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Aug. 18, 2010
RAGBRAI 2010: A Seven-Day Journal - Part 2
Last week TEAM CLIF BAR rider Sean Piper sounded off the first three day of RAGBRAI 2010, an annual seven-day ride across Iowa beginning near the western border and ending along the eastern border at the Mississippi River.

As promised, here are the final four days of what proved to be an amazing journey.

Day: 4 – Not all roads are as smooth as the other

On a multi-day ride, you tend to go through a variety of emotions. Today was just one of those days that began on a bumpy road. Sunglasses were misplaced, debit cards disappeared, and saddles unseated themselves during the morning prep. Several cups of coffee later, compliments of our awesome host couple, we had managed to locate most of our AWOL items and some of our sanity, but Aily was still without a place to seat her bike shorts. Luckily, there happened to be a bike shop/farm or a farm/bike shop down the road from our digs. The CLIF Team captain had to peddle standing the entire way, but actually managed to look quite heroic in the process, resembling a cavalry officer of old, leading a final charge on the enemy. The bike shop was small, but well stocked, manned by a bike mechanic nicer than my grandma, and best of all, had the essential part we needed. The bike now repaired, another stop was needed to fix our hunger: Farmboy’s Breakfast Burritos.

For those of you who haven’t experienced RAGBRAI or the Des Moines Farmer’s Market, you truly haven’t experienced an authentic breakfast burrito. These monsters provided us with a much-needed dose of bacon, egg, cheese, and miscellaneous veggies. While munching on our custom burritos we were joined by the friendly gents of Team Jorts, a group of riders who manage to make a short-sleeve tuxedo jersey and cut-off jean shorts look somewhat less-than trashy. Now provided with a Black Tie and Denim escort, Team CLIF/Jorts would finish the ride with a record amount of tickets from the fashion police. What started out as a day filled with speed-bumps, we finished smooth sailing into camp where we topped off the evening by treating our taste-buds to the culinary skills of Chris, a budding chef and member of the University of Iowa cycling team. We went to bed with our bellies full, but still hungry for more RAGBRAI.

Day: 5 – Giving Back and Getting Back

Crawling out of my musty tent or “squirrel”(as I’m now known) hole, I was relieved at the prospect of a half-day on the bike. Though most of us would begin today’s route from the campground, Mark, myself, and Cole, would be taking the CLIF truck 40 miles into the ride to surprise and delight riders with free product. The three of us took off to our destination, first stopping at a gas station where we loaded up on bio-diesel, donuts, and high-octane coffee. We would be doing our sampling at the fire station of Parkersburg, a small-scale town that’s faced large-scale tragedy in the recent past. Yet, the citizens of Parkersburg have become renowned for their ability to persist and carry on with a determination and resolve, which would serve as inspiration to even the most hardened endurance athletes.

For these reasons it had been decided that we would accept voluntary donations from passing riders at the sampling tent, all donations to be given back directly to the Parkersburg Police and Fire Department. Mark stationed himself at the tent where the Shot Bloks were being distributed. Cole and I placed ourselves along the road at strategic points, serving as human P.A. systems, alerting riders to the deliciousness that awaited them 100 yards up the road. 4 hours and a mild case of laryngitis later, Team CLIF had raised over $1500 in donations for Parkersburg. After a few obligatory photo shoots with wads of cash money in our hands we hopped on our bikes with the rest of our teammates to finish the remaining 40 miles together. We may have started the day tired, but we rode on with fresh legs and warm hearts.

Day: 6 – Cuttin’ Loose (Footloose)

The week had been blessed with near perfect weather. Blue, cloud-free skies had been the status quo for our entire trip. Our sun-streak ended this morning as we were treated to a cold shower by Mother Nature. As much as we welcomed the chance wash-up, we didn’t welcome the prospect of riding in the rain. Hungry and depressed, we headed to the most logical destination, the breakfast buffet at the local casino. Several dozen French toast sticks and $40 dollars in blue chips later, the skies had not changed. Stoically our two hardmen, Mark and Andy decided to ride through the cold rain, while the rest of us ashamedly, crammed into the warm truck and avoided looking at ourselves in the mirrors.

We resolved to wait out the rain in Quasqueton, where we could fortify ourselves with pork tenderloin sandwiches, walking tacos, and the local brew. Maybe it was the fact that we were all together in the middle of Iowa, maybe it was our shared love of bicycling, or maybe it was the ready availability of Fat Tire, but somehow we managed to start having one of the more memorable moments of the trip, just sitting around on a covered deck together. Wouldn’t you know it, the rain stopped and the skies began clearing. Naturally this lead to a DANCE PARTY! Spandex was jiggling and bike short chamois were shaking as Poker Face blared from the DJ speakers for the 47th time during the trip. The puddles dried up, but the gravel dance-floor became flooded with riders.

At some point during the festivities, I discovered that bike shoes were not designed for Moon Walking. Eventually the party ended and the riding resumed. Within a few hours, we found ourselves sleeping in a friend of a friend’s grandma’s basement that transcended us from 2010 back to the 1970’s. Saturday Night Fever provided the soundtrack for our dreams.

Day 7: - Is this Heaven? No, it’s Iowa

We must have walked in and out of the rows of corn at least a dozen times. Here we were at the high point of Kevin Costner’s career and nearing the end of RAGBRAI. The Field of Dreams. Our final day had taken us to the actual movie set where we took photos and exchanged quotes Ad nauseam. Sadly, Shoeless Joe Jackson was nowhere to be seen. Leaving with a light dusting of Hollywood fairy dust and an ear of “Dream Corn” tucked into Adam’s jersey pocket, we continued on our route. Often it’s the best that is saved for last, but I’m sure all 20,000+ riders today, would disagree. Before we could bid the state of Iowa and The Great Adventure of RAGBRAI farewell, we would have to pay homage to the Gods of Pain.

Our sacrifice was offered up on the long and steep climb of Potter’s (really big) Hill. Some of our team members had the painful pleasure of pulling 50lb bike trailers up this mile long monster. Amazingly we all finished the climb with our kneecaps still attached to our legs. We celebrated at the top by toasting with lukewarm soda and much needed SHOT BLOKS. The rest of our journey felt like casual pedaling after completing this final hurdle. Rolling into Dubuque and under the finishing banner must have been a different sensation for everyone on the team. A relief? A lament? Tired? Enervated? Hungry? Yes…we were all hungry, no questioning that emotion.

Regardless of our individual feelings, there was no denying the collective sentiment of completion and community we had achieved together during our seven day, 442 mile journey. Some of us had started the trip complete strangers and no doubt finished as close friends. A few of us had begun in Sioux City as Boy/Men and could now stand proud and tall as Man/Boys. All of us started out as co-workers and finished as teammates, baptizing ourselves and our bikes at the waters ‘edge of the Mississippi. All with the understanding that life has little to do with the final destination and everything to do with the journey; especially when the journey’s on a bicycle.
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Events, Team Clif Bar

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We like getting our heart rates up, taking a big breath of fresh air, savoring delicious food. But we also love telling stories and here's where we type 'em up. (BTW, it works both ways; leave a comment—please and thank you.)

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