Pie, Pork, Sweet Corn & Bikes in the Heartland: RAGBRAI XXXVIII
Team Story Cadence is back from our introduction to RAGBRAI, and what an introduction! Our first day, temperatures soared to the mid-90s, with a heat index over 100. The oppressive humidity made breathing difficult, so the day’s 60 mile route took much longer than we expected. Once the sun had climbed to its zenith, I often found myself gazing down the relentlessly bright and sunny roadway, my eyes desperately searching out a shady tree or a roadside tent-stand offering ice water. The sight of a small grove or a farmhouse, with clusters of bikes standing or lying on the shoulder of the roadway and cyclists sprawled about under the trees, would spur me up any incline with renewed zeal.
It was difficult to eat enough calories in such weather. I was also surprised to discover that, after our first stop for pie (about 25 miles into the ride), I no longer found sugary foods appealing. My body craved more substantial fare, protein and complex carbs. Even so, the First Lutheran Church in Roland, IA tempted me with a slice of peach pie well worth the stop. Its succulent, fresh peach filling oozed out from a light, flaky, flavorful crust.
Kate and Laura enjoyed the church’s apple pie, with a crumb topping and a filling loaded with cinnamon.
This is Iowa, so pork and corn were in abundance. The grilled pork loin sandwich smothered in barbecue sauce I bought from a vendor tent in Garner, IA, tasted much better than it looked. The thick-cut pork was slightly smoky, and impossibly juicy.
In spite of the heat (and later, thunderstorms), I can see why people return to participate in RAGBRAI year after year, some traveling from around the world. Along our route, I heard French and Italian spoken, as well as British, Indian, and Australian accents. Riding along the roadway with thousands of other cyclists engendered a feeling of community and openness. Total strangers fell into easy conversation, and went out of their way to help one another out when needed. Everyone groaned about the heat, kvetching in a way that clearly communicated a perverse joy at being part of this challenging, uncomfortable, expansive experience. Interacting with other riders and the supportive residents of the host towns has me teetering on the brink of falling in love with Iowa. I can’t wait to start training for RAGBRAI XXXIX.