Monday, July 28, 2008

RAGBRAI – Day 1, Missouri Valley to Harlan (60 miles, 3,797 feet of climb)

Sunday, July 20th – We left the campground shortly after 5:30 am as it was just starting to get light. I had a headlight and we both had our blinky red tail lights. As soon as we got to the main route we were following a sea of red blinky tail lights. The only time we needed a map for RAGBRAI was to find our camp site – otherwise, you just follow the pack!

About 10 miles out we stopped at BeeBee Town for a delicious breakfast buffet at Mama Rafiel’s, one of the vendors who followed RAGBRAI all week.

We rode at a leisurely pace and stopped at all the towns: Underwood, Neola, Minden, Minden, Shelby, and Tennant but we still arrived in Harlan around 11:00 am and were the first into our camp. I think this is when we came to realize that RAGBRAI is a way more relaxed ride than what we have experienced before!

We were camped with a host family across from a park and the swimming pool. With showers so close by we decided to use the pool showers rather than wait for our solar shower bags to warm up. We had a nice shady spot to sit and chat with the others in our camp as they arrived throughout the rest of the day and into the early evening. And it was nice to have time to explore Harlan with its court house square.
Everyone in our group was off to bed early to get a good night’s sleep before what we knew would be our hardest day of the week – 83 miles and 5,239 feet of climbing. Unfortunately, it was an interrupted night’s sleep when we were awakened to a public address system at 2:00 am telling us to take cover as a storm was coming in.

Our host family (a couple in their 30’s or 40’s?) was up also and brought their radio out. They indicated the storm was well to the east of us. Ashley and I opted to go back to our tent and try to get back to sleep, which we did. While others, who have probably seen the movie Twister a few too many times, stayed up for a couple of hours waiting for the F-5 tornado. I’m not sure it was the smart thing for us to do to go back to bed, but we were only 20 feet from our host family’s brick house and brick garage where we could take cover if needed. The other thing that topped off the bizarre night was that our “hostess” obviously spent quite a bit of time in the beer garden earlier that night – she was completely snockered but trying to comfort the campers by telling them not to worry, that it would probably only be an F-2 or F-3 tornado! Did I mention, the radio had thunderstorm warnings – NOT tornado warnings! But we were lucky as the campers in the main camp grounds were evacuated to storm shelters around town and the only that happened was a brief period of wind and a couple of sprinkles. But with a death that occured when a storm hit Spencer during RAGBRAI a few years back, I'm reassured to know that the RAGBRAI are very careful of everyone's safety.

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