CHARLES CITY — Scott Prince and Jim Kuhn are both from Indiana, but the RAGBRAI riders had never met before spotting the tube rental sign on one of Charles City’s bridges over the Cedar River.
When Kuhn, of Connersville, asked if anyone wanted to go tubing on the city’s whitewater course, Prince, who lives in Carmel, quickly raised his hand, ready for an adventure.
“That’s RAGBRAI,” Kuhn said.
The two said they weren’t daunted by churning rapids, the first to be purpose-built in Iowa, though “I’m afraid I’ll lose my wallet,” Prince joked.
The chance to cool off in the river was just one of many opportunities to relax and unwind on Thursday’s relatively brief but scenic ride. It was a respite after the previous day’s full-course century ride, covering 105 miles from Emmetsburg to Mason City — the first non-optional 100-mile-plus day for RAGBRAI in 37 years.
Having fun digging in the dirt
Among Thursday’s attractions was the Floyd County Fossil & Prairie Center, a park converted from a disused quarry just outside Rockford. Scrambling around one of the pits, digging in the dirt to find Ordovician remnants,10-year-old Leo Goodenough of Austin, Texas, was getting a taste of his dream job as a paleontologist.
Wearing a dinosaur-covered bike jersey, Leo, accompanied by his Dad, Guy, found fossils of 365-million-year-old gastropods and brachiopods that lives in the sea Alan Sears, the fossil center’s conservation director, explained once covered the area.
Visitors to the former quarry, where clay was once mined for tiles, can find fossils the size of baseballs, Sears said The center has about 50 acres of fossil pits and 350 acres of prairie.
Leo said the fossils were great. But it was hard to compete with the thrill of sliding down the steep slopes.
“They caught some good speed,” said his Dad.
Thirteen-year-old Tucker Brunsvold, riding RAGBRAI with his aunt Amy Peckham, wasn’t sure what kind of fossil he had found. But he thought his science-teacher grandmother would help him identify them.
Tucker, who lives in Wesley, said he and his aunt were “doing everything” on Thursday’s ride. “We’re not saying no,” said Peckham, who lives in Clear Lake.
Getting refreshed after a tough day
Just down the road in meeting town Marble Rock, Mike Hoffman of Seattle, getting a drink of water, said Wednesday’s ride had been “a little tough,” though a tailwind meant “you could really go fast, for a lot of it.”
A block away, friends Eric Feldkamp and Kevin Temple, both of Cedar Rapids, were opting for a different sort of liquid refreshment. It’s a daily ritual that Wednesday’s long ride didn’t interrupt.
“It’s a long day for sure. And you wake up a little sore,” Feldkamp said, but added, “It’s not every day that you can buy a six-pack at a grocery store and sit on a curb and enjoy it with your buddies.”
Nathaniel Hoover of Fort Collins, Colorado, said he feels a little sorer every day.
“They say it’s supposed to get better,” said Hoover, riding with his brother Brian of Petaluma, California, and dad, David , of Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Hoover said he spent Thursday learning some family history from his dad, who went to high school in Rockford.
His great-grandfather started Hoover’s Hatchery in Rudd, located between Mason City and Charles City. Although the family sold the business, the Hoovers hoped to get a tour Thursday.
Loving the ride, but the camping? Not so much
Denna Cornwell and Julie Wilharm, both of Waverly, joined the ride in Mason City. They missed the Century Day, but found battling a headwind on the way into Charles City was challenging.
The women, who will ride three days this week, said they like to ride fast so they can enjoy time in the towns along the route.
“You’re riding along pretty good, then someone passes you like you’re standing still,” said Cornwell, adding that she and Wilharm spent a lot of time in Marble Rock, getting food and watching other riders dance.
“I love the whole community thing. Everyone is so nice,” Wilharm said.
The women love the towns, the people and the ride. But they don’t enjoy camping.
Cornwell said her husband picks them up every night, brings them back to Waverly and then takes them back to the starting town the next day.
“These bones need a bed,” she said.
Donnelle Eller covers agriculture, the environment and energy for the Register. Reach her at email@example.com or 515-284-8457.