Day 2's route - downhill! (Yay!)
After riding solo on Day 1, I opted to ride w/ Team WiscAwesome for the first half of Day 2. That's a little of a misnomer. We rode together for parts, but usually it was more of riding in the area of the others and stopping at the towns to collect the group and then to proceed from there.
Our first town of Day 2 was Varina. It wasn't actually on the route. And it wasn't really a town. More like an unincorporated hamlet just off the highway. There was a right turn you had to make to go into town and ride a couple blocks. This created some confusion about what to do and where to go on the highway. Result: the only traffic jam Varina will ever see. And not with cars.
Ok, where's the town?!?
Many riders decided to bypass the town and rode straight. For one block. Where the riders who went into town came back out. Such it is in small town Iowa.
The town itself was about 12 square blocks total. Maybe. We stopped for a brief break before continuing on to Pocahontas (aka Pokey). In Pokey, you could dance the Hokey Pokey or have your pic taken with a local young woman dressed as the native American princess.
When we pulled out of Pokey, I decided to ride on ahead. I was going to ride the "Karras Lopp" - an optional 18 mile loop in the middle of the day's ride. I bypassed Plover on the first pass, but wanted to be sure to stop in the second time by. The RAGBRAI pre-ride report commented on the hamballs that were being sold in Plover to help raise money for a new roof for their church. It was a recipe that had been retired but was brought back just for us!
The first thing I remember about the Karras Loop is that when you turned south to head to Rolfe, the wind out of the south was nasty. I felt like I was going backwards. And I was, relative to every other rider near me. I was passed by young and old alike. I started to wonder what the hell I was doing. I had thought that I was ready for RAGBRAI. On this day, I wasn't so sure.
The second thing I remember, is that a number of riders were cheating to get the Loop Patch. Some rode in the exit way, turning east south of Plover, to Rolfe, then heading north back to the main route. Others rode south after Plover but were just going to get their patch and turn around and head back north. Why? What's the point of getting the patch? Who the hell else will even know what the RAGBRAI Karras Loop patch is, let alone care? And what, when you look at it 10 years from now are you going to think - yeah, I remember short-cutting that Loop? Eh, whatever.
The coveted patch! (Sorry it's out of focus.)
My final recollection is that the loop is that it wasn't set up to be a Century Ride. 79 miles + 18 = 97. If I was going to do it, I wanted it to be a Century. The course made that easy to accomplish. There was a small loop around Rolfe that I figure was about 4 miles (4 one-mile sides). I rode that section twice. 97 + 4 = 101. That, for me, was worth it.
After the loop, it was back to Plover for one of the hamballs on a stick.
Meaghan enjoying a Plover Ham Ball on a Stick
To be honest, I was underwhelmed. For one, I was expecting something that was a big as a tennis ball. It was the size of a golf ball. And it was supposed to be thickly covered in a brown sugar glaze. Not so much. But, it was for a good cause, so I enjoyed a couple. Besides, it was nice to support truly local vendors as opposed to the traveling official vendors. If RAGRAI is intended to showcase and benefit the communities of the state, then I'd rather support those local mom & pop food/beverage stands where there's a choice.
After lunch in Plover, it was off to West Bend. West Bend is a decent size town. One thing West Bend has is the Grotto of the Redemption. The Grotto is pretty amazing. Here's a pic. If you find this intriguing, you should check it out in person.
Mike checking out the Grotto
Aided by a tailwind from the south (the same wind that killed me when I started the Loop), the ride to Whittemore was fast. Someone I was riding near said we were cruising at about 20 mph. That was fun. Through Whittemore, and on to Algona, our next overnight town. I don't remember a lot about that last leg.
I do remember pulling into the HS campus in Algona. Jim and Qing had camp set up and Lindsey and Brandon were there already.
Qing, Lindsey, Brandon, Jim and I
It felt great to have done the additional mileage and still beat some others that did not do the Loop into camp that day. (Ok, I guess, I'm being a little too competitive about the riding. Still feels good though!)
I will say, that the folks at Algona HS did it right. Not only did they have the building open, but they opened up the kitchen and sold spaghetti dinners to anyone who wanted it. And they mounded the food on. They kept the building open all night. As well as the concession stand. And had pastries there in the morning. They certainly made us feel welcome and wanted. And they made a buck or two for their programs there, too. And they were all so friendly! I could go on and on, but you get the idea. They did the BEST job of school sites we stayed at overnight. So, THANKS, Algona HS!