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A.k.a. The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.
FROM THE WEBSITE: RAGBRAI is an annual seven-day bicycle ride across the state. Heading into its 48th year, RAGBRAI is the oldest, largest and longest multi-day recreational bicycle touring event in the world. Des Moines Register Media has been the title sponsor of RAGBRAI since 1973.
Every year, the route is slightly different. This year, RAGBRAI came through Rolfe!
This is only the second time they’ve come directly through my little town in the 15 years since I’ve lived here. The first time was 15 years ago. In a way, yesterday was possibly a last in a lifetime event for me. Who’s to say I’ll still be alive for the next one?
It takes months of preparation, and the closer it gets, the louder the buzz of excitement in the air. Giant bicycles someone made appeared throughout downtown to mark the event. I went out in the calm of the day before to get photos.
Picture it: You have a town of about 500, give or take. Suddenly, a crowd of 20,000+ people on bikes comes riding through. It was WONDERFUL. To watch, that is. My bum hurts just thinking of doing it myself. I would have been content just sitting on the curb, conspicuously eating ice cream and shouting, “Buuurrrrn!!” as the skinny little munchkins went whizzing by. This is what will contribute to my early demise, I suspect.
But I didn’t sit on the curb (there isn’t one), or eat ice cream (I don’t have any). Like a proud citizen, I mowed and weed-whacked my lawn the night before so it would look its best. In the early morning, Julie came over and we sat on my porch to wave and wish the riders a hearty “Good morning!” and “Welcome to Iowa!” because people come from all over the world for this ride. Insane people, but people nonetheless!
Julie went home to wake Scott. I went inside to put on a bra (wouldn’t want to excite the masses) so I could venture out into public and take a few pictures.
It’s one thing to see 10 or 20 bikes at a time go zipping by from the narrow vantage point of your porch steps. When I went to the corner of my street and looked toward downtown, my jaw DROPPED. I’d never seen anything like it! MASSES!! Masses of humanity! There was music playing and tents set up and delicious smells of various foods. Totally worth putting my bra on for! I traipsed downtown to get more photos.
The race always takes place in the last week of July, which is frequently boiling hot. This time, the weather was GLORIOUS. A high of 81, with lows in the 60’s and a beautiful, sunny day.
You can imagine what a boost it is for a small town like ours to have that many people coming through. Besides all the vendors, several enterprising folks and small organizations set up shop. A ladies organization – and I speak from personal knowledge when I say they do wonderful things – baked dozens of pies. They sold all 750 slices by 9:30 in the morning!
My enterprising neighbor Nikole raised money by selling brownies. She’s also fortunate enough to have the best and only hill in Rolfe, and she wisely used this to her advantage, laying down a huge white tarp complete with a hose to water it down. The words “Brownies!” and “Water Slide!” were ringing out through the morning. There were a LOT of happy customers! Even in nice weather, biking an average 67 miles a day, one would tend to get hot!
It was a circus! It was a carnival! It was a mini-Olympics, all rolled it to one. And then, POOF! It was over. Julie and Scott drove through town in the aftermath. I expected to hear reports of lots of trash and water bottles left behind. Nope! Everything was clean, everything was gone, as if nothing had happened at all. But it did. I saw it! And it was WONDERFUL. A huge thank you to all those who made this event go so smoothly.
And with that, I leave you! May you find a bike with a comfy seat. May we all! Because you’re my favorite.
My beady eyes peered into the sunlight. “So, this is what the outside looks like!” I cackled in a creaky, low voice.
I confess, that last week I had a teeny, tiny meltdown. Spring! Ah, SPRING. The ONLY time of year I want to be outside! And this year spring in Rolfe is especially glorious. The temps are perfect, a little warm if you’re toiling, but then in true Camelot fashion, it cools down at night.
So I balked at staying indoors and sewing – even though my brothers had urged me to find minions, so I have no one to blame but myself – and I went outside.
Heaven knows I love my old house, but the thing is falling apart! Especially the stucco. Witness the lower right-hand side of the photo:
The part surrounding that round thing has been missing for a long time. If you look closely below, you can see the slab from the part of the left that just fell that I witnessed.
Time to hypertufa! I retrieved my wheelbarrow from the garage so that I could use it as a giant mixing bowl. I discovered that it had standing water in it, most likely from recent rains.
I suspect my garage roof may have a hidden leak somewhere.
I also suspect it might be leaning ever-so-slightly.
