Sunday, July 25, 2010

RAGBRAI Day 1: Rolling hills, a useless bike lock, and free beer

A few scattered thoughts after my first day of RAGBRAI:

  • I'd love to tell you that there was some sort of epic starting ceremony where 10,000 riders biked out out of Sioux City at once, but that simply wasn't the case. People are pretty much allowed to depart from camp whenever they wish. Some of the bikers camping in my area were gone before I even woke up (and I was up by 5:30 a.m., no small feat). For non-team riders, the only time element to be mindful of is the baggage truck. The truck departs from the campground at 8 a.m. every morning, so my usual sleeping habits of waking up at 10 probably won't work here.

  • The item I will probably come to regret packing the most is my bike lock. There's been a fear of theft just about everywhere I've ever been with my bike. But after one day of riding, I can see that bike theft is the last thing I'll have to worry about. At stopping points, riders pretty much leave their bike wherever there's an open patch of grass (see first photo).

  • The RAGBRAI culture summed up in one statement: The small town of Kingsley (population 1,245) was hopping like the 4th of July when I passed through at 9 in the morning. Live music was playing at several locations, pancake breakfasts were readily available, and there were literally beer vendors at every corner. There was also a wonderful special on Bloody Marys.

  • The mix of people at an event like this is beyond description. In the span of one day of riding, I conversed with a Georgia Tech rower, talked about The Beatles with a 10-time RAGBRAI rider from Colorado and had a drink with a family from Independence, Iowa (near Waterloo). And that's just the start of it.

  • Difficulty-wise, 69-mile first day of RAGBRAI was tough, with rolling hills at every turn and the sun shining all day. But it was hardly unbearable. I stopped multiple times throughout the day, and still made it to Storm Lake by 2 p.m. I've heard from experienced riders that the next few days are considerably flatter, so hill haters rejoice!

  • The RAGBRAI book advises budgeting $35 for food per day, which made me nervous going in that I'd have enough money to make it through the week. But so far, that hasn't been the case at all. I spent $5 on breakfast at a Burger King in Sioux City, ate granola bars I brought with during the ride, ate a $1 ice cream sandwich at a random ice cream truck stop and got free watermelon and brats along the way (more on the brats stop later).

  • The passing towns have a variety of quirky free activities for cyclists to engage in. The second photo on the right is a picture of me dunking my head into a large tub of ice water in Washta. Considering the temperature was a balmy 85 degrees throughout the day, the quick cool down was greatly appreciated.
  • You can't go more than a mile on RAGBRAI without seeing signs for homemade cheesecake, pie, or other goodies to stop for. $2 stops for food here and there can add up in a hurry, so you can imagine my skepticism when I saw the sign in the third picture less than 2 miles outside of Storm Lake. I was in such disbelief, I asked three other riders whether or not the sign was a hoax. A few beers and brats later, I found out that it was indeed the real deal. On top of that, the stop also featured a live band playing covers of everything from The Rolling Stones to Eric Clapton. Easily my favorite stop of the day.

Evening plans are to check out the beach and lighthouse in Storm Lake, find a reasonable place to eat and hit up the downtown area for a free Johnny Holm concert.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Al!!
    Great post...glad to hear things are going well. I may come to spend Thurs night with and where will I find you?