RAGBRAI 2015: Sioux City

Sunset on the Missouri River

As a kid in Iowa whose childhood freedom was viewed over bicycle handlebars, I always wanted to ride RAGBRAI, the [Des Moines] Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. It might have taken me a while to get here, but I'm writing this from my tent just feet away from the banks of the Missouri River in Sioux City. Tomorrow I pedal.

I bought a new bicycle in January of 2013. I don't remember why I thought I needed a new one, exactly. My 1990 Bianchi Osprey mountain bike was (and still is) serving me pretty well as a commuter bike back and forth from campus. But Boulder is a bike-crazy town, and a trip to one of Boulder's many bike shops (which outnumber coffee shops, to give you an idea of their number) turned into a shiny new Fuji cyclocross bike. I'd never ridden cyclocross, but I liked the bike's versatility and robustness over a regular road bike.

Since then, I've put many a mile on my new bike, much of it on the roads north of Boulder. It's a spectacular place to ride. I also put in a lot of miles on a cheap Schwinn indoor stationary bike, which gets put to good use on bad-weather days or when I work late and want to squeeze in an hour of pedaling before bedtime. All that biking has added up, so when I looked at this year's RAGBRAI route and the couple thousand miles I had on my legs this year by April, I figured now's the time to head to Iowa and bike across the state.

Sioux City is a great starting town for me. I visited here often in the mid-1990s after my sister moved here. My nephew was born here now almost 21 years ago, and I still remember my sister's house in South Sioux City, Nebraska where we once celebrated our family Christmas. (My sister gave me a Sony Discman!) Later my sister moved to Moville, a small town to the east, but still worked in Sioux City, and I remember passing through in June of 2000 as my sister, nephew, and I headed to Oregon to visit family (and for me to climb Mt. Hood).

Tomorrow's ride is the toughest day of RAGBRAI this year, probably by a good margin barring strong headwinds later this week. It's a little over 70 miles with over 4000 feet of elevation gain. I've done comparable vertical, most recently on a ride from Boulder to Ward up Lefthand Canyon. But that kind of climb in Colorado is mostly one big effort up, followed by one long descent back home. Tomorrow will be up, down, up, down, and with considerably warmer and more humid weather than my long cycling days in Colorado.

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