The last day of RAGBRAI started at dawn with the sounds of lots of riders already breaking camp. A groggy peek outside of our tent showed a steady stream of riders already heading out of town at 6 AM. Seriously, people start riding at 4 AM. That always seemed more like a ‘going to bed’ time than a ‘get up and bike’ time.
The forecast called for heat, sun, headwind, and hills – lots and lots of hills. We scrambled to get ready, slapped on a thick coat of sunscreen, and mounted the bikes at around 7. Two days of riding, a lot of sun, and not enough water or caffiene left me with the start of a screaming headache. A quick stop for Advil put things just right.
The start of the day’s ride called for a few miles of rollers with a long, steep downhill into Elgin. Immediately after Elgin, our biggest climb of the trip would bring us out of the river valley and back onto the bluff. We rolled over 30 miles an hour down into Elgin enjoying the cold breeze as it rushed by us. In Elgin, we took a quick break to fill water bottles and to use the portable biffys.
Please people, latch the portable biffy.
When you walk up to one with the ‘green’ indicator and open the door, there is NOTHING funnier than the surprised look on the occupant’s face when their peaceful little throne is suddenly looking at the outside world. Heh.
Soon, we were clenching just as bad as that poor soul as we saw the long climb out of Elgin. Somewhere on Day 6, I think I decided that I wasn’t too bad at climbing hills and that I did better when I charged up them. So, away I went. It’s hard to charge for 2 miles when it’s uphill the whole way. The nice part about charging up the hill is that you can stop and rest at the top and wait for the rest of the crew.
A simple little cruise took us into Gunder, a little Scandinavian village with a church and a bar. Yep, the two things needed to be an Iowan village. We partook in some Lefse and a couple of monster cookies before riding out of town.
On the way out of town, we noticed an especially bold group of cyclists getting rid of uh.. spare Gatorade. Did they bother to get into the cornfield? Nope. Side of the road. See, there really aren’t many man-made bathrooms along the route – but there are an awful lot of natural ones! 7′ tall corn obscures anyone. Every mile you see somebody laying their bike by the side of the road and making a beeline for the field. Note to self: Self, wash your corn-on-the-cob extra well next time!
The 7.9 miles from Gunder to St. Olaf started turning into more and more hills – you were either coasting down one or puffing up one. This leg at least went fast as we spent the time chatting with Tricia Englehardt – on her ~20th RAGBRAI. Another long, steep downhill brought us into St. Olaf. We got another snack (see a theme?) of chicken and pork sandwiches in the fire hall. We tried to get rhubarb pie for the 3rd consecutive day and got laughed at – apparently we were at least 3 hours late for that. Like I’ve always said – it’s the king of pie.
As hilly as the last leg was, it was just a warmup for the 8.7 miles from St. Olaf to Clayton Center. This had to have been the hardest leg of the trip – it was big hill after big hill. They’d bring you down a big hill just to shoot you up another. To make matters more interesting, it was starting to get hot and the headwinds were really picking up. We stopped for a short time in Clayton Center and kept rolling to Garnavillo to beat the heat.
Garnavillo was the last stop of the day and the ‘lunch’ town. In the center park, they had a large tent with a big church food line. Everything was ala carte and we ended up with $10 of food each by the time we got loaded up. We had beef sandwiches, pork sandwiches (with honey BBQ sauce), pasta salad, a big pickle, strawberry shortcake, and a beverage. Yum!
The homestretch was a 14.5 mile cruise to Guttenberg (pronounced GUT-en-berg, not GOOT-en-berg by the locals). The first 9 miles of that was up another BIG hill and then a long cruise into a stiff wind. I almost set off with only one water bottle, and Kermit forced me to haul another up the hill with me. Much as I hate to admit it, he was right. At the top of the hill, it was heaven to pour it over my head in the 90 degree heat.
The hill down into Guttenberg was extremely steep. It goes from the top of the bluff to the river valley and is marked on the map as “extremely dangerous”. We got held at the top while ambulances hauled away an injured rider – a not-so-subtle reminder of the dangers ahead. Once that cleared, a cop let us through one at a time.
Even riding both brakes, it was a struggle to keep the bike under 30 mph – and we could have done 50. There was a scary moment as a rider right behind us blew a tire near the bottom at 30 mph. Somehow he didn’t crash. He was a lot luckier than Team Wheel bus. Their team bus lost the brakes on the hill and careened out of control before crashing in a fiery wreck at the bottom. We didn’t see this until afterwards.
After riding through Guttenberg, the route took you right down to the river where you dip your bike tires into the river at the end. Entire teams were riding through town in formation to form up and pose by the water. It was very cool. Of course, lots of riders were riding their entire bike into the river.
Official daily stats from Day 7, as recorded by Heather “Lancette” Armstrong:
- Average Speed: 12.81 mph
- Max Speed: 33.7 mph
- Total Distance: 56.47
- Ride Time: 4:35:35
That’s it for this year’s coverage. We’ll be back bigger and stronger next year, but before then – we’ll probably need a new crew and a real team name. Our ideas (including our bad ones) are:
- The Raging BuckFutts (Heather didn’t like this one for some reason)
- Team HC – complete with a chicken-headed horse for a mascot
- Team 667 – The Neighbors of the Beast
- Team Frog – what we rode under this year
- … okay, I admit – we still need help. Any ideas?
The complete photo archive is at: RAGBRAI XXXIII Gallery