Hank – When we toured through Iowa last year we met some wonderful people who invited us to ride with their team during RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Ride Across Iowa). Last April we figured out we could do that so we signed up. Our son, Geoff, also signed up. So after arriving home at the end of June we started riding our road bikes to get used to the change in geometry, weight, and saddles. It sure was nice to ride an unladen bike.
Kathy and I drove to Mason City with the bikes on the back of our car. Matt and Tara welcomed us and Matt allowed us to sleep in the cool basement of his furniture store saving us from the heat and the expense of a hotel room.
Kathy describes our trip well. I’d just like to add that RAGBRAI is not a ride to be taken lightly. There are a lot of logistics involved when you have 10 to 30 thousand riders all going from and to the same place. RAGBRAI has about 10,000 registered riders. As the route passes by cities some people get on their bikes and join in. When we passed by Des Moines there was a very noticeable increase in the number of cyclists on the route.
We had a good time and saw lots of interesting sights. The most unusual sights were the decorated road kills along the side of the road. Apparently, there’s a RAGBRAI team that does exactly that. So there were a number of dead possums and raccoons lying face down with an empty beer can under one foreleg, a cigarette in the mouth, and wearing Mardi Gras beads. Fun times.
I caught some sort of stomach bug so I only rode four of the seven days. I did have a cool small world moment. I was walking my bike through Adair, Iowa when some guy walks up to me and asks, “Are you Hank?” I said I was and he said, “I follow your blog.” And that’s how I met John Sanders of Souix City, SD. He recognized me from the red plaid shirt I was wearing, which happens to be the shirt I’m wearing in many of the photos on the blog. There was a family joke about that being the only shirt I owned. John learned about our blog from the couple who gave us a ride from the bike shop to the hotel in Yankton, SD in July of last year. I better not commit any crimes because it looks like I’m easy to pick out of a crowd.
Kathy – First I must say, it is nice to be home! We were only home for two weeks before we left on our another cycling adventure. However, while at home we enjoyed spending quality time with family and friends.
So after riding our bikes in 49 states, what do you do…ride some more! We continued to ride most days during our two weeks home to stay in shape for RAGBRAI. The rode bikes are much lighter weight than our touring bikes, so that is pretty awesome. It was good riding on the Spokane roads and trails that we know so well.
We packed up the car (bikes on the back) and drove 2.5 days to Mason City, Iowa. There we met up with Tara and Matt, great people we met last year while riding through Iowa. We had a wonderful evening of dinner and drinks as we caught up on each other’s lives. Matt owns a furniture store so he invited us to get out of the 100 degree heat and spend the night in one of his air conditioned store. We took him up on it and got to sleep on any bed in the place. We really just found a comfy bed in the basement and put our sleeping bags in top of it. Pretty nice and didn’t cost us anything. 😊
The next morning we met up with the rest of Team Zippy and spent a few hours getting everyone’s bikes, gear, clothes, tents, food, etc. loaded onto the mega Team Zippy bus. The bus then departed for the 4.5 hour drive from Mason City, Iowa to Council Bluffs, Iowa where RAGBRAI was to start the next day.
The Team Zippy school bus has been converted to somewhat of an RV with just about every comfort you can imagine in it. Well, except air conditioning. It was somewhat of a loud ride with the windows down to keep us cool, but regardless it was good to talk to and to get to know all the team members. There was no shortage of snacks and drinks on the bus either. It was a pretty easy ride through the Iowa never ending corn fields and rolling hills.
Once we arrived at our campsite just outside of Council Bluffs, Iowa we met up with our son Geoff and more Team Zippy members. We had about 20 people total on the team. We set up our tents, got our bikes and gear ready for riding the next day, then spent time chatting with the different team members before calling it a night.
This is the 47th year for RAGBRAI. The annual ride is seven days long and takes you from the Missouri River (on the west side of the state) to the Mississippi River (on the east side of the state). Every year the route changes as to which towns or cities it goes through but it always begins at the Missouri River and ends at the Mississippi River.
This year the ride was about 480 miles long. Most people think Iowa is flat land, not true. Iowa is a state of constant rolling hills with corn fields everywhere about. We apparently hit it lucky this year because we were told it was a really ‘cool’ RAGBRAI. The RAGBRAI temps are normally in the 100 degree mark, plus 100% humidity on top of that. For a ‘cool’ RAGBRAI this year, we were very hot. Temps during the week were in the mid to high 80’s with 100% humidity, so roughly mid 90 degree riding temps all week.
Oh, did I mention that each year RAGBRAI has an average of 10,000 to 30,000 riders out there on the two-lane country roads? Yep, as we rolled up and down hills for seven days (averaging 70 miles per day) we were surrounded by an unbelievable number of cyclists. This was fun at times and challenging at other times.
Our location and total ride mileage each day…
- Day 1 – Council Bluffs to Atlantic – 60 miles
- Day 2 – Atlantic to Winterset – 80 miles
- Day 3 – Winterset to Indianola – 50 miles
- Day 4 – Indianola to Centerville- 90 miles
- Day 5 – Centerville to Fairfield – 70 miles
- Day 6 – Fairfield to Burlington – 80 miles
- Day 7 – Burlington to Keokuk – 80 miles
We rode 510 miles in the seven days and climbed over 18,000 feet. Our mileage was a little more because we often camped in areas outside of the overnight cities center core.
