The road from Clear Lake to Charles City was a smooth 52 mile run with a 10 mph wind coming in from behind us for part of the ride. Today I rode with my good friends Mike Flaherty and Steve Miller, midwesterners both. Mike and I were reporters together 25 years ago and Steve and I have known each other nearly as long. While both have spent many years living back East, they are rooted in this place where corn and farming define the culture. In recent years they have gotten into weekend cycling and it was Steve, who now lives in Des Moines, who came up with the idea of riding the RAGBRAI. Mike is the more serious rider, but on Wednesday we convinced him to relax his ride a bit, which meant we still rode fast but spent a lot of time in the party towns along the way. The conditions were favorable for pushing ourselves to Charles City and Mike had us up to a 23 mph cruising speed as we formed a palindrome where riders pack tightly together, their wheels almost touching, and the riders behind the front riders are literally drafted forward. When the wind shifted and came across us, the drafting neutralized the wind shear. And we kept cruising. We also drafted behind one of the support vans but abandoned the idea after a mile or so. Our ride today was significant not because of where we were going but simply because it put us over the halfway mark with a total of 260 miles ridden over four days.
You know you are not in your own backyard when the town you are in boasts of its “proud tractor history” and its invention of the first poultry vaccine. Charles City, nickname Chuck Town, lost its tractor business almost 20 years ago, as most manufacturing business were in decline, but appears very prosperous today. As we rode into town we were greeted by residents sitting in lawn chairs waving their welcome.
Thursday’s weather is favorable for our ride but these miles are piling up and Thursday’s trek is the longest run at 82 miles. Time to get back in the saddle!