Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Strong Winds and a Strong Ride


An old "Service" Station, Lake City, IA
I wore my full FUCANCER kit today, riding for Jake. I packed the tent then asked a stranger to write "JAKE GRECCO" on my calves. Lots of people write "Virgin" on their calves to indicate they are first time RAGBRAIers but from the beginning I told Scott Scudamore that I would only write Jake's name on my legs.

I saw Scott at the camp site but he wasn't ready and I rolled out at 6:15 a.m. I rode on my own for 20 miles, almost always passing people and rarely being passed. And if I was passed I always looked to see if I could jump in and make or join a paceline.

Lake City, IA
Motto is "Everything but a lake"

Pace lines were discouraged if not prohibited. I already realized that a typical RAGBRAI pace  line was one guy pulling and 5-6 guys wheel sucking. They weren't pace lines at all -- just wheel suckers looking for a free ride.

But then three guys went by me and I jumped on their wheels. It was easy to follow because they kept a steady pace with a constant cadence - no herky jerky pedaling movements. When the first guy peeled off the front and slid back he saw me on 4th wheel. Without saying a word, I slid up to 3rd wheel so he could fall in behind me. Perfect. I was part of a four-man pace line.

They were three guys from Des Moines, Brad, Pat, and Joe, later to be joined by a fourth, Jay. At Mile 52 we stopped in Dayton and ate watermelon. Without a word, we were four. I was waiting for them and they were waiting for me.

Joe, from Des Moines, Stratford, IA
We went 10 miles and turned onto the Karras Loop. This 22-mile loop was designed to allow riders to turn one day into a century. Named for the founder of RAGRBAI, John Karras, he was actually at the stopping town on the loop, Stratford, for photos or a meet and greet.

The winter day I rode at Trexlertown, Pa., featured the windiest gusty day I ever rode. But I think this day was second. None of us knew for sure but 30 mph seemed like the right measurement. And so we rode directly into 30 mph headwinds most of the way. Or a lot of the way. And still we hammered it.

Brad (green) and Pat, in Stratford, Ia.
I stopped in Stratford for lunch and had the most delicious chicken sandwich on the trip. To my surprise or amazement, Brad, Joe, and Pat did too. It meant either I still had someone to ride with or meant more miles of suffering keeping up with the pace.

At Lehigh they stopped to find Jay and I searched for the hill climb. The Register promised a hill climb with a 20-26% grade. I found it. Joe and I did it although it was supposed to be a fund raiser for the town. Lay down $5 and if you can do it in less than three minutes they give you a koozy -- a foam cover for your drinks. We did it, neither paid the $5 for a koozy but both in under the three minutes. It was a formidable climb, even in Iowa. I suspect it averaged 15% most of the way up.

It was from these guys I learned how the non-registered riders do it. Being from Iowa they explained they all know someone who knows someone who has a great aunt living in one of the towns. They contact them to pitch their tent. There are port-a-johns scattered throughout the host cities and showers everywhere - in schools and portable shower trucks mostly.  On any given day one person doesn't ride but drives to the next location with their stuff then often doubles back on their bike part way to meet their group.

(It is always scary and dangerous to meet a rider coming against the flow of traffic.)

Today Jay met us in Lehigh. As we climbed out of the river valley we dropped Pat. I was hoping, even praying, that we would sit up and wait for him but they seemed to think he wanted to ride at his own pace.

And we rode at our pace, which into a strong wind, was hard. Arriving Webster City, we did a rolling goodbye, never to see, or even really know who my friends were, again.

In Webster City we camped next to a middle school. Showers were $5 and the school served a spaghetti dinner for $8. Entertainment was by Three Dog Night, which I did not attend. I didn't want to stay up that late.

This was my second century ride in a row. The legs held up fine with most of the damage from the hard pace into the wind. Average speed was almost 18 mph over these 100 miles which includes time walking through towns. Plus it was 100 degrees.

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