RAGBRAI is an acronym. It stands for Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. The Des Moines Register is a newspaper that claims to be the number one source for news and information in Des Moines and across Iowa.
The history: “In the beginning, when a few friends got together for a casual bike ride across Iowa in 1973, no one imagined that a tradition would be born, let alone that it would become the longest, largest and oldest recreational bicycle touring event in the world.”
For a week in July, 2000, my friend Judy Stoner and I hooked up with a group out of Marty’s Reliable Cycle in Morristown, New Jersey and became part of the RAGBRAI tradition. For a fee, Marty supplied a large truck and driver to carry the group’s cycles and gear to that year’s starting point in the town of Council Bluffs on the Missouri River. Our fee also included the services of a cook to make a meal each evening of the week-long ride.
These arrangements were necessary because among the horde of more than 10,000 riders, we needed support in order to survive the adventure. At each camping spot along the way, we searched for our truck, marked Team Graffitti, among many others. Our driver would have chosen a spot well ahead of time and cordoned off an area for us to set up our tents. Our cook would have set up her equipment and begun dinner preparations. The rest was up to us as individuals, and that included finding a school locker room where we could shower and change out of our sweat-soaked riding clothes.
Although I took photos along the way, I didn’t keep a journal, so what follows is a series of snapshots with my retrospective comments. Fortunately, there are many memorable moments that will allow you to have a good sense of the adventure.
First of all, here is the map of that year’s route through southern Iowa.
Before starting, it is customary to dip one’s rear wheel in the Missouri River while pointed east.
Most of the route is along rural roads with corn fields on the left and soybeans on the right except along those stretches where the corn is on the right and the beans on the left. The towns and villages we passed through are small, and for most the RAGBRAI was the most exciting thing to happen to them that year.
The bikes took many forms
One man pulled a canoe behind his bike.
Riders adapted their gear to their particular tastes.
The RAGBRAI crowd could be overwhelming.
There were scheduled rest stops.
Tender Tom sold giant turkey legs.
Mr. Pork Chop was a familiar sight, too.
Then, there was the highway . . .
Miles and miles of highway.
Sometimes Judy and I rode together.
Relaxing at the end of a day’s ride never felt so good.
And then we slept.
Here we are, Team Graffitti. I’m the one on the right, kneeling with my hand under my chin.