Day 6: Sigourney to Iowa City
I finally slept through the night. No trains, no storms. Apparently sleeping on a lumpy, non-level alfalfa field is exactly what I needed. I woke up quite groggy this morning from sleeping so hard and when at home I usually need a shower to wake me up. Morning showers are non-existent. As I result, I took off before sunrise, forgetting to eat anything. Not even a banana or Clif bar. It was 51 degrees when I left, and that will wake one up quite quickly. The sunrise over the farmland was stunning. It's one of those memories that will be burned into my brain.
It was quite hilly at the beginning, but hey - this is day 6, and between my preparation in the months leading up to this week, plus the 300+ miles I've already ridden in the last 5 days, they weren't bad at all. I still can't over the fact I like going up big steep hills now :)
In not so good news, I’m starting to get a saddle sore where my left ass cheek and thigh meet. Saddle sores are caused by friction and can be very very painful if they get out of hand. Every time I pedal there is a tiny bit of friction, and I have pedaled tens if not hundreds of thousands of revolutions just this month. I’ll likely be stopping in every single town to apply more chamois butt’r - a cream to reduce that friction. I stop in the small town of Harper to do just this, and while to get a banana to hold me over until I get to my regular breakfast joint in a town down the road.
After those hills at the beginning, it is flattening out some now. Despite the banana, I'm starving at this point, and my goto breakfast place has had signs informing me I'd be getting to them in ___ miles, in the town of Keota. When I arrived in Keota, I was surprised to be rewarded with.... a professional wrestling match. At 7:30 in the morning. French toast and body slams.
I watched some wrestling, stuffed my face, and got back on the road. More flatland - hey I'll take it. There was some headwinds at this point, so I decided to jump on a pace line for several miles, not something I did much of to this point, likely because I would have screwed everyone up on downhills. Pace lines are quite a challenge on a ride as crowded as RAGBRAI, but it was still fun.
The next town was Wellman where I was greeted with a free sample of rib on a stick. The past few days I had been eyeballing a food vendor making really good looking grilled cheese sandwiches. They were in Wellman. So was the salad bar, and I still hadn't satiated my veggie craving, so I got both. 90 minutes after that giant breakfast. I can't believe how much I'm eating. More on that in a future post. Leaving Wellman required going up a hill that was an 8% grade out of town. It was SO crowded that this had to be done on foot - everyone else was walking - no lanes to pedal up at all. I am not counting this as having to walk up a hill - I had no choice.
This day was great so far - I was stopping for extended periods of time in these towns, really taking it all in. It was 71 degrees and just a gorgeous day. It wasn't forecast to get much warmer. What a great day for biking, and I had no time restraints, nowhere to be. I just needed to be in Iowa City before dark- that's it.
The next town was Kalona, where I stopped again, and in this town I actually had a beer at the local brewery, Kalona Brewing Company. Kalona is in Iowa's Amish country, as roadside signs pointed out to be alert for horse and buggies. I did see one, but couldn't get a pic as I was trying yet again to not shit myself while barreling down a hill at high speed.
After Kalona came the town of Riverside, Iowa. Star Trek fans know this town. Apparently, Captain Kirk will be born here in a couple hundred years. I ventured off-route to get a pic of the birthplace for my friends who are fans, and moved on.
The next town on the route map was named Hills. Oh great, this is going to be fun. So many you name the town after them! There were tons of them, but as a local told me when I stopped at a gas station for a soda, that wasn't the town of Hills. Hills is flat- not one hill in town. It was actually named after the family who founded the town, not the grueling rollers just outside of town.
After hills it was on to the overnight town, or more accurately, city. Iowa City was about 10 miles away. It was headwinds the whole way, but I didn't care at all. This will go down as quite likely my favorite day ever on a bicycle. I now see how people will literally take 10 hours every day to get to the next overnight town. I don't understand the drinking all the way part, or doing this if it was 98 degrees out like in 2011, but on a day like this I totally see the attraction.
Throughout today I had heard from local cyclists that I needed to make a point of stopping at Big Grove Brewery once in Iowa City. Arriving in Iowa City, car traffic picked up considerably, and I approached an intersection where the right lane was packed with bikes waiting for a red light. I stopped, and the guy in front of me pointed to a building across the street and told everyone within listening distance that we needed to stop at the brewery just past that building. I figured it had to be Big Grove. It was. What an AWESOME place this was. Huge inside, HUGE outside, great food, great beer. I spent hours here. I still had no idea how far camp was, so my ride for the day wasn't officially over. No matter - it was not somewhere I wanted to leave too soon. I could have stayed there all night, but then I'd have to figure out where camp was in the dark, drunk, and on a bicycle with no headlight. After a few hours I decided it was time to finish my ride and get out of my cycling clothes and get a shower.
Of course I missed a turn leaving the brewery, and added 3-4 extra miles to my day before finding camp. I showered and decided to go downtown and check out everything. I was waiting for a shuttle when a couple of guys informed me they were waiting for an Uber and had an empty seat to which I was welcome. They simply wanted me to do the same for someone if I happened to take an Uber back to camp. I walked around for a bit, took some pics, and sought out a local beer. I was getting hungry and I knew dinner was soon so I decided to head back to camp. There wasn't a shuttle in sight, so I opted for an Uber. I found a couple of people headed to the same camp and invited them along.
The final dinner in camp was pretty good. I ate it while watching the band. At one point the charter owners got on stage and led a group sing-a-long of a RAGBRAI version of the song Hallelujah, with lyrics that are actually quite accurate.
After dinner I decided to head back downtown. I took a shuttle this time, watched soe bands, and wandered the streets and bars of Iowa City for several hours. It was now close to 10pm and I was tired. The last day was 70 miles, so I decided it was time to get back to camp and get some sleep. What a great day overall :)