Sunday, July 22, 2012


For the past 40 years, the Des Moines Register, Iowa's main newspaper, has sponsored and held a week long bicycle ride across Iowa called RAGBRAI, Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.  It attracts bicyclists from all over the world.   The route begins in a town near the western border of Iowa and ends a week later on the eastern border, from the Missouri River (loosely speaking) to the Mississippi River.  They estimate about 15,000 bicyclists along with another 5,000 support vehicles emerge on the mostly small towns of  Iowa.  This year they started the ride right here in Sioux Center, IA, population about 7,000 so the RAGBRAIers more than double our population.  It takes a lot of preparation, but all of the towns on the route are always up to the challenge and make the ride fun and eventful.

I rode from Boone, Iowa to Ames, Iowa 40  years ago on the first ride.  It only had about 300 riders back then.  I also went on the second ride called SAGBRAI, for Second Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.  I rode from Boone, IA to Dubuque, IA, about half the ride. This one had about 2,000 riders.  Then over the next few years, I rode all of the ride or some of the ride several times, and several times I was the support vehicle person, taking all the gear to the next stop, setting up all the tents, and then I hit the pool to swim my laps so I turned it into SWIM  across Iowa.  I haven't really ridden RAGBRAI for a long time, but I do have some great memories of places we visited, the hard times involved, the good times, and the people I met, etc.

This year, I walked around and took a bunch of pictures and volunteered at the information booth.  I hope you can get a little of the flavor of RAGBRAI.  Oh, did I mention they are riding in weather with temps in the upper 90's, close to 100.  It's hot and humid, but they'll make it, most of them.

The welcome banner.  

The one way traffic to the main area and where the info booth is.  I walked there.

They flew flags from all the states because there have been riders from all the states.

This is the All Seasons Center, where I swim my laps, and they advertised showers and indoor, air-conditioned camping in the ice arena (no ice at this time of year) for a nominal fee.  I took more pictures, but my camera malfunctioned.

The information tent/booth.

We are patriotic too.

There were lots of vendors there.

These people shipped  bikes here and assembled them if you paid extra.  These are ones that are ready to be picked up.

This is the beer tent area.

More vendors.

There were lots of bike repair tents, very much needed.


This is part of our city's bike path that led from the main event area to one of the large camping areas.

This is the area at our fairgrounds, right next to the path, where they shot off fireworks that night.   They were watering it down, I guess as a precaution since it's so dry here.

One of the large camping areas.

Sometimes you just have to stop and take a rest.

There was a large area where there were a bunch of tents that all looked the same so we had to ask about them.  People use charter companies for transportation to and from the ride, provide their tent, set it up for you, get your gear and put it in your tent so when you arrive to the destination towns, you can "crash" right away.  It cost money to do this, like about $800 or so.  But it serves the needs of many as you can see.

Another perk, are the trucks providing showers.  Now that's luxury.

The traditional way of riding RAGBRAI is to register, get baggage tags for hauling your gear, tag for your bike, and bracelet that allows you perks and discounted prices.  This was the designated camp area for those people.  It was probably the shadiest area, and the baggage trucks that haul all their gear loads up nearby.

There was camping around the high school/middle school.

More RAGBRAI traffic.

Another way people do RAGBRAI is joining up with a crazy GROUP, but it might not be crazy too.  They give themselves a name, usually decorate their support vehicle, and they sometimes dress up alike and sometimes crazily.

Some people just come in their own vehicles in a variety of ways.   They may have registered for the whole ride, registered for day passes (just going on a day or a few days), or they may just show up and ride independently.  There are perks that go along with registering, liability insurance, baggage support, discounts,   and other support services provided by the Des Moines Register.

Another smaller camping area around Dordt College.

Later in the day the traffic picked up.

One of my biking friends of many years ago, Mary, called to see if she and a couple of her friends could stay with us so they could get a good night's sleep in preparation for the first day of riding.  Mary is on the left and her friend, Naomi, is on the right.  It was fun to see Mary, but frustrating because I was helping at the Info Tent all night and didn't really get a chance to visit with her much.  But it was great to see her and know she was off having some RAGBRAI fun.

Another way  people do RAGBRAI is to roll in, knock on someone's door, and ask if they can camp out on their property.  That's what happened to our neighbors behind us, and this is their support vehicle.

Sometimes they come in RV's and just park their RV where ever they can find a spot.

After some sleep, some get more than others, they take off  in droves.  The exodus begins before the sun comes up, and there are a few straddlers by 9:00 am.  It's quite an event to witness.   Most shout out,  "Thank you!!!!" and  we shout back, "Have fun!!"

Since I ride a recumbent, I took a picture of one of the many recumbent bicycles.  It's a relaxing way to go.