First RAGBRAI Memories

The 1994 Double Loop question caught my eye and evoked a bit of nostalgia. 94 was my first RAGBRAI and I remember absolutely nothing about the double loop. However that day is etched in my mind as clearly as if it were yesterday.

My older brother had ridden every RAGBRAI since the second year. Even though I had done considerable biking in Colorado I hadn’t seen fit to return to my home state and ride with him. That is until 94 when it became clear that the opportunity to join him on RAGBRAI was rapidly fading. The first few days of that year don’t evoke many memories – other than to remember that I was somewhat unimpressed by the lack of any good long stretches of “good riding” (was used to Colorado riding where it can be 25, 30 or even 40 miles between towns). Having to slow down, get off my bike and walk through a small town every 10 or so miles was really beginning to bug me. To say the least I was unimpressed with RAGBRAI.

That all changed on the Double loop Wednesday. I was just west of Madrid starting the climb out of the Des Moines river valley when I began to hear music from somewhere (perhaps 1/4 mile) up ahead. Don’t even remember what kind of music but I do remember thinking it is pretty darn loud – someone’s got a heck of a big boombox set up by the roadside. As music can make you do I soon began peddling to the beat and I found myself rapidly closing in on the mystery source of the tunes. As I rounded the last curve the volume intensified – close to rock concert levels – but try as hard as I could I did not see anything set up along the road. It was at that point that I realized that the source was not confined to the roadside – it was mobile! A bit more peddling brought me up to bike fitted out with what had to have been the remnants of 60’s hi-fi system and powered by (not one but 2) 12 volt car batteries!! Not only that, there were other bikes nearby equipped with odd paraphernalia – a grill among other things. That was my introduction to the BAD BOYS and I realized that RAGBRAI is not an ordinary ride. It was then that I was impressed. RAGBRAI truly was something very special and yes, often very different.

That’s my First RAGBRAI Memory. Anyone else care to share theirs?

34 Replies

Matt, September 2, 2020 at 6:34 pm

I don’t have any grand stories about my first RAGBRAI and it was only a single day. The last day into Davenport in 2015, but it did set the hook and reeled me into full weeks after that. Although that wasn’t the in the cards immediately after the ride. I wasn’t prepared, it was hot, and many times further than I had ridden at one time. Since I wasn’t making good time, I kept telling myself “must keep going” which led to not stopping for enough water. I walked up the last few hills into Davenport with cramps in my legs. Everything that is amazing about RAGBRAI brought me back of course. I’d like to share an insight of another person after the first “the first” ride. Sept 2, 1973 By Donald Kaul, Des Moines Register: The Great Six-Day Bike Ride has ended. I don’t care if I never see a bicycle again. By never, I mean three days. You know, people train badly for long bike rides. They ride out into the country and try to go fast up hills. They give up smoking. They jog. They buy expensive bikes. None of that is where it’s at. Where it’s at is the seat. What separates the big-time riders from the Sunday afternoon Good-Time Charlies is the ability to sit for long periods of time on narrow, hard surfaces. The next time I plan a long bike ride I’m going to practice for it by sitting on picket fences. Like Coach Vince Lombardi once said: “You have to learn to sit with pain. A bicycle club is only as strong as its weakest backside.” Still the Great Bike Ride was a success and it was fun to be a part of it. Those of you out there who missed it, missed something good.

Me: He goes on to write about 6 interesting and funny lessons learned, but I’ll keep this short and only repeat the first.

Kaul: There are certain lessons to be learned from the Great Bike Ride experience. Here are a few that occur:
1. There are a good many ding-a-ling drivers on the road. While the overwhelming majority of drivers were overwhelmingly polite on the tour, there were those specimens who were willing to risk a biker’s life to save themselves 15 or 20 seconds on the road. Generally you see more of that kind out at the time of the full moon. One guy in a pickup truck almost ripped off your columnist just outside of Iowa City. I was tooling along with bikers in front and behind me and suddenly I heard this screech and I looked back in time to see a pickup truck stop inches from my back wheel. (I know you think I am exaggerating but that’s the way it was; a screech and inches.) I got off my bicycle and offered to remove his head for him since he didn’t seem to be using it anyway, but he declined the honor. I still think the greatest single stroke for safe biking would be to require drivers, as part of their driving test, to ride a bike in traffic for awhile.
2. There are a good many ding-a-ling bikers on the road. . . . . ;-) teaser


