RAGBRAI #41 Ride Report...

RAGBRAI #41 is now in the books!  Tara and I finished the week in good shape and arrived home last night around 8 p.m. to unpack, shower, get groceries and settle in for a good night's sleep in our own bed.

What do you call a ride like RAGBRAI?  Woodstock on Wheels?  A rolling community?  A week long party?  A ride through quintessential small town America?  A circus on bikes?  A race for the best pie?  How to eat and ride one's way across Iowa?  Tour de Food?

Actually, it all works.  The ride is what you want to make of it -- which sort of gets back to Woodstock on Wheels being a bit a propos.  Rather than go through all of the details of each day (Council Bluffs, Harlan, Perry, Des Moines, Knoxville, Oskaloosa, Fairfield, Fort Madison - and all the stops between), I will just toss up a preliminary pictorial of some of the sights.

How about Team Horney's motto....?

Team Horney


The motto on their shirts, plus their little green tutus are an example of people displaying their personal freedom on this ride.  And the freedoms displayed covers a wide range of interests, thoughts, opinions, lifestyles, messages, etc... .

How about the guy we met riding the entire 400+ mile route on a highwheeler?  He was quite a character and having a blast.


Even though it is a ride and not a race, do you want to "race" RAGBRAI?  You can.  If you want to ride the day's route in 2 hours (such as Lance  Armstrong did), you can do it.  A 2013 Simpson alum - Mark Stanek - took off one morning at 6 a.m. and was the first rider of the entire 25-35K riders into the next overnight town.  Way to go Mark!!  He even made the paper the next day for doing that.  Or do you want to be the first in your team - or one of the first - to make it to the overnight town to get a prime camping spot in the shade?  Well, you can up your tempo and limit your stops to make sure your tent is not the one that ends up in full sun on the side of a hill over a big tree root.  Nothing wrong with a little healthy competition at that level, eh?

Do you want to lollygag on RAGBRAI and take 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 hours to complete the day's route?  You can.  Our team of 52 riders ranged from the early birds that were on the road by 6 a.m. and in the next overnight town by 9 or 10 a.m. to those who took until after 6 p.m. to arrive in the next overnight town.  Tara and I were in the middle of riding speed.  Some days, she and I were the 3rd or 4th from our team to arrive.  Other days we were in the middle of the pack.  And some days we were a bit later.  Like the day we hung out in Monroe for 3 1/2 hours to hear the live music (a student of mine was performing with her band, so we stayed to hear them).  Cycling wise, I pretty much kept it in Zone 1, Zone 2, and a bit of Zone 3 from time to time all week except for a few of the climbs to remind my body of a little pain and higher heart rate riding. 

Do you want to drink your way across Iowa?  You can.  And some do.  Jello shots, Bloody Mary's, beer, Iowa wines, rolling bars, small town bars, beer gardens - it's all there.  Plenty of non-alcoholic beverages as well to quench the thirst.  And plenty of water to keep hydrated was easily found.

Do you want to dance your way across Iowa?  You can.  So much good music was heard by live bands, DJ's, stereos on bikes, etc....that it had thousands of us dancing at times to unwind in city parks, in people's yards, in the town square, etc... .  The diverse and fun music all contributes to the flavor of Woodstock on Wheels.

Do you want to visit with riders while riding?  You can.  We met so many from all over the country and world this year.  Even if it was a short visit to find out where they were from and how their day was going, or how they liked their bike, to a lengthy visit such as our day long ride on Friday from Oskaloosa to Fairfield with new found friend Corey Wilson from Madison, Wisconsin - you can meet a lot of people on and off their bikes.  It's a rolling collective community.  You choose how you want to interact with others as there is no right or wrong about it. 

Tara and our friend Bev Thiele posed on the morning we rode together into Pella from Knoxville to grab a Dutch letter...


Do you want to ride on something out of the norm across Iowa?  You can.  Fat bikes, mountain bikes, road bikes, recumbent bikes, recumbent trikes, recumbents with fancy fairings, tandems built for two/three/four, unicycles, highwheelers, hybrids, skateboards, inline skates, striders, bikes pulling trailers, bikes carrying their gear (called baggers), even runners - and more - were all seen and spotted this year making their way across Iowa.  Again - you get to choose how you want to transport yourself.  Everything goes.

Do you want to plan your day out food wise of when and where you will stop, what you will or won't eat, who you will meet to eat and drink?  You can.  Be it the local fare, or the traveling vendors along the route.

Sure, there are lines for everything.  Here's one for the use of a Kybo next to a country store...


Me hanging out in Monroe, Iowa with a gal who sat down to visit with me at a mid-day stop to catch a sweet sounding blues band and enjoying a couple of beers...


Tara loves the animals along the way.  This year, in addition to the usual cows and pigs, we saw goats, sheep, a camel, horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, a monkey, donkeys, llamas, snakes, chickens, and I forget what else.  Here's Tara holding a 3 month old goat named Pepper...


And she got to kiss a baby pig (that was sleeping)...


I enjoyed each town that we had the opportunity to ride into and experience.  I always got a kick out of how each town prepared for the event and set up things for us to do, see, and eat.  Some towns provided tents for shade, places to sit, free water, free watermelon.  Others provided no shade and no place to sit (go figure!!!). Typically, you would ride into the edge of a town, and then everyone would slow, stop, and get off of their bikes to walk through the main section of town.  You can see the mass of thousands ahead of me walking their bikes just a bit down the road from where Tara took this picture...


We stopped in Pella for a Dutch Letter and a nice cup of coffee from Smokey Row before rolling on to the next town...


We stopped alongside the Iowa Veteran's Cemetery outside of Van Meter to take this shot.  The flags along the highway and the view were a nice reminder of those who have fought to protect our freedom and others as well...


Speaking of freedom again, it was hard not to think of all the personal freedoms that were being displayed on RAGBRAI.

In addition to all of the rock, funk, punk, country, rap, cover bands, etc.... - we did catch the community band concert while eating dinner down on the square one night...


That was "old school Iowa" and a nice change from the Woodstock feel for the rest of the music.  Corny and a different era, but hey - everything works on RAGBRAI.  Kind of like the female midget wrestling we saw in one pass through town.  Watching it was "all wrong, yet sort of all right" in terms of fitting in with the overall theme of the ride.  As was the skinny dipping, water slides, Huffy bike toss, fire hose water fights, and on and on.  There is so much to see and do, that you cannot begin to catch and experience everything.  You make each town and stop your own unique experience.  You get to choose.  You build your event how you want to build it.

West Point had erected "Mt. RAGBRAI" built out of old bikes that you could ascend and have your photo opportunity...


Somewhere on a cold Tuesday as we rode from Perry to Des Moines...


How about this Iowa home owner who displayed his collection of convertibles in one of the pass through towns?  Usually, we saw displays of farm equipment, so this one stood out as unique for this year's route.


And in the end, your team rides in formation into the final town (Fort Madison in this year's event) and down to the Mighty Mississippi to dip your front tire, toes, bike, or whatever to signify the journey for the week has been completed.  It's a nice sense of accomplishment and reality that the week of fun for this year had drawn to a close and only the memories are left to savor and contemplate.


RAGBRAI 2013.  Smiled throughout the entire week.

RAGBRAI #41 is now cemented in history and our memories.

No comments: