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RAGBRAI 2021 DAY 1 - Le Mars to Sac City

Early on the ride from Sioux City yesterday, we rode through the morning mist under a bridge. There we saw an apparent homeless man slumped sleeping in his wheelchair, a blanket draped over his shoulders. It made me feel sad, yet incredibly blessed. Here I would see 500 + miles of beautiful Iowa scenery on my two wheels. I hoped somehow, he could make it to a nearby soup kitchen on his. My tent this week may not be much, but to him it would be a palace.

There is no good Segway back to today's ride, so I will not try. Helmets off to Le Mars. They did an awesome job of hosting RAGBRAI. There is a strong cycling community there, so it is no surprise.

RAGBRAI 2021 sunrise on the ride.
Mist over an Iowa farmscape just after sunrise.

Today a train whistle woke me at 3:30 AM. I waited to the respectably late hour of 4:30 AM to pack up so as not to disturb the neighbors. I may have jumped the gun a bit. By 5:40 I had slammed down a protein bar and was ready to roll. The faint light of dawn was starting to glow on the eastern horizon. Behind me a large full moon glowed ochre reflecting the sunrise I could not yet see.

I was anxious to leave early and beat the heat, and bike traffic. I also knew our destination today, Sac City, hosted the world's largest popcorn ball. I wanted to get a bite of that baby before thousands of hungry RAGBRAIers descended on it like termites to a wood pile.

Our route was 84 miles with 2816 feet of climb. Long for a first official day. A couple of host communities felt compelled to cancel for Covid. Thanks to Sac City for taking on a big task for a small town. Along the way we would pass through Oyens, Remsen, Cherokee, Aurelia, Alta, and Early. Please check out the pics and captions, they will give you a feel for the colorful encounters of Day 1.

The RAGBRAI June inspection route riders called Day 1 a "BEAST" siting the three H’s: Heat, Hills, and Headwinds. We definitely had the first one. On the second I would say they have not experienced the northern South Dakota Missouri River bluffs. The differentiator was the headwinds. Ours were 5 theirs were 35.

Leaving our campsite on the south side of Le Mars I was concerned I was premature or lost. I only saw a couple of bikers. When I reached highway 3 on the north side, I was both relieved and disappointed. Apparently "early to rise, early to ride" was not my original idea. The road was choked with bikers and their flashing red taillights.

I rode hard for 30 minutes to get out front of the traffic. I reluctantly stopped to capture a pic of the sunrise over Iowa grain bins. I knew the plethora of people I passed would return the favor and a camera could not capture the view. I was right on both counts.

Today was "The Ride of Silence." At a designated one-mile span, cyclists are asked to ride silently to remember those killed by motor vehicles and to pledge to engage in bike safety advocacy.

At 7:30 I stopped again to take a shot of the fog settled in the valleys over the Iowa landscape. Beautiful!

I was out front of the heavy traffic most of the day. The roads were mostly smooth, not like some of those bottom bouncers in remote northern South Dakota. Not to disparage RASDak. I can't wait to do it again next year and I have Rhonda's permission. Well, sort of.

The snicker doodle caramel cheesecake in Aurelia looked amazing but I did not think I had room on top of the syrup-soaked short stack I just ate in Cherokee.

I did not stop to snap a picture of the "Midwest’s Largest Steer”, but he looked big from my bike. I did stop for the free watermelon.

I arrived in camp at 12:40 with way too many words and pics. I'll save the rest for another day. Oh, by the way, they were not letting people tear a big chunk off that popcorn ball, so I had to find something else to eat. I feel great. I will find out tomorrow whether that is me, or the Tylenol talking.

Todd Moss

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