The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa

A Funny Thing Happened on the way home from RAGBRAI.

As my son and I rode across River Drive, away from the tire dip, an officer reminded us that the rules of the road are still in place. I looked up the hill and did not see hundreds or thousands of bicycles in front of me. I did not see State Troopers blasting music while blocking the road so I could safely proceed.

Two blocks later the bikes were loaded onto the rack, and I was behind the wheel. As we drove toward I-80 my week started to come into focus. Sure, we went on a bike ride as a family. We climbed some big hills. We rode a really long way. These are the things I expected. But there was something else. It was dawning on me that I would no longer pedal into town four or five times a day with people in the street welcoming me. I would not see the food vendors, and the local churches and clubs preparing me lunch or dinner. I would no longer be able to pull over and talk to people along the way. The police would no longer play music and block traffic for me. Those same police would not be thanked hundreds of times per day.

All of the above was true, but that was not really what was, well, bothering me. As I drove away I realized that a community, a kind of town without a permanent location, had just inauspiciously ceased to exist. We had our own police, our own emergency medical services, our own history and traditions. We even had our own fashion and language of sorts. We had thousands of citizens. We did not all know each other, but after a week I got used to seeing the same people going about their business each day. (It is strange how in that huge group you keep seeing the same people over and over)

It was a “funny” thing how as we each drove away from the Mississippi, the community disappeared. It did not die. It was not destroyed. No natural disaster or economic downturn befell it. Our little community just evaporated as we all drove home.

Another funny thing happened. Up until that moment RAGBRAI 2018 was supposed to be a once in a lifetime experience. Now, I have to wonder what will happen next January when I see that the route has been set.

9 Replies

Lori Harvitt, July 28, 2018 at 8:52 pm

Well said, a few of your comments crossed my mind as well.

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Jboz, July 29, 2018 at 8:15 am

I know exactly what you mean. Our one-week way of existing just vanishes, and it’s back to reality. All the little unique RAGBRAI nuances just go on ice for the next 51 weeks, only to be thawed out next July. But on 7/21/19, somewhere in western Iowa, the community will pick up exactly it left off like the year-long hiatus never happened.

A funny related side note – my son and I were driving home with our bikes and gear loaded up, and we rolled over a patch of rumble strips. We both simultaneously yelled “RUMBLES”, then had a good laugh. BTW, rumbles in a car are much smoother than on a bike 🙂

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Justin Deahr, July 29, 2018 at 9:10 am

I was wondering about the first day next year. This year was our first, so it was all new and exciting. I think that the familiarity and the sense that everything is picking up where it left off would be interesting.

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Justin Deahr, July 29, 2018 at 9:15 am

And ya, I eased onto the shoulder to give my family some rumble strips on the way home. Does everyone do that?

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Dizzy, July 29, 2018 at 4:28 pm

It’s like Brigadoon!

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Tom Young, July 29, 2018 at 8:49 pm

I still find myself saying “on your left” even when I am indoors walking through a mall, or down an aisle in the store, a hallway and walking trail! It always brings a smile to my face and a memory of a great ride(s).

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LawnchairMan, July 31, 2018 at 7:00 pm

Yes, I thought of Brigadoon too.

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Herschel, August 3, 2018 at 7:43 pm

A funny thing happened to me today as I was driving my truck up to some rumbles I started to swerve into the left lane.

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Bruce Atkinson, August 6, 2018 at 10:28 pm

Today, I returned my son to Iowa State. He has marching band and a few other things to do before the “official” start.

I repeated half of Wednesday’s route on the way home — from Ames to State Center. I looked at the places where I parked my bike, grabbed food and drink, and watched the entertainment. Everything was quiet. In Colo, I saw girls — about nine-years-old — riding bicycles. I contrasted the scene with two weeks ago when there where thousands of riders streaming through town.

During the ride, I constantly reminded myself what day it was. “Holy cow!” I thought, “It’s a weekday and this town is having a party for me and 20,000 of my new and future friends.”

A cousin and I have become unofficial RAGBRAI ambassadors; it was the first year for both of us. She did the whole thing; I did Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Now, my sister wants to do it; My brother wants to observe the logistics of putting it on; Another cousin wants to participate; My wife seemed to enjoy supporting me; My mom should do it: at 80, she does spin class five or six days a week and keeps up with people a fraction of her age.

This reply was modified 1 year ago by  Bruce Atkinson.

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