KNOXVILLE — As one rider described to me, if there was ever a perfect day of RAGBRAI, Wednesday was it.
The 49.9-mile route of the Register’s Annual Bicycle Ride Across Iowa from Des Moines to Knoxville had a few hills, but nothing bad, plus mild temperatures.
First, let me back up. Des Moines was a fun overnight community Tuesday. I went down to the vendors that afternoon and Drake University proved to be the winner, giving out free tote bags, T-shirts and socks to anybody who stopped by the booth (me, being a cheapskate, loved that).
I attended a Grinnell College dinner later in downtown Des Moines and then walked a short distance to Principal Park, where the Iowa Cubs were playing New Orleans. It was a perfect night for a ball game.
I intended to leave Wednesday morning at 6 a.m., but my trip was delayed for the same reason as many others. The cleats on our biking shoes were full of mud (from camping at a muddy Waterworks Park) and we couldn’t clip in, so it was a common sight to see bikers pulled over, using sticks or whatever to clean the bottoms of their shoes.
Once that mission was accomplished, it was 8 miles to the Iowa State Fairgrounds. It was kind of eerie going through there when it was relatively quiet. I’m used to that place being packed during fair time.
We faced several significant hills exiting Des Moines for the 9-mile trek to Alelphi, and from there it was just 5 miles to Runnells where we were greeted by the Southeast Polk High School pep band.
After a short stop there, it was 14 miles to Monroe. Halfway through that trip, there was a roadside sign stating there was a clean pond on this particular farm property, and that swimming AND skinny dipping were available.