RAGBRAI Day 7: To the River!

Last day! We were up early, but for whatever reason, we could never actually leave camp before 6:45. Luckily, we were on the “going out” side of town. We cruised along for the first (long) segment, actually earning me my best 40k time on the Garmin. The friendly winds *may* have helped.

It was crowded. I don’t have any photos. The crowds look the same as they did on other days. You do get used to it, and better at riding among the masses, but it takes a lot of mental energy. On the last day, everyone is heading for home, and this was a long day of riding (72.8 miles to the cars), people were pretty motivated.

In West Liberty we looked for the shortest lines and ended up with quite adequate egg and cheese sandwiches from the Rotary Club. And on we went. By the next stop in the meeting town of Wilton, I was ready to drop off the team’s ambitious pace, but a well-timed soda fountain stop saved me. The Wilton Sweet Shop is an old-fashioned soda fountain. They really knew how to handle the RAGBRAI crowd. They had printed up menus of the available options, which did not include anything that took more than a few seconds to make. I enjoyed a Coke-flavored ice cream soda (essentially a Coke float), which was especially awesome since I had not had time for coffee earlier.

Our next stop was not a town, but an old church, New Era Church. Jacquie and I peeked in to see if it was tourist-worthy. It was a nice building, but no. This was clearly a red-letter day for the volunteers, one of whom was telling stories about his engagement 56 years ago. We ate from our sports-snack supplies here and moved on to the “big hills” of the day. They weren’t so bad. At the top of one of the hills, Left Hand Brewing was giving away free beer. They were having a hard time getting people to stop. Crazy, right? But it was the last day. I thought about stopping, but the teammate I could see at the time did not stop, so I kept moving. When we regrouped a mile or so later, we found out that 1/3 of our team had stopped. Oh, well.

There was another free beer stop a bit further on. They were serving Busch Light, not Left Hand Stout, but it was the last day and we did not care. We stopped and toasted a great week.

The (almost) final 10 miles of the ride were on a highway into Davenport. It was a little unnerving, but we made it unscathed.

Our six-person team made it to The Mississippi River together (photo credit to reluctant cyclist Jacquie, who is thus not pictured).

The real final two miles of the ride were uphill to the parking areas at St. Ambrose University. We slogged together and one of the women near me remarked that this was quite unfair after we’d already crossed under the finish banner.

We loaded our bikes, picked up our bags, said our goodbyes, and just like that it was over. All of the pain and frustration forgotten in an instant. No wonder people do RAGBRAI year after year.

I checked into my hotel, took a non-truck shower for the first time in a week, and reveled in all the space I had to myself. Maureen was on a train that was supposed to arrive in Galesburg, Illinois (about an hour from where I was in Davenport) around noon. Unfortunately, the Amtrak train was delayed (insert shock emoji 😮) quite a bit. I had time to walk around Davenport, where there were Bix 7 and RAGBRAI parties on the streets, cancel our 7:30 dinner reservation, get some less-exciting Chipotle dinner (it was satisfying though), and shop for ice and groceries before picking her up at about 8:00 p.m.

Now we transition to a more leisurely segment of summer vacation!

I don’t know that I would do RAGBRAI again, but I’m glad I went. My Vega’s Velos team was great and our charter (Brancel) provided excellent service at a reasonable price. The riding was challenging, but approachable with a few months of consistent training. The scenery was beautiful (yay cornfields) and we had magnificent weather (we were very lucky). Iowa towns were welcoming and I was easily able to find food I was willing to eat. I am tanner and fitter than I was a week ago. Life is good and now I get to have a little van trip with Maureen. Onward!

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