Sunday, August 1, 2010

RAGBRAI - Saturday

Dad wakes me up at 4 am. I am raring to go and at 4:45, my tires are pumped up and my front light is blinking. At 4:55 am we are on the road, in the dark, taking a direct route to the official route suggested by one of the hard core cyclists in our charter. Turns out, there's a reason RAGBRAI didn't send us this way - gravel for two blocks. We take it slow and turn onto the route. I'm riding in front because my headlight works and my tail light needs to be charged. Dad is riding in back because his tail light works and he doesn't have a head light. "Hello, headlight. How ya' doing?" he says. "I'm fine, tail light, how are you?" "I'm fine."

Amazingly there are many blinking lights ahead of us and just a few cars pass us as we make our way east. We stop at the top of the hill for bananas and water. First sale of the day for that guy.

The first major town we stop at is Dyersville where the Field of Dreams is. Beautiful little town. 20 miles from Dubuque we hit the bluffs (we call these mountains and buttes in Oregon but I guess when you squish a bunch of them together you call them bluffs). We coast down one that is so steep Dad was going 42 mph. I was braking and going 36 mph.

All week long we've been hearing about Potter Hill. I was told it was 1.5 miles long with a 12% grade. We stop just before it, dump out any extra water, adjust my back for the 3rd time this ride, eat a gel, go to the bathroom and then tackle the hardest hill in RAGBRAI history.

As we approach it, I say to myself, "Prepare yourself for 2 miles, take it easy, granny gear." We turn onto Potter Hill Road. Up ahead at least 1/2 of the cyclists are walking, most of the rest are pedaling standing up. I can see that at least 1/2 of it is much steeper than the rest. "2 miles," I say. "I can do anything for 2 miles."

I get into my lowest gear, open my chest and start to pedal. I'm breathing hard, my heart is pounding and in my head I say, "Left pedal, right pedal, left pedal, right pedal." At 1.1 miles I see the sign that says you made it to the top. All the way up, sitting on the saddle. No one passed me and I held a steady 5mph pace. This was a high point.

Dad is nowhere to be seen. I stop and wait for about ten minutes, call my mom to tell her I did Potter Hill and soon I see Dad. He had to walk that steep part which the t-shirts they were selling at the top said was a 19% grade. I bought a strawberry smoothie to celebrate.

There were many more difficult nearly as steep but not as long hills ahead. The difference was that with these you could get a running start. My main thought as I ride is, "Portland is so flat!"

As we roll into Dubuque people are handing out free water bottles, fruit roll-ups, popsicles, and granola bars in front of their homes. People keep saying, "It's all downhill from here." Yeah right. WE finally make it to the last of the hills and rolled into another beautiful Iowa town right down to the Mississippi River. Dad takes a picture of me dipping my front tire into the river. I'm smiling in the picture, but tears are rolling down my cheeks. It was such an emotional experience.

I drop off my bike at the shipping tent and Dad rides to the Bike World Site to get our names on the sheet for the bus. We were 16th and 17th out of about 220. I walk to the sight, calling my husband to tell him that I made it. At the site I walk down to the river bank and dad guards it while I "shower" with a giant baby wipe, change and pour a bottle of water over my head. Hopefully, I won't be too disgusting for my flights home tonight.

As we wait for the bus everyone is talking about Potter Hill. All the hard core cyclists with their slim racers that matched their slim bodies made it up. I was talking to one of them and his friend who is at least a 10 time RAGBRAI vet. He asked the hard core cyclist if he made it up and he said yes. He shrugs, looking at him and says, "Well." Then, I said, "I made it up too." He looks at me with my more curvaceous very non-cyclist body, and says, "You made it up?!?" "Yep!" I grinned. He takes off his sunglasses to get a better look at me, sticks out his hand, and says, "I'm Rich. It's a great pleasure to meet you."

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