RAGBRAI: Day 1 – 102 degrees “with no place to hide”

Des Moines University Trustee Brian Hart, owner of Hart Financial LLC in Des Moines, and his wife, Julie, are peddling 471.1 miles this week with approximately 10,000 other bicyclists from around the world during RAGBRAI, the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. This annual week-long bike ride, now in its 40th year, is the oldest, largest and longest bicycle touring event in the world. While the route changes every year, the ride – which the Register dubs a “rolling celebration of Iowa” – always begins somewhere on the state’s western border on the Missouri River and ends on its eastern border on the Mississippi River. This year is Brian’s and Julie’s fifth RAGBRAI. Below, Brian shares perspectives from the RAGBRAI road, Day 1.

It started out a beautiful morning. Overnight it rained, just enough to get the bag a bit wet. By 6 a.m., it was a perfect 72 degrees. We could see some rain to the north but nothing to bother our day. We started pedaling at 6 a.m., trying to beat the coming 100-degree mid-day cooker. We made camp by noon, 58 miles later. By 4:30 is was 102 degrees with no place to hide.

On RAGBRAI hydration and food are very important. It becomes fuel. If you do not stay fueled up, you run out of energy. It is very difficult to catch back up.

RAGBRAI rolls through Orange City, Iowa.

Each town along the way does a great job of rolling out the refueling stops. Imagine 15,000 or 20,000 bike riders and support vehicles rolling into a town of 800 people all wanting to be fed. It takes every church, civic club, youth group, traveling food vendors and nearby town volunteers to make it happen. Tonight we are staying in Cherokee, a town of 5,000 or 6,000. It is instantly a town of 25,000, for a day.

With that many bikers, the flow of the bikes out on the road has a unique impact. It is as if you are part of this river that drags you into its current and pulls you downstream. It does not pull you upstream, however. The hills are yours, all alone.

While the towns each have their own food offerings, along the road, usually in farmers’ front lawns, there are vendors that travel with the ride and are present each day. For example, Farm Boys, a staple of the Saturday Downtown Des Moines Farmers’ Market, has their breakfast offerings approximately 15 miles out each day. An hour or so down the road each morning, you can count on a splendid breakfast.

This is one of the few environments where you can eat whatever you want and you will burn it off. You must eat a huge number of calories. I do not find the high-sugar food enticing. I only wish I could bottle that disdain for sugar and preserve it for later use.

This is the 40th year for RAGBRAI. I think we are celebrating it with at least four consecutive 100+ degree days. Maybe this blog will be done before then!!

Tomorrow is a measly 62 miles. Bring it on!

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