Sunday, August 07, 2016

RAGBRAI - Day 6 - Ottumwa to Washington - 68.5 miles, 2541 feet of climb)

Day 6, Ottumwa to Washington, was a relatively easy day of riding despite being a little longer and steeper than the previous day.  I think the difference was that we'd crossed into the decreasing elevation zone (so you had more descent than ascent), we were stronger after 6 days, the weather was a bit better, and there were plenty of strong riders to hang with.  I spent a lot of time with two Team Cuisine riders who were averaging pretty much 20 mph spot on.  Everytime I dropped below 20 I had to speed up to catch them, so I knew that was about their pace.  Even uphill they seldom dropped below 16 mph.  When I pulled in later, Ming was only a minute or two behind me and Adam, although we missed him, wasn't too far behind.  This was a really nice day of bicycling, and what I look forward to on RAGBRAI, even if the best pie was the day before.  I sort of wished it was longer, but in retrospect once that sun kicked in, it was pretty darn hot again.  We managed to beat a lot of the heat to hang out in coffee shops and the theater.

Ming getting ready at Ottumwa in the morning.  He looks like a chupacabra, ready to devour your bicycle, just like the real chupacabra devours goats.

The baggage truck in Ottumwa.  I think this really captures how early we were usually awake and packed.  And we were never the first.  Plenty of folks clacking tent poles and the baggage truck dropping it's ramp before we were awake.  The worst part about leaving this early (in addition to not having lights on my bike) was that we sometimes got lost trying to find the route because there wasn't anyone to follow.  Ottumwa was a good example - we ended up routing around the north (?) end of the campground instead of taking the trail out like intended.  Only added a mile.  We got better and better at find the route signs, but it took some practice.

Packing in the dark.  My flashlight died - I was extremely happy my battery for charging my phone had a built in light so I didn't have to use my phone to see.  That's always an invitation to break it.

We stopped for breakfast at a turn off that wasn't obviously the stop.  Ming and I had to turn around and pedal back.  This is where I learned about the history of Chris Cakes and automatic pancake cooking.  It was threatening rain at this point, but we never got wet.

My least favorite stop.  There was no free water just "at your will" payment for water and watermelon and eggs.  Admittedly, you could pay $0, but that seems a bit of a hit to the high school kids running the stop.  I heard a few other folks talking about people filling their water bottles from plastic bottles of water later in the ride.  No one appreciated it.  If you look toward the back of the picture, you can catch a guy peeing in the corn field.  There were many father's taking pictures of their kids wandering out of the cornfield after doing their business.  I can only imagine those show up in graduation slide shows later in life.

Another picture of the town without water.  There wasn't much left to this town - everything seemed to be shuttered.  Reminded me of Donnybrook where my maternal grandfather lived.  When Ming and I biked there several years ago it was in a similar state of little left to see.

Adam pondering the next stretch.

We stopped in another town for pie.  It wasn't too long after breakfast, so I didn't think I was going to have any pie, but after Ming disappeared to the bathroom for over thirty minutes, it became too tempting.  Turned out he was talking with a former FBI hostage negotiator at a table nearby.

West Chester.  The town we all sprinted into I mentioned earlier.  Cool use of existing materials to create something unique.  My primary concern here was that there was a confederate flag proudly on display outside of town.  I wanted to ask the rootbeer float stand I visited whether they were affiliated as I wasn't keen on my cash going to racists.

A good photo of the wire bicycle parking setup in West Chester that's mimicked in almost every town.  It doesn't work so well for my sport bike because of the handlebar configuration.  But if you've got a roadbike, it's great.

Ming, running over a goat in West Chester, in line with the chupacabra comment earlier.  He had a root beer float as well.  It was a very good find at this point on the ride.

Washington was a nice town.  Probably my favorite stop, despite the two confederate flags we saw on this leg and a bunch of All Lives Matter nonsense.  I say nonsense because it's easy to discount the specific theme of "our lives matter too" when your state is something like 97.5% white and RAGBRAI seems to be even less diverse (anecdotal - could be more diverse).  And seriously, confederate flags in Iowa?  You're not that f-ing far south despite being in Southern Iowa.  The only thing I could intuit is that you were disappointed you never made slaves harvest corn.

They had a pig theme going on.  Here's the central park where they had entertainment and all the vendor stands.  There's a coffee shop on that corner up there where I hung out waiting for Adam and Ming because they went to the fancy showers and I used the closest possible shower to the tents.  You'll see that later.  But to continue my ALM theme (sorry, a bit of politics - I didn't start it), while I was waiting in the coffee shop two riders got into a heated argument about BLM and ALM.  The ALM guy was wearing a watermelon bike helmet, so I think he lost some credibility.  It got very loud until the BLM leaning rider said simply "I'm not going to talk to you anymore" at which point watermelon head grumbled "You've ruined my whole day and my whole ride.  This day is no longer fun for me."'re an idiot.  You don't want your whole ride ruined, don't start the political crap in the cafe with other riders (and he did start it).

During the entertainment later, one of the musicians on stage also took some time to explain All Lives Matter.  That ended how long I was sticking around.  Tun came up to us somewhat incredulous they'd do that during the ride.  Ming, meanwhile, was being creepy and looking for a geocache in the middle of a square crowded with people.

