Monday, August 1, 2011


When I learned that RAGBRAI was rolling through the area, I knew I just had to join in.  If you've never heard of it, RAGBRAI is an annual week-long bike ride across the entire of state of Iowa.  It attracts 10,000 cyclists from all around the world.  The event is pretty much a rolling party.  The RAGBRAI route travels along country roads and through tiny Iowa towns.  For the most part, Iowa communities love to host RAGBRAI, because the cyclists often spend quite a bit of money on food and refreshments wherever they stop.

I've never been on RAGBRAI, but it was another item on my "bucket list."  But all I have is an old hand-me-down Huffy mountain bike, so I was nervous about joining in. Most cyclists ride on road bikes, which are way easier to pedal than my clunky ol' bike. But I also have heard that people ride some pretty ridiculous bikes on RAGBRAI, so I figured I wouldn't be the slowest rider on the route.

I rode a half-day of RAGBRAI.  My husband dropped me off along the route on his way to work, then I rode about 13 miles to the nearest host town.  Then I got off the route and rode our local bike trail back home.  Altogether, it was a 24 mile bike ride.  That was pretty far for me!

As I expected, I got passed by almost everyone on the route.  And many people came really close to my bike as they passed me.  There were plenty of farms to stop at along the route, with folks selling breakfast burritos, water and gatorade. Unfortunately, I was scared to stop and pull off to the side of the road. There were so many cyclists coming up behind me, and I was afraid I would cause a crash if I just stopped in front of them. 

I rode 7 miles in the heat before I finally got the courage to stop and get something cool to drink.  (Looking back, I regret that I didn't stop and see more farms along the route.)  I ended up stopping at an absolutely beautiful farm, with a big yard and benches for bikers to sit under the shade of trees. 

 There was a smoothie stand in the front yard. I ordered a "swirl" -- strawberry and peach. It was so good after biking in the heat.

The farm had an antique store inside an old barn.  There were lots of cute lawn decorations everywhere.

Inside the barn, there was a line for the bathroom.  I immediately joined the end of the line.  Free use of indoor bathrooms is a rarity on RAGBRAI, so I didn't want to miss this opportunity to avoid the porta-potty lines!  Inside the bathroom, people wrote "Thank You's" on a dry erase board next to the loo.  So funny!

I got back on the rode and biked another 5 miles before reaching the host town.  It was only 9 a.m., but I was starving.  The crowds were so thick, I couldn't find the pancake stand.  So I gave up and stopped at the local fire station, where they were grilling pork chops as a fund-raiser.

In addition to the typical grilling fare, they were offering free pickle juice!  They said it was good for replenishing electrolytes, but I passed.

I'm so glad that I couldn't find the pancake stand because I ended up having the best breakfast food ever -- pork chops on a "stick"!  Seriously, this was the best pork chop I've ever had. So tender and juicy. It's cut so that the bone extends out from the chop, creating a "handle" for eating the chop without a fork.

Then I spent about an hour just walking around town, gawking at all the bikers.  I couldn't believe the size of the crowd!

Even after eating the huge pork chop, I was still hungry!  I guess biking really works up an appetite.  I ended up buying a homemade ice cream sandwich at a local boy scout stand.  This treat was amazing!

I also ended up finding a free homemade Dutch letter pastry at the Central College stand.  I've never had homemade Dutch letters, only the bakery version.  This was extra sweet and stuffed full of almond paste.  Yum!

After giving my legs a rest, I rode a couple miles along the RAGBRAI route, then met up with bike trail and rode home.  The 9-mile ride home was the hardest.  My adrenaline was starting to wear off.  When I got home, I promptly took a 2 hour nap, then spent the rest of the day lounging.  I was beat!  But I had an absolutely blast.  I'm already looking forward to joining RAGBRAI again next year.  If you've never been on RAGBRAI before, I highly recommend you give it a try.  If I can do it on a 20-year-old Wal-Mart mountain bike, anyone can ride it!

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