Hello, RAGBRAI

Holy bicycles, Batman! 

I had no idea what I was getting into when I was asked to spend a week in Iowa riding my bike nearly 500 miles across the state with the Executive Director of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, Shelley Pfohl.

I mean, it sure sounded like a rad idea – spend the week riding my bike, write a couple of blogs and call it work.  Sign me up.  But, as it got closer to my departure I was having a lot of anxiety about leaving and starting to wonder if I’d made a mistake in agreeing to do the ride.

Not to mention, I was going to have to spend a whole week in Iowa.  Corn, anyone?

Well, I’m beyond thrilled to report that not only did I make a really good choice by signing on, but I’m having one of the most amazing experiences of my life. 

I guess I should have realized right away that it was going to be a good week when I ended up sitting next to the drummer from SmashMouth on my flight to Sioux City (airport code – SUX; not a coincidence) and made a super cool new friend (and when I say he “rocks,” it’s totally true).  Hi Randy!

I’d heard of RAGBRAI (aka the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) from some friends – it’s a pretty famous ride in cycling circles – but I’m here to say that there really aren’t adequate words to describe what’s going on this week.

RAGBRAI is a moving party on bicycles.  This is a ride, not at all a race.  There’s a crazy diverse group of people out riding (all ages, shapes, sizes, levels of ability) and there are 15,000 of them.

That is not a typo. 15,000 cyclists riding all day long.  It’s pure insanity.  The roads are completely shut down and there’s a steady stream of people filling up the route all throughout the day.  And, it’s wicked fun.

Several people are dressed up in costumes or have funky decorations attached to their helmets and there is a lot of beer.  A lot.  I mean, there is beer available all day long at every stop.  They really should just rename it the Pie & Beer Ride.  Yes, lots of pie, too.

We pass through several small towns each day as we ride and the whole town comes out to see the riders, set up concession stands and just be part of the all-around celebration.

I think celebration is really the best way for me to describe it.  People are out there just having a blast and loving life – it’s such a positive and uplifting experience. 

I’m so used to riding solo at home when I train that it’s a nice change to be around people and have folks to chat with along the way.  Everyone is really friendly and it’s not unusual to strike up a conversation with another RAGBRAI-er as you ride together for a few miles.

Then, there was this guy.  Swoon.

The ride is seven days and a total of 474 miles.  Yesterday’s opening route was 68.5 miles and due to some mechanical issues I only got in the last 30.  I’m all fixed up now and today we rode 82 miles.  I felt great the whole way.  We had a kicking tailwind for a good portion of the ride, which helped us make really good time and we wrapped the day’s distance in 6 hours flat.  Not bad for me!

Most people spend the week camping and have tents set-up in each of the overnight towns, but yours truly is (not surprisingly) ditching tents for hotel rooms all week.  I mean, really, how am I supposed to ride my bike all day long then have to settle for a tent, port-a-potties and a pretend shower.  I think not.

Trust me, the hotels haven’t been too much of a step above camping, but I do have a real bed, a real toilet and a real shower so I’m not bitching about it.

I also have the great fortune of having my very own logistics guy – Tomas.  Tomas is ruling my world right now.  He works for Shelley (who is also super awesome & fun), so he’s driving our support vehicle and helping with whatever we need.  On top of being damn good at his job, he’s just a great guy. 

In exchange for all Tomas is doing to help me, I did him the favor of introducing him to Texts From Last Night so he has something to keep him entertained while he waits for us to show up at the next stop.  I know, I’m a kick ass friend.  You can thank me later, buddy.

Alright, it’s only 8:30p but it’s been a long day and we’ve still got lots of riding to do.  I’m supposed to have wi-fi at all my hotel stops (had some issues last night), so the plan is to blog each night.  I’m sure there will be plenty of stories to tell.

Peace out.

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2 Responses to “Hello, RAGBRAI”

  1. Christi Says:

    Hi Susan! I was so happy to see you out on the course of RAGRAI!!! You are right about the name they really should change it! Keep up the great work!

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