Iowa is not flat.
Heather and I just returned from participating in the last three days of RAGBRAI XXXIII. RAGBRAI is the Des Moines Register’s Great Ride Across Iowa – a yearly trek from west to east on bike. We were invited to ride along for part of it with Kermit and Susan Erickson, who do it every year. We decided to do the last three days to give us an introduction.
Every year the route is different – this time it was the most northerly it has ever been. We picked the route up on Wednesday night in Northwood, IA – only about 10 miles south of Albert Lea. From there, we rode 78 miles to Cresco, IA. On Friday, we rode 57 miles from Cresco to West Union. The last day was spent pedaling 54 miles from West Union to Guttenberg where we dipped our bike tires into the Mississippi River at the end.
You see every type of contraption on the road – road bikes, mountain bikes, dirt bikes, tandems, triples, recumbents, recumbent tandems, streamliners, reverse tricycles, tandem reverse tricycles, unicycles and many more. On these contraptions are people of all shapes and sizes. After all, the average age of RAGBRAI participants is 46! There are times when, as Kermit put it, you really want to shout out “Spandex is OPTIONAL!”
It’s a huge deal for each town you roll through – every little town pulls out all the stops with events, food, and entertainment. When 15,000 bikers roll through your town over 6 hours, the amount of money left behind can sustain that town for a very long time. Some towns really made a memorable impression by the way they presented their town.
Did I mention the food? RAGBRAI is the only place you can bike for hours and still gain weight. Every couple of miles, somebody is selling food. There are farm families setting up a table selling pie. There are churches having ice cream socials in the small towns. There are well-known vendors such as the Farm Boys, Chris Cakes, or Mr. Porkchop selling their signature dishes in different places along the route. And, in every town, the local cattlemen are selling ribeye sandwiches. It’s a grazefest. My favorite part? Not a veggie burger in sight! It is Iowa, after all…
Over the next week, I’ll break down the trip day by day with pictures. I’ll list what we did, how we did, and what we ate (to the best of my memory). Stay tuned!