RAGBRAI news team
Fri, Jul 29, 2011 | by Kyle MunsonShare
Colfax, Ia. — This is Mark Block’s fourth RAGBRAI, 25 years after his first three rides.
I met Block on Thursday morning when he pedaled by hand to the side of the street in downtown Colfax in search of a cooling neck band.
“My biggest nemesis is the heat,” he said.
Most of the 10,000 official riders on the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa might agree, but we’re talking more than mere annoyance for Block, 45, who lives in Ankeny.
He’s had two spinal cord injuries. Twenty-five years ago after a car accident, he turned 21 in the hospital and was told he would never walk again. He began walking within two months.
But then two years ago Block fell and hit his head, bruising his spine and suffering a mild traumatic brain injury.
Now, he has trouble feeling below his chest. His body temperature and blood pressure are prone to wild fluctuations. His vision gets blurry, and he loses balance.
So Paul Lantz of West Des Moines and Andrea Baumgartner of St. Louis were on hand in Colfax to provide support for Block as one of a dozen disabled riders this week on the inaugural Adaptive Sports Iowa RAGBRAI team.
“Volunteering for this, it’s one of those deals where you get way more than what you give,” Lantz said.
The team is led by executive director Mike Boone, 29, whose inspiration began with his dad, Charles, who went blind from type-1 diabetes by the time Boone was 2. Charles later died from complications of his diabetes in 1991.
Boone himself is a healthy sports nut who was raised north of Denver, Colo., but eventually made his way to Iowa to earn a master’s degree in public administration at Drake University. He and his wife, Joni, live in Ankeny and just welcomed their first child five weeks ago, daughter Jani Eileen.
Boone came from a state where every ski resort had some sort of program and adaptive equipment for the disabled. So he saw a need in Iowa, as well as an opportunity to merge his passions for sport and work with the disabled.
His original brainstorm was to found a nonprofit to create local recreational sports for the disabled. But a chain of networking led him and his program to be taken under the wing of the Iowa Sports Foundation of Ames, and he began working as full-time director in December.
Team members include Vern Willey, a dynamo who’s ridden “somewhere around 20″ RAGBRAIs and logs 4,000 handbike miles per year.
But Thursday was a little tough, even for him: He was part of the RAGBRAI committee in Altoona, where he lives, and stayed up until 1 a.m. having fun before he woke up 3½ hours later to ride.
Willey, 61, broke his back and injured his spinal cord in 1997 when he flipped over the front handlebars of his bicycle outside of Dubuque – during mile 101 of a 106-mile ride.
But six months later to the day, Willey was skiing on a Colorado mountain. And he rode the same bike ride the following year.
I didn’t dare try to keep up with him, but I did trail Mario Bennett and Eric Kinman for a short stretch.
Bennett, 34, was stricken with polio at 10 months old and also pedals a handbike.
Kinman, meanwhile, is one of the volunteers who has divided his time this week riding alongside Bennett and also on a tandem with blind bicyclist Tai Blas.
Wednesday was a good day for Bennett: the first day he completed an entire leg of RAGBRAI.
He loves hearing the encouragement shouted by fellow riders:
• “Hey, low-rider!”
• “You’re an inspiration!”
• “Go, Adaptive Sports!”
Thursday’s hill rolling out of Colfax, however, was monstrous. I walked it.
Bennett put up a valiant fight as Kinman coached him with how to shift down through the bike’s 27 gears. But Bennett snapped his front brake cable, so the pair had to turn around for repairs.
One killer hill can be a temporary obstacle, but the theme of this RAGBRAI debut for Adaptive Sports Iowa seems to be all about pushing ahead. The team is gaining momentum.
Blas, for instance, is headed this fall to law school at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.
Bennett also plays wheel basketball every Thursday in Ankeny — another of Boone’s adaptive programs.
Boone is putting together a team to compete in a world series for blind baseball players next year in Ames.
Block, meanwhile, said this RAGBRAI ride “has more meaning than any of them for me.”
But he also reacts to this rolling circus just like the rest of us: “The nice thing about this whole event is the people you meet,” he said.
No matter how we pedal, we’re all just sweaty, sore people.
All of us here at RAGBRAI would like to thank those who took the time to complete the surveys after RAGBRAI XLII. 4,470 online surveys were completed, providing ...
A section of the popular Great Western Trail in Des Moines would no longer pass through Willow Creek Golf Course, under a plan being pursued by the course's owner.
Did you get home from RAGBRAI with less than what you started with? Lost wallets, drivers licenses, and credit cards have already been returned to their owners. We have several ...
Want to return or exchange an item you purchased on RAGBRAI? Here's how.
Riders handed her cash from spandex pockets and small-town American Legions put up tip jars to help along the way. So far, Hameister’s raised more than $1,700 for the campaign, ...
by John Karras, Grampa RAGBRAI A strange, but predictable, thing happened this year to Ann and I on our way to our umpteenth time to ride RAGBRAI–we were physically unable to ...
The children of the RAGBRAI XLII overnight communities were invited to participate in the annual RAGBRAI Kids’ Art Contest. The contest called for students in kindergarten through fifth grade to ...
Well, another RAGBRAI is done and in the books. I hope you enjoyed yourself and I also hope this blogs gave you some advice that helped you prepare adequately for ...
After 42 years, each ride can seem pretty much like the one before -- except when they don't.
How to make the boy understand and simultaneously stay better connected with him throughout the week? Eureka! The universal, ageless antidote for the doldrums: Legos.
Look back on the ride of 2014 in this video highlight reel.
A group of friends from Canada spent the week on RAGBRAI and recount their best moments.
As RAGBRAI XLII comes to an end, friends from California talk about the emotion behind dipping their tires into the Mississippi River at the end of the ride.
Riders react at the Guttenberg dip site.
Riders stopped for photos on a bluff overlooking the mighty Mississippi River at Guttenberg.
Iowan "Bachelorette" competitor Chris Soules greets riders in Strawberry Point
Former Iowa Hawkeye and NFL tight end Dallas Clark talks about his second RAGBRAI and his hope of someday moving his family back to Iowa.
The LeBeaus are known as royalty in Iowa and for their funky socks!
Jason Pardie, of Muscatine, is participating in his sixth RAGBRAI on a unicycle.
The LeBeaus are known as royalty on RAGBRAI and for their funky socks.
Find us socially
Sign up for the latest RAGBRAI news and notes (if there is no news in a day, you won’t get an e-mail).