It’s RAGBRAI week in Iowa which means we are covering stories on bikers, bikers and more bikers. I was excited when I found out I was assigned to tell these stories. I grew up in West Des Moines and never participated in the great bike ride, but this week has changed my perspective.
Day 1: Council Bluffs to Harlan-54 miles
Day 2: Harlan to Perry-83 miles (this is where I started my coverage)
Showing up at my first RAGBRAI overnight town I wasn’t sure what to expect, but Perry sure put on a party with the theme: ‘Perry, Nothin’ But A Good Time.’ Perry was the smallest town out of all the overnight stops, but it didn’t show. 20,000 riders, residents and guests came to the town square to enjoy the 80’s party. The weather was beautiful until about 8:00 that night when strong storms moved in making a mess for bikers. People took cover where they could but didn’t let the storm dampen the party. Here’s the full story on the Perry Stop.
Day 3: Perry To Des Moines-50 miles
Riders went from the smallest town of the stop to the biggest city. RAGBRAI hasn’t stopped in Des Moines for 16 years so the city was geared up for a party to impress. The theme, ‘Des Moines: Even Better In Spandex.’ This was a good slogan for Des Moines, I had several out-of-town riders tell me how great it was to see such a big city supporting the biking community. One man I interviewed from Colorado Springs said he wishes his city supported bikers the way Des Moines does. He commented on the bike lanes and the bike ride itself. He said he has never met anyone from Iowa who doesn’t know about and respect RAGBRAI. The Des Moines party ended with a crowed 30,000 people covering the Walnut and Court Avenue bridges for the Everclear concert. It was so packed that during my live shot my photographer had me stand on a step-stool so we could get a shot above the massive crowds. Des Moines hopes riders from out-of-town will come back and visit after the RAGBRAI stop and from what I heard I think they will! Here is the full story from the Des Moines Stop.
Day 4: Des Moines to Knoxville-50 miles
Riders arrived into Knoxville with a splash, literally! Bikers went under a hand-made DAM that sprayed them with a cool mist to end a long ride. Knoxville’s theme was ‘A Dam Good Time.’ because bikers had to ride over the mile long bridge and cross the Red Rock Dam to get into town. What was so cool about Knoxville’s stop was everything was local and all about Iowa. All the food vendors were local, local Knoxville brewed beer was served, and even all 14 bands that performed included artists from right here in Iowa! Isn’t that great? What made my stop in Knoxville even more special was meeting Ed Gelles. When I got into town everyone told me I had to find Ed from Knoxville who was participating in his 27th RAGBRAI. I was impressed and knew I had to find him. I asked everyone I could find with a Knoxville shirt on if they knew an Ed from Knoxville. Finally the local trash pick-up man knew who I was talking about and said Ed was 74 and was still going strong. I met up with Ed in a matter of minutes and couldn’t wait to hear his story. He picked up riding in his late 40’s because he brother challenged him to a race and never looked back. What makes Ed’s story so unique is he has been riding the same 1941 Schwinn the entire time. He told me he rides everyday and can keep up with the young bucks that have fancy bikes and gears. The back of his bike says GEARS ARE FOR WIMPS! Here’s the complete story on Knoxville’s Ed Gelles.
Unfortunately, this is where my journey stopped but not for the riders. One of Channel 13’s photojournalists made the trip to Oskaloosa and put together a story on some pretty yummy food! Fried food in Iowa is always a popular choice and who wouldn’t want to try fried corn? Here is the story from Eli Gardiner.
Riders still have stops in Fairfield on Friday night and then will finish up the long journey in Ft. Madison on Saturday. Just covering RAGBRAI has me pumped to give it try next year. I enjoy biking but I’m inspired to train so I can say I completed what participants describe as a bike ride like no other. Ciao!