Webster City to Marshalltown, Iowa: July 25, 2012

After a day off – sagging this old, hot, and tired body – I am rip roarin’ and ready to go.  (I Googled it and it means what I mean, okay!)  I left before dawn today, at 5:12 a.m. and there were lots of other riders who left before me.  I have no lights on my bike – fore or aft – so I was very careful to be careful.  Actually, there isn’t a lot of danger except for running into something or more likely hitting a pothole you don’t see.  There were many other riders I caught up with so there were lots of lights around me.

It certainly was cooler at that time of the morning and today is supposed to be another hot day; nevertheless, I was looking forward to the ride 0n a 79-mile ride…my longest ride yet.

I wasn’t long into the ride when I realized unfortunately, I had forgotten my gloves.  I’m sure everyone knows these gloves aren’t to keep your hands warm; actually, they have padding appropriately placed to help, or should I say, delay your hands from growing numb.  That’s the reason you often see cyclists shaking their hands trying to get the numbness to abate.  Fortunately the first town had a cycling repair tent…there were several of these scattered throughout the route.  They are not permanent shops but the people who set them up are from regular shops.  They take a big burden off a lot of riders because without them we would have to carry a lot of extra stuff with them or else be stranded or worse yet, try to perform a repair on a device that we know nothing about except riding.

Fortunately they had one pair of gloves and they were my size.  I was happy to get them.  Unfortunately, as soon as I tried them on, I realized they didn’t have any padding in them at all…None!  So these gloves were only good for keeping a sweaty hand warm enough to produce more sweat.  I have never seen bicycling gloves without padding nor had anyone in the vicinity.  Fortunately, he took them back and refunded my money.  I rode the rest of the ride without gloves and felt like something was missing; however, my hands didn’t get any more numb than usual.  I have to wear them though lest someone think I don’t know I am supposed to.

This is Iowa and there is “Corn, Corn, Corn” and more Corn.


The heat was oppressive again today and this on my longest ride.  I started out thinking and continued this vein of thought for quite awhile that I could easily do a century today, but as the day progressed and the heat bore down, I knew this would not be the day.  I was looking for those “kids” who stood at the side of the road with a water hose ready to spray anyone who wanted it.  As I said yesterday, there seems to be very few waterways in Iowa, but here’s another small creek and the riders just keep going by.

Late in the ride, I was really overheating and there was a family out “in the middle of nowhere,” (almost everything in Iowa is “in the middle of nowhere” and I don’t mean that as a put down) who set up a couple of hoses to allow riders to run water over their head and body…what a wonderful relief.  I did it several times before I left.  They also had a dozen or so chairs around the yard for anyone who wanted to sit and rest awhile.  I did just that.  I guess that’s what makes RAGBRAI so great (that’s what the G stands for)…people helping the cyclists along their way.  That’s also the reason RAGBRAI has continued for 40 years and will for a long time to come, I’m sure.

As I said at the beginning I left about 5:15 a.m. and finally arrived at the campground…after multiple stops… and slow riding…at about 1:45 p.m.  That’s 8½  hours – which is a very long time for just 79 miles of riding.  Pictured here is part of the 470-mile buffet line.  Plenty to eat if you feel like eating. And this town even had special entertainment.

When I did finally arrive, I meandered through the streets of Marshalltown looking for the campground.  Yes, I had my Garmin GPS programmed to take me there, but I was looking for signs to show me the way or at least to confirm that I was going the right direction.  PBV posts a sign with a pig with a directional arrow; however, I didn’t know it at the time, there is a team with the name “hog” in it (Road Hogs, I think) who use a similar sign.  That’s how I went astray on my first day out following the wrong hog.  I arrived at our campground, went to my tent, laid my bike down, and started looking for the lemonade at PBV’s tent.  I found what I thought was the right place and sat myself down.  I looked around and didn’t recognize anyone.  Undaunted, I asked where the lemonade was.  A lady who looked like she was in charge, asked “what lemonade.”  Still too tired to be aware of my surroundings, I said the lemonade they furnish every day.  She said she didn’t know they did.  Finally, it came into my mind that I was not where I thought I was and I wasn’t going to get any lemonade here!  I asked…nicely, can I sit here a little while before leaving.  She was happy to let me do so and even said what a great idea to furnish lemonade (perhaps I helped some future RAGBRAIers).

