Bremer, Ia. — I signed up for a bike ride, not a swim meet.
The rainy days on RAGBRAI take on an entirely different, dreary tone.
The silence is striking: Bicyclists wrapped in raincoats and panchos slosh their way uphill in a grim procession. Jerseys get plastered to the skin.
My red and blue Carter LeBeau socks were soaked.
For a guy who wears glasses, the view of the road ahead becomes a speckled, blurry mess.
I found myself huddled first in a garage and then in a screened porch in the unincorporated town of Bremer — the day’s first pass-through town just 6.4 miles out of Waverly — with five members of Team Pen15.
Jeremy Kissner from Spirit Lake was undeterred. He professes to love riding in the rain.
“It’s still awesome,” he said of his RAGBRAI week.
Matt Ladwig, who lives in Las Vegas but grew up in Cherokee, said that one of his favorite features of RAGBRAI is connecting with townsfolk.
This connection was a fortuitous one: Paul and Mary Litterer not only opened their porch but even brewed up fresh coffee and hot chocolate for the soggy spandex gaggle.
Pen15 began in 2007 as a group of friends, one of them a guy nicknamed Pennsylvania. This year’s incarnation of nine bicyclists added to team lore Monday with the creation of a new RAGBRAI shot: the “buttfire,” three-fourths butterscotch schnapps and one-fourth Fireball.
In what town or tavern did the team devise this, I asked?
Actually the eureka moment happened in a ditch.
Sun or rain, screened porch or ditch, RAGBRAI endures and stays flexible.
I thanked the Litterers for the dry porch and coffee and told Pen15 I would save the buttfire for later.

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