Fairfield to Des Moines, IA: SEWER 101: TESSA GETS AN A+ (Day 8)

Day Five of RAGBRAI.  Kinda like “Hump Day” in a regular workweek … the worst is behind you, but you still gotta make it to the end.  273 miles in, 165 to go!  One guy is running the entire RAGBRAI route.  That means he is running at least two full marathons (back to back) every day, except Monday when he ran three full marathons.  They interviewed him on the news and he said, “There are no easy days, just less-hard days!”  Philip agrees, and noted that today’s tone and energy level was definitely a little more subdued for the entire group. Today’s ride was 50 miles to Oskaloosa, and as you can see here, Philip is developing some awesome abs!

The first town, Pella, has a Danish heritage and was proud to show it off for the riders.  Under the sheltering gaze of multiple classic windmills and Danish-style buildings, residents were dressed in traditional Danish attire, and riders participated in a variety of Danish themed games and activities.  In one such contest, riders would replace their biking cleats with wooden clogs, fill pails of water and carry them on their shoulders about 100 feet,  dump the pails, and race back, all in these hideously uncomfortable and non-fashion-forward wooden clogs.

Or, if wooden shoes weren’t your thing, you could instead load up as many cheese wheels as possible onto a sled, race to the end of the course for the fastest time and/or the least number of cheese wheels, which would of course falling all over the place and careen down the street, knocking down little children and old people.  If that was too much frenetic activity for you, you could instead hop on a bicycle built for 21, and basically fake like you were pedaling and allow the other 20 people to do the work for you.

Pulling into another extremely small town, Bussey, all of the town residents had come out into their front yards and set up rows upon rows of lawn chairs.  This in itself is not unusual, but their people were having their own par-tay complete with full potluck and cocktails, not for the riders but for themselves, as they chatted and watched the suckers, I mean the riders, go by.  Philip decided that today was the day to try eating and drinking like a 30-something, and indulged in fresh homemade pizza (where the chef was pounding the dough and mixing the sauce right before his eyes), then gulped a couple of cold beers, just like all the other crazies.  He confidently climbed back on his bike, strapped on his helmet, and then … reality hit.  He almost puked as the melted cheese and spicy sausage and beers combined in a toxic mix of motivation-killer.  But this day was not gonna finish itself, so on he rode, searching in vain for a vendor selling Tums or Maalox.

The riding scenery has been spectacular and we have become solid fans of this beautiful state!  If you have not visited, you really should!  (This blog sponsored by the Iowa Department of Tourism.)  Seriously … we have a real appreciation of Iowa and its people and would visit again in a heartbeat!  

Today’s ride ended in Oskaloosa, (another) darling town which just happened to be serving the most scrumptious, oversized pork tenderloin sandwiches … an Iowa classic, and my favorite!  Nom nom nom!

Somebody asked if it was difficult to drive from place to place, with so many bikes on the road.  It really isn’t, for a lot of different reasons.  (1) They have everything roped off, so that even if you have to go on the same road as the bikers, you are right next to them but in a totally different lane.  (2) If you need to cross the bikers’ path, you drive on ahead to a designated turn, where a police officer will periodically let cars through.  (3) There are a lot of different back roads in Iowa so with careful plotting, you can mostly avoid them altogether.  (4) The end cities put out very detailed maps so you can enter town from a different angle than the bikers.  (5)  My fabulously detailed and organized husband spent many, many hours putting together a 3″ thick notebook of maps and directions and confirmations for this entire trip, so all I have to do is open the book to today’s section, and off I go!  Thanks, darling!

“Then you turn left, then you go to the second right …”

Because Philip leaves on his ride long before I leave to drive to the next town, the care and maintenance duties of the RV are my responsibility.  It is not difficult, but I live in terror that I will forget a step.  If I forget to unplug before driving out, I will rip the electrical junction out of the ground!  If I forget to wind down the TV antenna, the tree will rip it from the roof!  If I forget to fill the fresh water tank, we won’t be able to take showers at the next campground!  If I don’t secure every last item, they might come flying out of the cabinets as I drive over yet another curb!  For a neurotic, this RV stuff is breeding ground for insecurity.

The most crucial task in an RV trip, of course, is the periodic dumping of the sewage tank.  There was never any doubt that I would have to learn to do this, and I didn’t raise a stink (pun intended).  The first few times, I watched Philip.  The next few times, I helped Philip.  (Disposable gloves … mandatory.)  Finally, it was time to try the entire process on my own, and I didn’t want any help because I had to be sure I had the whole thing down pat, for when I would be doing it while he was out riding.  The most hysterical thing was to watch other campers driving by, sneering in disgust at a strong, grown man (Philip) just standing there with his arms crossed, while his little wifey-poo (pun intended, again) struggled with the hoses and couplers and valves and whatnot.  They clearly thought he was the biggest jerk in the world!  But, now I can dump like a pro … black tank, gray tank, it doesn’t matter, I got this!

Tomorrow, Philip will be doing a “two-fer” … two days fer the price of one, combining the Friday AND the Saturday rides for a total of 115 miles.  This is because we are heading to Max’s summer camp in Indiana on Saturday and have to be there to check him out by noon, so there won’t be time to ride the last day on Saturday.

We have really enjoyed all of your messages on this blog and Facebook, so know that they are giving Philip great motivation to know that the “home team” is rooting for him!  Philip says, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” … so say a little prayer of encouragement that he finishes strong tomorrow and brings home the gold!

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