To "non-Iowans" the letters RAGBRAI mean nothing, but to the locals...
Last week I had the honor of being the support driver for my friends Amber and Alisha as they pedaled for the River (Mississippi) in Iowas greatest yearly event, RAGBRAI. The acronym is known so well in these parts that no one asks what that is, everyone knows and or participates! The folks in Minnesota, poor souls, don't have a clue. RAGBRAI (Register's [newspaper] Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) is a yearly event where bike riders start at the Western end of the state and end up on the Eastern end of the state in 7 days. This year it was 406.6 miles. My friends only ride the last three days (due to growing families of small children and husbands who work). I get to drive the van from town to town to supply them with water and encouragement and it was quite an adventure this year.
In other years I am fairly confident of where I am going, and I go there. This year, I was always lost. And, it was basically in my backyard. My excuse? I had this lovely green sticker on my window that said I could only go a certain route because I was "support". That meant one day, to go 17 miles to meet the girls for lunch, I had to drive 42 miles around so as to not cross over the bike path. I kept thinking I had a better plan then the committee that organized this. I mean, I LIVE IN THIS AREA! I COULD TAKE GRAVEL! Wrong. The rain from the night before made the gravel roads like minimum maintenance and I wasn't about to get myself stuck, I couldn't even find my way around!
It is an exciting experience to walk around the towns that the ride goes through and visit with the locals. Some are incredibly entertaining and live to show off their town! In every town, there was someone announcing all the great and wonderful things their town has to offer! And, it was mostly true, I checked it out!
The food is always amazing and changed from location to location. The atmosphere changed from mostly flat and wide-open farmland, to gorgeous rolling hills and bluffs as we drew closer to the Mighty River. My appreciation of my adopted state (I am a Minnesotan by birth) grew enormously. I came back home Saturday with a skip in my step, and a heart full of pride for our lovely state of Iowa.
If you get a chance, check out ragbrai.com. It gives information on the whole ordeal. If you are willing, come ride a day, or seven. Or "cheat" and ride in a support vehicle. Be a part of history. See my state from the view of a bicycle seat (or van seat) and tell me, when you are done, if you don't love it like I do.