No matter! Time for my wheelbarrow to become a stand. Fortunately (thanks, Mom!) I had an freshly emptied bin to use as a mixing bowl instead. Here’s the peat moss, perlite and Portland cement, pre-mixing:
Of course, this is just the beginning. And it took less than twenty minutes of poking and smashing and molding! Pretty close, huh?
I need to do the rest and there are several other stucco spots on my house that need tending, and then of course there’s the priming and painting…but it works! The hypertufa works! A repair I can do myself! CHEAP. That’s my favorite kind!
Plus, I get to keep my sanity, so there’s that. Therefore, Betty Bell is still doing well, but she’s going to have to learn even more patience! She will be going up for adoption on Sunday, June 15. And I get to keep my sanity! Because a mind is a terrible thing to lose.
In the meantime, Clementine will definitely be adopted! You can view her progress HERE.
Tonight at midnight! Chapter 9 A Wave and a Whisper.
And another clip from a previous version of Hazel Twigg, when she’s already living in Reliance.
For those of you familiar with Rolfe, she’s at the top of the street, near my house looking south. Perhaps it’s only me, but the bank clock! With the time and temperature in Fahrenheit and Celsius! Secretly, I don’t care about the Celsius, but when I want to know the temperature – or the time – it seems like I’m always at the worst spot of the rotation, and it takes forever to change to the information I need.
Still, I love that clock. Sometimes, on a Sunday afternoon, it’s the only thing that’s moving downtown…
For a moment Hazel simply sat there, looking at the place where the fairies had been, and she blinked. Once. Twice. It took a moment for her to realize that the whole world had gone silent. Not only that, all movement had ceased.
She slowly got to her feet and looked all around her, trying to make sense of what she was seeing and not hearing. She rubbed her ears and hurried as quickly as she could, emerging from the small forest, back around the front of the house and into the town. And all the while her eyes were darting in every direction, so she almost walked right into a bird with a freshly dug and unsquirming worm in its beak, not a feather rustling as he dangled at eight-year-old eye level. Her heart in her throat, she made her way around him and looked up and down the familiar street.
There was old farmer Ferguson on his strangely silent riding mower, grass clippings stilled in mid-air. A single immobile car was on the road with its windows down, the driver’s hand in the midst of a wave to a woman sitting on her front steps, arm poised to rise and wave back. Two people were twenty feet apart from each other on the side-walk leaning away, their faces frozen in laughter as they each pulled at their small dogs who were about to engage in a “who’s bigger” contest.
But nothing was moving. There was no sound at all.
So a single subtle flash of orange amongst the stillness easily garnered Hazel’s attention: the digital clock above the bank that for the past several moments had been displaying the temperature in Fahrenheit stubbornly continued its usual rotation to the current time with a decided click.
And suddenly all movement and all sound resumed as if nothing untoward had happened. Nothing at all. It felt like a deafening roar to Hazel. She was aware, as no one else was, that the world had changed.
And not for the better.
There you have it! See you tomorrow and have a great day!
As I’ve mentioned in the past, there have been dozens and dozens of versions of this book, before it became the current version. For months I had Hazel starting out LIVING in Reliance. Not as a native, but as a transplant who had been there for a few years. And she didn’t have a mother, she had a father. A handsome one at that…
The town of Reliance, Iowa, population six hundred give or take, was the kind of place that upon seeing it – and if it wasn’t your home you wouldn’t unless you had become hopelessly lost – one might wonder who would ever choose to live there. That opinion sat just fine with the town’s inhabitants, who were quite proud to claim it as their own. They would still wave in a friendly enough manner at the rare passers-through, but the “Don’t let the door hit you,” sentiment remained.
Unfortunately for Hazel Twigg, she hadn’t had a say one way or the other when she landed there with her father. They had arrived just in time for the first day of first grade, so while Hazel drew some attention as a new face, nervously clasping her hands together as she was introduced to her classmates, there was so much new to the other children that Hazel herself was hardly noticed at all.
When she and her father moved into the large cream and olive green and burnt pumpkin-colored Victorian, more than one heart had fluttered. Hazel’s father was a handsome man in a place where single men that didn’t have both feet dangling over the edge of a long-dug grave were rare. And right away it was noticed that there was no sign of a woman. Just a tall man in need of a woman’s touch and his poor, motherless child.