Jay Jelinek, September 25, 2020 at 5:49 pm

I had ridden the Ride the Rockies in 2001; I grew up in Colorado and really enjoyed biking.
That’s how that ride came about. However, while enjoying that ride, I spoke w/ lots of other cyclists – a few of them mentioned this ride called the RAGBRAI.
Though I grew up in CO, I was born in Dubuque and had been back to Iowa many times on family vacations. However, it wasn’t until 2005 when I committed to doing the RAGBRAI. I jokingly told my wife that I was having my mid-life crisis and, as a result, I decided to do this bike ride across Iowa. She said “Iowa? In July?!? You go and have fun.”
I found out that one of my friends Dad, Allan Wilson, had ridden RAGBRAI many times back in the 80s and 90s. So I went and talked with him about his adventures and what to expect. When I approached him about this ride his eyes just lit up with excitement and he eagerly told me all about his experiences and how to handle the ride. He beamed with joy remembering his time on RAGBRAI. That was my first inkling of just how much fun this ride would be.
Now that I was filled with confidence and excitement, I made my plans to drive to Iowa in July, do this RAGBRAI ride and then meet up with my family who lived in the Davenport area.
I arrived that year in Le Mars, parked my car, got my bike and gear, found the camp site and pitched my tent. I remember it being over 100 degrees that day, but that just made the Blue Bunny ice cream taste even better!
The first day’s ride took us into Sheldon. That night there was a big thunderstorm that kicked up 70+ mph gusts and let loose about 2.5 inches or rain. The wind snapped one of the corners of my tent’s rain fly. I was able to hang onto the rain fly from inside my tent so that I wouldn’t lose it completely. But because the rain fly was now flapping outside my tent, the rain came into my tent. Everything I had got totally soaked. Thankfully the storm finally passed.
The next morning I got up early and put on my wet socks, my wet bike shorts and my wet jersey. I packed up all my wet gear, loaded it onto the RAGBRAI truck and started the days ride. Fortunately it didn’t take long to dry off and get back into my rhythm of riding and conversing with the
other riders – most of the talk that day consisted of nasty storm stories.
The only good that came from that overnight storm was that it cooled the weather for the rest of the week.
I recall camping the next evening in Estherville. I also remember seeing everyone carefully setting up their tents and paying special attention to putting on their tent rain flys in case of another storm.
The next day I met a member of Team Larry on the way to Algona and they were kind enough to let me camp with them as one of their parents lived in Algona. A wonderful first experience with a super nice RAGBRAI team.
I remember setting up my camp in Northwood the next night, then at the fairgrounds in the nice town of Cresco and then the final night of camping in West Union.
It took most of the week to get my clothes and sleeping bag finally dried out after they got drenched early in the week.
At the end of the ride my aunt and uncle meet me in Guttenburg at a local bar in the middle of town right on the bike route. I got to witness all the RAGBRAI teams finishing their rides together. It was so amazing and wonderful watching the finish – better than any
parade I’ve ever seen. I knew then that I would be doing this ride again.
I wasn’t able to ride again until 2008 (life has a way of getting the way sometimes) and again in 2010 and 2012. I now have life figured out – so RAGBRAI is now an annual event. I’ve ridden every year since 2014.
My RAGBRAI team was formed in 2010 (Team M.A.S.H.) and we’re still going strong (but that’s another story).
For me, this RAGBRAI ride just keeps getting better and better – I am very fortunate and blessed! :)
Maybe one day some young rider will ask me about my Ragbrai adventures – I’m sure my eyes will light up with excitement.


