The Grotto of Redemption – RAGBRAI Day 2

Today was a long day, but the route was mostly flat, making it feel similar to yesterday’s ride. At about mid-afternoon, the sky clouded over cooling things off a bit. We were concerned it might rain, but fortunately, the threatening clouds went the other way, leaving us with a beautiful day for a bike ride.

On our route today, we passed through Pocahontas, Iowa –  affectionately known as “Poky” to the locals. There we found a church that had opened up it’s basement restrooms and kitchen, so cyclists could use the facilities and fill their water bottles. We took advantage of the cool space to do some yoga before continuing with the ride.  We’re finding it’s the random acts of kindness which are making the trip special for us – people offering free water, church basements and random passers-by cheering on the stream of cyclists.

Becky got a new nickname today: “Rumble Girl”! In Iowa, there are rumble strips across the entire lane as your approach a stop sign (usually 3 sets of them). The riders generally go around the rumble strips and yell “RUMBLES”, so that the following riders know they are there. Becky on the other hand, rides over the rumble strips while yelling “RUMBL-L-L-L-L” with a fun vibrato caused by the bumps. This usually causes everyone around to smile and laugh. After the second or third time, a couple of kids on the back of tandems started to call Becky “Rumble Girl” whenever she passed them.

Later in the day we passed through West Bend, Iowa – the home of the Grotto of the Redemption. From a distance, the Grotto reminded us of Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. On closer  inspection, they look nothing alike – the semi-precious stones decorating the Grotto creates busy textures reminiscent of Gaudi’s designs – perhaps his inspiration was a Grotto in Europe somewhere?

We tried a different food strategy today – that is, we tried to avoid waiting in long lines so we could spend more time biking – but it didn’t work out as well as we had hoped. We had a decent breakfast at the local coffee shop before leaving town (a breakfast burrito, but not nearly as good as Farm Boys though the shop had  great coffee). We stopped for some food in one of the later towns, but it turned out to be pretty awful fast food (processed turkey on processed white bread and a “walking taco” – a small bag of crushed Doritos with ground beef,processed lettuce, cheese, and sour cream on top – yuck!).

When we arrived in the overnight town, we decided to head directly to a church dinner, rather than the campsite.  Since we had a charter, we knew that there would not be any issues with finding a place to camp. Arriving into town late meant that church dinners would run out of food soon.  In addition to a good meal, the church dinners often  provide an air conditioned place to sit and relax and no lines for the flush toilets – definitely something that you want after a long hot day on the bike.

At the end of the day, Becky tried out one of the shower trailers since it was setup close to our campsite. Amusingly, the line for the women’s was much shorter than the line for the men’s – quite the contrast to any lines for  flush toilets!  Fortunately the kybos are unisex – there are many more men on RAGBRAI than women. The $5 shower was luxurious – pressurized hot water! It felt great to get clean after the long day’s ride.

Another day another traffic jam – riders walk their bikes as they enter a pass-through town.

Banana bike.

A farmer setup a corner “corn boil” stall. For $1 per cob, it was the best and cheapest corn we had the entire trip.

As we entered this pass-through town, they welcomed us with decorated hay bales.

Walking through another pass-through town. There were a disproportionate number of ‘bents on the ride.

Bikes strewn everywhere outside of the Grotto of Redemption in West Bend.

The grotto was decorated everywhere with semi-precious stones.

Tonnes of cyclists taking a break to check out the Grotto of Redemption.

A necessary self-portrait. We are looking a little warm!


  • Storm Lake to Algona (PDF route map).
  • Reported as 79 miles (127 km).
  • We rode 142 km to campsite.
  • Route ride time 7h min.
  • Total: 266 km.
  • Costs: $60 food, $5 hot shower

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