The last miles passed in a run to the Mississippi. After crossing a verdant flood-plain we entered Muscatine. People stood on their lawns and applauded. Kids turned sprinklers toward the street and handed us cups of water.
At last the river came into view at the foot of Mulberry Avenue. Teams clustered into tight convoys so as to arrive together. Police waved us past barricades and over railroad tracks to a landing where we dipped our front tires into the river, which is RAGBRAI's concluding rite. A few feet from the dipping station stood a wreath in memory of Madeleo Blake. A friend rode Blake's red bike to Muscatine and dipped it for him. The bike was later parked beside Blake's casket in a Columbus Junction funeral home.
For a moment I imagined our momentum carrying us inexorably eastward. But of course, it didn't. The group's energy dissipated in the muggy riverside heat. Cyclers drifted away to pack their buses and drove off. RAGBRAI dispersed, or maybe just adjourned. "I won't want to touch my bike again for months," said Joe Karaskevicus of Mantua, N.J., "but 'long about April I'll start feeling the RAGBRAI itch again."