Today I added another 65 miles to my two-wheeled trip across Iowa.
But instead of hanging onto the end of the fast-rolling pack from Velo Views, which organized this trip to Iowa for the 420-mile RAGBRAI bike ride, I opted for a slower-moving journey, with pit stops for as many different roadside attractions as possible.
My friend Kimery Duda parachuted in for a few days. I stumbled into her outside the high school in Leon this morning, where my group spent the night in the choir room of the local high school.
Our theme for Day 4? An epicurean tour of Iowa. We saddled up, intent on hitting as many food stands as possible. I’d say our journey ranks as a booming success.
I started with a hot grilled cheese sandwich from a food trailer, one of hundreds along the route, while Kimery paid $5 to ride a mechanical bull.
We rolled through New York, Bethlehem and Confidence. We stopped for fruit smoothies and photographed a giant bicycle made of hay bales. We missed the llamas and goat races, but took advantage of the popular peanut butter and jelly trailer, where you fill out a paper order form indicating what you want on your sandwich (wheat or white bread, crunchy or smooth peanut butter, grape, strawberry or raspberry jam, and extras like pretzels, crunched up potato chips, honey, bananas and more to stuff between the bread.)
I made lots of friends, too.
We met Thelma and Louise, Sara from Vermont, and a guy riding what looked like a pedal-powered bullet. Batman cruised by on a recumbent cycle, and I road about 15 miles with my friend Nathan Turner from Austin. We chatted with people from Chicago and San Diego, Fort Worth and Iowa.
And about 6 miles from the finish, Lance Armstrong zoomed past while I slogged up a monstrous hill.
Exhausted by the effort, I stopped at Beekman’s for a scoop of peach ice cream, listening to the chug-chug-chug of the old-fashioned engine turning the cranks of the ice cream maker.
From there, we walked a few hundred yards down the road to my favorite stop of all, the Iowa State Craft Beer tent, which serves about 40 different kinds of Iowa-made brew.
We’ve passed the midway point in our expedition, and I’ve learned the importance of chamois butter, which keeps the undercarriage in proper working condition for long hours on the bike.
Tonight we’re camping in someone’s yard in Centerville.
Four days down, three to go.
I’m a sweaty, dirty, pedal-pumping eating machine, and I’m ready for more.
Bring on Day 5.