Wow, what a week it’s been! If you told me a year ago I’d be going on RAGBRAI and covering the ride for Channel 13 I would have thought you were crazy! My husband Ryan and I live near a trail so when we bought bikes it was simply to check it out. Once we started biking we were both hooked! Biking has become such an institution in Iowa, so much so I did a story on it the Friday before RAGBRAI, click here to watch.
Back to RAGBRAI—Photojournalist Mike Borland and I packed up our bikes at 5 a.m. on Monday morning and headed to Okoboji. Along for the trip was WHO assignment editor Rose Rech. Rose not only served as our support driver carrying our gear from town to town but helped keep us going, with cold Gatorade and water. I don’t even like Gatorade but after riding multiple days in a row it was great! Thank you Rose you were amazing!
The first day we didn’t know what to expect. It was the first time both of us had been on RAGBRAI, and boy was it amazing. There were bikers as far as the eyes could see, wearing creative costumes, sporting unique team names and carrying boom boxes that looked like they were out of the 90’s. I was in heaven!
Monday we rode from Okoboji 40 miles to Emmetsburg. For our first day we just experimented with our bike-mounted cameras and talked to some riders including a couple towing their puppy along for the ride. Big hills and a strong headwinds made Monday’s ride difficult to say the least but we still had fun. Here’s our story from Monday.
Tuesday was the day I was dreading. I had trained for RAGBRAI but my longest ride before I left was 40 miles, so Tuesday’s 80 mile day was scary. We left Emmetsburg bright and early stopping along the way in Ringstead where I tried the most amazing treat. They’re called Kringla’s, I would say a combination between a cookie and a cake with an almond flavor—yumm!!! On our stop in Ringstead we talked to riders about Mother Nature, she was dishing out strong wings and hot temperatures. Here’s that story.
On top of it being 80 miles riders could add an additional 26 mile loop to make it a century ride. Believe it or not we found a guy who did the loop twice plus an additional 20 miles. In all he rode 155 miles in one day. He was trying to beat a family record that was previously set by his Grandfather and Father. Watch that story here.
Wednesday was one of my favorite days for two reasons. First, it was the shortest day of the route only 38 miles. Second, we got to follow an amazing group, Adaptive Sports Iowa. The organization helps provide sporting opportunities to athletes with physical disabilities. Adaptive Sports Iowa had 60 people in their group this year, when they started they had a handful so it’s awesome to see it continue to grow! I got to hang out with Nick Basset who has scoliosis, and boy was he an inspiration. Nick rides with a hand cycle and along with the other athletes on the Adaptive Sports Iowa’s team is proving with determination anyone can ride in RAGBRAI. Watch his story here.
Thursday was our last day, we rode 65 miles from Mason City to Waverly. This day had some hills, one the locals call the “Breathless Hill,” was a killer! Going up that hill I met an amazing woman, 87-year-old Lavone Luther of Cedar Rapids. Luther completed her first RAGBRAI when she was 85 and said riding helped keep her young. Watch Luther’s story here.
My younger sister was also out on RAGBRAI on Thursday and rode along with us. Along with her was my old neighbor growing up Mike Johnson. It was fun to have two familiar faces and it also gave both Mike and I some needed motivation for our last day. Thursday was also support your team day so I had to wear a Northwest Missouri State University cycling jersey. I was surprised how many Bearcats I saw along the route.
On Thursday’s ride I also wanted to focus on food. Dan Winter’s said it best, RAGBRAI really is the State Fair on two-wheels. Every five miles or so there would be another food stand along the road or popping out of a roadside farm. Talk about comfort food, these stands had everything from homemade pies and cookies to pork chop on a stick and ice cream. One common food item I saw day in and day out was pickles. I like pickles, don’t get me wrong, but while riding hundreds of miles they sounded unappealing so I had to investigate. Turns out pickles help prevent muscle cramping and are a fan favorite on RAGBRAI. Here’s that story.
Looking back it was a lot of work but also very rewarding. Mike and I rode 240 miles all while telling the stories along the ride. I’ve covered RAGBRAI in the past but always in the overnight town each night. This year I wanted to do something different, tell the stories along the ride, experience the killer hills and strong headwind. The experience helped me tell better stories and made me fall even deeper in love with cycling. I can’t wait for next year! Enjoy some of the pictures we took along the route below in the gallery.