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

andytetmeyer, May 3, 2021 at 12:45 pm

My first memory of the ride is walking up to Caseys and watching what seemed like a million riders pass by in the morning. They were coming from the overnight at Camp Dodge. That was 1974.
A few years later on my first ride I was 12. It was hard. My long training day was a 35 miler to Ames at some point before the ride. I was riding the maroon Sears Free Spirit that I had gotten the Christmas before. I fell down and got all bandaged up at one of the ambulances. Mom and Dad say the century day took 13 hours. I don’t remember the day being that long, but I do recall eating all the pizza I could at Pizza Hut that night. We got free Twinkies from the Twinkie man most days. I wore cutoffs and t shirts all week. Every shower was bitterly cold. I’ve been back 25 or 30 times now. In the ensuing years since ’78 I have ridden half way across France and back, pedaled Belgian cobbles, worked the entire Tour De France, brazed a couple frames, and built around 15,000 wheels. I’m hooked. Watch for team dragonass, it used to be easier but you can still spot us by our tutus, and the purple clown bike with pink polka-dots.


Chris Bice, May 4, 2021 at 1:59 pm

I am a bit ashamed to admit that even though I have lived in central Iowa for all but 7 years of my life, 2021 will be my first RAGBRAI. I am so geeked for it, especially since my 54th birthday falls on Thursday during the week. Can’t wait to make many memories to be able to share in the future.


JimCoonRapidsMN, May 4, 2021 at 2:34 pm

Well Chris, as long as your birthday is on Thursday you might as well include the century loop! In 2018 I invited my son to come along and that for his birthday present that year I would pay for all his expenses. It happened to be his birthday on the century loop day so he decided that would make for a good celebration. I did not accompany him on the loop but happily celebrated with him when we met afterwards. Needless to say in 2019 (he did not come along) all I heard from him is that I better not come back without the patch! So I did 122 miles that day … tired but happy that I did it.


Chris Bice, May 4, 2021 at 2:37 pm

I just may have to do that!


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