RAGBRAI


RAGBRAI Pictures

I took last week off and participated in RAGBRAI (Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa).

It was a blast. 7 days, about 70 miles per day ... there was an official town stop about every ten miles and vendors along the route galore. About 10,000 riders showed up. They mostly shut down the roads and let us ride. It definitely was not a race. It was sort of a cross between a traveling state fair, a circus and a parade. Most of the towns that we passed through went all out to decorate and make us feel welcome. In return, we bought many pieces of pie and corn from them. I think I averaged about 60 miles pre pieces of pie. There was some *really good* pie to be had. In between pie, I made room to stop at "Farm Boys Breakfast Burritos" Mamma Raphiels Breakfast Buffet" and of course a stop at "Mr. Pork Chop". (Yes there really is a stop along the way where you stand in line to get a Pork chop).

With so many riders there were pretty much lines for everything.

Scatted along the route were Port-a-Johns, but cornfields work really well. Do you remember Field of Dreams, where the players fade in to the cornfield? There were a lot of bikers fading into the cornfields. (One of the Town stops was the "Field Of Dreams" town. No admission, you can really just walk out on the field and play some ball if you want.

When riding into town, bikes would bunch up and you HAVE to get off your bike to walk thought town. If you wanted to stop for eat or drink, it was a challenge to find a spare spot of wall or ground to lay your bike. At one town, we stopped at the fire station where they were selling Gatorade and corn -- I leaned my bike against a garbage can while I refueled. I came back to find a fireman standing their holding my bike. Someone had come to take the garbage away, and he felt obligated to hold the bike rather than lay it down on the ground. You just gotta love small town America!

I did have one moment of excitement.

Giddy in that sweet spot of energy that you get when the fullness from the last piece of pie fades and you start thinking about the next, me and another guy went speeding up the road breaking away from the pack. (There were riders spread out for miles and miles, but tended to clump into small groups. You could hang back and pick up a group behind you or speed up and catch a group ahead, depending on your mood.

Anyway, I was going about 20mph when my front wheel caught a HUGE crack in the pavement and spun me sideways, pointing me directly into the cornfields. The shoulder was very loose gravel and then a steep drop off into a deep ditch, and (of course) corn on the other side.

Going straight into the ditch would mean a crumpled bike and a fly over the handlebars that'd probably not be kind to at least a couple of bones I care about.

Laying the bike down on the pavement wasn't a good option either. Hard pavement tends to scrape more than a few layers of skin off.

The gravel would be slightly softer than the pavement, but tweezing dirt and rocks out of abrasions would no doubt be less than pleasant.

Staying clipped in during a crash doesn't bode well either for parts that may want to flail in odd directions.

The best odds were probably with unclipping and tumbling into the ditch. With a lucky roll I'd maybe escape with minimal injury and a crumpled tire. Bailing would have been the smart move.

As I was careening about out of control, all I could hear were shouts of "Biker Down", "Biker Down" all around me. (Brief aside -- in a ride this size, you call out everything to alert other riders. Sudden moves tend to cause crashes, so calling out things like Car up, Car Back, Water Bottle down, On your left, etc, is the thing to do. But back to the story...

"I should probably bail now" kept running through my head as I went through a couple of viscous zigs and zags and a gravity defying skids before teetering on the edge of the gravel -- then finally making my way back to a straight line.

Under control, I couldn't help but call out in the loudest voice I could muster: "Biker Up!".

Thankfully, it happened well ahead of the pack so no one else was involved. As the riders who witnessed my near-crash passed me (I pedaled a bit slow for a bit, gathering my wits) they could not believe that I had actually pulled it out. One guy said he was already reaching for his cell phone to dial 911.

On the subject of cell phones, it was sorts funny to see so many people with cell phones that were darn near useless. The local towers were not quite equipped to handle an extra 10,000 calls.

Other than that bit of excitement, it was mostly just a lot of good fun. People of all shapes, sizes and reason for riding were there. I sat with an old man about 80 yrs old who rode in the ride 20 years n a row.

No matter how slow or fast you rode you were always being passed or passing someone. The odd part would be when you passed some little old lady or someone (more than a little overweight), you had to sort of wonder how the heck they got up there ahead of you.

Some people would get up at 4:30am to get on the road, other slept 'til noon. It was something to see and be a part of. www.ragbrai.com if you want to go ahead and get signed up for next year's ride.

My butt is nearly healed and am settling back into the working world.