As I was thinking about the title for today’s blog I thought of those seven children from The Sound of Music. None of them want to leave the party but they know it’s time for them to go. I think Kurt sums it up best with his line “I leave and heave a sigh and say goodbye…goodbye”. That’s much how we all felt as we’ve enjoyed every minute of this wonderful party that RAGBRAI is. However, we know it time to say goodbye and move on. Matt and I feel truly fortunate that RAGBRAI and our trip across Iowa with Ed, Brenda, Scott, Pete and Holly will always be apart of our trip across America memory!
Today we were all up by 5:45a as we had 70 miles to cycle and then Ed, Holly and Pete had to drive back across the state. It was a little tough to get moving as last night our host Paul built a fire for us and made Smores. Gotta tell you, it doesn’t get much better than being on the farm on a hill with a fire, a million stars in the sky and good friends sharing stories from the week. We all enjoyed the time around the fire and it was tough to make ourselves go to bed.
We finally got on the road around 7a and immediately noticed a different tone on the road. While most people seemed happy as it was the last day, everyone was riding faster and had that look of being on a mission to finish quickly, get the car loaded and get home! There were fewer food vendors along the road today, but don’t worry we still found our Beekman’s Homemade Ice Cream for one final stop.
Today was one of those up and down rides both literally and figuratively. We had quite a few rollers to ride and we also had to contend with the emotions of the excitement of the beginning of the final day, the middle part of the ride where you just want to be done and then the final 10 miles where every mile is counted down to the finish. As we approached the end in Clinton, IA the streets were lined with people cheering us on and it became quite the parade to the finish. When you complete RAGBRAI the tradition is to ride to the Mississippi and dip your front tire in the river. It’s quite the ceremony and for Matt and I it was our second of three tire dips. It was interesting as for Ed, Brenda, Scott, Holly and Pete it was the completion of their journey while for Matt and I it signaled the end of the middle of our trip and the start of the final third.
After the ceremonial dip we went over to the hotel Matt, Brenda and I are staying at and everyone showered. We then had one final meal together before heading our own ways. Ed’s wife Beth and daughter Ally drove from Omaha to pickup Ed and take him home (as well as bring some gear Matt and I had stored at their house). Pete, Holly, Scott and Brenda drove back to Cedar Rapids. Brenda was picking up our SAG vehicle and driving it back to Clinton (her SAG duties started as soon as she dipped her tire). Scott was meeting his family in Cedar Rapids and was going on a week-long family vacation. Pete and Holly were then going to drive back to their homes in Sheldon, IA. One week ago all of us knew a few of each other but no one knew everyone. One week later we had formed great friendships and of course talked about riding RAGBRAI together again one day.
Finally, I have to give a special mention to my wife Brenda. When I rode RAGBRAI 18 years ago it was something I hoped that Brenda and I could do together one day. While it’s no mystery that I’m an avid cyclist, Brenda is not. Brenda enjoys cycling but had never done anything close to riding 471 miles in 7 consecutive days with heat, humidity and wind. She rode with a smile on her face and a bounce to her step (OK, the majority of the time she did). I’m so proud of Brenda completing the ride and that she was able to ride part of my trip across America with me. Here’s a few photos from our final day on RAGBRAI: