Ragbrai - Riders on the Corn

A Doug's Life
[Above: Steve's along for the ride today.]

I was so happy to finally get to sleep last night - being that I had done yesterday's epic ride trying to outrun a fever and burning throat.

In the morning I awoke to everything soaked from overnight fever-sweat. I felt drained and dehydrated, but my sore throat was gone. Wow, a small win. I'll take it!

The ride for the next day was 60 miles to Carroll Iowa and was the “I Ride 4” day. Riders pay tribute to those they are fundraising for -or- ride in remembrance of - with special signs or t-shirts.

My plans for decorating my favorite riding shirt with a "Steve tribute" completely failed (long story, but the intense humidity was the problem) so instead I created a makeshift placard for my map case at the last minute. I had ordered a special Steve button as the centerpiece of my tribute ideas. (See above photo.)

As the ride started, I felt better - but after yesterday’s epic push, was struggling to find my riding groove. It was great to have Steves smile with me, a nice boost. I had friendly chats with others who recognized the MJFF charity.

Normally more engaging, I avoided talking with other riders since I just wanted to make it through the ride, concentrating on my cadence, nutrition and hydration. My throat felt better but my voice was shot.

Today’s ride also included an optional all-gravel dirt road route. I had been looking forward to riding this at one point but cancelled. It would have taken several extra hours and would have been too strenuous for my current condition. Turns out, I was able to get in some dirt miles later in the week.

... ... ... ...

A Doug's Life
[Above: Carroll High School. We camped on the athletic fields and used the school's locker rooms and showers.]

So far, I noticed I wasn’t having any pain issues I would normally be worried about - knee and hip especially. Perhaps the humidity had some sort of positive purpose after all - keeping my joints limber.

Thankfully Mi Sombra was just fine too. No tire problems like I had during my shakedown rides. A minor issue was my camera bag zipper failed on Day 1, but it never became a big problem.

A Doug's Life
[Above: Carroll High School. According to local law, being football champions is required.]

... ... ... ...

A Doug's Life
[Above: Des Moines police playing it safe on a glass pedestrian bridge. Don't want to get too close to those rabid Ragbria'ers!]

The following day we rode from the farmland into urban Des Moines, the capital of Iowa. At only 50 miles, it seemed so easy to knock off the miles, even though I was still not 100%. I felt great to be able to keep the pace and really enjoy the riding and the sights.

But the routine of this week was starting to catch up with all of us. Ragbrai is no joke, with its big daily miles and tight schedule between dismounting at the end of the day and pushing off the next morning.

When me, Alan or the rest of the gang found each other out on the road, there was much conversation about the maze of logistics to set up camp, shower, eat and get to bed at a reasonable hour.

There were an additional 5000 estimated riders just for this day – going into Des Moines. The big draw was the shorter mileage and the big Lynyrd Skynyrd concert that night.

I swear just the extra body heat out on the road made things feel more sticky.

Funny thing, no one I spoke to - my friends or just other cyclists - went to any of the concerts after setting up camp and eating dinner. Everyone agreed: Who has time for that! We gotta get some rest to survive the miles the next day!

... ... ... ...

A Doug's Life
[Above: The Ragbrai magic is real, folks. You can’t make this stuff up. The road was clear of riders after this spot, even at 10:30 AM! 😊 ]

Next up was the ride to Tama-Toledo, 88 miles. By this time both the heat and humidity were rising further – forecasted to peak the following day at 108 plus humidity.

I was feeling better, although still shooting snot-rockets and had a hacking cough. Energy was ok, though and being on the bike felt good. Travel sized tissue packs were now stuffed into every nook and pocket available on my bike.

Still, the amount of fluids I consumed, then perspired in a day was a lesson in fluid dynamics. I carried 2.5 liters of water and was going through that about 3 ~ 4 times on the hottest days. The hard part was ensuring salt intake with electrolyte mixes and salty snacks.

My routine had solidified during the last couple of days. I was feeling much better out on the road – and refined my camp setup, shower and dinner process.

A big fail was my lack of forethought on device charging.

At home, I threw together a wall wart, usb cables and a battery bank to help keep my stuff charged.

I didn’t test the cables, so some were dead. The wall wort was plucked from a bin of several in my office. Lucky me, I chose a dud. It mostly got hot and didn't charge very quickly.

I had researched the charging options while still at home and had come to the conclusion that there would be charging stations at each night's camp. Although technically this is true, the reality was that wherever there happened to be an outlet was a tangle of power strips cables and everyone sitting around babysitting their phone until it was topped up.

Ok, I don’t know who these people are, but I don’t have time for all that. And good luck wandering around to “discover” a station.

So, I resorted to other options during the day while stopped at some of the rest towns.

At a small park bench outside a real estate office, I noticed a double exterior plug. One was being used for their sprinkler system but the other was open. So discreetly assembled my cable and phone.

Then again, the next day while sitting up against a shaded wall of a bank, then another time outside an Urgent Care center.

Life by bike can sometimes be very unglamorous. Not once did I ever get a full charge.  Yes, I have a portable solar panel. Next time!

... ... ... ...

A Doug's Life
[Above: The farming community welcomes you at each town. Jeff glides under the cover of Old Glory.]

In general, I was feeling much better. The miles between towns were full of awesome views of the Midwest's astounding agricultural might. The silos. The huge machines used for harvesting. The old-time red tractors they haul out for display.

A Doug's Life
[Above: Old Bessie makes some new friends.]

The people that live here and work this land are out at the roads edge. They wave, cheer us on, spray us with their garden hoses or just sit and drink cans of beer with invitations to nap on their shady lawn.

All while rolling along with bikers up the way as far as I could see, the road reserved exclusively for those rolling on two wheels. The route is closed to vehicle traffic - except for rare situations.

A Doug's Life
[Above: All day, most days, this is your view.]

But the heat is the hot topic of conversation. There's constant chit-chat overheard while slowly passing others as they complain about it all, but I'm not overly heat stressed yet.

There are a few days to go, and we were about to get tested against the hottest day yet. Then a big surprise in the weather.

All that and some thoughts on my experience seeking out food in the next issue. 

... ... ... ...

If you've made it this far, thanks for taking the time to follow along. I hope you're enjoying these stories of intrepid travel by bike.

Any stories you'd like to add, or any comments are encouraged, just use the comment form below. Use the password: life is good


Comments (1) -


It's so cool to follow you along this journey. The towns appear to be so welcoming and prepared for everyone. The heat definitely sounds oppressive! The concerts are for the 20-year-old ragbrai riders haha!

Add comment

  Country flag

  • Comment
  • Preview