CyclingCyclone, October 2, 2020 at 8:55 am

My 1st RAGBRAI was RAGBRAI XI in ’83. I was 13, and rode with my friend Mike, and his dad, Ron. Ron had ridden RAGBRAI X, Mike, and I thought the idea of riding a bike for a week, and camping was a great idea. Back then there wasn’t the media hype surrounding the ride. In fact, I knew little about it.
That year the route had my hometown of Ames as an overnight, and 2 days later rode by my Grandparent’s farm in Franklin Co.
Rolling into the Onawa city park I was floored by the sea of tents, and people getting ready to ride. I had no idea the size of the ride before that.
Ron, and Mike struggled with the ride, and the heat didn’t help. I had my own issues. I was riding a bike my Grandpa bought me at a police auction for ten bucks. It was heavy, hardly working, breaking spokes along the way, it was on its last legs.
By Thursday, Ron, and Mike decided to quit. I was forced to make the decision to either go home with them, or finish the ride in Dubuque. I decided to stay, and ride.
The next day was 100 miles from Grundy Center to Manchester. Back then the Century Day was mandatory. At one point in the day, the cable to my rear der. broke, and I was left with only 2 gears. Considering I was almost out of money, I decided to gut it out, and keep riding.
I made it into Manchester sometime after 6 PM. I was spent, and broke. I remember going to a gas station buying a candy bar, and soda for dinner.
Once I made it over to the campgrounds, I had to set up this 6-person dome tent by myself. I was so tired, and couldn’t manage setting up the tent I just wrapped myself up in it, and slept on the dirt ground.

The next day was a short 45 miles to Dubuque. Throughout the week we saw signs that said “Dubuque or puke”, and once we got closer to Dubuque, the hills started. I finally got to a point where I had to stop, and see what could be done about my gears. I pulled over to a mobile repair van, waited in line. Once I got to the front, the mechanic told me how much it would cost. I told him I didn’t have enough money, and turned away. At that point, a woman behind in line called me out, and said she would pay for my repair, and gave me some extra money to get to the finish. I had no idea who this woman was, and after I offered to pay her back once I got home she refused telling me to pay it forward.
I made it into Dubuque elated that I finished. I couldn’t believe that such a feat could be accomplished, and couldn’t wait for RAGBRAI XII.

I totally fell in love with RAGBRAI at that moment, and looked forward to riding it every year. As a teen it was like summer camp with my friends. I’ll admit, later rides my friends, and I rode without chaperones, we were on our own but it taught me self-reliance. Nobody is going to ride the bike for you, and any trouble you get into, you’ll have to figure how to get out of it.

Before this Covid year threw a wrench into everything, I only missed one year. 2013, the year my triplet daughters were born. My plan is to ride at least 52 RAGBRAI’s before I think of “retiring” from the ride. I only have 16 more to go but I’ll probably keep going well after that.


Tim McTaggart, November 16, 2020 at 7:04 pm

This is a fun thread. I can relate to some of the experiences shared here. Sorry, I have a rather long post. My first experience is through the stories in the Des Moines Resister covering the first ride, I think in 1973. My father informed me of this ride he was keeping me updated as he would read about it in the paper. I would have been 15 years old and I did not read too much of the newspaper. This story captured my interest and I started reading the stories on my own and I recall some discussions on this with my father. The following year, the second ride, the ride ended in Dubuque where I was growing up. Again, I was following the stories and I was really surprised as to how many riders were on the ride, well over 1,000. I found over 1,000 people together on bikes in Iowa hard to believe. I could not picture that many people riding bikes together. I was now 16 years old and working a full-time job so getting vacation for seasonal work was pretty much impossible. With the ride ending on a Saturday and in my hometown, so I was able to join on the last day. I packed a peanut butter sandwich and put two Old Milwaukee beers in can coozies, then a friend took me to Monticello in the morning. My bike was a Trek (no idea what model; they did not paint that models on the frame like they do today). My friends often made fun of me for what I spent on the bike because it would have been a good down payment on a car. I had expected to find a large mass of over 1,000 bicycles together on the road and my plan was to get dropped off at the back of the pack and follow them in. On the way to Monticello, we would see a few people, then a couple more, then one, and long gaps with none. To my surprise, there was no large mass. I got dropped off at the edge of town and there were not too many people left in town so I followed a few people and started towards Dubuque. It was pretty much uneventful, but I knew there was a large party at the Mississippi River; according to the stories in the paper there was to be a big party. When we got into Dubuque I was in familiar territory and that is when I started to talk to a few people. It was fun to give them a heads up on some climbs and descents up ahead. Closer to the river party, there was a detour taking people on kind of a victory lap in Eagle Point Park, then you went to the river. Getting into the park is a rather good climb to the top before doing the lap and back down to the river. I remember talking to another rider on the climb in Eagle Point Park and how it will come to an end around that last bend and then a lap and back down the hill to the river. He was surprised and a little upset because the park was a detour, and it could have been easily skipped and could have gone directly to the river and skip this last climb. He was not a fan of getting in one more climb. With his attitude, I felt bad to break his spirit, so I dropped him and finished the climb and wrapped up the ride. The party at the river was good, however, I felt like a kid at an adult party. I did not stick around too long and rode my bike home.

