Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Iowa, the Portal to Hell



Ann’s alarm didn’t work, so we don’t get up until after 5, dammit. Already late, sigh. It’s still dark out, but at least we’re starting out an hour earlier than yesterday, so that should help, somewhat. Maybe.

Random thoughts

· Okay, so we get a break from the sun thanks to a nice cloud cover, which doesn’t take away the fact that it’s still about 200 degrees and 110% humidity, but it helps. That is, until the blazing sun comes out again. At which point I start yelling “No! No sun! GO AWAY!” I feel like a vampire.

· So there’s one basic rule on RAGBRAI: ride right. Is this so fricking hard to remember? Apparently it is, because I wind up yelling at people a LOT. Okay, so it’s mostly (all) in my head, but the temptation is almost overwhelming. This is what I say: “Passing on your right!” Relevant subtext in my head: “Because you’re a stupid idiot who shouldn’t be so far over to the left! Dumbass!”

· To the guy on the Cervelo tri bike with the Zipp wheels: Dude. Let’s be real here. We know you’re trying to buy speed, thousands of dollars worth - but even if it’s so important for you to be 14th in your age group instead of 18th, this isn’t a race. No one gives a shit when you finish. Really. Zipp wheels, seriously?? Umm, not that I’m cranky or anything, roasting under the blazing sun – I just honestly don’t understand this. There’s a reason those are called race wheels, and it’s not for a 7-day ride across Iowa.

· In a similar vein, what’s with the people who start out at 5AM, zip through all the towns, only to finish by 10AM or earlier? What’s the point? If you’re not going to hang out in the small towns and check out the sights and chat with people, you might as well just stay home, put your computrainer in a sauna, and ride for hours on end there. Again, I don’t get this. Aren’t we all here for the pie?

· Day 2 of unrelenting hills. The next person who ever tells me how flat Iowa is will be promptly beaten with either a cudgel or a frozen ham. Whichever one I happen to have handy.

· Speaking of hills, our bucolic days 1 and 2 here are actually hillier than any day of riding on Ride the Rockies, which people speak of in awed and hushed terms about how much climbing there is. Suck it, Colorado, Iowa has you beat. I am strangely proud of this, feeling a kinship with my fellow Midwesterners.

We roll into our first town today, Elk Horn, and the first thing I see is a……windmill? And mermaids? What kind of alternate reality IS this? Turns out that the town is known for its Danish heritage, which includes the aforementioned windmill, and lo and behold, the selling of aebleskiver! My god, what a marvel! I jump into the aebleskiver line immediately, no fool I.

Okay, so the reason I know what these things are is because once upon a time I gave a friend an aebleskiver pan as a gift, not quite sure why, though said friend never made them for me as promised. So you can damn well bet that when I saw them being sold, I was all over that like a cat on a hot potato, as they say. And while standing in line for my Danish Pancake Balls, I start chatting with one of the many local volunteers, a guy wearing the town t-shirt, also sporting a Viking helmet and joshing about his beer gut. Fun times. Then he turns around, and on the back of his shirt is written……Mayor? Really?

Yep, he’s really the mayor. Seems to be doing a damn fine job of it too, as far as I can see.

Plateful of yummy aebleskiver later (where the guys making them are using everything from nail files to knitting needles to rotate the little balls), I explore the rest of the town, and lo and behold, what should I see but a guy sporting pink ribbon schlock! Ah, Cori would be proud. I accost him immediately.

Me: Excuse me, but do you mind if I take a picture of your jersey? My friends and I, we like to take pics of all the (tacky schlocky) pink ribbon stuff we see.

Guy: Uh, sure.

Me: Thanks! You know, we’re all about the whole breast cancer awareness (and what a fricking joke that is) thing.

Guy, looking puzzled: Uh, okay.

Hmm. I kind of suspect he has no idea about the BC connection at all, but only bought the jersey because it says “beer” on it….

The day grinds on, hotter and hotter, hillier and hillier, until drastic measures are called for. What does this mean exactly? Well, when I stop in one town and head into the Legion Hall for some pork chop on a stick, on my way out I spy through a doorway a…..meat locker? Could that be cold air? I take action, of course. Meaning, I step right into said locker, even though there’s already someone in it and it’s kind of a small space with basically just room for one person to walk into. He looks behind him, and I smile winsomely.

Me: Hey, so, how ‘bout them aebelskivers?

Him: Umm….

Me: I’m just, uhh, err……wanting to compliment the Legion on their fine selection of frozen vegetables! Yes, that’s it! Nothing like some fine frozen veggies, yes sirree.

Him, understandingly: Pretty hot out there, isn’t it…
Me: Oh……my……god……………….

Then later, somehow I’m finally nearing our overnight town, Carroll, albeit at a snail’s pace. Dripping with sweat, as I have been all day. I’ve never taken so long to bike this number of miles. Pedal pedal pedal.

Then….what ho? An oasis of water? Maybe?

Yes, just a few miles out from Carroll, the enterprising folks who live next to what’s basically a retention pond have set up a table to take the princely sum of $1 to let people swim. I debate this for about 2 seconds, then pull over. Mucky water? Hell yes. There are only a few people when I get there, but then, as is the case all week, as soon as I decide to take part, so does everyone else. I kid you not. The water is tepid, seaweedy, muddy on the bottom, not too deep…..and heavenly. I have several conversations like this:

Other person: This water is kind of mucky.

Me: Do you care?

OP: Hell no.

Me: Me neither.

You know it’s insanely hot when swimming in mucky water in full cycling clothes seems like a grand and brilliant idea. That night it stays so hot and humid that I get a Tylenol PM from Mary Beth so that I can get a modicum of sleep. I have honestly never been so hot in my entire life, for so long. My last comment of the evening to the girls:

Me, to Ann and Mary Beth: Why? Why?! Omg, the heat, the hills, the humidity! And then, number ONE on Miss Tasha’s Hierarchy of Cycling Suckiness: wind!!! Make it stop! Give me something to work with here!

Maybe Tuesday?


Cori said...

See this is what makes America great. You find out a state that you have secretly snickered at your whole life is much cooler than you imagined. And of course because you can find the cure ANYWHERE. I am of course that you found the cure in Iowa. And that you are still breathing after what appears to be a short stay vacation in the under world.

Suerae Stein said...

You are not going to believe this... I OWN an aebleskiver pan and I haven't used it in many many months. And BEFORE I read your post, I announced to my husband, "How about we have aebleskivers for dinner?" And we did. And THEN I read your post about the aebleskivers! I have CHILLS! We must be sisters of some kind! I'm even starting to feel your sweatiness after reading so much about it! I'm off to read your next day! :) ~ Suerae