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RAGBRAI 2021 is still a long way off. We already know the route so we can’t fill our days speculating about where we might be going. Didn’t have a ride this year so there is nothing to cheer/gripe/comment about from 2020. It could be a long fall and winter before RAGBRAI Fever starts to reemerge! So to help pass the hours/days/weeks/months that lie ahead let’s share RAGBRAI stories.

Last month a few of us shared our special memories of our first RAGBRAI. (BTW That thread is still open and feel free to add to it – it was really interesting to read other’s “First Time” experiences.) In September let’s once again dig into the cobwebs of our brains and each share that ONE humorous/insightful/inspiring event of ours that COULD ONLY HAPPEN ON RAGBRAI. Get your thinking caps on….

16 Replies

DenBiker, September 2, 2020 at 8:08 pm

In my 17 years of RAGBRAI I have encountered lots of things that COULD ONLY HAPPEN ON RAGBRAI but the event that stands on the very pinnacle of that list happened on Day 2 of 2006. That day we were traversing the 75 miles from Ida Grove to Audubon on a easterly but mostly southerly course. And true to RAGBRAI traditions we somehow had found the hilliest route between those two towns – mostly small to medium sized hills with a few “get your attention” bigger ones to round out the bunch. It was a bright “full sun” day that started out with a moderate breeze from the south – not seriously strong but strong enough that the few turns back to an easterly course were appreciated. By the time we turned south on the county line road between Crawford and Carroll Counties we had exhausted nearly all of of our eastbound segments- the rest of the way was nearly due south. What had been a moderate wind had of course rampped up to a steady in your face “strong breeze”-well past 15 mph. (I think I might point out here – “I HATE WIND”). By the time we got to Manning the strong breeze was a thing of the past – we were now riding headlong into gale force winds – we struggled to get up the hills and then literally had to pedal down them! We were all looking for someone bigger than ourselves to ride behind for a few minutes just to get a break! (Oh did I say – I HATE WIND!) The last 20 miles into Audubon seemed to take forever but somehow I made it.

Tired, worn to a frazzle and nearly exhausted I found my campsite (was chartering with Melon City Bike Club) and headed to their truck to pick up my gear and to imbibe in my well earned “Hey I made it” celebratory beer. It was at that moment that I discovered MY WALLET WAS MISSING! HOW COULD THAT BE – I KNOW I HAD IT EARLIER! It took a bit of searching my wind-dulled brain before I could piece things together. I remembered having stopped in Manning to buy some home baked cookies (I’m a sucker for those) from some Girl Scouts. I bought them, paid for them and proceeded to dine on them in the shady alcove of what I remember to be a “five and dime” store. Conveniently there was a covered trash can in the alcove whose flat top made for a wonderful impromptu picnic table. It was there that I spread out my feast and it was there that I laid my wallet (containing my ID, nearly all my RAGBRAI cash and the few credit cards that I was carrying) while I dined on my oatmeal and raisin sustenance. It was also there (in Manning – on top of that trash can) that I left my wallet! (BTW – That was the last time I put everything in my wallet. I now have more stashes than a squirrel in November.)

After my panic subsided I pieced together something of a crude game plan. Check Lost and Found, Call home – arrange for enough cash to be somehow sent to me, And of course tell everyone my woeful story (just in case they knew of someone who might know something.) Lost and found had nothing – but it was still early in the afternoon – “check back later”. The call home went from – “Why don’t you just ride back and see if it is still there? (to which I responded “Are you freaking nuts?), to “I’ll see what I can do – call back later.” Obviously I had entered the “Wait” stage of “hurry up and wait”. I checked the time and discovered that I had just enough for a quick shower before I had to go help a friend plant a tree. (Another story – he planted a tree in every overnight town to thank them for their hospitality.) I gathered my stuff, dug out my one and only emergency $100 bill and made my way to the high school for the showers. They were charging $4 for showers so I was a bit embarrassed to lay down the 100 but did so with my full tale of woe as a makeshift apology. The lady behind the desk immediately said, “Hey I think I can help. My Son-in-law is on the police force in Manning. I know which store you were at – would you like me to call him and check if your wallet is still there?” Well I jumped at that – finally I had some reason to hope. That hope was short lived – 15 minutes later I emerged from the shower feeling somewhat revived only to have her tell me that she had been able to check with him. Not only was my NOT still there but no wallet had been turned in to the police in Manning all day. I thanked her for trying to help but left feeling as dejected as ever.

By then it was time to go plant the tree – besides it would give me something to do while I “waited”. The planting was in a park and went as usual – met the local coordinators, dug the hole, wrestled the tree into the hole and had some pictures taken for the local paper. A couple of hours later we were just pulling up at the Mellon City truck when I heard our driver yell, “Hey I have your wallet!”

Now here is the rest of the story! Turns out that a fellow cyclist had been in Manning at the very same alcove a couple of hours after I had been there. She happened to see a teen brush something off the trash can and then kick it into a corner of the alcove before entering the store. Curiosity piqued she checked on the mystery object and found that it was my wallet. With a Colorado ID in it she concluded that it had to belong to a Ragbraier. Stowing it in her saddlebag she made her way to Audubon where as fate would have it she went to the same High School showers that I had been to. She just happened to mention to the lady at the desk that she had found a wallet and that she wanted to take it to lost and found. Everything fell together at that point – the desk lady shared my story with her concluding with “I think he said he was camped with a group down on the football field.”
The Ragbrier took my wallet and proceeded to check one by one with every group on the football field to see if anyone had lost a wallet. Of course her efforts succeeded – she found Melon City – left the wallet with our driver and went on her way – leaving only her phone #. I called – left a message of sincere thanks but unfortunately never heard back from her.



“Bicycle Bill”, September 3, 2020 at 4:00 am

Have we got room/time for one more ‘Soggy Monday’ story?
Too bad, I’m going to tell it anyway!

RAGBRAI IX was going to be my 4th time across Iowa, and after having completed the three previous treks I felt that I was by now an old hand at this and there wasn’t nuthin’ Iowa could throw at me that I couldn’t handle. I’d ridden in rain before and, since I was outfitted like a true randonneur with fenders on the bike and everything, I set out from Mapleton with little or no inkling of what was to come. Sure it was wet and cold, but hey – this is Iowa in July! – the rain will eventually stop and the sun will come out. Suurrrre it will!

Like many of the riders, I managed to tough it out for about 20 miles to the first town on the route, Schleswig. It was roughly 8:30 AM and was still raining, and the temperature was more in keeping with October than July. After trying to warm myself by a fire in a shelterhouse in the park along the route, I decided that I needed something more than a pair of cycling shorts and a short-sleeve jersey if I was going to make it the rest of the way, so I rode into the town itself where I was one of the horde that descended on the lone clothing store and literally stripped it to the walls.

I then decided that maybe a brief break was needed, so I proceeded down the street to a bar (whose name I now forget) which was packed with other RAGBRAIers who had the same idea. The poor owner and his small staff, who had not anticipated anything like this in any of their dreams or nightmares, was literally going crazy trying to keep up with the steady stream of requests for drinks and food, so I finally told him to “give me an apron, a bar rag, and a tray; I can give you a hand retrieving the glasses and such from the tables and booths” – an offer he gratefully accepted.

So I started fetching glasses and wiping down tables, and it was only about five minutes before some of the riders, believing I worked there, started placing orders. Pulling aside the apron, I showed them my jersey and remarked, “I don’t work here; I’m one of you!” … but as I brought the glasses back I mentioned that “that table in the corner needs something,” and he sent someone from the regular staff to take care of their needs.

This went on for maybe a half-hour or so, and when I mentioned that “that table wants a pitcher and four glasses” he looked me over and said, “You look like you know how to run a beer tap” and directed me to fill a pitcher, take it over to them, and how much to charge them – which I did, giving him the money to ring up. After about three such trips like this, he took me aside and gave me a crash course on the cash register so that he wouldn’t have to keep being interrupted to ring up the bills.

So there I am, someone he had never seen before and didn’t know from Adam’s off-ox, and he’s trusting me enough to serve drinks and ring up the money! Only on RAGBRAI, right?

But wait …. the best is yet to come!

