Article written by Tim McClelland
What is RAGBRAI? The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, it’s an annual seven-day bicycle ride across the state. I’m proud to say I participated and completed this year’s ride with two of my co-workers (L-R) Al & Dan and my longtime friend Ben.
Here are a few facts about RAGBRAI; it’s the oldest (42nd year), the largest
(20,000+riders) and longest bicycle touring event in the world. This year’s ride started in Rock Valley and ended in Guttenberg. Total mileage: 418 miles and a total climb: 11,316 ft.
I tried to log a few thoughts each day with the mileage we rode and in hindsight I’m glad I did. The week flew by and now that I’m putting my thoughts together it’s hard to remember all the great things that happened along the way. I did have one goal for the week besides finishing the ride and it was to have a slice of cherry pie every day. I’m proud to say I had pie every day but one. It’s safe to say if I wasn’t burning major calories each day I could have easily gained weight as I rode or should I say ate my way across Iowa. Every town embraced the throng of riders with open arms providing food, drink and entertainment for the cycling masses. The hospitality provided by these Iowa communities was greatly appreciated and was a welcomed oasis during our travels each day.
Saturday – Spent the day riding the bus from Guttenberg to Rock Valley. Riding across the back roads and rural routes I was able to get a sense of the ride that lay ahead. Camping the first night was sleepless but finally ended up getting a couple hours before waking at 5 am. I did manage to have apple pie Friday night at the all you can eat fish & chicken dinner. Still in the hunt for cherry pie, hopefully it finds me tomorrow.
Sunday – It appeared all 20,000 riders were trying to get out of town all at once it was quite the traffic jam. Had cherry pie with vanilla ice cream at the Sheldon fire department. Best homemade pie so far. The entire fire house (4 bays) was nothing but pie and desserts!
Monday – Arrived early in Emmetsburg and saw Lance Armstrong along the route.
I rode with him for a few miles but later realized it may not of been the real deal.
More about Lance later. Checked out a really good band from Chicago called Classical Blast at the beer garden that night. Camped out in the back yard of a home and needless to say we were tent to tent. The worst part was it was super humid night, thank goodness for my portable tent fan.
Tuesday – Was the longest ride of the week 83 miles. Ben was stoked he got to ride with Lance for about ten miles with his Mellow Johnny’s posse. Weather improved after a front came through in the morning and pushed the humidity out. Looking forward to hopefully getting a good night’s sleep.
Wednesday – Shortest ride of the week (38.5 miles) so there was time to do some sightseeing along the way. Stopped in Clear Lake to visit the Surf Ballroom and for those rock n’ roll buffs this was where Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper played their last gig before they died in a plane crash following the show. On a lighter note Mason City put on the Best Hump Day Ever!(bike, bike, bike) It was one heck of a block party with Brett Michael’s and Warrant entertaining the crowd at the main stage. Not mention there’s a really good microbrewery in town, Mason City Brewery, the IPA was yummy.
Thursday – Hmmmm…. don’t remember much about this day other than I may have had a bit too much fun the night before. However I do remember having the best pulled pork dinner served by the local Boy Scout Troop at the Waverly Methodist Church that night. Slept really well until we were rudely awakened early Friday morning by a large clap of thunder!
Friday – It finally happened, a tenters worst fear RAIN! Woke up to a driving rain and thunder storm which seemed to last forever (actually it was only about an hour). Fortunately it stopped long enough to pack up our gear before heading out into one of the most miserable rides I ever experienced. I’ll be brief (don’t want to dwell on the negative). The ride started out in a steady rain with wind gusts of 20 mph and after enduring two hours of nasty weather we were soaked and chilled to the bone. Eventually the rain ended, the clouds broke and the ride ended in a warm sunny day.
Saturday – Regretfully the last day, the ride through northeastern Iowa was the most challenging with over 3,000 feet of climb before arriving in Guttenberg. The scenic vistas overlooking the rolling hills and farmland were amazing not to mention the spectacle we provided as we rode past Amish homesteads. As in life, all good things must come to an end. The final step in my week long trek across Iowa was to dip my front tire in the mighty Mississippi River, celebrating the fact I finished and most importantly….