Day Five, July 29, 1999
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Day five began with humidity and headwinds. The afternoon found heat and hills added making Thursday the most challenging daylong ride of my life. The winds died as we entered Decorah, leaving us to boil for the night in the remaining heat & humidity. I found out later that the actual temperature exceeded 100 in Northern Iowa that day and, with the high humidity, the overnight low barely dropped below 90. The only favorable thing to say about Thursday was the shower. Huck, Randy, Gene and I got turned around and found ourselves in the wrong building on the college campus in Decorah. Spotting a gentleman in the halls, we asked directions to the RAGBRAI showers. The gentleman, a youth basketball coach, recognized Huck as he had ridden ten RAGBRAI's in the past. Asking us to please be quiet, he allowed us to use the coach's showers. The refreshment was short-lived, however, as without a breeze, it was past 1am before I got to sleep. With my "neighbors" breaking camp at 3:30am, I braced myself for another hard day's ride.
Day Six, July 30, 1999
Despite the lack of sleep, Dean and I got a good start on Friday's ride with a great breakfast in the college cafeteria. With an early start, I thought we had the hills behind us by the time we reached Wadena before 11:00am. During the next hour, while we took a little nap in the shade, the temperature rose about seven degrees. Less than two miles out of Wadena, we encountered the longest hill of the week. The road was cracked asphalt that had been patched with a material that has the characteristics of roofing tar. This patching material had melted and, due to the expansion of the pavement, had been squeezed out of the cracks, most of which ran the width of the road. All riders began collecting this tar on their wheels, and the unfortunate ones that had to pull off of the road and walk found their tires picking up dust and gravel from the shoulder, also.
Even after several scrapings during my frequent stops the rest of the day, tar and gravel remained at the end of the day's ride. I found out later that about 1:00pm, the time I reached the top of the hill, the temperature in this part of Iowa reached 103. While the rest of the day's ride was flat, it was against the strong wind from the South. Progress was slow as I was forced to stop about every five miles to cool down. There was not a shaded area along the rest of the day's route that was not completely filled with riders resting or waiting for the sag. As I said, yesterday was the most grueling daylong ride I had ever made, but the ride this day topped it.
Although we were provided with a good meal and excellent, air conditioned accommodations in a team mate's mother's home for the night, by Saturday morning, Dean, Cheryl and I had decided not to ride the last day. Saying farewell to our teammates for another year, we began the trip back to Des Moines to drop off Juanita. Between more vapor locks and getting lost on trying a new route back, we didn't reach home 'till after 3:00am, Sunday.
That has been over a month now, and I am already regretting not riding that last day and am ready to ride again. We will be back next year!
Day 4 (1 picture)
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