RAGBRAI news team
Tue, Jul 23, 2013 | by Kyle MunsonShare
Three of the newest journalists to chronicle RAGBRAI are grizzled veterans of national politics who decided to share a week of vacation and experience Iowa outside of the bubble of campaigns and caucuses.
“No Pie Refused” is the banner beneath which National Public Radio’s Don Gonyea, Scott Horsley and Brian Naylor fork and pedal this week. Their returntoiowa.tumblr.com blog features such observations as a new definition of “Iowa nice”: Half a dozen fellow riders offering to help fix your flat tire.
“It’s a different pace,” Gonyea said of trailing bikes versus bluster. “We’re eating the same food, though.”
Gonyea made another good observation when I rolled up on the NPR trio earlier this week: They keep getting asked if many other journalists are on the ride; so they tend to remind folks that, well, RAGBRAI was started by a pair of journalists.
That brings up a little-known fact: Neither John Karras nor fellow co-founder Donald Kaul can claim the longest reporting streak on RAGBRAI.
That record belongs to another radio veteran, Steve Hexom of Burlington, who has reported on every day of RAGBRAI for nearly 34 years.
Hexom turns 60 this year and has clocked 45,000 miles on his 1981 Peugeot. His close-cropped hair verges on a classic flattop. He’s a Decorah native and Luther College alumnus who has been a fixture on the dial in Burlington for 37 years.
“Everything changes and I just keep pedaling along,” he quipped.
He has three daughters (ages 20 to 31) and two grandsons.
So I stood in a driveway in Kimballton at 7:20 a.m. Monday with Hexom as the Spandex streamed downhill. His voice automatically deepened into the resonant tones of a radio jock as he counted down for Savannah in the studio back in Burlington: “Three, two, one — Steve Hexom on the road …”
Hexom’s RAGBRAI adventures are heard on KBUR-AM 1490 and five other stations in the tri-state region around Burlington.
He aims to capture “impressions, moods, a little bit of history.”
To report on RAGBRAI is to miss the ride’s lackadaisical charm, we agreed. But in return you gain a heightened attentiveness to every gloriously goofy detail.
Hexom has ridden RAGBRAI since the days he schlepped two tape decks down the road and knocked on farmhouse doors so that he could transmit reports by attaching acoustic couplers to a rotary phone. (Or he would stand in line for the pay phone in a pass-through town.)
These days Hexom is meticulous about carrying a pair of cellphones on his bike to file five daily reports from the route.
Each phone is carefully wrapped in a sport sock and then sealed inside a plastic bag. (Shivering your way drenched through 1981’s infamous “Soggy Monday” will do that to you.)
He got hooked on RAGBRAI when the ride ended in Burlington in 1979 and he was an entertainment committee member and emcee.
“I camped the first 11 years every night,” he said. “I haven’t camped since.”
I call that wisdom. I gaze upon my fellow riders straining uphill on fixed-gear bikes with more understanding than those for whom round-the-clock punishment — hot pavement by day, sweltering tents by night — seems like a fun week.
Did I mention that Hexom rides as part of Team Stupid? That was founded in 1982 when he and his buddies thought they would get a head start on a 100-mile day by hitting the road in the middle of the night rather than going to bed. They set out with flashlights taped to their handlebars, lost their way on the moonless night and ended up meandering some 130 miles.
Hexom’s favorite RAGBRAI interview was in 1989 when NFL star Ben Davidson of the Oakland Raiders pedaled among the throng. Hexom walked into a small-town bar with the 6-foot, 8-inch tall defensive end and the room spontaneously erupted in the Miller Lite TV ad chant: “Tastes great! Less filling!”
Hexom reckons that the late Davidson captured the spirit of RAGBRAI with one of his favorite quotes, paraphrased here: We are all brothers and sisters riding across Iowa. It doesn’t matter if you’re a captain of industry, a doctor, a lawyer or an ex-con who’s homeless and unemployed. We are all equal under our bike shorts.
Even Hexom notched a first this year: He bicycled to the Missouri River in Council Bluffs to dip his tire, a starting ritual he never had experienced.
RAGBRAI at its best, sailing downhill on a bike, “feels exactly the same as it did when I was 27 years old,” Hexom said. “That, my friend, is the lure that brings all these old people back.”
But the secret to reporting every day of RAGBRAI for nearly 34 years, according to Hexom, is rather less poetic: “Being damn lucky.”
On or off RAGBRAI, luck is a fabulous asset in reporting.
For the eleventh consecutive year, the RAGBRAI staff and a select group of cyclists will ride the entire RAGBRAI route 50 days in advance of the event. The mission ...
In honor of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our Country and our Freedom. We thank you
Happy Armed Forces Day to all of those who answered the call to serve. Each summer, all of the branches of our military have several large and small teams of ...
This year's RAGBRAI goes through north-central Iowa, somewhat south of Clarion, Iowa. One of Clarion's claims to fame is that it is the birthplace of the 4-H symbol. ...
Vintage photos were discovered of Donald Kaul and John Karras bicycling the rural Iowa roads in 1971, two full years before our official two-wheeled genesis.
When reading about improving cycling fitness, you may see the terms used to describe how to train: Frequency, Intensity and Duration, or Time (sometimes referred to as FIT). ...
RAGBRAI Expo is where RAGBRAI begins! Plan to attend the annual RAGBRAI Expo on Saturday, July 18 at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa from noon until 9 ...
Don’t just ride, Bike MS! Ride 25, 50 or 75 miles, and celebrate your finish with live music and free beer from Firetrucker Brewery in Ankeny Iowa! Bike MS is unlike any ...
If you have committed to riding RAGBRAI this year, it all starts with Tip #1, the RIGHT stuff. And when I say stuff, I mean bicycle. Every RAGBRAI ...
If you are flying to the start of RAGBRAI, avoid the hassle and ship your bike. Any one of these bike shipping companies are ready and able to ship your ...
RAGBRAI director TJ Juskiewicz points out highlights of the pass-through towns along the route cyclists will follow July 19 to 25, 2015.
RAGBRAI director T.J. Juskiewicz previews the 8 towns that the ride has never touched.
Tune in to RAGBRAI.com this weekend to be the first to know the details of this year's route. RAGBRAI director TJ Juskiewicz shares when the rookie pass through towns, full route map will be announced.
RAGBRAI director TJ Juskiewicz annouces the 2015 overnight towns. Ride will start in Sioux City and end in Davenport.
The Register's Kyle Munson and Michael Morain attempt to get an early look at the 2015 RAGBRAI route
We are excited to reveal our new logo for RAGBRAI XLIII and 2015! If you join us on our ride across the state next year, you’ll be sure to see welcoming Iowans, lots of farmland and… well you’ll just have to watch the video to find out.
Bicyclist Shawn Gosch of Onawa was hit and killed June 20, 2014, by a motorist on Iowa Highway 7 west of Manson. Under Iowa law, the driver of the vehicle was charged with a misdemeanor for unsafe passing and fined little more than $1,550.
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.
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).