Fast forward to 2002, that is the year I did my first complete ride. School, work, kids, marriage, family vacations, money, etc. made it difficult for me to take a vacation for a bike ride. My son was 14 years old and this was the 30th RAGBRAI. We went together using the Des Moines Register truck. We both rode our mountain bikes because my son insisted, we use the mountain bikes. I changed the tires and got rid of the knobs. We were tired. Our lips were sunburned. We were riding kind of slow. We had a great time, and we took time to see almost everything along the ride. The ride ended in Bellevue. When we finally arrived in Bellevue, I did not realize we were actually there. People were lined up along the road cheering and I asked if we were in Bellevue. When someone responded, “yes”, I was thrilled. I yelled back to my son “we made it”. At that point it was all downhill to the river and it felt great. I was surprised as to how large the party was by the river. It was fantastic. My wife and her mother picked us up. My mother-in-law was especially proud of seeing her young grandson finish the ride and I was immensely proud of him too. Although I had earlier memories of RAGBRAI, the first ride with my son was by far the most exciting and memorable. We did several RAGBRAIs together. I kept every piece of memorabilia from the first ride with my son and every little piece of it reminds me of great memories we had together.

Of course, there are other great memories. Back in the early 2000’s, when many people were using dial up internet, the RAGBRAI forum was not nearly as busy. I enjoyed seeing posts from Papa T and Princesses Amanda. I recall seeing discussions for a leg contest. I was not really inside this group (more of a stalker) but it was fun to read. I was fortunate to meet Princess Amanda on the road once and when I called out to her she must have thought WTF, is this a creeper? We had a great conversation on the road. Then I ran into Papa T on a cold rainy day and we shared a table under a small roof behind a bar where we could only get the very basics of beer (not even a Fat Tire). I bring up Amanda and the great Papa only to illustrate how impressions can be created through this forum. This is a great community. Thanks to everyone.


Amanda, November 17, 2020 at 9:34 am

I had to smile when I saw “when I called out to her she must have thought WTF, is this a creeper?” I love it when people shout out hey Princess to me! And love it when people want to chat with me, IF I can keep up! I don’t remember everyone on RAGBRAI – I am getting older- but I do treasure all the friends I have made over the years. I really hope we can be on the road again this summer and can renew old acquaintances! COVID, please go away!!


KenH, November 18, 2020 at 2:25 pm

If any of you enjoyed the Kaul snippets posted above you can hear more of them and even more from Karras too by checking out the “Just Go Bike” podcasts.


Kelley PM, December 13, 2020 at 7:00 pm

A bona fide geezer, here. I have ridden on only one “RAGBRAI” – the first. For me it was more of a lark than a well planned trip.

I graduated from a central Iowa high school in 1973. I had a track scholarship lining up at Parson’s College in Fairfield. Parson’s closed that year after a 99 year run (so to speak). I considered joining the Air Force, but passed on their first offer to me. With no other solid plans or ambitions, I pedaled my ten dollar 10-speed (it was a ‘Shen Ling’, if memory serves) to northern Iowa where I worked as a farm hand for the better part of that summer.

That done, I went back home and contemplated joining Kaul (I was a fan of O.T. Coffee) and Karras on their ride while I planned my next move. I didn’t know how to get to the Sioux City start in time, though. I learned a class-mate was about to vacation with his family in Colorado, so, figuring this might be a sign, I bummed a ride in their camper as far as Omaha. I brought along my tin ten-speed, a cheap pup tent, my Keds, cut-offs and a couple changes of undies. I camped somewhere near Omaha – don’t remember where. I rode the hundred miles to Sioux City the next day, camped there, somewhere, and joined in the start of the ‘Kaul Karras Bike Ride – Sioux City to Davenport’ the following morning.

Many memories of this monumental milestone in my life are faded. I do remember the heat and humidity and exhaustion and the oh-so-welcome refreshment stands set out in front of some of the homes along the way. I remember camping in my pup tent, usually outside the hotels where many of the riders stayed. I remember accumulating signatures of people I rode with on the tent bag (wish I still had that). I remember it was very easy to chat with just about anyone I met on the ride.

I had constant trouble with the rear derailleur of my bike and often had to stop to put the chain back on. One morning, fresh out of the hotel parking lot, I was bombing down a long hill pumping furiously, as a young man might, nose to the goose neck, when the chain came off again. I coasted to a stop near the bottom of the hill, dismounted and reached over the bike to quickly accomplish the familiar re-stringing of the chain. Innocent neophyte that I was, it didn’t occur to me to get WAY off the pavement. I was used to pedaling alone and I knew there were no cars coming, but the next bomber hit me at close to full speed as his nose was to his goose neck as well. The impact knocked me over the bike into the ditch and sprawled him out onto the shoulder. Though scraped and bruised, neither of us were seriously hurt. We each “got back on our horses”; me, at least, a little wiser. I know I didn’t apologize enough to that rider for my bone head move.

Third day (or so) I bent the rear derailleur parallelogram (stamped steel), so bummed tools and access to the hotel stove and swimming pool to remove, heat, straighten, quench and re-install the parts. At the end of the next-to-last day, I lost the nut holding one of the derailleur idler wheels on, replaced it with a link of a cheap pocket watch chain, lost that and the idler wheel a little later, so gave up and push/coasted into Williamsburg. Tired and hungry, I accepted the generous offer of dinner at a restaurant on the square from the parents of a fellow teen through-rider. For the duration of the dinner, I left the forlorn Shen Ling on the sidewalk leaning against the restaurant with the chain dragging the ground. I didn’t know how I would get it road worthy for the last day’s ride. Best guess was find a chain breaker and shorten the chain to make a single speed out of it. No matter. It was stolen during dinner. Word got out and the next day an exhausted rider lent me his street cruiser 10-speed. It was too short and the handle bars were installed upside down, but it got me to the river. I remain so grateful for the loan!

I returned the borrowed bike, thumbed my way home and accepted the Air Force’s second offer the following week.

Bicycling has always been a part of my life. Through the years I’ve often wanted to “do” RAGBRAI again but have always been “too busy” or “too far away” (so I told myself). I still have the letter from the Register congratulating me for riding all the way across in ‘73. I still have the patch commemorating the ride (see my profile photo). Just over a hundred of us rode all the way across on the first ride. I’ve often wondered how participation in the now-world-famous modern RAGRAI would compare to the first. Retired now, I registered for the 2020 ride, but …

Maybe in ‘21.


“Bicycle Bill”, December 13, 2020 at 11:12 pm

Kelly PM said, “For the duration of the dinner, I left the forlorn Shen Ling on the sidewalk leaning against the restaurant with the chain dragging the ground. I didn’t know how I would get it road worthy for the last day’s ride. Best guess was find a chain breaker and shorten the chain to make a single speed out of it. No matter. It was stolen during dinner.”

From the sounds of that bike, are you sure it was stolen and not mistaken for litter/trash/junk and removed as part of a “Clean Up Williamsburg” project??

Just kidding. My first RAGBRAI was RAGBRAI VI in 1978 (and I only missed one between then and 2000), so it’s good to know I’m not the only old fart still hanging out around here. Good luck next year!!


Kelley PM, December 14, 2020 at 12:56 pm

Bicycle Bill said, “…are you sure it was stolen and not mistaken for litter/trash/junk and removed…?”

Hah!! You make a point that I hadn’t considered in all these years… maybe it was removed as a public service. Maybe the Register’s team moved it so as not to give the host towns the wrong idea about us bicycle folk. At any rate, I haven’t missed it. Hopefully, someone got some use from it.

Here’s to meeting up on the I-O-Way this coming summer. Cheers!


Oregon Guy, December 16, 2020 at 12:01 pm

My addiction to “Over The Coffee” introduced me to RAGBRAI. Initially, the idea of riding bikes across Iowa in July sounded, at best, interesting. And in July? Never the less, I decided to join the madness in 1983. Here are a few things I remember about that year’s adventure:
My first year (and the following year) I let the register haul my gear. What I remember about that was waiting hours for the baggage trucks to arrive, to unload and then to actually locate my green duffel bag amongst thousands of other like bags scattered high and wide the length of high school football fields. I’m still using that same bag and while the register’s baggage handling process has improved (so I’ve been told), I haven’t let them near my bag after the second year.
About the weather: All I remember is a late-night thunder storm. Unsure the town we were in but it was a monster of a storm. Lots of folks got wet that night. Lots of people chasing down their tents.
I also remember the water…lots of nasty tasting water. That was probably before rural water or maybe just bad luck. Whatever the reason, there was lots of terrible water around. I soon learned to taste the water I’m about to get before discarding the water I have. Still a good rule to follow but these days, the water’s so very much better thanks to rural water systems.
Then there was the message center. Since this was well before cell phones, it consisted of 26 4×8 pieces of plywood, one piece for each letter of the alphabet. No open space anywhere. Cell phones of course changed that. If there’s a message board these days, it’s the size of a small white board.
Then there were the showers. Not sure what to say about them except it was interesting how the towns repurposed whatever was available. No complaints however. Any shower was a luxury. That year I showered at a car wash (hot wax was extra), in a cow barn at a county fairground, and several days using some nice home owners’ hose. In Ames, ISU opened the showers in the varsity locker room. All I remember about that was the four inches of standing water in the shower room.
And finally, I remember watching (and experiencing) processes that worked well under most situations but that couldn’t handle the RAGBRAI crush. Saw this mostly at food stands. Usually all went well until it came time to pay. Rarely see this anymore (but ya do).
I’m surprised how much I remember about my virgin RAGBRAI. Obviously, a lot has changed over the years. From time to time I feel a little guilty when I get a nice hot shower. Just a little, however. And as long as I can limit my weight gain to 5 pounds and roll past a feedlot or two to clear my sinuses for another year, I’m a happy camper.


hooji hooji, December 17, 2020 at 10:22 pm



Andy, January 2, 2021 at 4:14 pm

I was invited to join a group of veteran RAGBRAI cyclists in 2015. It was exciting yet incredibly daunting to consider riding 400+ miles in 7 days. I had retired a couple years earlier, making a commitment to get healthier, purchasing a 2013 Catrike Rode (trike recumbent).

The hills of the first couple days were brutal. My longest ride before starting RAGBRAI was 32 miles. During that first day I developed significant pain in both feet. The combination of muscles cramping from my calves to my groin, on top of the sharp burning pain in the balls of both feet, it took 12 hours before I finally arrived in Storm Lake. Pulling off the road, I went swimming!

The wonderful group of guys I was traveling with were all bicyclists, me being the only one riding a Trike. We left together each day, but soon they were far ahead of me. Each day I would find my way to the RV, arriving late in the afternoon, looking forward to food, drink and stories of the day.

I have had cold sores appear on my lips since I was very young. It can be years between occurrences, often brought on by stress. Due to the incredible stress of the ride, Wednesday morning I woke up with the most severe outbreak of my life. Both lips were covered. Denavir is a prescription cream that works wonders, however I did not bring any with me. Between waiting for the pharmacy to open and getting a prescription sent from my doctor, I did not pull out of Eldora until almost 10:30! It was very strange riding on the highway alone for the next couple hours, but I eventually caught up with RAGBRAI, pulling into Cedar Falls a little after 5:00.

