RAGBRAI L, Day Seven, July 29, 2023

Coralville to Davenport, 66 miles, 1,604 feet of climb

Coralville is just outside of Iowa City, so right at the start riders are treated to another bike through a football stadium, this time the University of Iowa’s Kinnick stadium. After lapping the concourse, the route progresses through part of the campus, and I observe that University of Iowa campus has a classic Ivy League look and feel. The route heads down the main drag off campus. Since there was no coffee offered at the charter campsite, I’m now scanning both sides of the street for a coffee vendor. I find one, but the barista is only offering cold brew. Not my jam. I head on.

I really had to push myself on the last day. My butt is sore, I’m tired, I’m hot. I’m really not interested in the pass-through towns. I just want to finish. But when I reach Muscatine, I slow my roll and spend some time checking out this Mississippi River town. Turns out Muscatine is nicknamed “The Pearl of the Mississippi”. At one time Muscatine was a major manufacturer of pearl buttons, earning the title “Pearl Button Capital of the World”.

Buffalo will serve as the last pass-through town on the route. I don’t even bother to stop. There are 9 more miles to Davenport.

Once I reach Davenport I follow the signs to the area where the tire dip will take place. But once I reach it, I hear from other riders that they waited over an hour to dip their tires. Despite the lure of this tradition, I can’t afford an hour. I need to get to my charter site, get my stuff and then somehow get to my second charter site for the ride back to Omaha.

I find the signs pointing to the charter site and wouldn’t you know it, more hills to climb! Demoralizing when you think you’ve made it and you still have more miles and more hills before you get there.

When I do make it to the charter site, I have come up with a plan. The second charter site is near a casino about four miles away. I see the charter staff resting under trees in the shade. I announced that I had $50 if one of them would take me, my bike and my duffle to the casino. Right away I get a volunteer. We load my bike and stuff into the back of a pickup truck and off we go.

The staffer I’m riding with is a really nice young man. We chat about Iowa, working for the charter, his education, and RAGBRAI. We find the casino parking lot, unload my stuff and part ways after I put a $50 bill in his hand.

I locate my bike travel case and begin disassembling my bike. I get everything back in the case, close it up and hand off to charter staff for carriage to Omaha. The charter has an air-conditioned bus for the ride back across Iowa to Omaha. I met two other riders from California and we compare bike travel stories.

The bus leaves and we pull into a Casey’s parking lot where a different driver will board. Stopping at Casey’s gives me the opportunity to buy some beer and more Hawkeye vodka for the ride. There’s also electrical outlets on the bus so I’m finally able to charge my phone after it had died a day ago.

About four hours later we arrive at the hotel and wait for the truck carrying the bikes to arrive. This time I’m not going to rely on the second charter to get me to my hotel in downtown Omaha. I call an Uber XL and it arrives within minutes. The driver, Ada, has a fairly large SUV, so we have no problem loading my gear and bike into the back. Ada fills me in on all sorts of Omaha stuff as we head to my hotel. She’s super knowledgeable and really knows the area. I really appreciate it when shared ride drivers actually know where they’re going, rather than over-relying on GPS.

Back at my hotel, I take everything out of my duffle so I can rearrange clothes and camping equipment. Some of my clothing is still damp, so I drape them over the backs of chairs and stools to dry. I take a luxurious shower in a real bathroom, without waiting in line, for the first time this week.

I have all of Sunday morning and part of the afternoon before I head to the airport and eventually back to Los Angeles.

All my devices are now charged, so I call my wife before heading to bed. I feel relieved. I finished RAGBRAI L. It was hard. But I finished. I still recommend RAGBRAI if you haven’t done it. There is no other cycling event like it in the world.

Author: brianbartleyberlin

Adventure cyclist. No spandex, carbon fiber or cleats. My ride is a 2010 Surly Long Haul Trucker, made of steel, built to last.

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