Another perfect day of bike riding weather and another great RAGBRAI ride, this time from Des Moines south and west to Knoxville, passing through some lovely countryside and several welcoming small towns including Runnells (where we were greeted by the local high school’s boisterous, enthusiastic and totally endearing Pep Band) and Monroe (where riders could don firefighter gear and shoot water hoses at a bucket or some such dangling from a line – sounds strange but people stood in a long line to give it a go.)
It was exhilarating to ride out of downtown Des Moines today at 7:30 a.m. with the sun still rising and the air almost crisp and the light magical. We quickly got a taste of what we had in store for the day – with a steep uphill by the golden-domed Iowa State Capital building – and it was way cool to have the route go right through the Iowa State Fairgrounds. As we were riding up the midway in a seat of bikes, I heard one person say “What is this place?” So I put on my Iowa tour guide hat and pointed out various highlights of the famed fairgrounds.
The route was very hilly – up and down and up and down the hills we went. I gradually got more comfortable with soaring down the hill but it was often tricky because there were so many riders. I did see one scary accident which appeared to be a collision between two riders and saw one rider down but she was talking to the people helping her. There were ambulances stationed for precautionary reasons along the route – and we heard some with their sirens activated on occasion.
In Runnells, I ended up joining a flash mob that I happened into – locals and riders all doing a funny dance routine in the street. It was so much fun! I also bumped into even more friends and neighbors today along the route, which is always a kick. By the end of the day, I was very weary but wished I could keep riding tomorrow. Maybe I’ll try to do more next year. Such a great experience.
Last night, Des Moines hosted a fantastic party downtown on a perfect clear, not too hot or cold night – with bands, food, thousands of people all gathered along the river. It was Iowa at its very best!