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.
RAGBRAI, , 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.
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.
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.
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 gear...cool-looking or dorky?