In 2011 & 2013 I wrote daily entries about my RAGBRAI experiences. This year I think I can summarize it all into one post.
First off, on Day One, Doug and I decided this is the last time we’ll do RAGBRAI. RAGBRAI is hard. It’s a lot of work for a “vacation”! And it’s not even the bicycle riding that makes it so hard, it’s dealing with the crowds, being surrounded constantly by other riders on the course, waiting in line for everything, getting up at the crack of dawn to take down the tent, get ready (including standing in line for the toilet), schlepping baggage to the truck, and trying to hit the road by 6:15 a.m. Et cetera, etc!
And sometimes the bicycle riding *is* hard. Our first day was 76.5 miles with almost 4000 feet of climb. That’s pretty hilly, and long. I actually had a good Day One, though. I felt that my hill climbing was solid, and not as slow as in years past. Day Two we awoke to rain overnight, and in the morning flew to the first town to beat more rain. After stopping for breakfast & waiting for a while, we rode in the rain for maybe an hour. I really did *not* enjoy this. I got cold, I worried about maneuvering on wet pavement surrounded by hundreds of other cyclists, and so on. But nothing bad happened & of course it got nice & hot later in the day.
Day Three was beautiful–good weather that was worth the price of a little rain the day before. 73 miles and not much climb, fun to ride…but at the end of the day I had no interest in riding the Karras Loop, which gives folks the option to ride one hundred miles. Day Four was the shortest day at 58.4 miles, but the entire day was a slog for me; I just never felt energetic. I had to grit my teeth and just do it.
Day Five was fun, 70.9 miles and we stopped at several small public libraries along the way. Day Six I can barely remember (wait–it was the day that a storm blew up and we camped out in a pie-serving church for an hour or two, and then we road in blustery winds until it got hot & sunny & humid & hilly again); the overnight town was Coralville, and I don’t much like the approaches into the bigger cities. They usually involve long ascents on noisy highways and finding our campsite gets more complicated… Day Seven was fun and fast (we hitched a ride to the midpoint and gave ourselves an easy day), and we got to cool off at a public pool in Davenport before being bussed back to Ottumwa.
So that was that. The one thing that makes it hard to say we’ll never do RAGBRAI again is the friends we’ve made by joining Spoke Folk, the Ottumwa cycling club. This is the third time we’ve camped with several of the same folks, and they are the best. It’s hard to say “never again” to them.
I have concluded that if I choose to do another cycling vacation, a few criteria must be met:
- it must last fewer than seven days
- the mileage per day should be around 50 miles
- the number of riders must be considerably smaller than RAGBRAI (15-16K riders per day, sheesh!)
- beds, flush toilets, and easily-acquired meals must figure in