Monday, August 8, 2022

RAGBRAI for a day: Take-2

Yes, I did it again.

With my love for all things cycling front and center, my heart was leading me to do it again. Not an entire week, but simply (I use that term quite lightly) for a mere day. 

It wasn't just any day, either. It was the final day of a famous 7-day trek (of numerous cyclists) across Iowa. 

I loaded up my hybrid, Krystal, and we made it happen.

RAGBRAI for a day...

Although I'm no stranger to this annual party of cyclists, it was only my second time participating as a rider. Last year was my inaugural experience (recap HERE). It was so much fun, I had to return and check out Day-7 of the 2022 route.

But first, here's a brief introduction from the RAGBRAI site:  

RAGBRAI, The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, is an annual seven-day bicycle ride across the state. Heading into its 49th year, RAGBRAI is the oldest, largest and longest recreational bicycle touring event in the world. For those of you who have never ridden, this rolling celebration of Iowa attracts participants from all 50 states and many foreign countries.  It has covered thousands of miles through the years, and hundreds of thousands of riders have hopped in the saddle to pedal part of those miles.

The RAGBRAI route averages 468 miles and is not necessarily flat.  It begins somewhere along Iowa’s western border on the Missouri River and ends along the eastern border on the Mississippi River.  We change the route each year. RAGBRAI is a bicycle ride, not a race.  It started in 1973 as a six-day ride across the state of Iowa by two Des Moines Register columnists who invited a few friends along.  It is held the last full week in July.  RAGBRAI is planned and coordinated by The Des Moines Register.

This year, Day-7's route had us starting in West Union and finishing in the extreme northeast corner of the state, in Lansing. The route was 65 miles, and it was going to be hilly.

I had driven the 2.5-hour drive to West Union on Friday (July 29th) after my workday was finished. We were up (myself, the hubby and the other peeps staying in our friends' RV) by 5:00. By the time we'd gotten all our gear in place and had some breakfast, we hit the road shortly after 6:00. The early morning temps were chilly (how does 55F grab you, on a summer morning?).

Our first pass-through town, Elgin, was only about nine miles down the road. The sky was clear and the sun looked enormous rising over the eastern horizon. It takes several minutes (and several miles) to get used to the strong "scent" of agriculture. Let's just say those pig farms were smelling pretty ripe in the early hours.

We arrived in Elgin a little before 7:00. The hubby grabbed a coffee and I was ready for a potty stop. The main drags, in these little Iowa towns, get pretty crowded when the cyclists arrive on the scene. It's too clustered for riding, so we have to dismount and walk our bikes through the busier areas of the downtowns.

After our short stop in Elgin, the next town was Postville (about 17 miles away). Day-7's route had two major hills, and the first one was just outside of Elgin. It was a doozy, taking us upwards of almost 500 feet of elevation. I was able to pedal all the way to the summit, but there were many who had to assume the "walk of shame" to get there in one piece. We arrived in Postville just before 9:00. By then, I'd ditched the arm warmers since the sun had risen more and the temps were climbing.

Shortly after leaving Postville, though, the second big hill was awaiting our arrival. This hill wasn't near as steep as the other, but it was substantially longer (and still blessed us with 450ish feet of climbing). Let me assure you it felt quite grand to have that one done. The jaunt from Postville to Waukon was also around 17 miles, and we arrived around 10:30.

With 45 miles in, it was time for some (adult beverage) refueling. I also had some potato chips, which are my favorite biking snack.

After about 30ish minutes, we were ready to saddle-up and return to the RAGBRAI route. Back on the road, only 20ish miles remained, en route to the final town of Lansing. I have to say this was probably the most scenic part of the course. The countryside was simply beautiful, with numerous rolling hills that could be seen for several miles on either side of the road.

 A big treat, in this final trek to Lansing, was the huge downhill around mile 58. At one point, my bike computer showed I was coasting at 33 mph! This glorious descent lasted for almost four miles, and after the two tough hills we'd climbed to get there, it definitely was well-earned.

The hubby and I had ridden the majority of the route individually, but met up when we 'd arrive in each of the pass-through towns. I pulled into Lansing just after 12:00. It was so nice to see all the spectators lining the streets, greeting us. Some of the local peeps even had sprinklers and hoses, to help in cooling off the cyclists. The temps had gradually risen throughout the morning, and were approaching the mid-80F's, upon my entrance to this final town. 


Whew! I'd made it! Just over 65 miles of cycling. Just under 4.5 hours in the saddle. Average speed of 14.7mph. 