Due to my being so tired and the temperature so miserably high, I decided to sag tomorrow.  As I told someone, I ride the bicycle for exercise and enjoyment…and it isn’t very enjoyable when you are miserable and feel like a heat stroke would be sweet relief.  I don’t want to make it sound worse than it was; suffice it to say…I didn’t enjoy the last part of today’s ride and for me bicycling is supposed to be fun.  There was something else working in my mind also.  I rode 79 miles today and did fine until 8-10 miles to go.  Yes, I was fighting the heat, but I worried about being physically able to ride an even longer ride the next day – at least 85 miles.  That worried me a lot, so I made arrangements to ride the bus.  And don’t forget, I live by my slogan or motto, “Pain is temporary; quitting is forever.”  Sitting here, as I type this, I have a little regret for not having tried; while, at the same time, I know I made the right decision then.  I am convinced that I can ride at least 100 miles in a day…maybe a long day, but I know I can do it; I just don’t want to do it to the detriment of my health.  I was right to not ride another day in such high temperatures.  After all, I am 74 years old!  (Hah, I can write that now even though I am 75 now, but I was 74 on that day!)

I made my way to the lemonade tent and after drinking my fill, I headed for the shower.  Remember, I learned my lesson about waiting till later to shower.  I found the shower line…the ubiquitous line…but at least it was not as long as yesterday’s line and waited my turn.

As we made our way, black clouds and thunder rolled in.  The rain was needed and I think every single rider would have been happy to ride in the rain the next day as long as this cooled off the temperatures.

When there is thunder, there is also lightning.  And when there is lightning, they insist that you take cover in a safe place.  To my dismay as well as many others, they cut off the shower line when I was about 5th or 6th before going into the shower.  No arguing, you comply and go to a safe place.

I saw a lot of people going into a big metal farm implement storage building that someone deemed to be safe.  There weren’t any chairs, but a few of us were able to find a place to roost but most stood.  I found some boxes and set them up for myself and a couple others.  I sat there, not daring to get up lest I lose my seat. J

After several of hours – I don’t remember how many, the main part of the storm had passed through – some started cautiously leaving.  I followed pretty quickly.  Most of us were glad to find our tents were still there, but an unlucky few, including Janet – and don’t forget she is my “next door” neighbor – found their tent had blown over.  Janet actually stayed in her tent during the storm…a little frightened, I am sure; she was able to keep her things dry and to get the tent set up again.  I was really afraid my tent was going to be blown over and I had some things in the tent, had they gotten wet, would have been very expensive to replace.

I was glad to get to sleep.  I am happy to report I have not had any trouble sleeping; I hardly ever do.  I had never tent camped when I was young and I was a little worried about sleeping on a thin pad on the ground, but I haven’t had any problems at all.


About SteveVarnum

I am 81 years old. I started riding a bicycle at age 70 and like most avid cyclists, fell "in love" with it. For a Grand Adventure, I decided to ride at least 100 miles in every state. I completed all 50 states. I did the 48 contiguous states in May - November 2010 (73) and Hawaii and Alaska 2011 (74). I have ridden > 36,000 miles in past 11 years and at 81, I still am still riding.
This entry was posted in Adventure, Bicycles, Bicycling, Exercise, Friends, Iowa, United States and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Webster City to Marshalltown, Iowa: July 25, 2012

  1. Candy Fiddes says:

    Zip locks bags are lightweight and they come in huge sizes now. It will help keep stuff dry. Bobby has the red bike out that his brothers business partner custom painted red . Said he was going for a ride. It’s not the Pink one he still has that. Starting to cool down some here now. The whole town comes alive in Nov. when the heat goes away. Big Bob is half way through Chemo now. After our Mayo appt last Friday there was good news the radiation had gotten the tumor we found behind his eye. WE found that after the arm was broken a couple of months ago and he had rods and screws put in it. The arm bone is mending which is a miracle. Sounds like you had a really good and fun summer Steve. Good news and wonderful to hear.

    • SteveVarnum says:

      Hi, Candy: I am glad Bob is getting along and hope he keeps on doing so. Fighting cancer is tough on those who go through it as well as the caregivers… like you.

      Say hi to Bobby. He called me last week and I returned the calls but we never actually made contact.


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