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CYCLING ACROSS IOWA

October 3rd, 2017 in Notice Board by admin

Some people have been asking why I haven’t written an article for the SK News about my recent bike ride
across Iowa – the one that delayed the August issue. The reason has been partly lack of space in the News
but also time and thinking it might not be that interesting to South Kilworth. I am told however that
there are a few people (and cyclists) who want to know about it.

Well I did it. I cycled across Iowa in a week, completing an official 411miles (but with deviations to camp
sites etc 450 miles) of RAGBRAI 2017.

RAGBRAI is an acronym for the Registers Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. This year was the 45th
event. The first bike ride across Iowa was by two journalists of the Des Moines Register (and their friends)
who persuaded their newspaper to fund their cycling holiday of riding across Iowa if they provided articles
about the trip. The interest generated by these articles led to readers wanting to join him and the second
and subsequent annual events followed.

The event has grown over the years until it is now a party on wheels for which towns in Iowa bid to be
included. It claims to be the oldest, largest and longest recreational ride in the world. The number of
registered riders is limited to approximately 10,000 (8,500 week riders plus daily passes), however a large
number of unregistered riders take part. There were rumours of 23,000 riders on the first day.
For someone who usually rides alone or with a couple of friends it was a very different experience.

There was a wide age range taking part – those I met ranged from 3 years old to those in their 80’s. There
was also a variety of bikes. These included tandems, unicycles, recumbrants, elliptical, tag-alongs and pullalongs.
There was a Viking canoe and a bike with a kitchen sink on the back.

Ragbrai is also known as “a week in the corn”. Often the view is of corn or maize for as far as the eye
can see with a straight concrete road going through it. The miles pass quickly however whilst chatting to
whoever happens to be cycling at the same pace as you. There are also people sharing their music with
you as you ride past one another. This could be a bluetooth speaker in a waterbottle guard or a trailer with
large speakers. Often the music was upbeat and in rythym with cycling pace but there was also classical,
operatic and a surprising amount of Ed Sheeran.

The advice was to drink before you were thirsty and eat before you were hungry to ensure you were
adequately fueled for the ride. Advice which I endeavoured to follow – eating my way across Iowa, weighed
down by carrying about 4 litres of water. Epicurian highlights were the freshest sweetest corn on the cob
with lashings of butter, breakfast pancakes with maple syrup and sausage and the fireman’s fish lunch.

Fortunately I did not need the help of the Sag wagons or the US air force – whose cycle team helped with
mechanical and physical problems – but assistance was readily available if needed.

We were able to ride relatively lightly as our tents and baggage were transported from one overnight town
for us – although this necessitated tents packed and all bags being on the lorry before 7 o’clock in the
morning each day. We camped with 1500 others and it was amazing how quickly and quietly all these
tents were packed away and the ground emptied.

All in all it was a great experience but probably too far away to do again although I can understand why
many people return to do it year after year.

For anyone wanting to know more about Ragbrai or entering next year, have a look at their website www.
ragbrai.com

Ann Saunders

Author: admin

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