Friday was a day to write home about. We slept later than any other morning and got our bags on the truck 10 minutes before it left. We ate breakfast at our campsite in Waterloo before hitting the road. It was raining lightly on and off as we were packing up but as we were finishing breakfast, the rain started coming down hard and the lightning and thunder started. We were under a breakfast tent with five or six other riders as the owners were trying to close up and take down the tents. We were some of the last people in the campsite, as most people leave between 5:30 and 7:30. We were counting seconds between thunder and lightning and it continued to be only a mile or two away. Around 8:30, with the several friends we'd made waiting, we decided to all ride together, thus eliminating our chances of getting struck. I know this is not a funny joke but it did cross my mind as we were biking. We were with Sam and Joe, brothers from Philly and Dallas, their dad, and Jeremy from Chicago. We stayed with them a long time and it made the ride more entertaining and slightly less torturous. We likened our journey to the perfect storm, and then to remember the titans because it has a much happier ending. We stopped at a fire station ten miles in where we ran into Betsy who had been drying off and drinking coffee. This is where I met Ragbrai Mike, without whom I wouldn't be sharing my stories with the world right now. We rode a few more miles to Shady Grove!! (IA, not MD) Leaving Shady Grove, Sam and Joyce collided and Joyce wiped out. She was ok with a scrape on her knee and a sore shoulder. As we learned this trip, though, scars are tattoos with a better story. The next eleven miles were the longest and hardest of the trip. It was so wet and cold and we were biking straight into the wind. For once that week, we were unhappy campers. We did run into Ralph though which brought a smile to my face. We ate lunch in Rowley with my papa and by the time we left, the sun was shining and our sopping clothes were drying out. The afternoon ended up being gorgeous and we stopped a few times, learned a little bit about Iowa High School Football, peed in our last cornfield and ate homemade ice cream and pie. Friday night, our last, we camped out in Manchester, the town that we had seen flooded a week earlier. My parents stayed with some delightful strangers who welcomed us all into their home for snacks and beer. We went downtown and, instead of joining the craziness of the beer garden, we bought a six pack at a gas station and sipped beers on the steps of a church overlooking the crowds and the band. It was fun to watch the people partying but just chill there and reflect on the trip. I think Ben described it as an amazing sense of accomplishment combined with lots of pie eating and some torture, a combination which makes for a moderately fun time. In all seriousness, though, the trip had been awesome and it was sad and hard to believe we had only one day left.
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