Last week, some friends and I made the dash across Iowa on our bikes as part of RAGBRAI XXXIX. It was challenging, entertaining, enlightening and unforgettable. The riding was easy. Seriously. The heat and sun were challenges and getting to the host towns and trying to find your bag to set up camp were the hardest parts for me.
Iowa is a great setting for an event like this. The people are so accommodating and every community pulled out the stops to host over 10,000 bikers. Including support crew and vendors, some overnight towns welcomed nearly 20,000 people to their homes, schools, parks and other public places. Our overnight towns ranged in size from 6,000 people to 17,000-- so welcoming all these guests was a logistical terror. But I felt like they did their best. And then there were the towns we passed through during the daily routes. Some counted their population in mere hundreds, yet they did so much within their limited resources to host thousands of hungry, thirsty, tired and sometimes cranky riders. For just one day. Then they went back to being Griswold, population 940.
I would definitely do the ride again. The rest of the team (outside Steve and Baron), I'm not so sure. I think they'd do it again with some stipulations: fully supported (preferably an air conditioned RV), more sunscreen, perhaps 2 way radios and something garnishings our helmets. It was definitely a treat to see so many different walks of people with different styles and levels of equipment and ability all participating in this event.
And the kindness. The people I met were for the most part unequivocally kind-- whether it was a fellow rider, a new friend in camp, a vendor or a local and their water/pie/melon stand. Everyone was genuinely kind and grateful. That's the other thing, the people of the communities were grateful for our presence. Sure, they profited off the riders, but I felt a gratefulness that we were visiting them in their towns. They were small towns with little other than a Main Street, water tower, grain elevator, bar/restaurant, post office and sometimes a school and/or bank but the residents were extremely proud of their homes. That, I can respect.