Friday, July 30, 2010

RAGBRAI Day 6: Biking (and very little singing) in the rain

Sooner or later, Mother Nature had to make things tough.

RAGBRAI has had exceptional luck with weather up to this point. It's been sunny, but not terribly humid, moderately windy and the only time it rained before today was while everyone was asleep in Storm Lake.

That all changed today. It started raining early this morning in Waterloo and didn't relent for the entire 62 miles to Manchester. It never turned into a complete downpour, nor did it ever get very windy, but the constant rain wore on people as the ride progressed.

The majority of riders weren't as talkative as they have been in days past (myself included) and people seemed a lot more easily agitated by one another. I heard an older rider berate a young rider today for "clogging the passing lane" for bikers. The kid couldn't have been more twelve years old.

Like many riders, my pace today was considerably more brisk than it has been this week. Aside from an all-you-can-eat pancake stop just outside of Waterloo, I never hopped off my bike and made it to Manchester just a shade after 11 a.m, more than an hour earlier than I have been getting to host communities. Pass-through towns, which would normally be jam-packed with bikers and hopping with food and drink vendors, were instead putting an emphasis on "pass-through" part of their namesake. Most bikers just wanted to get the ride done quickly.

I'd be curious to see how much money pass-through towns made from riders today compared to the towns on previous days. I would guess the number would be very different.

On the bright side, the rain now let up in Manchester and other riders are beginning to come out of their tents to dry their clothes and explore the town. The general consensus around the campsite is that people are considerably happier to be in Manchester than they were in Waterloo.

Out of all the host communities we've stayed in this week, Waterloo would be at the bottom of the list for me, and probably would be for a lot of people. The main campground was on a plot of open land next to the Lost Island Waterpark and Isle of Capri Casino, which was south of the city several miles away from anything else in town that riders would've wanted to see in Waterloo.

If you weren't taking a $1 shuttle bus into town (and I haven't been because most towns are small and I'd rather save the money), you were forced to navigate confusing city streets and bad traffic to get anywhere. The Waterloo/Cedar Falls area does have a lot of bike trails, but none of them were anywhere near the waterpark area. It took me 40 minutes to bike to the library in Waterloo and, thanks to shoddy directions from the librarian, it took more than a hour to bike back. Most towns do their best to roll out the red carpet to RAGBRAI riders; Waterloo not so much.

The main campground was also a pretty poor setup. It was on bumpy, uneven ground with little grass and even less shade. On top of that, the campground was close enough to the main stage area where the music was making it difficult for riders to fall asleep. The waterpark area looked nice, but with a $20 entry fee, it was a bit out of mine, and probably a lot of other rider's, price ranges.

I belive Waterloo's intent was to funnel all the RAGBRAI activity to the casino/waterpark area. All it really wound up doing was making it tougher for riders to explore the town.

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