The final trek

BY TYLER FINCHUM | JULY 28, 2014 5:00 AM

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Tyler Finchum, a staffer at The Daily Iowan, has written about his first RAGBRAI experience. This last installment recaps his final three days on the road.

The last three days of RAGBRAI, for me at least, were painless.

Especially when you consider the agony I had endured during the first few days of RAGBRAI.

The July 24 65.8-mile ride from Mason City to Waverly was enjoyable because of nice weather and riding with a friend.

When riding with friends, the conversation quickly turns to one hypothetical question: If you created a RAGBRAI team, what would its name be and what would it be known for?

My team’s name would be named Team Tyler (obviously), and we would be known for having monitors on our backs so people can watch movies.

The July 25 67.4-mile ride from Waverly to Independence was filled with rain and 20 mph headwinds.

While many criticized this year’s RAGBRAI as the second easiest in RABRAI history (for miles ridden and elevation climbed) many of the veteran RAGBRAI riders said the July 25 ride was the second hardest in the history of RAGBRAI because of the pelting rain and nonstop wind.

However, for me, the July 25 ride was the easiest day in my short history with RAGBRAI. This is because I decided to ride on our club’s support bus — or sag wagon — rather than ride in the rain to that night’s stop.

The idea of taking a sag wagon rather than biking to a city is a contentious issue among riders.

Some riders view RAGBRAI as a proving ground — a place to show that even if you are 70 years old, or obese, or have two prosthetic legs, you are still capable of making the 400-plus mile journey to the Mississippi River.

Others view RAGBRAI as a vacation — a chance to crack open a beer and relax.

On the fifth day, I would have put myself in the first group of riders.

However, being woken up in my tent at 4 a.m. by a torrent of rain and thunder has a way of changing a man. I quickly found myself relating more and more to the later group.

From a pure numbers standpoint, the July 26 ride to Guttenberg was by far the most difficult.

The elevation climbed was nearly twice as high as any other day.

Then there was the infamous 2-mile-long hill. Despite these obstacles I found myself flying along the route, most likely spurred on by the idea of a bed and Internet access.

My first RAGBRAI ended alongside tens of thousands of other riders — at the bank of the mighty Mississippi.

It is tradition to celebrate the end of the seven-day ride by dipping your bike’s front tire into the river.

The wait to reach the river was long because the abundance of smart-phone cameras and the desire for profile pictures at the river.

I didn’t mind much. After a week of waiting in line to use a Porta-Potty or to get something to eat, I had been conditioned to waiting.

It gave me a chance to think about if I would be back at the Mississippi again next year. I don’t think so.

But perhaps I will be back for RAGBRAI 100. I will be 79 years old, hopefully retired, and have something to prove.

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