|13 years ago I rode this with Jim. 13 years later I was on this bike when I saw him again.|
So I hear some voices behind me and step it up a little bit. I tend to slack when I ride by myself. Soon a tandem pulls up on the left and I have to increase my effort. I look at the captain and he remembered me. I remembered him. Hard to forget people who you ride with on what could be the worst day of Ragbrai ever. Some call it Saggy Thursday, we call it Windy Thursday. Despite Ragbrai's view that the predominate wind in Iowa is west to east they time after time have north/south routes that inevitably get mired by headwind. The never ending battle of warm and cold air is generally a north/south struggle. That Thursday we had quite a long stretch south. We had over 40 miles of it.
1995. Tama to Sigourney. Nothing special about the day until we reached Belle Plain. Molly, who worked at Bike World at the time and later Active Endeavors noted that bikers were being like "locust" just hanging out in town. And when we made the right turn out of town on I understood. Strong, evil headwind. We quickly formed a double draftline that could only make 11 mph. Molly's next comment was concerning the draftline. "I got a new ass to stare at."
Jim Cunningham was in that line. We did what we could. Rumor was that he had a SAG bus waiting in Victor, Iowa. And when we got there it was 2 miles away and we had to backtrack. But when we got there it was gone. Now 2 bonus miles in that evil wind. Jim was pissed. We all were tired. 'What gets me the most is that the slow people do not suffer as much on days like this." They do but he had a point. We lost much of our speed.
I eventually found Colin Lamb and Paul Meyer. Colin and Jim disappeared into the wind and Paul and I pulled onto a gravel road and sat out of the wind to contemplate our next move. A safety discussion. We considered a SAG, having wristbands we could do this. But Paul would not be able to have a cigarette on the SAG so we soldiered on.
Bunny hopping over cracks in the pavement became my new thing. No long possessing the strength to pass other bikes I perfected this action to the detriment of my rear wheel. Tandem for the rest of the week. Then a vision appeared.
It was a sign. "FREE BEER" it read. Just outside of the overnight town. Paul and I rode up and grabbed ours out of a trough just in time to see Colin power his red Jamis down and up the ditch and hill directly to the beer! Probably his finest riding ever. Just a few miles left. But we survived.
I never saw Jim again until today. He was riding with his sister Cathy to Indianola. They were training for her first Ragbrai. Somehow our sharing of this story did not discourage her. We pulled into Mullets where Joe Hildreth was waiting for me. We told them of South Dakota's head winds. Yep, they are worse.