BENTONSPORT – Riders woke early this chilly morning in Fairfield and hustled to get a headstart on the 63 miles to the Mississippi River in Fort Madison. A hot air balloon hovered above the route as it twisted up (and up) through the hills of Jefferson and then Van Buren counties.
In Birmingham, where folks stopped for breakfast from the local fire department, local man Daniel Philips figured the town hadn’t seen a big crowd since the old school burned down about 10 years ago. The fire department was busy then, too, but with other duties.
A Civil War cannon welcomed the RAGBRAI invasion of Keosauqua, just across the street from the 1840 court house, the state’s oldest. A friendlier welcome came from ice-cream scooper Debbie Finney, who dolloped out as much encouragement as ice cream. The Fairfield art teacher was up partying late the night before (and still had one of the world-record-setting fake mustaches to prove it), but woke at 4:30 this morning to help the local vendors.
She chatted for a bit with rider Alex Shoderu of London, who said the ride was much easier than he’d expected. The Christian youth worker is spending the summer in Tennessee and had joined RAGBRAI to raise money for ChildVoice Internaional, a nonprofit that helps kids in Uganda and Sudan.
“It feels so good,” he said of the ride. “I’ve been telling people that on Day 7, I’ll feel such a sense of accomplishment. The only thing that compares is the marathon I did last year” in north England.
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