Ten thousand Bikes and fifteen thousand people traverse the State of Iowa

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.

Everyone comes out to see a bile ride? Yuck. You Iowans are crazy.

Gutenburg, eh? While quite far East, it isn’t so North as New Albin, Lansing, Marquette/ McGregor, et al. Not that far from me (La Crescent, Mn - used to live even closer in Caledonia)

Do you (the community) get any compensation for this?


Any compensation? Hell, yes. We sell ’em food and beer. The high school charges them a dollar a head for a hot shower. The three bands and the street dance and the clean up are all community funded from charging locals and foreigners alike for the privilege of selling the riders food and beer. It is just one big 12 hour long party. The churches and the restaurants and the bars will make a good profit. I don’t know of anyone who is charging to let people camp at their home or use a real sit down porcelain toilet stool or take a shower. If I had spent a week wizzing in the standing corn and dumping in port-a-potties I’d be willing to pay a small sum for a real and clean facility.

Wow-I’d forgotten about RAGRAI given that the last time I saw news coverage was while in Cedar Rapids for company training. It still sounds like a hoot, though.

RAGBRAI went through Cherokee (pop. ca. 5500) a few years ago and some of the bikers knew about the town’s symphonly orchestra. So they rounded up the conductor, who was at a gym in gym clothes. Gathered up musicians from around town and the bikers, got instruments from the school and put on a concert. The conductor conducted in his gym clothes. One of the biker musicians was a woman who had once been a violinist in the Kansas City Symphony Orchestra. She played on a violin that had the fingering marked on it for a beginning student.

It’s quite an event when RAGBRAI comes to town.

I have a couple of friends that did this ride. One week non-stop party.
I am applying next year. Wish me luck.

Hey, go piss in someone else’s breakfast cereal of choice. RAGBRAI is fun. Once time it came right past my house! I wish I didn’t suck at biking so much…

Is that the one where they ride ‘river to river’? …(checking RAGBRAI link)… I guess not… The map shows them starting a slight distance inside the state.

I have a friend who did another ride like this (across an entire state, with thousands of people, parties every night, etc.) where they started by dipping their back wheel in the river that formed one of the state borders and then rode for a week and dipped their front wheel in the river that formed the opposite border.

She said that the communities they stopped in were wonderfull, turning their entire small town upside down for a day to accomodate all the riders.

Her only complaint was the large number of late night partiers who made noise at night. It took her until the last days of the ride to figure out how they could keep partying every night and still riding every day when she noticed a goup of them getting out of their RV at lunch time, unloading their bikes, and joining the ride. They would party all night, sleep late while the other riders left, drive to meet them at lunch time, join the ride, ride till evening and party all night again.

Given that she is in her late 60’s, she’s not into the party scene and decided to find quieter rides in the future.

I think LM was making a joke about the typo in the link (“bile” instead of “bike”)


The ride had its first fatality. Last night. Guy from New York. Tree limb fell on his tent during a thunderstorm.

I’m pretty sure you’re talking about RAGBRAI, they do the wheel dipping thing. The map must just be off.