The ride itself was pretty amazing. It is incredible how these small Iowa towns/cities can accommodate such a vast number of people. The, “Iowa Nice” was noted everyday by everyone we encountered. The towns really go above and beyond to welcome all the cyclists. They decorate their towns, have lots of activities/fairs/museums to keep you occupied while passing through, bake/cook lots of fresh pastries, BBQ, corn-on-the-cob, spaghetti feeds and lots of other yummy foods to keep you nourished while there. All towns and in between you found people selling ice cold water and Gatorade to raise money for churches, schools, sports teams and different organizations.
Before RAGBRAI we heard people say it can be ‘party across Iowa’ as they ride across the state. We never saw this. We saw beer tents but never saw anyone intoxicated. We did hear the past few years the RAGBRAI planning team has really tried to reduce the amount of partying that was apparent in previous years.
These small Iowa towns really welcome the cyclists and truly feel they won the lottery. They benefit greatly from the huge economic boost the RAGBRAI cyclists bring to them.
This was arranged ahead of time by Team Zippy, but each day we had local people agree to allow us to park the Team Zippy bus on their property, use their electricity to charge 20 phones plus a few laptops, and have access to their water. Often we didn’t have to use the Team Zippy pop up outdoor shower because many of our overnight host also allowed us to use their bathrooms and showers. Some even allowed us to do laundry and provided us with ice cold (and refreshing after a hot day of riding) water bottles and made us homemade cookies. Some overnight host we camped at had multiple teams with up to 160 cyclists camping on their property. None of our over night host ever expected anything in return, again it’s just part of being “Iowa Nice.” Each day all Team Zippy members wrote personal thank you notes to our host just to show our appreciation. 💗
Each day consisted of getting up and dressed for the day, having a quick bit to eat at the campsite, packing up all your stuff and tent and returning it to the bus, then getting out there with all the other cyclists and riding for 5 – 8 hours.
RAGBRAI was not the typical relaxed riding that Hank and I are used to with touring. There were so many cyclists around you, you had to be alert and mindful at all times. As we rolled up and down the seven days of constant rolling hills you had to watch out as people slowed down going up the hills, and sped up going down the hills. I never heard and/or said, “On your left” so much in my life. I’m happy we did RAGBRAI, but just know it can be a challenging ride with the total mileage, heat, humidity, hills and vast number of people riding with you. Also each day it is about consuming calories and keeping up with your fluid intake. Other cyclists need to eat and stay hydrated just like you, so line are very long in every town you stop in (typically pass through 5 – 8 towns each day, plus your overnight towns).
Since Team Zippy camped outside of the cities each day we normally grabbed a bite to eat in the overnight host towns before heading to the campsite, or we as a team ordered pizza and had it delivered. Once we arrived at our overnight camp area we cleaned up, had a bite to eat, relaxed and talked with other team members before calling it a night. We repeated our daily routine for the seven days.
Team Zippy is a great group of people They have been riding RAGBRAI together for many years and have things very well thought out and organized now. It was fun to hang out with them as the newbies of the group. We are thankful they let us join them this year. They welcomed us and everyone was truly “Iowa Nice.”
On our last day of riding we made it to the Mississippi River before going to another host home to shower. After everyone on the team showered we packed up the bus and headed back to Mason City. We only had one mishap during the drive when one of the bike tires came off the bus roof rack and bounced down the freeway in to the center median. We went back and found it. Thankful the tire did not hit another car, and surprisingly the tire was not damaged either.
We got back to Mason City at 1:30 am, unpacked the bus, loaded up our car and headed to a nearby hotel. We declined the furniture store sleeping arrangements for the night as we wanted to get quick showers in the morning before our day of traveling.
That morning we met Team Zippy members for breakfast. It was a nice ending to our busy week of riding. We then said our goodbyes to these fabulous people before driving the 4.5 hours to Omaha, Nebraska. Then we said goodbye to Geoff as we dropped him off at the Omaha airport. It was so awesome to see him and have him join us for the ride. Geoff has not ridden his bike in six months, and he still killed this ride. He is in great shape from daily running, rock climbing and weight lifting. He is a super strong and fast rider and takes the hills like they were nothing. I’m not super fast, but I’m also not super slow. I would leave before Geoff was even awake. At some point he would wake up, get dressed, eat, tear down his tent, pack his stuff up on the bus, then start riding…and would still beat me to the daily finish. Something’s not right here. I do have 23 years on him, but he’s still a machine! 🚴♂️🚴♀️
We then drove to our friends Deb & Dan’s house in Omaha. We spent the night with Deb & Dan and had a great visit and dinner with all three of their girls, spouses and children. It truly was wonderful to see these life-long friends again. They are simply wonderful people. The next morning Deb & Dan treated us to breakfast (Thank you!!💗), then we had to say goodbye to them as they had to go to work and Hank and I had to start our 2.5 day drive back to Spokane, Washington.
So here we are now trying to get settled back into our home and life after 15 months on the road riding bicycles. We rode over 10,250 miles during our 15 months of traveling to 49 of the United States. Hawaii is #50 and we plan to take a trip over there to ride sometime in the next few months once it gets cold in Spokane.
It was a pretty incredible journey. I am so thankful Hank suggested we go on this bike touring adventure. As we are now learning to live in one place again, we are beginning to reflect on how this trip has changed us. So much still to reflect on but just for starters. We have less patience for routine, mundane stuff, and gossip. We are much more relaxed and have a new sense for adventure. Quality time with people and meaningful conversations are the best. We are now all about moving forward doing the things we want to do…now and in the future. We believe in creating the life you want…dream it, plan it, and do it. That’s exactly what we are working on now.
Thank you everyone for all of your support and encouragement throughout the past 15 months. We are truly grateful. ❤️❤️❤️
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