house and baseball field (last photo before
my battery-hogging Droid died).
A little taste of the crowd: