CHARLES CITY — Scott Prince and Jim Kuhn are both from Indiana, but the RAGBRAI riders had never met before they saw 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 town’s whitewater run, Prince, who lives in Carmel, quickly raised his hand, ready for an adventure.
“This is RAGBRAI,” Kuhn said.
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The two said they weren’t daunted by the lightning storms, the first to build on purpose in Iowa, though “I’m afraid I’m going to 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 short but scenic ride. It was a break from the previous day’s full 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 and finding Ordovician remains, 10-year-old Leo Goodenough of Austin, Texas, was getting a taste of his dream job as a paleontologist.
Wearing a dinosaur-covered cycling jersey, Leo, accompanied by his father, Guy, found fossils of 365-million-year-old gastropods and brachiopods living in the sea Alan Sears, the fossil center’s director of conservation, explained that once covered the area .
Visitors to the former quarry, where clay was once mined for slabs, can find fossils the size of baseballs, Sears said, adding that the center has about 50 acres of fossil pits and 350 acres of prairie.
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Leo said the fossils were great. But it was hard to compete with the thrill of sliding down the steep slopes.
“They picked up a good speed,” his father said.
Thirteen-year-old Tucker Brunsvold, riding the 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.
Refreshing after a hard day
Just en route to the Marble Rock city meet, Seattle’s Mike Hoffman, sipping water, said Wednesday’s ride had been “a little rough,” though a tailwind meant “you can go really fast , for many.”
A block away, friends Eric Feldkamp and Kevin Temple, both of Cedar Rapids, were choosing a different type of refreshment. It’s a daily ritual that Wednesday’s long drive 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 you can buy a six-pack at a grocery store and sit on a sidewalk and enjoy it with friends.”
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Nathaniel Hoover of Fort Collins, Colorado, said he feels a little more bitter every day.
“They say it needs to be improved,” said Hoover, riding with his brother Brian of Petaluma, Calif., and father, David, of Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Hoover said he spent Thursday learning some family history from his father, 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 tour Thursday.
Love traveling, but camping? Not that much
Denna Cornwell and Julie Wilharm, both of Waverly, joined the trip to Mason City. They missed Century Day, but found battling a headwind en route to Charles City challenging.
The women, who will ride three days this week, said they like to ride fast so they can enjoy time in towns along the way.
“You’re going really well, then someone passes you like you’re standing still,” Cornwell said, adding that she and Wilharm spent a lot of time at Marble Rock, getting food and watching other riders jump.
“I love the whole community. Everyone is so nice,” Wilharm said.
Women love cities, people and travel. But they don’t like camping.
Cornwell said her husband picks them up every night, drives them back to Waverly, and then returns them to the starting town the next day.
“These bones need a bed,” she said.
Donnelle Eller covers agriculture, environment and energy for the Register. Contact him at email@example.com or 515-284-8457.