Council Bluffs to Harlan, IA (by bicycle)
The ride itself was pretty much what I expected. Lots of rolling hills to keep us hot and sweaty. The worst one was about five miles from the start. Maybe a mile? Mile and a half? It had the steepest grade of any hill we hit today. According to the elevation chart, we climbed about 2500 feet over all.
Plenty of folks sitting in lawn chairs waving at us. I figure if they can go to the trouble of getting up at 7AM to wave at a bunch of crazy people, least I could do is wave back.
Turns out we were here in 2008. I couldn’t have told you the names of the cities were went through then, so I’ve been surprised that I’m seeing a lot of the same towns.
It’s amazing the infinite variety of folks who attend. In the last 24 hours I’ve met a lady who flew here from San Diego with her dad and mom for their second ride. I met a lady lawyer and her husband doing their first ride. I was telling her about my rides to Chicago, Knoxville, Lake Erie, etc., etc. She trumped them all with her journey from San Francisco to New York by bicycle. (Even made a documentary about it. Promised to send me a copy!)
Tonight at dinner I sat next to a retired pilot from American Airlines. We talked a little bit about how the industry changed completely on 9/11. He has a daughter in Australia who is a massage therapist. Last night the guy who had a tent next to mine is one of the massage therapists who travel with the tour group. The guys sharing the room with me tonight come from Frankenmuth, MI, home of the world famous year-round Christmas store. (It’s on a par with Wall Drug in South Dakota.)
Earlier today was a couple from Colorado. She had recently completed a half-Ironman competition in Colorado. Told her RAGBRAI would be slumming. Asked her if she planned on doing the “big” Hawaii Ironman world-competition. She was unsure, but they both educated me on the competition, its rules, and stories of folks who’ve done it.
It’s amazing to see so many folks from all walks of life who share at least one love: bicycling. Those of us who have loved ones that tell us we’re absolutely crazy for all the bicycling we do (and the loved ones are correct, by the way) are always a little amazed at finding literally thousands of folks just like us. Would have to be akin to Superman finding the bottle city of Kandor. “Whoa, a bunch of little people all trying to find phone booths to change clothes!”
Harlan’s got no 3G / 4G / 2G / 2B or not 2B connections at all. Email, IM, web, nothing is working. So I’m typing it all in the Chromebook (also nearly worthless sans internet connection) for posting when I re-emerge into the 21st century.
Tomorrow’s gonna be a Mo-Fo day. 83+ miles to the next town, Perry. It’ll be the day with the most hills — nearly 4500 feet of climb tomorrow — and a body-sapping 93 degrees to keep us company. Those 20-somethings who have six pack abs and wouldn’t break a sweat bicycling up Mt. McKinley aren’t concerned, but those of us old fat guys have the “can I do this?” thought running through our heads. I’ve done it before . . . but as they say in the commercials for Paine-Webber, “past performance is not indicative of how bad you’re going to screw this up.”