Oh the last day, so sad. We got up together and got some good group photos. I stood out like a sore thumb because I hadn't purchased a Team Sunshine jersey, but hey, I represented with my bikejournal jersey.
I think we were all feeling a little sad to be riding our last day together. I think someone said we'd take it kind of slow. Before I knew it, we were again hauling at 18-19 up some hills into the headwind. I dunno, it just kind of happens. I told John (Wallybrau) I just felt like riding slow and he gave me the best response I've ever heard- "You CAN'T ride slow". Ah, good feeling. Now wonder I like that guy.
We separated a bit but John and I pretty much stayed together. I took the bento box off my bike after I turned my bike upside down and icky powerade leaked all over it- I still have ants in my top tube right now. Gross. But, it meant I could one again comfortably stand to climb without scraping my knees on it. Good thing because Saturday was the day with the climbing.
To those of you who I ride with in NY, the climbing was relatively easy- it was one 9W-esque climb, one Dunderburg, and a few smaller shorter ones. No big deal. John and I seemed to trade peppiness for the climbs- sometimes I was sitting taking it easy and he sprinted, and vice versa. One highlight for me was taking a climb- by this point I was going kind of slow because I was savoring the last 20 miles. So I pass a guy who I guess was giving me encouragement- something like, "Atta girl, you can do it." My response- "Oh, I got plenty left!" and he told me to go for it, so off I went. You all know I am so easy to incite!!! Even strangers can tell.
The towns on Saturday were pretty dismal and stinky. No real party atmosphere- I think it's probably intentional because the organizers just want people to finish up and go home, not stand around getting hammered and cruising down the last massive hill drunk. We were all a little disappointed by that.
We stopped for breakfast at a booth called "Cris Cakes"- pancakes. Man, the good vendors at RAGBRAI have the mass-feeding thing down to a science. At Cris Cakes there were two very large grills, and Cris the master chef was methodically flipping tons of pancakes. When he finished, he would literally toss the pancakes to you from a few feet away, forcing you to catch them on your plate. I loved that this activity was obviously out of some people's comfort zone- the mushy floor was testimony to that. But who cares? So you drop one, he flips another. They were good too.
We finished up and headed out again- we stopped next at homemade ice cream. RAGBRAI is the only time you'll think it acceptable to pay $7 for a large ice cream, but it was delicious. We waited on this very long, slow line forever, standing and chatting, enjoying each other's company. Your choices of ice cream were vanilla, raspberry, and chocolate- we FINALLY get to the front of the line and Rob goes, "How's the chocolate, how's the vanilla?". Everyone behind him in line screamed some form of expletive laden, "COME ONNNNNNNNNNNN" and feeling pressured he ordered the chocolate. That was pretty funny.
So we kind of separated after that- I rode the last 10 miles or so alone which truth be told I really enjoyed. I was with my thoughts of the week- the invigoration of riding, the beautiful land, the fantastic friendships, the death of my uncle. I teared up more than once. I noticed for these last few miles, no one wanted to talk. There was no, "Where you from?" or "Is this your first RAGBRAI?". We were universally savoring the journey's end. I felt strangely apprehensive about riding- I didn't want one single thing to stop me getting to that river- I started to break down the hills, I rode more slowly overall. I had made it through the week without a single flat, fall, tumble, scrape, or mechanical issue. I didn't want to jeopardize it in any way whatsoever. My bike performed flawlessly and I was grateful. Along the way I'd seen chains break, people lying in the road with head injuries, broken arms, derailleurs disintegrate, clothing shredded, road rash, and severe dehydration/bonking. I saw legs trembling, children crying, and people who lost valuable items. But not me- not a single thing went wrong except for captain grouch-o.
I came down the last big hill into Bellvue to find the entire group waiting for me (and one other member behind me, Patty). We rode into town like a parade- all teams riding together- masses of like-jerseys being applauded by townsfolk and other teams. Man I almost lost it.
We rode together to the river where we waited in a long line to dip our tires. The team in front of us, "Team Let-It-Roll" who blasted Jim Morrison's Let It Roll (their slogan, of course, was "Got up this morning and I got myself a beer"), spontaneously started blasting a song about Sunshine- I forget which one it was. But it was surreal.
We dipped our tires- Baby took a good long drink. Then it was time to hurry up and get on the bus back to Omaha. John (wally) was such an amazing friend- he knew I was extremely pressed for time- he wasn't because he had his car- he took apart my bike for me, helped me pack it. Then he offered to stand in the ridiculously long, slow line to Fedex my bike, while I took a shower and changed. I declined, though he got massive friend points for the offer and the help.
It turns out FedEx only took cash and check- I didn't have enough cash or a check, so I decided to risk it and take my bike box on the plane- I was cringing because I'd heard horror stories about the cost, though it should have been only about $95. They charged me NOTHING. My bike got home for free and I was happy. Saturday night I slept in a Holiday Inn and I tell you, a bed was never more appreciated.
Then, sitting on the runway while Newark had severe thunderstorms took away the happiness- over 4 hours of sitting in a stuffy plane was tough. But I'm home now and will be heading off to sleep soon. I'll get my pictures posted tomorrow and hopefully will see everyone else's too.
Not getting the time for more meaningful goodbyes to the people I really came to love
Not buying the t-shirt that said, "What happens in the cornfield, stays in the cornfield"
Not shipping my bike via Continental in the first place
What I'd do differently:
Hang out with the group more, sooner
Plan one extra day at the end for just enjoying being together
I'll write more reflections later. I'm tired y'all.
One down, 49 to go.