BBIKE Rides RAGBRAI: Days 7 & 8
After nearly 500 miles of riding across Iowa, this year’s RAGBRAI is coming to an end. It’s a bittersweet feeling as the week wraps up, but my tired legs have definitely welcomed the final stretch into the town of Davenport that sits on the bank of the famous Mississippi River. But the final two days of RAGBRAI L were nothing short of action-packed and riddled with unexpected challenges and storms!
Day 7: The second really long day in a row, this ride was slated to be a difficult one. We had been saved by the cloud cover and slight afternoon drizzle the day before but the sun was shining in full-force on Friday. The 80+ mileage was going to be a long day in the saddle while we were aided by a bit of a cross-tailwind. We took occasional breaks and made sure to continue eating despite our lack of appetite because of the heat— but some Iowan food classics continued to fuel us along the way. At the end of the day, however, my right knee got a bit inflamed, making hard to put power into the pedals. Some ice and a gradual pace got me to the finish as I didn’t want to test my luck pushing too hard the last stretch.
We set up camp in the shade and made our way to that night’s RAGBRAI concert to grab a drink and some food. Within minutes, an official on the loudspeaker alerted the thousands of cyclists to take shelter inside the local high school due to the ominous incoming storm front. Amid the blaring sirens of the town’s storm warning system, we went inside— closely watching the outside conditions— as the sky fell pitch black and wind speeds picked up significantly… a real Midwestern storm was approaching! Expecting the worst, we ran back to our tent in the dark, torrential rain to collapse the poles and place our bikes on the flattened tent, preventing it from flying away. Back inside, we waited for the worst of the storm to pass for an hour or two. We came back to our tent to find that it was, luckily, still there, but— very unluckily— it was filled with water! We had put the rain fly on but it had folded over due to the high winds and let huge amounts of water inside the tent, soaking most of my dad’s items and some of my gear, too. Like a sinking boat, we had to bail out a couple liters of standing water because of our tent’s waterproof bottom side which is normally a useful feature, but that night was an unfortunate addition. More than damp but glad we still had a tent to climb into, we went to bed before the final day of RAGBRAI L, hoping (but not expecting) things would dry out overnight. But hey, things that go wrong make the best memories.
Day 8: While not the worst thing in the world, putting on damp, wet clothes on a dewy morning is not the way I wanted to start off a day of bike riding. And thanks to the storm the night prior, I had to slither into wet apparel and hop on the bike. But today was the final day! That said, it was still a long nearly 70-mile day of riding so I couldn’t get ahead of myself and anticipate the eventual arrival to the Mississippi River too early. We appreciated the cool foggy morning and extended cloud cover that kept the day’s heat at bay, the moderate temperatures also helping my tweaked knee from acting up. Headwinds flared up here and there but we were motivated to finish and get to the town of Davenport and celebrate. We rolled into the river city and were welcomed by food vendors, beer gardens, and a great band, as well as a family friend that would drive us back to our departure point— we were now on the other side of the state! High-fives and hugs shared, my father and I were happy to have finished. Apart from the shocking storm the night before, no serious mishaps interrupted our trip.
My reliable BBIKE EXP Gravel bike carried me all across the entire state, handling gravel and bumpy Iowa roads with ease. I’ll be posting a comprehensive review of the capable gravel bike soon, so keep an eye out for that! As I recuperate from the long ride, I’ll also be writing a post-ride reflection on the 50th anniversary of RAGBRAI and sharing more details of my experience. Thanks for following along on this summer journey and until the next post…