Sunday, July 28, 2013

RAGBRAI 2013 - A Week Of Contrasts!

The Registers Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) just finished its 41st trip across the state of Iowa.  I've been driving support for a group from Toddville the last few years after biking the event for 9 times.  It was a good ride, none of our group crashed or missed any of the ride, other than the bus.  The poor Ford bus developed a leaky fuel line to one of the injectors, and while affecting fuel mileage, making a puddle of diesel wherever we parked, and emitting combustible vapors for a few minutes after parking as it sprayed on the exhaust manifold, it continued to roll till we could find parts.  It was much happier after the repair in Des Moines.

So the ride started in a rerun of the heat and drought of the last couple years in Council Bluffs and Omaha.  For a couple days it was miserable with highs in the humid mid 90s and heat index in the low hundreds.  But the rains struck Monday night, soaking campers and riders, but not spirits in Perry...  It was a sign of things to come with moderating temperatures during the week, in fact, on the last day into Fort Madison in far southeastern Iowa, the high was only 66F with zippy tailwinds.  No complaints as riders finished and loaded for the trip home.  In the picture above, riders queue up patiently to dip their front tires in the Mississippi River.  In the background is a reproduction of the old fort which was occupied nearby from 1808-1813 - the first military fort in the upper Mississippi.  Interestingly, this replica was built on the grounds of the city of Fort Madison's other point of fame, the penitentiary by inmate volunteers, and moved to the present site in the 1980s.

Our group, some of which were doing their first ride, some their
20th, were mostly jaded and didn't bother to do the official dipping of tires in the river.  The tradition is to dip the rear tire in the Missouri as well, and if you do the first, how can you not do the second?  But after 410 miles of biking over 7 days, most of our group just headed to the bus...  I walked down and toured the museum in the old railroad depot there, and then ambled down to where the biker action was going on.  I assisted the woman on the left trying to take the obligatory self-portrait of her accomplishment, but travelling solo, sometimes your arm isn't long enough!  She came from Texas to bike across the state.  On the right I caught the "Fountainheads" from Kansas City as the entire group dipped tires.

One more point of interest in Fort Madison is the bridge in the background seen here in the background of tire-dipping bikes.  The Sante Fe double swing span bridge is the largest in the world at 530 feet across!  The image was taken just as it was about closed after allowing barge traffic going downstream.  Built by the Sante Fe Railroad in 1927, the upper deck is for car and truck traffic (2 lanes), and the lower deck is for trains (about 100 per day!).  The bridge is currently owned and operated by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, and is also a toll bridge - $2 for cars to pass into Illinois, free to return!

I'll be posting more about our week across the state, but need to unwind and sort through the images before doing more. 

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