An interesting piece of trivia...I'm really good at choosing the high elevation days. Last year, the day I'd ridden was deemed the most challenging day of the entire week, due to the distance (84ish miles) and the elevation (2881 feet of climbing). This year, the 65 miles weren't a big deal, but those 65 miles encompassed 2966 feet of climbing! Lucky me, right? It's a good thing I do all those weekly rides on the hilly bike path, just saying.

Although I've only ridden twice, RAGBRAI is really something I'd like to make an annual endeavor. Whether I'll ever ride the entire week is still up in the air, but riding a day is easily doable (once the logistics are put in place). This year's route included a 105-mile day (the Wednesday leg), but it would have been difficult getting there (a good 3-hour drive), plus the hassle of leaving one's vehicle in the one town, then getting a ride back to it afterwards...before road-tripping back home. Instead, a few friends and I did our own 100-mile ride, on a more local level (recap HERE). Several of us are hoping the 2023 route will be more centrally located...but the 2023 route will not be revealed until January. 

A few final thoughts:
***Although we were on rural highways, just like last year, I never once felt in danger. The local peeps know, well in advance, when RAGBRAI comes to town, and they know that the thousands of riders will have the they know to avoid those roads. Plus, there are ample police officers manning the traffic.

***This is more of a ride than a race. It's very much a social thing. I had plenty of people to chat with, while on the road, and most were not from Iowa. 

***I've said this before, but I think cycling gear is more fun to admire than running gear. The jerseys are really cool (quite literally) as well as practical. It was interesting seeing the various organizations,  charities, colleges, cycling clubs, and racing events featured on the cyclists' backs.

***Unlike runners, cyclists don't seem to have any phobias or superstitions about wearing the event gear the day of the event itself. While I saw many, many RAGBRAI jerseys from years past, I saw even more showcasing the 2022 logo and artwork. I had the hubby get me a 2022 cycling tank/jersey myself...and I had zero reservations about wearing it.

So, what ya say? Is RAGBRAI, or a large ride of a similar nature, something that you'd ever attempt or consider? Would you "go big or go home" and take on the entire week, or just do a day (or two) instead? Your thoughts on biking or dorky?

  I'm linking this with Kim and Zenaida for the Tuesday Topics Link-Up

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  1. Well done on those 65 hilly miles, Kim! I remember your recap from last year and how much fun it was. This year's didn't disappoint either!!
    I'm not sure if I could do all 7 days. But if I had an event like that in my neighbourhood, it would definitely something that I would aim for.
    With all your biking, I think it is definitely in the cards for you in 2023! What do you think?

    1. Well, I do plan to return for at least one day. Depending on where the route is, I could potentially do a couple days.

  2. Congrats on completing two legs o RAGBRAI this year, Kim! And thanks for recapping - I so want to do it someday. You know I love my hills and I'm heading out for some hill training now. I agree, cycling kits are so much cuter than running clothes!

    1. I just got back (a few hours ago) from my weekly hilly ride. Those hills keep us humble, but I feel so accomplished after finishing!

  3. i know this sounds insane, since I've said I don't really enjoy cycling, but the entire week sounds intriguing to me! I love the thought of seeing the entire state like that, from one end to the other. This sounds like a very cool event. I'm glad you're doing it annually so we get to hear all about it!

  4. This is amazing... Not something I aspire to since I don't enjoy biking. Happy to read about others' exploits.

  5. Those hilly miles sound tough, but you're tougher! Again, so proud of you for this awesome accomplishment!
    Side note: One of your photos just reminded me that I haven't had an Angry Orchard drink in a while and i need to change that lol

    1. I don't drink much, but I do like a tasty Angry Orchard mid-rise (and often times afterwards, too!).

  6. I had not realized this was a 7 day event! How cool. I've done a few of these cycling events over the years and yes, the social aspect is really fun. Looks like you had a nice cooler day too. Congrats to all of you! Nicely done

    1. The weather was a huge blessing for the week of RAGBRAI. It was still warm, but the previous week (and this past week) were much more hot and humid.

  7. Its interesting how different cycling is from running! This sounds like a fun event (although not one I could do any time soon- I haven't been on a bike since middle school!)

    1. Yes, there are some difference between the sports, but a lot of similarities in regards to the camaraderie.

  8. I love how into cycling you've gotten! This sounds like a cool event!

  9. Well done, Kim! I love how it is a well known event and people know to stay off the roads and give you the right of way. Another Kim I know also does this event with her family. I don't think she does all 7 days but a day or two. Seriously, I cannot imagine riding for 7 days!

    1. I've never done the entire 7-day thing ((yet)), but it's is pretty easy-paced. I'd think after the first few days, your body just goes through the motions.

  10. I love cycling jerseys! There are so many different designs like you said. I need to get another one :) Well done on this event. Sounds like a really great ride which I would enjoy!