Day 5: Altoona to Grinnell - 58.31 miles
It was awesome to get some real sleep in an air conditioned room, a shower than had a steady temperature and one I could use as long as I want, and to not have to break down camp.
Billy Jo dropped me off at a gas station in Altoona and I was on the road right before 6am. They planned on sticking around the hotel for a few hours and then head to Grinnell and wait for my pickup call.
Not many towns at all today. And while it was the shortest day mileage-wise, it was another hilly one. Unfortunately the hills were mainly concentrated to the last half. It was cooler but still very humid.
I stopped in Colfax for breakfast, where I talked to a guy I ended up seeing every day - a guy doing the entire RAGBRAI route...by skateboard. He said he was averaging about 10 miles an hour...pretty cool! Leaving Colfax's downtown area there was an immediate HUGE hill, one that I basically started up from a dead stop. I made it, giving me a much needed ego boost.
As I rode into the small town of Baxter there were several elderly ladies handing out freeze pops. I politely declined but the last woman gave me a look, shoved a cherry one in my hand, and said "oh just TAKE IT, dear", never once stopping smiling. I obliged. She was right - it was wonderful.
Soon after Baxter would be the only time I would be riding in the rain the entire week. I had stopped by the Iowa Conservation Team tent just before it started pouring. They were great - free water and bananas every day. After the pouring slowed to a steady rain I took off again. 20 minutes later the rain stopped, never to appear again.
It wouldn't be RAGBRAI 2011 if the headwinds didn't kick up towards the end. They made the downhill coasting speeds suffer, something I didn't want. I felt the very real bonking possibility returning so before I continued to the end I stopped at Rock Creek State Park where I enjoyed a hot dog and a orange push-up ice cream bar. This kept the bonk monster away, although barely. I rolled into Grinnell to a park where I thought my support team would be able to get me. They were in town a few blocks away. I gave them directions and collapsed on the grass. The police did not want to let Billy Jo turn down the street I was on but she told them I couldn't bike any more and he let her pass :).
Physically, I had good news and bad news...my left knee pain, plaguing me most of the year after mile 30 (and after mile 0 on Monday) was absent both for yesterday's century and today's hills. The masseuse told me it was likely my IT band. He fixed me! No need to see an orthopedic doctor anymore! The bad news? Despite applying generous and frequent amounts of chamois butter, the saddle sores began. Nothing will end a week cycling quicker than out of control saddle sores. I had to pray that the A+D ointment would do it's magic the 18 hours a day I wasn't on the bike.
It was 100 miles to the hotel room. I slept in the backseat with the dog.
Thursday night about 8:30 Dan showed up. I briefly saw him (I was asleep by 6 pm). Dan would be the rock star driving me the 100 miles back to Grinnell at 4 am so I could start at 6 again.