The day was one of those classic mid-Summer, Iowa days where you were gasping for breath on every climb. It felt like your head was under a blanket. The air was so thick and hot with humidity that oxygen seemed to be far down on the scale of ingredients that the air was made up from.
As we pulled into Elkader, many of us took advantage of the "food stand" (Think food truck, only this was a portable trailer thing) on one corner of the main drag through the small village. The tourist count was up, no doubt due to RAGBRAI being in the area. The food stand, which was called "Two Mit" got that name because it was part of a sentence spoken by a German immigrant once upon a time in a restaurant there when he responded to a question of whether or not he wanted a ground beef burger. He stated that he would have "Two mit (with) ketchup.", or something of that order, as I recall the story being told to me. Anyway.... If you have a more accurate version, please hit me up in the comments. It's been nine years since that time.....
(Note: As of April 11th, 2023 Two Mit has closed its doors for good according to a Facebook post on the business' page)
|Taken while waiting in line for a Two Mit burger, which was a boiled ground beef thing. |
We were sitting around Elkader for quite some time, as I recall. It was as if no one really wanted to leave, but we knew we had to get the party started or we'd never get the deed done. So, off we shuffled and onward we went to meet the awaiting steeps of Clayton County.
|Leaving Elkader and going into the most difficult part of the course.|
|Imperial Road Level B|
So this was going to be about 35 miles of really tough hills. It was also going to be the hottest part of the day, which was into the 90's and, as I said, humid. I was well into the hurt locker when we left Elkader and now it was going off the charts into bizzaro-land as far as how much this was pushing me. It wasn't good.
And my Tamland was woefully under-geared, so I ended up walking sections a lot. This meant that the going was slow and everyone else had to wait on my old carcass to catch up. That in turn made me feel badly and that made things go even worse.
|Part of Impala Road, a level B road along the Turkey River near Garber, Iowa. |
|Things were hopping in Garber due to its being on the 2014 RAGBRAI route. |
After being way out in the boonies, seemingly removed totally from the civilized world on Imperial and Impala Roads, we dumped out of a dirt two-track to come face to face with the stream-of-riders of bikes that is RAGBRAI. It was a brief respite from the fever-dream I found myself in, and I do recall some of what happened there that day.
The area around Garber Iowa is known as an area with a lot of Amish/Mennonite residents. As we came off the dirt road, we had to immediately cross a bridge on a county blacktop, part of the RAGBRAI route that year, which would get us across the Turkey River. Along the bridge's railings were a line of Amish/Mennonite boys and younger men, all standing with hands crossed on their chests, who were watching the ladies ride by. It was kind of a comical site.
Then we made haste to take advantage of the small convenience store/gas station for water refills and off we went again, back into hill after steep hill, and my memory fades into a blur. Spurred on merely by an inner will to finish, I really do not have much recollection of the following miles up until.....
|This was about the only flat part in this afternoon's riding. |
|The big, long climb up Fantail Road |
Until we got to Fantail Road. A long, three mile-plus slog which starts out gently and then ratchets up to a staggering 18% gradient before slacking off a bit going into some zig-zag corners and then topping out North of Edgewood, Iowa. I've ridden this road four times and I have never made it up all the way without walking it. Of course, there were the conditions and all the miles leading up to that point, but even so. This is one tough cookie of a climb.
Some in our group were able to climb this, but a few of us walked a lot of it. Just down from the top of the steepest bit, the guys had thrown themselves into the shade of some overhanging trees to wait on us stragglers. As I walked up, a shiny new looking white GMC 4X4 pulled up to a stop kind of near the middle of the road, on the top of that steep section. I thought the driver maybe was going to give us a hard time, but when nothing happened, I thought maybe the driver was stopping to use a cell phone. Reception down in the hollows was sketchy. I paid no further mind to this and threw myself down into the cooler grass and closed my eyes for a bit.
I wanted to rest there a long time. I needed to rest, but I had a driving urge to make sure everyone else was happy and I knew we needed to get a move on. I don't know how long I laid there, but when I felt no one else was going to make the call for me to move along, I stood up and motioned weakly that we should start going again.
I was walking my bike slowly on the grass, next to where the gravel met the green, and I heard a shout, "LOOK OUT!", and I lifted my eyes to see Dan Buettner, who had been right in front of me, cartwheeling off to my right. I had a second to realize that a white vehicle was about to hit me. I turned my face to the right, squeezed my eyes shut, and....................
Next, the conclusion of the ninth GTDRI.