RAGBRAI news team
Sat, Jul 28, 2012 | by Kyle MunsonShare
ANAMOSA, Ia. — “Proceed to party” was Marshalltown’s theme for its overnight RAGBRAI stop — but Friday’s conditions seemed to better fit the sentiment, thanks to an ostensibly tame 42-mile roll through some of the most scenic landscape of the week, lower temperatures and a ceiling of fluffy white clouds.
(I say “ostensibly” because headwinds vexed riders, as did several killer hills.)
So with time to spare, the stops were frequent. Every town, rural Slip ’n Slide and roadside bar was crowded, with downtown Mount Vernon’s gauntlet of vendors and a raucous street party especially claustrophobic.
Not to mention that the revelry began before riders even left Cedar Rapids on Friday morning. There were dance lessons, kolaches — vying with pie as this year’s official dessert of RAGBRAI in eastern Iowa — and the “Bohemian brew” whose recipe is a closely guarded secret.
It was TGIF day on the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, an extended happy hour before the final 69-mile push on to the Mississippi River today.
Encouragement by organizers to wear college jerseys only enhanced the party atmosphere.
Jovial characters sprang up from town to town, whether Elvis shaking hands in Mount Vernon or Santa Claus posing for photos in Springville.
Teams had their own variations. It was “fashion Friday” for the Freemont All Stars based around Fremont, Ind. These Hoosiers prefer to dress up in finer (and hotter) duds on Day 6 each year. Team member Mark Abriani of Indianapolis was decked out in a dapper vest offset by a gaudy golf-tee necktie. And his white shirt collar still had lipstick traces left by a female bicyclist in Springville.
The other four members of my own Team Sauerkraut dubbed it “Friday fun day” with a specific checklist of indulgences not yet sampled throughout the week: a Bloody Mary at the first town, a stop at Mr. Pork Chop, a beer in the last town and a pit stop in a cornfield. They accomplished all but the last item.
Team Rawhide prefers to treat every RAGBRAI day like a short-mile Friday — ride well, but stop frequently. So the team spent part of its morning in the Mount Vernon bar Scorz, where Gina Trimble convinced her fellow Independence resident, Chat Bitterman, that she should style his hair into pigtails for the rest of the day’s ride. I have to admit that pigtails on a guy hardly even rate a second glance on the oddity scale of RAGBRAI.
Trimble’s drink of choice on the ride is vodka lemonade, she said, because at least “it has some nutritional value” — the citrus component. The rest of her team jeered her for that hilarious justification.
I caught up with a half dozen of the Rawhide riders, including Trimble and Bitterman, who by the afternoon opted for low-key ice cream treats beneath a tent in Viola.
All the Friday partying on the grounds of a dilapidated former elementary school building in Viola supported a noble cause: creation of an artist-in-residency program called the Stone City Art Institute. It’s meant to hark back to artist Grant Wood’s similar experimental program nearby in the 1930s that lasted for a mere two summers.
But this updated version will add modern business savvy in the form of a winery and brewery to help support the program.
Ian Cullis, the mayor of Robins, is one of the driving forces behind the project. The South African native also is a former rugby player, so I’ll wager that he’s tough enough to see it through.
Isabel Barbuzza, a sculptor and assistant professor at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, also was on hand as bikers clambered up the long gravel road and school lawn to sip beer and listen to blues bands.
An artist residency, she said, is “the gift of time” to help unleash creativity.
I suppose that RAGBRAI is an annual gift of time, too, for not only artists but workaday folk around the globe.
Based on the fashions and team rituals alone, an abundance of creative schemes are hatched each year.
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