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Dipping tires in the Mississippi River and dipping out of Keokuk

  • 27 July, 2019
  • Zachary Oren Smith

KEOKUK, Ia. — RAGBRAI riders were up early Saturday trying to get a jump on the last day’s mileage. Caitlin Young of Eagan, Minnesota called it her favorite part of the event.

“There is a part to riding RAGBRAI that people don’t understand unless they’ve done it,” Young said.

Early in the orange sunrise, Young said it’s quiet. And the cornfields, as they warm, give off a sweet smell that rises with a haze over the row crops.

“All you hear is the spinning of tires,” Young said. “It’s a pretty majestic setting.”

The ritual for riders on the last day of RAGBRAI is to dip their tires in the Mississippi River, mirroring their beginning in the Missouri River a week earlier.

LuAnn Opheim of Emmetsburg has ridden RAGBRAI 15 times and said she sees and learns something new about her home state every time. Mindy Jensen of Longmont, Colorado said her seven tours across the state has corrected a commonly held misconception about Iowa.

“There have been a lot of hills, really dispelling that flat Iowa myth,” Jensen said.

Hugh Hadlund of Minneapolis, Minnesota has ridden 13 RAGBRAIs, including the famous 1974 SAGBRAI. He said he’s impressed by how the event has grown and evolved over the decades.

“I think the Des Moines Register has done a great job adapting to the demographic changes among riders,” Hadlund said. “There is definitely some aging in RAGBRAI. With that, there are different expectations in terms of what is desired. … They seem in tune with who is riding and how to keep it real.”


  1. Will (Willard) Johnson

    Last year I missed the final two days and heard the end town Davenport was great and had a really fun Saturday night for the riders. This year Keokuk and whoever missed the boat on a final night celebration opportunity fell short, how unfortunate.

  2. Jayne

    I wish I could have ridden this year. My hometown was only 20 miles from Keokuk. I am hoping to ride in 2021 to celebrate my 65th birthday. So enjoy the 2016 ride. Thanks for all the hard work everyone puts in to such a fun ride.

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