Our last full day in Sioux Falls was Thursday. I had a busy schedule – first up I rode the Spyder to Madison – 50 miles away. I went west on SD42 and knew I had turn north on SD19 – 456th Street. It was about 20 miles to the first turn. I hadn’t gone more than 10 miles when I crossed 467th Street. I thought, “How can this be? I have more than 10 miles before I reach 456th, but that’s only 10 blocks away.” Then it dawned on me. Outside of the city, the farmland is divided into sections. Each section is 640 acres – a square mile. Each numbered street is a mile apart – there are no subdivisions and city blocks.
Heading north on SD19, I missed a turn and had to ride about three miles of gravel road before I got back on track. In Madison, I visited the office of our mail service and found our registrations and license tabs had arrived. That was a relief – I did’t want to continue to drive on expired plates.
After I got home, Donna and I took turns going out on the Spyder and shopping – we were stocking up for the next 10 days as we cross Iowa. I also organized the trailer and made it ready for travel. Thursday evening we took a walk through the RV park and got a taste of what we’re heading for. A converted bus with 10 bicycles on the roof was in the park. This is a support vehicle for a team of RAGBRAI riders. We talked with the owner – he came from Richmond, Virginia and is participating in his 10th RAGBRAI. The bus was outfitted with seats and storage spaces for 10 riders, large quantities of beer, water and sports drinks and they were installing USB ports so the riders can charge their devices. The owner is a Blue Oyster Cult fan and the bus has Agents of Fortune stenciled on the side – that was Blue Oyster Cult’s biggest selling album in the ’70s.
Friday morning we woke up to rain. I deviated from my normal routine and hadn’t removed the windshield cover the day before travel. So I had to store a wet cover in the trailer. I didn’t want to roll it up and store it in a basement compartment like I usually do because it would likely mildew.
We had a short drive of 77 miles to Orange City, Iowa. As we traveled south out of Sioux Falls, we passed by Lennox. I had relatives in the Sioux Falls area – mostly great uncles and aunts – brothers and sisters of my grandfather on my dad’s side of the family. When I was 10 years old, I spent a week on my great uncle Hank’s farm near Lennox. Our route then took us through Canton where my great uncle Ed was sheriff. I spent a week with him and Aunt Sadie on the same trip when I stayed on the farm.
Donna commented on the rolling hills of northern Iowa. The bike ride across Iowa may not be as flat as we envisioned. We came into Orange City from the north. As we rolled through town, we saw preparations underway for the start of RAGBRAI. We didn’t see the turn for the RV parking and had to make a loop around a section of land – once we passed through town we were immediately into farmland on a dirt road.
Our friend and organizer of our team, Jeff Spencer, phoned us. He was at a high school parking lot that was a designated RV area. He gave us directions and we found him along with a volunteer named Brian who was in charge of the parking area. It was a large, fairly level concrete lot. We were the first RV to arrive there. Brian directed us to park diagonally with our front pointed toward the exit. He was planning ahead for the rush of vehicles trying to leave the lot all at once Sunday morning.
RAGBRAI is an acronym for the (Des Moines) Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. This event was conceived by two columnists that wrote for the Register in 1973. It has grown to huge proportions. There are 8,500 riders registered along with 1,500 RV permits issued for the 45th event. We’re told some sections of the ride will have more than 10,000 riders as unregistered bicyclists join in. Not all of the support RVs are registered – many will dry camp along the streets. The registration sticker for a support vehicle allows access to designated RV camps.
There are two routes published for each day. One route is for the bicyclists that will take them on roads closed to vehicular traffic. The other route is for support vehicles to get to the destination city for the that day.
As the day wore on, more RVs pulled into the parking lot. Around 5:30pm, the rest of Team RV There Yet? arrived. It was three people in a class C coach – Tom, his father-in-law Fred and another Geoff. Tom and Fred are from Elkhart, Indiana and Geoff is from Austin, Texas. Fred will drive their RV while Tom and Geoff ride. Jeff Spencer will ride and his wife Deb will drive their truck and fifth-wheel RV. Of course I’m driving our coach and Donna will ride.
Some of the support vehicles are a hoot. I took a few photos of the rigs here.
It was hot and humid out. We set up chairs between our coach and Tom’s where the breeze kept us reasonably cool and visited for a while.
After a while, we walked over to Los Tupilanes – a Mexican restaurant next to the high school. The food was surprisingly good. This city of about 6,200 people will be hopping this weekend as its population triples. This is the first time Orange City has been on the RAGBRAI route – the route changes every year. Everyone in town seems excited to be the starting point of the event and I’m sure the local businesses are happy about the inflow of visitors.
Over the past 44 years, RAGBRAI has passed through 780 Iowa towns and spent the night in 125 overnight towns. It has been in all of Iowa’s 99 counties.
Today the Expo with vendors starts at noon. I’ll go to the support vehicle driver’s safety meeting at 4pm. It’s going to be another hot day – the temperature should reach the low 90s. Tomorrow is expected to be a little cooler. I plan to head out early – be on the road as close to 7am as I can. The route is about 63 miles and will end in Spencer, Iowa. Right now I have good internet connectivity. That may change in the coming days. Even if we have a good signal, I’m guessing cell towers may become overloaded. I’ll post updates when I can.