Day 6 started very early for us – the wakeup call came at 6:00 AM. I guess that’s late for REAL RAGBRAI riders, but it’s a huge change for me. After the headwinds on Day 5, we wanted to roll early and try to beat them.
After our now-traditional PB&J bagel and trail mix, we rolled south out of Cresco. As soon as I sat on the bike seat, the memories of all 78 of Day 5′s miles were rudely brought back in the form of a rather tender booty. The 1″ of gel butt padding on the seat did its job admirably and it never got any worse during the day.
It was obvious from the start that today was not going to be a flat roll across the cornfields. The rolls started instantly out of Cresco and continued the entire day. By this time, I was starting to discover a hill climbing style that is more Jan Ullrich than Lance Armstrong – pick a big gear, pedal slow, plow up the hill. I’d race up the hill passing several – then get passed again waiting for the rest to catch up.
Our first break came in Protivin – a very Czech-influenced town that looked like it could be a suburb of New Prague. The Classic Renowns would have been right at home set up in the church yard playing toga rock for the biking masses. Multiple Oom-Pa-Pah bands were set up entertaining the riders as they passed through. This is where we first ran into Tony Wynorad – a good friend of Tad’s. Tony apparently does it every year.
After a quick stop at the coffee bus just outside of Protivin, we kept rolling to Spillville. Spillville gets the award for the town that really overachieved. They had been putting up signs all the way back to Cresco advertising their events. They hosted:
- A petting zoo
- Chicken poop bingo
- Butt quarters
- Pictures with “The sexy tractor” – a John Deere wearing a bra
- Frozen t-shirt contest
- … and much more!
It was good fun. We got a couple of pizza slices and made a brief stop at the petting zoo (in that order) on our way through town.
Apparently, in Iowa, it’s very popular to build towns in valleys. I can’t tell you the number of times we went down a big hill to a town, only to climb back out again once we went through. Spillville was our first introduction – our first serious hill waited just outside of town. None of the rest of the trip was even remotely flat. A 30+ mph cruise back down the hill while riding the breaks gave us a chance to rest a little as we rode through Ft. Atkinson.
Between Ft. Atkinson and Jackson Junction was the culinary high point of the trip. We stopped at the legendary Mr. Porkchop’s stand. Mr. Porkchop is an older hog farmer that drives a big pink bus and grills inch-thick pork chops over burning corn cobs. About every thirty seconds, he bellows out “Pork ChooooooooooooooooOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaAAAAaaaaappppssss!!!!!!!”. This usually starts a call and response by the riders. To really get the feel for Mr. Porkchops, you can hear him in action:
This pork chop was the best thing I put into my mouth the entire weekend. It was tender, juicy, and had the consistency of prime rib. Sure, we were eating it at 10:30 AM – but we had 25 miles under our belts by then.
Our lunch stop was shortly afterwards at Waucoma – only 19 miles from the finish line for the day. We met our Blue Ribbon (the beer, not the award) support team in the bar an proceeded to find lunch. We enjoyed a sliced beef sandwich (what else?) under a tree by the dam in the city park.
It’s tough to pedal with a belly full of meat. It’s even tougher after a 2 hour break. It’s really really really tough when the last 20 miles are solid hills. That’s what happened. Many intermediate climbs and one long climb awaited us as we got close to West Union. The biggest hill of the day was right after the last rest stop in Douglas. By now, it’s mid-afternoon, sunny, and HOT. Lots of bikers are really enjoying Douglas’s beer garden. I really felt sorry for them trying to trudge up the big hill to West Union with a belly full-o’ beer.
We had no host family in West Union, so we had to find Dale and Randy in the campground. This looked like an impossible task until we checked the message board. There, filed under “F” (for Frog) was the following message:
Kermit: We are 100 yards downhill by the big smiley face flag.
Wow! What a relief! We could have spent hours looking around town trying to find them.
Showers that night were a very interesting experience too. In the high school, both the boys and girls shower rooms were used by the girls. The boys got to shower outside under open skies. Yep, really. They had 4 ‘shower trailers’ with no roofs clustered into a semi-circle against the school. You paid $4, collected a towel, and headed to where the wagons were circled. Strange.
That night, we went into town again trying to find food hoping we’d do better than the night before. We succeeded in spades – we each had great food. I had a walking taco ( a bag of Doritos ripped open with taco meat, lettuce, tomatos, sour cream, cheese, and salsa poured in), Heather had one also. Kermit had some great pasta. We ate it all sitting on the front yard of the courthouse listening to a variety band.
BTW: Here’s the cutest shot of Heather sporting her new “RAGBRAI look”:
Again, we crashed fairly early after spending some time shopping in the RAGBRAI marketplace. We’ve got 54 miles and nothing but hills ‘n headwind awaiting us on Day 7.
Our “official” daily stats from Day 6, as collected by Heather Pacesetter:
- Average Speed: 13.41 mph
- Max Speed: 33 mph
- Total Distance: 59.17
- Ride Time: 4:43:24
The complete photo archive is at: RAGBRAI XXXIII Gallery