Thursday, September 24, 2015

Faith in humanity

Some of my faithful readers may remember my inaugural RAGBRAI, which was inordinately hot and humid, and by day 7 I had burned my lower lip to a crisp and was talking with a lisp and only able to eat tiny bits of food with a fork. In other words, I looked totally ridiculous.

It was under these circumstances that I met the most awesome people in the world, Jim and Faye Petersen, who were in one of the last towns on the last day meeting up with their daughter Tomeka. I wound up having breakfast with the Petersens, where Jim Petersen blithely and cheerily assured me that it was “all downhill from there.” This was the day my dreams were shattered as I learned that even the most friendly of Iowans were expert liars.

Anyway, of course as we parted that year, I threatened assured them that I would show up on their doorstep should RAGBRAI ever go through their lovely town of West Liberty, Iowa.

This year was that year.

Amazingly, the Petersens had somehow managed to find me after RAGBRAI 2011, through my Blog Which Has Swept the Nation.  So we’d kept in touch, and for some odd reason, they seemed excited to have me visit and be their guest at their home. I know, go figure.

That Friday, after dealing with the 19% hills that Iowa is composed of and cursing the blazing Iowa skies, I was passed out in our shade-less camp lot coolly relaxing after a leisurely day of riding when who showed up in a blaze of glory but Jim and Tomeka, driving a truck borne on celestial clouds and accompanied by the halcyon sounds of a heavenly choir. Umm, not that I was tired of riding at that point or anything.

After loading my bike stuff in the car so that I could just pick up the RAGBRAI route the next morning from their house, we headed on out to West Liberty, aka mecca. Truly mecca. Because not only is this the cutest little town in the world – the REAL Bedford Falls of Iowa – but the Petersens also live in the most glorious Victorian, one of a sea of glorious Victorians in WL. Seriously, I’ve never seen so many gorgeous houses in one town.

I was in heaven.

I really don’t think a week of hot and hilly riding had anything to do with it, but I was highly appreciative of the accommodations.

Faye Petersen: Oh I’m sorry the guest bed isn’t very comfy, it’s kind of old and….
Faye: And it can get a bit stuffy in here so you might want to leave the door open a bit…
Faye: And the bathroom is…..

That evening after hanging out on their porch on the swinging bench with cocktails, we went to dinner at a local Mexican restaurant (OMG BEST FOOD EVER) and then wandered around town a bit. We visited Slightly Vintage, where I begged the owner to come decorate my house, because she had done such an amazing job. Then the still-in-progress printing press store, with a focus on all kinds of old-timey printing press machines and such. This is where I learned the origins of the term “upper case” and “lower case” – based on where the letters were placed in the cabinets. Well duh, who doesn’t know that? I’m also reassured by Jim that this time, it really IS all downhill to Davenport, truly, no more hills. Whew!

That night I slept on the wings of angels in the comfiest bed I’ve ever encountered, to complete blissful silence. No train whistles, no crappy bad band music or karaoke, no drunken cyclists trying to find their tents. Blissful. Complete. Silence.

The next morning, I sadly bid farewell to the most amazing people in the world who have so graciously welcomed me into their home and who live in the most adorable town, and we make plans to work on ways to boost commerce and tourism in West Liberty. Because did I mention that it’s the cutest town ever with an astonishing number of beautiful Victorians? I envision all sorts of Christmas-y things happening here, wandering carolers with roasting chestnuts and house tours and mulled wine at the shoppes dusted with lightly falling snow and and and….well, you get the point.

As I set off on my way to the final stretch to Davenport, with happy thoughts in my head about the wonderful and generous people of Iowa, and thinking about how I can get the Petersens to come visit The Manor in Silverton, and life is grand and HOLY SHIT WHY ARE THERE 19% HILLS AT THIS POINT IN THE RIDE YOU LIED TO ME JIM ET TU JIM ET TU?!!

So yeah, there were a few hills. By a “few” I’ll just note that there were so many that at one point, no exaggeration, it looked like there was a zombie apocalypse upon us, because there were that many people slowly trudging up the hills, having just had it with their bikes. I for one did NOT walk my bike, but let’s be honest – our speeds were about the same.

Finally, yes, probably about 5 miles out of Davenport, it was in fact downhill. Along a highway-like road, which didn’t quite give us room to go bombing down it, but hell, I’ll take it at that point. We finished in a park along the river, and it was nice enough relaxing there for a while. But to add insult to injury, to get back to where our charter was, it was about a 6 mile slog straight uphill to St. Ambrose. Sigh.

So I might still have a slight bone to pick with Jim Petersen, just saying. I’ll call you guys. Jams will be on their way. Thank you for being the most memorable part of any RAGBRAI that will ever be. Ever.

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