After nearly 4 weeks enjoying our time in the Iowa City area, today marks a transition point in our preparations for the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). We’ve made reservations for week-long accommodations at an extended stay hotel in Des Moines, Iowa. This puts us closer to the western part of the state, where RAGBRAI begins on July 22. Next week we will be able to explore biking opportunities in the Des Moines area, as well as giving ourselves some time to rest up for the big ride.
This summer’s extended drought in the Midwest is disastrous for farmers, but for us vacationers spending our days bike riding and our nights camping, it has meant not having to worry about getting cold and wet. I’m not one to ever admit that the weather is too hot for comfort, but there was one week that the heat was particularily oppressive.
July 7, the day that the temperature was a record-breaking 102 degrees, happened to be the day that the bike club had scheduled a 76-mile RAGBRAI training ride. The handful of us brave souls who showed up that morning didn’t know it was going to be THAT hot; otherwise, we might have had second thoughts. Thankfully, the route was mostly flat and there wasn’t much wind that day. If there would have been hills and/or headwinds I’m not sure I would have made it. As it was, the last hour or so when there was no shade or water stops anywhere, I came close to what felt like heat stroke. When it was over, though, a couple of hours in Mike’s air-conditioned house fixed me right up. As the saying goes about facing adversity, “it won’t kill you, it will just make you stronger.”
I certainly do feel stronger after all the bike riding we’ve done the last few weeks. Besides getting a foretaste of some of that Iowa summer heat, I’ve done a lot of rides that were hilly and that faced headwinds. Those conditions are something that you usually always encounter on RAGBRAI. I can also consider myself well trained for the camping part of RAGBRAI.
I lost count of how many bike rides we did, but I do remember that there were 4 different places that we camped. Each one of the campgrounds seemed to be better than the one before. After the stay at the county park, we moved to a state park at Lake Macbride. Lake Macbride is connected to Coralville Lake, which has many campgrounds and recreation areas. Both are reservoirs formed from dams on the Iowa River and are within biking distance of Iowa City.
After all of the camping that we have been doing, it seems very different now to be close to the big city of Des Moines and settled into our studio apartment for a whole week. We did some grocery shopping and had to relearn again what it’s like to have a refrigerator to fill instead of planning one day at a time and having to make do with what can fit into a small ice chest and wondering if it’s time to buy ice again. Fortunately, this extended stay hotel is in a quiet suburb and still has the feel of good old Iowa country living. I’m looking forward to discovering where the bike trails are.