For several days I wanted to stop to get one of those famous pork chops from Mr. Pork Chop, each day riding past looking at those incredibly long lines. Finally, I stopped, waited in line and got one. I took one bite, it was incredibly delicious, and just at that moment a young girl bumped into me, the pork chop flew out of my hand and landed in a mud puddle in the ditch.

Beekman’s homemade ice cream was amazing! Each day I would stop, wait in line and order a root beer float. It’s hard to describe how incredibly delicious those were, usually late in the day. I was shocked when the elder lady taking orders remembered that I loved root beer floats, late in the week told me while in line that they were out of root beer. She didn’t make me suffer long, with a smile and wink letting me know I would enjoy yet another that day. I walked behind the table and gave her a hug, had someone take a picture of us, a cherished memory from that challenging week.

I will never forget one day, along the road, fields to the horizon in all directions, finding a small patch of trees with shade, I stopped to rest and cool off. A few moments later an elderly man on a bicycle stopped. He sat down next to me, probably saw I was struggling. He told me that he had done RAGBRAI almost every year. At 82 years old, he was interesting in knowing more about my Catrike as he was beginning to have difficulty with balance riding his bicycle. That was a profound moment, sitting there, thinking about giving up, he inspired me to press on.

So, in 2015 I was 56 years old. Friday was a wonderful day. Great roads, great weather, my body felt strangely wonderful, fully of energy, my feet numb, the pain tolerable. For many miles I was riding with tears streaming down my face. I remember a young woman riding up along side me and asking if I was okay. I told her I didn’t understand what was happening, but I was overwhelmed with joy.

Arriving at the Mississippi river on Saturday, I got off and went for a swim. Waiting for my son-in-law to pick me up I thought about the experience. Then and now it is hard to fully express, incredible challenge, physical pain, mental stress, unexplainable euphoria at the end.

I’m incredibly thankful that I was invited to travel with that great groups of guys.

I have done RAGBRAI two more times in 2017 & 2018, and just registered for 2021!


Randy Kurt, January 4, 2021 at 12:03 pm

My first ride was RAGBRAI X in 1982. I’m one of five brothers that have been on the ride. I was painting houses that summer and with some last minute plans changing, I ended up going mostly solo that year. I borrowed my brother’s ten speed bike and headed out with zero training miles. I was in my mid 20’s and an athlete, but I was too big for the bike and riding without bike gloves. By midweek most of my fingers went numb and they were like that for months after the ride. I tented some with friends from my hometown and had some houses, too. Someone mentioned the century ride being part of the route back then. True. One year it was a 108 mile day. If I remember right that first year was 525 miles total and it was a blast. Changed my life. I’ve done 33 RAGBRAI’s total. So fun.

I was a teacher and at the first back to school meeting we went around the table one by one talking about our summer highlights. When my turn came I went on and on for several minutes talking about how great the ride was and what a great experience it was. It went to the next guy and before he started he said hey, didn’t you get engaged this summer? Oh yeah, I’m getting married next month.

That’s RAGBRAI for you.


DenBiker, May 1, 2021 at 2:38 pm

Been noticing a lot of RAGBRAI virgins starting to show up on the FORUM. Resurrecting a couple of threads that got buried in the conversion to the new format. First timers might find them interesting.


Sergio Osuna, May 3, 2021 at 11:55 am

I did my first RAGBRAI in 2017. I’d heard about the ride a few years back but it was never the “right” time with family and work. I decided to just do it that year, as Nike tells us. I worked myself up to Orange City, the start town that year. I was in awe at the number of people there for RAGBRAI. After walking around not knowing what to do, always with a beer in my hand of course, I went into a local restaurant for a bite. As I was sitting at my table, I did the ride solo, these two people came over and invited me to sit with them. That seemingly simple act of kindness set the stage for the remainder of a great and memorable ride. That and all the kindness I’ve experienced each time I’ve gone back helped to make me resolve to ride every year I have my health going forward. Perhaps a bit corny but that memory stands out among the numerous I experienced during my virgin ride.


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