Waukee to Newton

More Waukee 

There was rain off and on Tuesday night in Waukee, but nothing too much early in the evening.  The forecast said that it would storm later.  I made sure all the tent lines were tight, closed all the ziplock bags, and just settled in to read a while.  About 8 I got hungry again and went to the food area — found a booth run by an Indian family.  Gyros were their big seller, and there was a young guy making them at a fever pace.  I asked the dad for chicken curry, which was apparently not such a common order — he had to yell at his pretty teenage daughter twice to get her to start making it.  She heaped scoop after scoop of rice on the plate — looked great — then several spoons of curry, then a scattering of fresh tomatoes and onions, then a spoon of yogurt sauce.  She reached over next to the gyros grill to get a napkin, turned to hand it all to me, and the young guy whirled around with the latest gyro pita.  My food all went in the grass.  I was sad. 

They made another plate quickly, though, and I sat in the big dining tent to eat it.  I talked to three guys from Arizona who were at the table — they were just doing a few days of the ride.  They were amazed to find out that I was habitually starting between 6 and 6:30; they usually start around 8 or 9.  One guy introduced himself, and when I introduced myself to the guy next to him, he said, “I’ll never see you again anyway.  We’re not on the road at the same time.”  It’s true, really; RAGBRAI is a lot of different rides that don’t always overlap very much.

Anyway, I went back to the tent, and about 10:30 it started to thunder and lightning and pour down rain.  I was fine, the tent was holding up well and keeping me dry*, so I kept reading.  I fell asleep around 11, to be awakened by a lot of people yelling and a guy on the PA system announcing that a severe thunderstorm was coming, and that the shelters were open for anyone who wanted to go. 

I thought about it a bit, and finally decided that although the tent was good, it probably wouldn’t withstand a tree falling on it, so I figured it was best not to take chances.  I walked up the road to the high school.  People were spread out all over the floor of the cafeteria area, and I spread out my sleeping bag and lay down.  Listening to the muffled voices, suppressed giggling, and snoring all around me, I was thinking how this must be the way people slept for large parts of human history — a bunch of people on the floor of  a large, cavernous space all at once.  It was oddly soothing, and I fell asleep. 

Waukee to Newton

I got up at 5 (I didn’t bring my alarm clock, but people were stirring) and walked outside with my sleeping bag.  The local TV station had a camera and a reporter, who asked me how it was last night.  I think he was slightly disappointed that I was actually in pretty good spirits and had slept well. 

The tent was mostly dry when I got back; a little seepage in the floor around the front, where the ground cloth doesn’t reach very well.  I packed it all up, including the very wet tent, and hauled it to the truck.  There were a lot of wet bags going into that semi.  I went to the pancake tent and ate there before leaving, in the process talking to a guy whose tent had more or less totally collapsed.  I was fortunate in that I’d used mine backpacking before, and had been through some storms in it. 

I got on the road at 6:38 AM.  The route started out northward, with a pretty good tailwind, and I made good time the first 15 miles.  Then it turned east, and it became clear that we had a SE wind.  A serious headwind again.  I wound up working a bit harder today than yesterday, and a couple of times I found other guys going about the same speed and had some moderately organized pace lines.  Having other people with you spurs you to a little more effort. 

I didn’t stop very long at any of the pass-through towns today, but I still find the level of preparation amazing.  All of these little towns have been working for ages to put together a “street fair” for the  RAGBRAI riders.  Even if they are trying to sell stuff, there’s a sense of innocent enjoyment of free entertainment that I find moving.  I don’t know if it’s fatigue, or my natural soppiness, or a combination of the two, but I often find myself getting a little teary-eyed as I come into a town.  A line of little kids stood by the side of the road coming into Mitchellville with their hands out so the incoming riders could “side-five” them.  A woman in Colfax was wearing a red-white-and-blue Miss Liberty outfit and holding aloft a water bottle (send us your tired, your dehydrated).  Everywhere people are sitting in lawn chairs on their lawns or driveways, waving and greeting the riders as they go by. 

Newton

Newton’s theme for RAGBRAI is “racing into Newton” — they’re the future site of the Iowa Speedway.  They had a big finish line set up with people checkered-flagging the riders, and people lined up along the road cheering and applauding every arrival.  Remembering that RAGBRAI is a lot of rides, they must have been doing that a very long time. 

The campsite near the baggage truck is a wooded area in a big park, and I spent a long time choosing just the right site, high, well-drained, in a clearing away from trees, but near enough to be shaded.  I spread the damp tent and other gear out in a sunny spot and read the Des Moines Register free RAGBRAI edition while it dried. 

Once I was set up, I went to the pool for a shower and swim**.  It’s an elaborate water park, with two giant slides.  On the stairs to the giant slide I ran into Helen.  Later I talked with her and Arnie; their campground became a river last night, and they stayed with the tent (something Helen said with a certain note of disgust in her voice) to keep it from blowing away or something.  Anyway, everything they had was wet, and they didn’t get started until 8 AM.  I guess they were in a different ride today — forgot to ask.

Anyway, I got clean and cooled off, and went back to the tent to change and blog.  Supposedly the probability of rain is not too much tonight, so I’m hoping things will dry out.  Also, this will help with Lance’s speech downtown this evening. 

*Really the only problem with the tent was the continuous stream of idiots that had to try to walk in the 9-inch space between me and the next tent, tripping over both of our guy lines and loosening them repeatedly.  What is with people?  Never seen a tent before?

**I was watching people at the pool for a while.  It’s funny to see bike-riding women wearing swimsuits.  Their tans don’t fit their suits at all; typically the woman is all white from waist to knees, brown below the knee, and her torso is tanned in some pattern that matches a jersey or sports bra. 

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