RAGBRAI XLII Countdown – July 20-26, 2014
Friends of RAGBRAI

RAGBRAI news team

News cycle keeps spinning on RAGBRAI



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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Advertisement

Latest Blog Posts

  • Mayor's Annual Ride & Run for Trails is Saturday in Des Moines

    On April 19th, join the Des Moines Parks and Recreation Department for the 2014 Mayor’s annual Ride & Run for Trails. In addition to the annual ride, the Parks and ...

  • RAGBRAI XLII Expo Gearing Up With Great Vendors!

    You can find it all at the RAGBRAI Expo, where RAGBRAI begins! Rock Valley Iowa serves as the host for the expo, held from 12:00 noon until 9:00 p.m. on ...

  • Tour de Cure: June 7, 2014 in Clive, IA and June 28, 2014 in Coralville, IA

    Tour de Cure is more than just a cycling event. It’s a life-changing event. A day full of fun and excitement where riders of all levels join forces in the ...

  • RAGBRAI Training: The Secret to Training for RAGBRAI

    by Coach David Ertl I can already see the responses to this title and several will likely involve beer.  But to your dismay I will not be talking about that aspect of ...

  • RAGBRAI Week-long Rider Registration Deadline is April 1

    Your week-long rider registration must be finalized by April 1 (registration, waiver, and payment).  All week-long rider minor waivers must be postmarked by April 1.  Any groups will weeklong riders ...

  • RAGBRAI 2014 Registration FAQ

    The RAGBRAI XLII weeklong rider registration deadline is coming up ( entries due April 1) so we thought answer some of your most commonly asked questions to help make the ...

  • RAGBRAI 2014 Route for Saturday, July 26: Independence to Guttenberg

    Day 7: Independence to Guttenberg And now: The hills. The final day’s 3,000-foot climb is just about twice as high as most of the previous days. So if riders didn’t know ...

  • RAGBRAI 2014 Route for Friday, July 25: Waverly to Independence

    Day 6: Waverly to Independence The route zigzags northeast toward Tripoli (pronounced trih-PO-la, by the way) and then curves past the Sweet Marsh Wildlife Management Area, a refuge for deer, doves and various ...

  • RAGBRAI Training: Training Plan for RAGBRAI 2014 and How to Use it

    One of the most popular posts I write each year is this one – the one that has the training plan in it. Once again I have put together ...

  • RAGBRAI 2014 Route for Thursday, July 24: Mason City to Waverly

    Day 5: Mason City to Waverly Riders can rest their weary bones where older bones have been resting for a long time: at the Fossil and Prairie Park Preserve and Center ...

Latest Videos

  • Spring fever? Here's how to get your bike road ready

  • Tour the RAGBRAI XLII route with a flyover

  • RAGBRAI Director T.J. Juskiewicz shares tidbits about this year's ride.

  • RAGBRAI announced its third shortest and second flattest route in its history on Saturday. Watch the full announcement party.

  • The overnight towns are announced for 2014

  • RAGBRAI and Bacon Fest are teaming up to create the "Bacoon Ride," a new event coming in June 2014.

  • Take a look back at the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa in 2013.

  • Nana's Delicacies served fried Jell-O, fried Klondike Bars, and Krispy Kreme cheeseburgers just outside of Hedrick.

  • RAGBRAI announced the 2014 logo on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013.

  • "Christmas in July" was a hit in Runnells last week during RAGBRAI 2013

Find us socially

Email Signup

Sign up for the latest RAGBRAI news and notes (if there is no news in a day, you won’t get an e-mail).

© 2014 RAGBRAI | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy