Saturday, July 31, 2010

RAGBRAI Day 7: Taking a dip in the Mighty Mississippi

After a week of biking, tent camping and more biking, my RAGBRAI adventure has finally come to a close.

I got into Dubuque around noon today, having survived the 47-mile trek today that included the hill everyone's been talking about his week: Potter Hill just outside of Graf (also known as "Potter Hell" by the locals). By any measurement, it was far and away the most difficult incline of the week, with a mile straight of incline and more than half of that with grading in the 10-14% range.

Here is the of today's route; you'll see what hill I'm talking about. If the steepness of the incline wasn't enough, the road also wrapped around a hillside. To put that in perspective, imagine taking the Lee Blvd hill in North Mankato, adding a few degrees of incline to it (Lee is estimated at about 9% at its steepest), adding a turn in it AND making it about 2,000 feet longer. Oh, and to top that off, you have to navigate around hundreds of other bikers while going up it.

So yeah, Potter Hill was indeed a challenge. A good portion of riders found the hill to be too difficult and opted to walk their bike up it rather than biking up it. I am proud to say that I was one of the riders that didn't have to hop off their bike. I had to shift down into the lowest gear possible and visualize my high school football coach yelling at me during 2-a-days, but I made it to the top.

So, with the big hill out of the way and nothing but smaller inclines the rest of the way, I did what many other RAGBRAI riders did to celebrate: I went to the nearest beer vendor and grabbed a drink. Once I got to Dubuque, I dipped the front tire of my bike into the Mississippi, then decided to join my bike in the cool river (pictured right). I only waded in most of the way up to my waist (there was no swimming allowed in the area), but the quick leg cool-down was refreshing.

Other highlights of the day included seeing the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, taking batting practice on the field (got one to the outfield, I feel pretty good about that), and stopping at a RAGBRAI staple food stand called Peanut Butter Jam. For the cool price of $4, you get a loaded pb&j with any of about 15 toppings to choose from. My pb&j sandwich (pictured right) also had the following toppings on it: marshmallow sauce, honey, raisins, gummy bears, Teddy Grahams, chocolate chips and banana slices. Sounds delicious, right?

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