While we were leaving the coffee shop - excellent smoothies by the way and they stayed open after their normal hours to serve RAGBRAI riders - Adam pointed out that the "woman in panties" he'd seen during the ride was inside.  Ming and I turned around and pretended we were looking for things we'd left at the table so we could see who he was talking about.  I think they were more custom shorts than panties, but they could definitely be classified that way.  Frills and colorful fabric and short.  Ming said she was too tall for him which led to a joke about him bouncing off her underboob.  It was  funny thing to imagine.

But, prior to the politics, and afterwards, we had a good time in Washington.  For lunch, we hit one of the local restaurants.  There were actually two Chinese restaurants in town.  Ming was sure we needed to hit the buffet.  Adam and I wanted the big shiny non-buffet restaurant.  Ming gave in and admitted our choice wasn't too bad as far as Chinese food went.

And we got to see the other 85 minutes or so of Tarzan after seeing the last 5 earlier in the week.  The theater was pretty cool, having been in operation something like 119 years.  Looked a bit like the Pantages or State Theater inside with a balcony.  I took a few power naps during Tarzan.  It really wasn't very good.

Back at the campsite, they underestimated the amount of sewage a bunch of riders could produce.  The smaller shower house on the fairgrounds reeked of sewage until this team came in to figure out how to drain it all away.  You can get a baked potato down there in the lighted area - mmm....baked potato with sewage smell.

Other than that hiccup, the fairgrounds were very nice.  This is some local entertainment that did covers of upbeat female-centric country songs.  I sat there for quite a while listening to them.  They got their start on RAGBRAI a few years earlier.

It was a small crowd, so better than the crowded venue downtown.  But just as bad dancing.

I've RAGBRAI-ed in fair grounds before.  People take every opportunity to find some shade, including dropping tent in barns and animal stalls.  I'll intersperse a few examples further down.

The distance to bathroom was surprising.  I think it was almost 1/3 of a mile (or more).  I went twice during the night and was worried I might not make it.  There was a Hyvee nearby where we had dinner (we actually ate something healthy) and during the night Ming lost his way to the bathroom  and ended up at Hyvee instead.  But having to trek all the way to the porta potties did allow me to find the Spam Bus, which I've managed to find almost every year I've been on RAGBRAI.

This is where I took my shower.  No pictures from inside, but I can describe it.  It's where you'd wash the cattle (or horses).  A big cement area with nozzles and a truck of hot water hooked up.  There's a men's side and a women's side separated by black plastic.  Someone noted that this was the first time they'd seen volunteers having to watch for drones.  Not for the men's side, but for the women's side, as there was no roof on the cattle washing space (go figure, cows don't mind being naked in public).  Never occurred to me that tech might cause an issue for a traditional RAGBRAI showering option.

See...Cattle Barn.  Although we weren't under the awning, but out back.  I was a little worried about what sort of cooties I might pick up through my feet standing in an area frequented by livestock.  I guess we'll know in a few months.

More of their pig theme.  This was out back of the showers.  I'm not sure who they expected to see it.  I was only there because I was looking for the charging station.

More tents and bicycles in livestock pens.

And a few more.

Looks like their going to show their bike like some sort of livestock being judged.

One of the haybale pigs near the fairground entertainment.  Haybales are extensively used as art during RAGBRAI.  I didn't take a photo, but Ming has one, of the giant bear one town/group built out of like 5 or 6 haybales.

Washington Fairground central with light up bicycle art.

Spinny!  Reminded me of the Valentine's Day card Kyle and I built in High School out of 4x8s with flashing lights.  Maybe we could start careers as professional RAGBRAI decorators.

I'm not sure if it was because a lot of people were squirreled away in the livestock pens and elsewhere, but RAGBRAI seemed pretty sparse by Washington.  In Ottumwa and elsewhere the tents were packed.  One day someone even put their tent floor on Adam's stakes trying to wedge into a nice spot.  And around the high school and college earlier, all shaded spots were full and tents were everywhere.  This doesn't look typical at all.  Perhaps a lot of riders were from Ottumwa and just wrapped it up there.  I talked to a co-worker who rode with a team out of Muscatine and he said several people in his group wrapped up early due to heat and hills.  Or maybe people were just worried the next day was going to be raining.  There were flash flood warnings not too far from us the evening we were in Washington.

Larger Panorama View

A view from the direction of Hyvee.  You can't even see the porta potties in this picture.  They're way down the hill past that building on the right.

I can't remember whether it was this day, or another one.  As Ming and Adam say, the days start to flow together a bit.  But while I was riding I saw a woman with a Spring Valley jersey on.  I talked to her a while about Almanzo (I told Ming my tale of how far behind he was on the last hill keeps getting longer and longer - his time up the hill that is, not the time I tell the tale) and it turned out she was on the ride with her husband and they run the True Value Hardware in Spring Valley.  She'd had the jerseys custom made for the two of them.  Her husband sits on the board for Almanzo.  I also met a rider who's a teacher not too far from my sister's house (although not for my nieces) who had moved to Minnesota from Iowa. I like the license plates on many rider's bicycles that give you a starting point to talk to them about where they're from, why they're riding, how many rides they've done, and what they do off the roads of Iowa.

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