RAGBRAI (IA) – July 2015

We are nothing if not flexible. With an original plan for Karen to ride RAGBRAI (Rgisster’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), with participation from both kids early in the ride, plans changed.

RAGBRAI route – almost 500 miles in 7 days

Karen with a lower back pain still unhealed, Michela with a new back pain, Drew with a cancelled flight… yikes! We yanked the cord on this year’s ride as we sat in our trailer on the bank of the Missouri River in Sioux City awaiting the beginning of the event. An activity like this is much like a marathon – the stars need to line up, and in our case they did not.

On the banks of the Missouri River – pulling the plug after a failed test ride

We did however, come up with a Plan B – RAGDRAI! Yes, we created Roberts’ Annual(?) Great DRIVE Across Iowa! We decided not to leave the state without seeing what we were missing, so we drove the bike route with bikes and trailer in tow, from Sioux City through hundreds of miles (almost 500), 40-50 communities and on to Davenport. What a beautiful drive, across a really beautiful state!

Gorgeous Iowa countryside

Can you say corn? Of the almost 500 miles we traversed across Iowa over 3 days of driving, we could not have spent more than 10 minutes (probably less!) elapsed time without seeing cornfields. Test: How many ears of corn are typically on a cornstalk? Two, three, four, more/less?

The first night we camped in the town of Storm Lake, which is the ride’s first night layover. We stayed at a great little campground with mostly young families, and a very friendly environment. That is until the middle of the night when we experienced the most severe storm! We had such severe thunderstorms and high winds that I thought we were in imminent danger, although there wasn’t much we could have done. The trailer really was rocking! I have never experienced such strong and prolonged winds and lightning (I am guessing steady 40 mph winds with 50-60+ mph gusts) that lasted for hours. The power went out and tree limbs littered the campground the next morning, but fortunately the huge Cottonwoods we were camped under held up.

Storm Lake, IA
Storm Lake – before the storm
Poddy til it's 1999
Anyone need to use the potty?

In fact, some of the Porto-Potties in place for the ride were overturned, which is more than a little disturbing.. No need to share this with the riders.

North by Northwest
I’m thinking Hitchcock’s North by Northwest… That crop duster seems be dusting crops where there aren’t any crops!

I will admit to having to look at a map to see where Iowa was before we began. Turns out it is about in the middle of the country! Who knew?  The state is made up of rolling hills, truly endless cornfields, gorgeous farmhouses, cute towns, and very friendly people. In fact, we pulled over on a gravel road to have lunch and take pictures and a local farmer stopped to see if we were having problems. I said, no, we just wanted to take pictures of the farmland, as it was so picturesque. He said to me, “So, not from around here, eh?”

Lunch break
Children of the Corn
Children of the Corn

Our second night (not the second stop for the bike ride) took us to Pleasant Creek State Park, where we camped for the night in a very nice state campground – were lucky enough to get a site on a Saturday night. The campground is situated somewhere between Vinton and Hiawatha, so would have been about day 5 of the ride itself.

Pleasant Creek campground

For the most part, anyone who thinks Iowa is flat is simply mistaken. Yes, there are parts that are flat. And the roads are considerably flatter in a car than they are by bike. But clearly there is much elevation change (up and down) as you cross the state. On average the bike ride each day experiences about 2,000 feet of climb, and the first day is over 4,000 feet! Easier said than done.

Part of the bike route
The route
Lisbon, IA
Almost there

We completed the “ride” today to Davenport, the culmination of the ride. We stopped at Credit Island Park where riders will dip their front wheel in the Mississippi River. As I am taking pictures of the Mighty Mississippi, a fisherman on the bank looks at my camera, truck and trailer and says, “So, not from around here, eh?”

Place to dip your front wheel in the Might Mississippi

While I was sad for Karen not being able to participate as a rider, I was incredibly proud of her preparation, perseverance and efforts for the event. We both were delighted to see the route and experience the beauty of Iowa. For that, we are thankful; turns out the stars did line up!  And best wishes to all the riders this week!!!

Oh, by the way, most cornstalks have only one ear of corn! As an urbanite, who knew? Probably everybody but me. Oh well. That won’t be a first.

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