Last Saturday, I donned my cycling gear to take my usual weekend ride.
Living in the midst of Podunk, I rarely see another bike rider. Out on the county roads I might see one, maybe two bikes per month. Bike riders are scarcer than hen's teeth out here, but you can spot farmers in pickups a dime a dozen.
I was about four miles into it, heading west toward an intersection where I usually turn south onto Highway 191, a nice flattish run. I usually head this way about 25 miles through 2 small towns, then make three more right turns and do a loop back home, adding another 25 miles or so.
Imagine my surprise when I saw a group of about 10 casually dressed and helmetless riders, moving slowly along my route. I stopped a minute and watched them travel around a bend in the highway and disappear.
Looking back towards the north, I saw several other bike riders moving toward me. I also saw a stencil lettered sign hastily posted by the road shoulder. It was stenciled on the back of a plastic corrugated seed corn sign, tied to a steel post driven into the ground..."Caution Bikers".
I seemed to have stumbled on some kind of event. And right in my backyard, too. And why didn't I know about it? It was Labor Day weekend, and the neighboring town was having their fall festival, Neola's "Hoo Doo" Days, on Labor Day. Maybe the bike ride was related to that event. We subscribe to the local paper, and if there was something related to cycling in it, it certainly would have caught my eye.
Being the naturally curious type, and since I was going in that direction anyway, I decided to tag along.
This was definitely a recreational ride. I saw many casually dressed riders, some in cycling garb. Bikes pulling BOB trailers, Burley trailers with kids, recumbents, even a tandem or two. There was a decent tailwind, it was a flat route and a nice day plus I was riding my trusty and speedy Schwinn Tempo. I didn't see Smokey anywhere in the vicinity so I put the hammer down :>) I might have even passed a couple of folks.
By the time I got to the next town, I was ready for a break. The bar up main street was busy, and had a dee-jay cranking tunes outside. On the other side of the highway, the local American Legion post was selling food in the park shelter. I stopped to enjoy a sloppy joe and a Diet Pepsi.
I wondered what ride this was supposed to be, but I didn't want to look like a dork dressed in full cycling garb asking "Uhhhh, what ride is this?". I could just see the ladies serving food rolling their eyes, giving that condescending "Look, Mr. Bike Helmet, Jersey and Tight Pants doesn't know he's riding in "Tour De Hoo-Doo Days" leering stare. Maybe, "Sir, are you suffering from heat stroke?", or "Are you stoopid or somethin'?" I kept my mouth shut by stuffing it full of sandwich.
Back on the bike. I figured why not, let's see how far this sucker goes. I headed north, seeing several groups of cyclists and the occasional stenciled sign. I'd just ride until I didn't see cyclists or signs anymore.
One more town, then another. When I got to the third town, Panama, I saw vehicles with bike racks parked all over town. This must have been the starting point. I watched a couple ride into town after me then load their bikes on their Hyundai...but that was it. Lots of vehicles, but no crowds, no people. I hopped back on the bike and went back the way I came.
Sure enough, after a few miles, I met larger groups. Cyclists, pickups pulling trailers providing sag wagon service, even a couple of RAGBRAI buses. A group of cyclists parked under an overpass, drinking beer. A large group stopped at a farm, moving in and out of a machine shed, almost certainly drinking beer. A small group standing near a bus pulled off by the side of the road, yelling "Hey, the party's the other way." Jeez, didn't even know there was a bike ride much less a party. I was on my way back home anyway. Party pooper.
I managed to stop by the American Legion food stand and wolfed down a pork loin sandwich and a Gatorade, though. Party animal!
After I got home and cleaned up, I dug up the local paper looking at it carefully. No mention of any bike ride, party, shindig, or any other type of cycling related events happening at Hoo-Doo Days. Some time later, I hit the BikeIowa website and found the following:
hosted by: Panama Young Mothers Club
Classic Bike Road Bike Ride
>> START ADDRESS
>> DATE / TIME
Blue Moon in Neola Neola, IA May beable to park vehicle in Panama and catch a sag to Neola if in Panama by 8 a.m.
Aug 30 2008 (10:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.) Event type: Just Plain Fun 51-100 riders expected
>> DISTANCE / TYPE
22 milesTerrain: Rolling Mild Hills Rider type: Ride is ridden at your own pace
$22.00 for the ride and a t-shirt or tank$10.00 for ride only
>> RIDE DESCRIPTION
This ride is sponsored by the Panama Young Mothers to raise funds for community betterment, local scholarships and other projects. We encourage all riders to register and help the community.
On-site registration begins at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, August 30th in front of the Blue Moon in Neola.
>> RIDE ROUTE
Start on Highway 191 on Main Strret Neola and head North for 22-miles down Hwy. 191 from Neola, IA to Panama, IA. You are welcome to ride both ways for a total of 44 miles.
>> OTHER COMMENTS
A street dance will be held in Panama following the ride, from 7:00 - 11:00 p.m.
Well, darn. Missed out on the street dance and the party. I didn't have to spend $22.00 for the ride and a t-shirt, but I've got too many t-shirts in the closet anyway. I think I might have easily raised $22.00 if I'd been able to pick up all the cans and bottles strewn along the roadside, though. I'm sure the Panama Young Mothers would have been proud!