Hills are alive on Day 4 of RAGBRAI

Bridget Maxwell

Some of Heather Burns' fun on Day 4 of RAGBRAI took place on four wheels instead of two.

This is the fifth of a series of blogs by espnW deputy editor and native Iowan Heather Burns, who is doing the Des Moines Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.

A typical conversation rolling down the highway with thousands of other cyclists: "Which would you rather have: a headwind, heat or hills?"

If I had to choose, I would take hills every time. And that is what we are getting this week.

While this ride was advertised as one of the least hilly routes in RAGBRAI history, we had a climb of nearly 3,000 feet Wednesday and will have the same Thursday. But I am not complaining. We have had only one headwind, which lasted 10 miles, a couple days ago. And the heat broke after the first two days, thanks to a big thunderstorm.

By and large this has been a happy RAGBRAI. We were able to put the flood that came with the thunderstorm on Monday night behind us by doing some laundry and drying out all of our gear Tuesday. Wednesday was my sister Bridget's birthday and a nearly perfect day for a ride. We decided to go slow and have some fun along the way.

Bridget and Rebe, my riding partners, stayed at a hotel in Des Moines, so they got out on the route a little earlier than I did. They were kind enough to wait for me in the town of Runnells, where we went to the local watering hole and got Bloody Marys. Afterward we watched the town people do a flash mob before hopping back on our bikes and heading to Monroe.

We were 36 miles into a 50-mile ride when we arrived, so we decided to hang out for a couple hours. First, we went to another bar for beer and then headed over to watch a blues band playing in the park.

Soon, we spotted some water being squirted into the sky. There was a barrel – later I was told it was a beer keg -- on a wire being moved back and forth by the water, which was coming from a firehose. For $5, teams of two could put on firefighting gear and squirt the barrel with the fire hose against another team on the other side. The team that pushed the barrel over its opponents' head won. It was pretty fun to watch, and the contestants got plenty wet.

On our way out of town we posed for pictures on top of a tractor -- a RAGBRAI tradition for city folks.

We have covered more than half the miles on the ride in the first four days. We have 167 miles to Fort Madison and the Mississippi River.

Knowing that there will be more hills, let's hope the headwinds and the heat stay away.

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