Well, I survived two days at RAGBRAI, and had a blast!
Believe me, I am thankful for every one of the 1007 miles I rode before this trip! The first days ride was 77 miles, and I have done this before, so the distance wasn't the issue, but I wanted to do well....and I am very satisfied with how it went! It was a very hilly route, and we gained over 2000 vertical feet for the day, and it was all done with a headwind! Then, just for some added fun, it rained!! The second day also started in the rain, but it cleared off, and the hills were not as plentiful as the day before, and the wind was not as bad, so it went really well!
For me personally, it was great! Me and my 11 year old Roubaix (yes, I finally found out how old it is!) passed Bianchis, Cannondales, Lemonds, Treks, Schwinns, and many other brands of bikes that I've never even heard of before! (Of course, I was also passed by all these brands!) There were road bikes, hybrids, mountain bikes, single speeds, recumbants, tandems, recumbant tandems, hand trikes, pedal trikes, and other contraptions that I could not even begin to describe! There were kids, grandparents, riders in costume, riders in team jerseys (Team Plywood, "Fun to lay, Easy to Nail!") riders with almost no jersey, and some serious road warriors. Some of these folks walked up the hills, some just grinded up them, and some just flew over them! (I thankfully fell somewhere in between the second two categories!) If a person does a little training, and has a bike, they can do this ride! Novices and the road warriors all seemed to peacfully co-exist.
The official hours for riding are 6 AM to 6 PM. However, you can start when you want to. (No mass starts, no big crashes!) We were on the road by about 8:30. When you would crest a hill, you could see bikes in front and behind you as far as the eye could see! Quite a sight! The Iowa State Patrol and all of the other law enforcement agencies did a great job! In two days of riding, we only had to stop for one stop sign! At EVERY other intersection, there was an officer directing the bikes through! I personally said thanks to each and every one of them...these folks were also standing out in the rain getting just as wet as we were! And, talk about organization, they even laid carpeting over railroad grade crossings!!
The hospitality of the folks in Iowa was really fantastic! At the top of every hill was a stand selling water, gatoraid, fruit and so on for the benefit of the local fire department, boy scout troop or volley ball team. But, many familys set up free watering stations. It was not unusual to ride through a town and find that a citizen had wired a lawn sprinkler up to a phone pole so if you were hot, you could ride through the water. I am not kidding about this, one family actually had free beer, water, roast pork sandwiches, sweet corn and so on! I stopped to visit the Pork Chop Man (you'll just have to see it to believe it!) and on the second day, the putt-putt. What, you may ask is the putt-putt? A stand that makes home made ice cream, and the ice cream machine is cranked by an old wheezing B&S engine, just putting away! While I was sitting in the shade of a farmers machine shed, I saw another guy walk up and lay down his brand new Fuji road bike! I said "Fuji's rock!" and he asked if I was riding one. I said "Yes, an 11 year old Roubaix!" and a guy sitting just down from me said "Cool! I'm riding a 21 year old Fuji that I bought for my first RAGBRAI!!"
Have you ever been in a parade? In some ways, riding in RAGBRAI is like being in a 70 mile long parade! When you would ride through a town, the streets would be lined with people waving and cheering you on! When you were out in the country, you would ride past a farm house, and the whole family would be out there in lawn chairs waving and having a great time! There was one guy sitting next to the road, and there wasn't a car or house in sight, but he was there in his chair rooting us on! It was really awesome!
If I had not had to get home for other obligations, believe me, I would still be out there! And, I am already planning on going back next year for the 30th RAGBRAI!!