RAGBRAI news team
| by Grant RodgersShare
CEDAR RAPIDS, Ia. — Heat is the common factor motivating RAGBRAI’s early-risers to hit the route while others still roll in sleeping bags. They’re sometimes out before the sun rises.
“When all these people are suffering in the heat, I’m usually back in taking a nap,” said rider Ed Alford, 57, a Topeka, Kan. resident.
Alford’s a solitary early riser. He prefers riding solo without the massive crowds, another advantage of riding early.
He began the day on Wednesday at 5:30 a.m., completing the 85-mile ride from Marshalltown to Cedar Rapids just after 10.
Getting caught on the route in the middle of the day can be a “death spiral,” said Thomas Thurman, 71, from Colorado Springs, Colo. The heat of the day slows a rider down, which results in a longer time on the route.
And the fun only “spirals” down from there, he said.
“It’s very simple, beat the heat,” he said. “Otherwise you get into a death spiral.”
Thurman completed the ride to Cedar Rapids around 10:20, but he can’t say when exactly he started. On RAGBRAI, he wears no wristwatch.
But when he woke up, he saw stars and a clear sky and proceeded to ride, he said.
The early-risers clip through the towns on the route before other riders, but it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s no time to take in small-town Iowa hospitality.
Robert Dawson, 65, a nine-year veteran of the ride, says he was able to stop for all-you-can eat pancakes before arriving in Cedar Rapids around 10:30.
RAGBRAI forces Dawson, a Greensburg, Ind., resident, out of bed an hour earlier than he’s used to, he said. He starts the ride around 4:45, and rarely arrives at an overnight town past 10:30 a.m., he said.
The goal remains the same: Always “beating the heat” of the day.
It’s a physical test to wake up early and make the ride before the masses, and that challenge is a significant motivator for Dawson, he said.
“It’s like going to boot camp. I could stay home in the air conditioning or I could go to boot camp.”
First-time RAGBRAI rider Dena Lange, 39, began at 4:15 to make the ride to
Cedar Rapids, arriving just before 10:30.
She’s tardy, however, compared to her boyfriend, Shawn, who made it to the city by 9:30, she said.
There’s some sacrifice to being an early-riser, Lange, an Austin, Texas resident, said. It means getting to bed early, forgoing late-night parties.
The trade-off is an afternoon nap and time to sightsee in the overnight towns, she said.
“There are the people here to eat, and there are the people here to ride,” she said.
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