So for the first several weeks of the newcomer’s arrival, there was a constant stream of willing, well-meaning females that came knocking. Women of all ages, covered dishes in hand, their faces freshly scrubbed and wide smiles at the ready. When Hazel would curiously run to the front door warily followed by her protective father, the women would greet them with gay utterances of, “Welcome to our town!” directed at him and, “Look at that hair!” supposedly directed at Hazel because they ruffled her honey-colored hair as they spoke, although their eyes never actually looked in her direction after that first quick glance. One by one they would wander away moments later, not quite certain what had happened, only that the town’s newest bachelor had somehow politely but firmly resisted their wiles.
Each subsequent female was certain that she would have more success, that the chatter at the post office, the grocery store, the Tuesday morning coffee at the library, had simply been put out by other predatory females. And even if the rumors were true, such would not be the case for them. Surely not! They left their platters of Maid-Rites, or Ham Balls, or chewy Scotcheroos behind with their names and phone numbers conveniently taped beneath, and they waited in vain for a call. A call that never, ever came.
Hence, the gossip.
“Poor little Hazel,” the townsfolk would say. It wasn’t her fault her father was probably some sort of criminal, living on the lam…
I tried every which way to get this scenario to work. A handsome man for Ruth, just ripe for the plucking! And a good one, too! Most likely. But I’ve learned: if you get stuck, it’s time to try something else (not that the handsome man angle was the main focus in this version. I swear).
Excellent website for all things Rolfe – Ahem! “Reliance”: Rolfealumni.com
All photos are of Rolfe, Iowa. Quite possibly the grandest place on earth.
As all of Rolfe recovers from a very successful and wonderful Greater Rolfe Days (not that I got to attend many of the festivities, but I could sense the energy wafting through the town and seeping into my fairy bower), I find that I must recover too.
New people! Do not assume I am a namby pamby! I simply am still recovering from surgery. Oh, sure, as I walked along the parade route pre-parade, etc., I TRIED to wince in a way that people might ask, “Hey, lady! Do you have any staples and scars you might wish to show us? You haven’t had any surgery requiring OVER TWO HUNDRED STITCHES lately, have you?”
But nobody did. Clearly, I shall have to recover and go another route.
In the meantime, for anyone who happens to stop by as a result of the flyers my gang handed out, hope you’ll stop by again! Might I suggest a sample post or two? You might enjoy “Cat Lady of Reliance” or perhaps “Living in Abject Brave.”
And tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…I shall be back!
Naturally, as I regained consciousness more and more and a hint of coral appeared once again on my ivory lips, I was a popular patient with the nurses.
Oh, sure, they pretended they couldn’t find my dainty veins, requiring all sorts of thumpings and tappings as they basked in the glow of my somehow still visible glamour. Or that they need to do all this temperature taking or the python-like squeezing of my arm for blood pressure tests for health reasons, but I know.
They liked me. They really liked me, and they wanted to hang out.
So imagine my surprise, having at least ONE less worry as I slept at night in this tidy, modern hospital when I casually asked during one of these hanging out extravaganzas as two of them pretended I needed help to walk the halls, “Have you ever had bats here?”
“Yes,” one of the nurses replied.
“WHAT?!” I said.
“On this very floor! Several times…I don’t know how they get in.”
“Well,” the other hanger on chimed in, “bats can fit in holes the size of – ”
“I was going to say a matchbook, but yeah, that too,” she finished.
Later that night I saw one of those nurse culprits peek into my room. “Oh. You’re awake.”
Usually this fact would cause my nurses great pleasure. In fact several times in the middle of the night they would turn on the lights without warning, like a police raid, just to get me up – whilst “pretending” to need to take vitals, but I could see right through them. I know they just needed a dose of Ruth and could not wait ‘til morning!
“What do you need?” I patiently (a pun!) asked.
“Nothing,” the nurse responded. “I was going to get a fake bat and dangle it from the ceiling.”
“At the very least, I was going to come in here and make squeaking noises.”
So. It has come to this. I survive a near death appendix rupture only to die by heart attack.
At least I shall live to see the Greater Rolfe Days Sesquicentennial, which begins tomorrow. Surely you’ve heard of it! Our delightful town of 600 give or take will have Water fights and Scavenger Hunts and Art Shows and a Cemetery Walk and a Tour of Homes and a Bacon Fest, fer’ crying out loud! And the library’s having a Book Sale and there will be dances…it just doesn’t get any better than small town America and for me, it doesn’t get better than Rolfe. I love this place. Bats and all.