RAGBRAI passed right through Iowa City this year. I joined in early this morning from home. Today’s tour followed my commuting route to West Branch. It was fun to make that ride today without cars or stress about getting to work on time, though with so many bicyclists you must pay attention to your lateral movements. A lot of people bicycle the way they drive: thoughtlessly, as if putting on a spandex shorts and a mushroom-shaped helmet suddenly makes you the god of the road. But the people in a hurry passed early and by the time I approached Wilton most of the remaining riders were the leisurely sort.
I didn’t go any farther than Wilton, which was the halfway point to Davenport. Today was a bit hot for my tastes, so Lore picked me up there. While I waited I had a chance to mill around town. Wilton has some nice old downtown buildings and a partially restored old train station. A small exhibit in the train station describes it as an “attractive nuisance” that local preservationists saved from demolition. The attractive nuisance provided the best shade, with a view from the railroad grade of the crowded downtown. A long train of multimodal containers, grain bins, and gas tanks passed by around noon, carrying the stuff that feeds our habits.
Speaking of attractive nuisances: RAGBRAI riders sometimes wear costumes. I saw a fifty year old man in a dress and a couple of women wearing fake plastic butts with red “sore spots” over their shorts. I can’t decide which was more gruesome.
Lore arrived after the main surge of riders had left Wilton, but she was still impressed with the size of the crowds. She noted that many of the bicyclists are not in very good shape. I always thought of this as the paradox of cycling. Bicycles are labor-saving devices as well as exercise machines: as the technology improves and bikes become lighter and easier to operate, you have to ride more and more derive the same fitness benefits. On top of that, a lot of the riders head straight to the beer tents in the meeting towns. Lore said that’s like smoking cigarettes in between playing sets of tennis.
I think my little Nikon digital camera might finally be shot. All of my photos were overexposed.