A fun time in Cartersville – RAGBRAI Day 4

We awoke at 2 am to the crash of thunder and flash of lightning, followed immediately by a deluge of rain. We had been warned about the storm and had secured our tent with extra guy wires, so checked for leaks and tried to go back to sleep.  This was difficult, since we had been warned by another rider that in 5 of the last 6 RAGBRAI’s they have  evacuated to the storm shelters due to severe weather – hail and tornadoes are not uncommon at this time of year.  (We’re not sure of the 5 of 6 statistic – that could have been a ‘scare the newbies’ exaggeration). Every night of RAGBRAI, storm shelters are designated for each camping area. In the event of a severe storm, the police and fire trucks come around with sirens and flashing lights to evacuate everyone.  Fortunately, the storm was not severe enough for us to evacuate, although it might have been nice to spend part of the night inside the designated shelter –  a Serta Mattress factory.

In the morning, we could see that many of the campers did not have good tents, as they dragged themselves out of soaked beds.  We were happy to be warm and dry.

Although our tent and gear didn’t get wet, we still had some wet laundry that didn’t get enough time to dry out yesterday. We packed it up and brought it with us, with the hopes of finding a laundromat in one of the pass-through towns so we could dry things out.  We asked in Swaledale and Rockwell to no avail. We were warned that there was “nothing” in Cartersville.

At one point, we noticed up ahead a guy riding a Penny-farthing! We rode along and said hello, and chatted with Blaise, the Bygone Bicyclist, about touring. He is hoping to do the tour from Alaska to Terra del Fuego on a Penny-farthing.

As we rode on, Becky’s shifter was acting up again – that is, it required superhero strength to turn the shifter. We decided to stop in the next town to grease it in hopes that it would start shifting better.

As we turned the corner towards Cartersville, we came upon a huge traffic jam. Cartersville may not exist as a town any more, but the local farmers put on a great party, and everyone was slowing down and pulling off.  The chosen location was a large farm, with an artificial lake and a swinging trapeze. A long line of cyclists were doing flips off the trapeze, and landing in the cool water, to the cheers of onlookers.  Behind one of the barns was a “slip-and-slide”, where teams of cyclists where clearly enjoying themselves. There was definitely a carnival atmosphere in Cartersville.

Scott worked on Becky’s bike, and discovered that water had gotten into both the shifter and external gear ‘mech – perhaps due to the driving rain last night.  He disassembled the shifter and ‘mech, cleaned everything and re-greased it, while  Becky took advantage of a bike stand and hung our wet laundry to dry. Our quick break in Cartersville turned into a 2.5 hour mid-day rest as we enjoyed the spectacle around us. Given the short distance today, we really enjoyed a relaxed pace for the day – if only all days could be this much fun!

By 2 pm, we were packed up and continued on our way.  We heard later that the party got rowdier after we left, and a bunch of cyclists started skinny-dipping in the lake.  This didn’t go over well, and eventually the police arrived, shut the party down and send the cyclists on their way.  When we hear these stories, we always wonder how much to believe though … (Here is the official report).

When we arrived in town, we headed directly to the Hy-Vee grocery store (and air conditioning). Becky was getting pretty warm, so we took 45-minutes walking through the store and sampling the various things they had on offer. We decided to pick up some pre-cooked ham steaks to make sandwiches for dinner and provide protein for breakfast. We were also glad to have brought along a small thermos, so we could buy milk for the morning. While at the grocery store, we ran into some folks from our Charter, who provided directions to our campsite – this turn out to be a good thing, as tonight’s  campsite was well away from the main campground.

We pulled into the campsite to discover it was right next to the swimming pool! The pool even had a waterslide, big enough to have a couple of corners. Since it was still early, we enjoyed a swim and a couple of tries at the slide before showering and relaxing for the evening. It was really nice to have a quiet evening at camp and to be in early enough that our laundry and swimsuits dried before bed.

Today was a turning point for Becky – she really enjoyed the day, and only wished that more days where like this one. The shorter distance meant there was more time for fun.

RAGBRAI TIP – If you are at all picky about food, consider bringing a camp stove. Getting food at the grocery store and eating at camp would save time and ensure you were eating right.

RAGBRAI TIP – Even without a camp stove, the grocery stores in the overnight towns provide a good option for a quick healthy dinner.

Pass-through town rolling out the beige carpet just for us!

One of the “Leisure Suit Larrys” – there were several, all in tacky coloured suits and riding vintage bikes. The shorter ride day meant that a lot more teams were out in costume today.

Long line for Farm Boys Breakfast Burritos!

The SAG stopping at Cartersville to pick up a few tired (or hungover) cyclists.

The Cartersville crowds.

Scott fixing Becky’s shifter.

Team slip-n-slide.


  • Clear Lake to Charles City (PDF route map).
  • Reported as 51.8 miles (83 km).
  • We rode 92 km to campsite.
  • Route ride time 5h min.
  • Total: 467 km.
  • Costs: $48 food

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