RAGBRAI news team
Sun, Jul 22, 2012 | by Josh HafnerShare
MARCUS, Ia. – “You guys really like riding bicycles that much that you’re riding all up and down this state?”
That’s what Marcus Chief of Police Jim Ebert asked a group of RAGBRAI riders cooling off on the carpet in Marcus City Hall this afternoon. And while many Iowans and others from around the world know the importance of this event to the state, it’s a fair question.
Most cyclists tell you they’re riding RAGBRAI this year because they rode it last year (and the year before that, and the year before that) and had a great time. But what makes a first-timer take the 400-mile plunge?
This is my first year on RAGBRAI, and I’m riding partly because I’m being paid to, and partly because I love tasty, fattening foods and bicycles.
Other first-timers have different reasons.
“I’m dumb, and so that’s why I’m riding RAGBRAI,” said Karsa Dreckman, a rider who set out from Sioux Center on her way home to Marcus.
By that she meant she was unprepared. RAGBRAI can be a physical challenge. Dreckman, who’s 24 and works at a nursing home, doesn’t bike much.
Even so, it took her only a few hours to grasp the same key wisdom held by veterans: “The hills are tough, and the beer is good.”
Mark Barnes, a gunnery sergeant riding with some fellow Marines, passed me on the way to Alton. He and other first-timers are set apart by the word “VIRGIN” scrawled in marker across their calves.
“The Marine Corps prides itself on physical fitness, and this is no better way to show it than right here,” he said.
Barnes hasn’t done a cycling event like RAGBRAI before, but he’s a pretty fit guy. The key to surviving, he said, is controlling your body, learning when to shift and how to keep pace. This is the second year the Marines have done the event.
“It’s one of those things that’s good for community involvement and public affairs,” he said.
I took a break at one of the endless roadside barns selling eggs on a stick and ran into RAGBRAI virgins from Kansas, my native state.
Adam Price, Lauren Durano and Gavin Smith are three first-timers being led by Gavin’s older sister, Tori Smith. All are in the 20s and with ties to Wichita State University.
While Tori isn’t a RAGBRAI virgin, she hasn’t ridden the event since age 10. Tori doesn’t remember what cities she rode through or how hot it was. Only the important memories, her favorite ones she said, stick with her.
“I remember Pancakes,” she said. “Pancakes in the morning.”
So while first timers come to RAGBRAI for all kinds of reasons, what draws riders back are the memories. Perhaps the sweet, maple syrupy ones.
— Josh Hafner / The Des Moines Register
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