Jul 282015

This article is part of our #BikeNOLABlog Series, where we invite individuals to bring their #BikeNOLA related content to post to the world!  All content and/or opinions in the #BikeNOLABlog series belong to the individual authors!

It’s 5:30AM on a rainy Monday morning in Storm Lake, Iowa as I crawl out of my tent into wet grass and camp sounds. Rain had fallen throughout the night and although it’s clear at the moment radar warns of an approaching system and riders are hurrying to get out ahead of it. Next to me, a couple in their early 60s is striking camp with near-military precision and in the five minutes it takes me to wander over and grab a cup of coffee they are packed and rolling their bicycles and camping gear towards the road. Lacking their experience I depart over an hour later and (predictably enough) get caught in the rain, but the system is moving away from our route and two hours later the rain has passed and I am off the bike 25 miles down the road, eating a thick freshly-grilled pork chop and watching an endless stream of cyclists roll past a slightly surreal vista of corn, clouds and futuristic windmills turning steadily in the wind.

It’s my second meal of the day.

Corn and Clouds

RAGBRAI stands for the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa and was started in 1973 by the Des Moines Register when two of the paper’s writers decided to ride across the state and file columns about their experiences along the way. The public was invited to ride along to promote newspaper circulation and an estimated 300 riders showed up in Sioux City for the start of the ride. 114 riders went the entire distance, among them an 83-year-old gentleman named Clarence who rode a ladies’ Schwinn and wore a long-sleeved shirt, trousers, woolen long underwear and a silver pith helmet (even when temperatures exceeded 100ºF.) The ride became an Iowa tradition and is now in its 43rd year. Participation has swelled: 10,000 riders are selected via lottery to receive week-long riding passes, many more riders purchase daily passes (some do not and are referred to as “bandits”) and daily rider counts average in the 15,000-20,000 range, approached 30,000 on occasion.


This #BikeNOLABlog post was authored by Rob Schafer

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