Monday, June 24, 2013

Waukee, IA - Day 30

At Kearney, the land was flat and mostly under cultivation in corn.  I can see where the University of Nebraska football team, The Cornhuskers, get their name.  I stayed overnight at the Fort Kearny State Recreation Park. It was a nice state park campground with 6 small ponds for fishing.  Next to the campground was Historic Fort Kearny.   The fort is all but gone, but there is a small museum and one building left from the 1848 fort.  The fort was built to protect the travelers on the Oregon and Mormon trails, which followed the Platte River west.  Once the railroad was built in 1869, the fort’s importance was diminished and by 1871 is was abandoned.

I left Kearney and got on I-80 going east.  I was back on the interstate, which I hadn’t been on for over 3 weeks.  Eastern Nebraska is flat with much of the land planted in corn.  Its also pretty well developed..  Once I crossed the Missouri River into Iowa, the terrain changed.  The flat land became hilly with gullies and gulches. 

I was familiar with this terrain, the constant ups and downs, from the year I did RAGBRAI.  Every year in July, the Des Moines Register sponsors a bike ride across Iowa - Registers Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.  It’s the largest organized bike ride in the US.  The purpose of the ride is to highlight the small towns of Iowa.  Each year the route changes and towns lobby to be on the route, either as a pass thru town or a lay over town.  The year I did it, in 2006, there were over 15,000 people on the ride, which included Lance Armstrong.  The ride goes from the Missouri River to the Mississippi River and is usually over 400 miles long. For a small town, it’s the biggest thing that will happen to the town that year when 15,000 people show up who want to eat, drink, and find a place to sleep. 

In 2006, Waukee, IA was a layover town for us to spend the night on the third day of the ride.  I decided to revisit my RAGBRAI experience and make that my layover stop for this trip.  Waukee is just outside of Des Moines.  Its medium size with about 13,000 people.  In 2006, I had to ride over 70 miles to get to Waukee.  It was hot, in the 90’s type of hot.  By the time I came into Waukee, I was whipped from the heat and hills, but there was a welcome surprise. As we pushed up the last long hill into the town, the towns folk had gathered along  the side of the road and were welcoming us by handing out Hawaiian Leis and shooting at us with super soakers and spraying us from garden hoses.  The cold water hitting my sweat soaked body felt so good.

Our group camped in a small park near the high school.  That night, the group I was with catered a special dinner for us.  They hired “The Pork Chop Man” to feed us his special Iowa cut pork chops with all the fixins.  The Pork Chop man was a legend on RAGBRAI.  He had a big pink school bus that served as his smoker and food delivery stand and he would stand out side yelling  Pork Chooooooooop! As the riders went by.  The pork chop I had that night was the biggest piece of meat I’ve ever eaten.  It was about 2 inches thick, covered my plate, and had a bone for a handle.  It was the type of thing a caveman would eat. 

I remember that night for another reason.  We had tornado warnings.  The police came by and told us about it and instructed us to go the high school in case we heard the tornado sirens.  Image 15,000 people camped in tents running to shelters from a tornado,.  It would be mayhem and a disaster.  Luckily we heard no sirens, but we had horrific thunder and lighting with lots of heavy rain and gusty winds.  I remember it well because I laid on my cot in my tent all night fully dressed in my biking clothes wearing my rain coat, with everything I owned packed up holding onto the tent poles hoping I wouldn’t get sucked up by an F5.  There was no sleep that night in Waukee.  But the next day arrived with just some flooded and knocked down tents.   By 6:00 am I was back on my bike riding north around Des Moines to the next small town in search of food.  You can read my trip journal on the whole RAGBRAI 2006 ride at

RAGBRAI 2006 Journal 

This time my stay in Waukee was uneventful, but it brought back some good and vivid memories.  RAGBRAI was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but also one of them most rewarding.  I got to see and experience the real Iowa.  This time it would be just a couple of days on the Interstate.

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