While it is not the most important thing in the world, RAGRAI, the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bile Ride Across Iowa is about to inundate my little town on the edge of the Mississippi River breaks. Come Friday this quiet farming and market community of some 2500 people will be invaded by some 15,000 people, 10,000 on bicycles, and another 5,000 in straight trucks, panel trucks, Winnebagos, RVs, SUVs, pickup trucks and God know what else. This whole outfit left LaMars on the Western Slope this morning. For the rest of the week it will eat and drink its way across the state from West to East ending up at Gutenberg on the Mississippi on Saturday. It is like having a re-enforced armored division with its complete logistical tail decent on the towns and villages of this otherwise rational and level headed state. Fortunately the thing is set up so it only imposes itself on any one community about once every 10 or 15 years.
Friday night is the last night on the road and is the traditional big party night. We have them for Friday. The whole town has pitched in. Between the churches and the towns two or three restaurants and the lunch wagons that travel along we will put out 15,000 plus spaghetti, stewed chicken, beef and noodle and roast beef dinners, enough lemonade to float a small cabin cruiser and even more beer. The fair grounds and the school campus have been set aside as camp grounds. All sorts of people are staying at private homes. We will have two sons-in-law, two daughters, one baby, and three or four of their friend in the house and some 40 people camping in the yard and spreading bed rolls on the floor. hangers. Sue and I are working the help and information station at the high school on Friday morning starting at 7:00 AM and then dishing up spaghetti at the church until the food runs out (we are ready to serve 700 meals).
The whole down town, all two blocks of it, will bee barricaded for a street dance and beer hall. God help us if the beer runs out! These people have been riding between 80 and 100 miles a day in 90 degree heat for five days and they are going to be thirsty.
Still, I wonder if it is worth the effort – especially when it involves cleaning the basement bathroom for 40 strangers. None the less, 10,000 sunburned people in spandex is something to see.