RAGBRAI L, Day Six, July 28, 2023

Tama-Toledo to Coralville, 80 miles, 3,276 feet of climb

After a decent night’s sleep (thank you Foghat), I followed my usual morning routine, getting a coffee and banana before heading out. Once again, many riders lit out in the dark to avoid the heat, as today was expected to be one of the hottest so far.

Unlike the day before, there was no thin cloud cover so the unimpeded sun beat down mercilessly. I managed to get off before 7:00 am, my usual time, with the first pass-through town, Chelsea, 18 miles ahead.

The RAGBRAI pass-though towns provide relief, sustenance, and entertainment. But along the way between pass-through towns are dozens of pop-ups operated by locals. I had learned to rely heavily on these rest stops, where there was one or two about every 5 or so miles. Today these pop-ups would be the difference between finishing or failing.

Water. I’m going through 24 oz. water bottles faster than I can keep them filled. The temperature is nearing 100 degrees. As I pass through towns, locals hand ice cold bottles of water to riders. About every 5 miles or so I spot shade and locals serving cold drinks and pull over. I’m buying three bottles of water – two for drinking and one to pour over my head. At one popup the locals let me soak my bandana in a spare ice chest before putting it back around my neck for cooling.

Pass-through towns are spaced conveniently, about 7 miles or so apart, providing some relief. Locals line the route and spray passing riders with cold water from garden hoses and super soakers. In Oxford, the local fire department has turned on a huge sprayer, so I dismount and subject myself to a blast of cold water. Little things like this make it possible to keep going.

I reach Coralville and my campsite, and my Garmin displays 84 miles. I quickly head to the showers and then to the beer tent. I was hoping to charge up my phone or one of my power banks, and finally I spot an open outlet at the charging station. But soon after, charter staff announce that a major storm is heading toward us. They dismantle the charging station and take down all the canopies.

I learn that we can shelter across the street from the campsite in a local middle school gymnasium. I go back to my tent, load my luggage inside and lay my bike on its side, then scurry over to the middle school along with other riders. On the way, I see tents being picked up by the wind and sent sailing through the air. I cross my fingers that my tent will survive the storm.

I got there safely then realized I could have brought my power bank and charging cord with me. My phone is nearly dead. I snap a photo of the storm clouds and send it via text to my wife back in California. There isn’t enough juice for a phone call.

The storm eventually passes through and I head back to my tent, and discover my tent survived the wind and rain and all my stuff is dry, except for my bike. I get out my bike cover and arrange it so that if the light rain continues, it will have some protection.

As I try to fall asleep, I wonder about the next day’s ride and if the weather will have any negative impact. I fished the RAGBRAI L ride pamphlet out of my backpack and discover that the last day’s ride to Davenport will be 66 miles! Mentally I was thinking the last day would be a short ride. 66 miles is certainly less than 80, but will be closer to 70 by the time I reach the charter site. Oh well.

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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