By Ted Schultz
Special to the Herald
CEDAR RAPIDS —
The longest day of 2012 RAGBRAI was the longest, but certainly not the toughest.
Thursday’s 84.5-mile route took us from Marshalltown to Cedar Rapids. There was certainly a good chunk of climb, but nothing too intimidating, and the heat was there but not as bad as recent days.
First let me step back. Wednesday night in Marshalltown I got a treat when my wife, Marsha, came up from Grinnell and offered to take me out to eat at a REAL restaurant. It was great going to Applebee’s, sitting in air conditioning and eating a meal.
Vendor food is OK, but it’s nice to break the trend.
Afterwards we went to meet Marsha’s brother and sister-and-law and some friends. After a quick visit, I figured I should get back to the campground to get some sleep.
I couldn’t have done that a minute too soon. Right as our shuttle was arriving at the campground, it began to rain and I didn’t have the fly on my tent cot. Others on the bus were in similar situations, and it was funny to watch everyone sprint off the bus to their campsites to tend to such a thing.
After accomplishing that, I was set to lay down for a good rest. The storm began to get a bit worse, with some pretty magnificent lightning and thunder (unlike the bear in this summer’s movie who shares my name, I did not sing the Thunder Buddy song … probably because Mark Wahlberg was nowhere to be found!).
When things got a bit worse, campers were told to report to storm shelters. By the time we got to ours, it was raining quite heavily and everybody was soaked.
After hanging around for about 15 minutes, I decided to head back to my tent cot. The “beast” (the name given that monstrous contraption by RAGBRAI baggage folks in 2007) came through with no water in it whatsoever … I was high and dry the whole night.
Thursday’s route began with three pretty extensive rides, a 15-miler to Garwin and 17 more miles to both Clutier and Garrison. Hard to believe that through three towns we’d already be more than half done with our mileage.
During the trip I saw something funny at Mr. Pork Chop, a vendor that travels the ride day-to-day. They were serving their food in a farmhouse yard and a medium-sized dog was in Heaven, chewing on a pork chop somebody must not have finished. I’m sure that happened multiple times during the day.
Wind has been a factor most of the ride, and to an extent it was again Thursday as the breeze came from the northwest. I noticed that while traveling north before getting to Garrison, and again leaving Garrison on the 10-mile route to Vinton.
When we arrived in Vinton, riders were welcomed by great cheers by the Vinton-Shellsburg cheerleading squad. Many riders were taking photos of this as they drove through and slapped hands with the girls.
From there it was 12 miles to Shellsburg, which had a “Wizard of Oz” theme. Signs told us to “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” to the city park where all the festivities were taking place. A thick yellow line (or road, I guess) led the way for several blocks so you had to excuse to get lost.
After that it was just 14 miles to Cedar Rapids, where we saw some more hills but again, nothing riders couldn’t handle. This is where we’ll spend the night before heading to Anamosa Friday and then journey to Clinton to finish the ride.