Every so often I glance out the window and see that it still looks like it must have looked the day Noah was loading the ark; so knowing my capabilities I figured I can hang around here for a little longer. Time passes, and passes. People who have made it this far (or just a little further and have returned to shelter) are gladly paying $20 or more (and this is in 1971 dollars!!) per person to get a ride to Lake City in the back of a livestock trailer or open pickup truck. The bar is still doing a land-office business, and I’ve progressed from just pouring beers to making drinks — shot and a mix, nothing fancy – as well.

Oh — and did I mention that as far as he was concerned I might as well have been carrying Confederate money, because if I wanted a quick beer or a soda for myself, he wouldn’t take a nickel from me?

So it gets to be around 2:00 PM and I’ve still got to get to Lake City. I was riding solo/unsupported then, so I had no team to hook up with (and teams weren’t as big or as organized a thing as they are now back then, either). I’m about to politely hand back in my apron so I can go and saddle up for a long wet ride when the owner asks me, “How are you going to get to Lake City?” Telling him that I guess I’m going to get wet some more, he then tells me that since I helped him out, he’s going to return the favor. His son/cousin/nephew/whatever has a pickup truck, is taking some others up to Lake City, and would have room for me and my bike. I’m not usually one to opt for a sagwagon, but desperate times call for desperate measures, so I accept – price no object. The owner then tells me that it is gratis, just help out for a little while longer until he’s ready to go — and then he actually APOLOGIZES to me because I’ll have to ride in the bed of the pickup with some of the others and the bikes!

About fifteen-twenty minutes later he tells me that they’re ready; gives me a plastic garbage/can recycle bag to pull over myself to shield myself from the worst of the rain; and hands me a 12-pack of Budweiser “just because”. He also says that, should I ever find myself out of work and need a job, there would always be a place for me at his bar.

Thanking him — and I still kick myself for not getting his name or anything! — I then leave and get into the truck for my ride to Lake City.



Jboz, September 3, 2020 at 4:52 pm

I had a pretty good story of bumping into a close high-school friend who I had lost track of 40 years earlier…and neither of us are Iowans, nor were we cyclists back then. But honestly, that experience pales in comparison to the above 2 stories, so I’ll just leave it at that.


Brian Reff, September 5, 2020 at 6:55 pm

I think the following story qualifies for both It Could Only Happen on RAGBRAI and First RAGBRAI Memories.
I rode my first RAGBRAI in the Summer of 2009, with my youngest son. We were both riding vintage bikes from the 1970’s, that were relatively rare bikes. I was riding a French Bike called a Follis. To me it was a very comfortable bike that rode extremely well. One day we got separated on the way into a pass through town, when I got into the town I stopped to see if I could find him. No luck, but this attractive young woman comes over to me and starts talking to me about my Follis. I humor her because she telling me stuff that I already, but I am out having fun and am being nice to a fellow rider. She then tells me that she wants to show my bike to friend who she is riding with as that is her friend’s last name, and that her friend has never seen one of these bikes. I agree and follow her over to where friend’s are and her friend turns around, and it is a person that I had ridden with at home quite regularly. The person then says to me,”Brian, What are you doing here?” I reply to her by name and tell her that I am doing the same thing that she was, and that her friend wanted me to show her my Follis Bicycle. She was pretty shocked that someone she knew and rode with had a bike with her last name on it.
My son then found me and asked me what I was doing and off we rode.


Niles, September 6, 2020 at 6:03 pm

So far all of your stories are rated-G Hallmark ones. I’ll contribute a PG-13 one.

2017, Day-3, Britt, Iowa, where the National Hobo Museum is.

Our group was about leaving after the museum visited, games played, bar hanged in long enough. Then someone did the head counting asked “where is Don”, referring to one of the lawyer teammate. I saw him a minute before and tried to impress the team with my humors. I said ” Oh, I know. Don just followed a naked man older than him and only don a thong and went into another bar”. To my surprise, the senior teammates were not surprised at all. Just a kind of fact way replied “it must be Bobby from Colorado”.

Later on the evening at the overnight town, Clear City. I saw the naked gentleman again, clothed this time in a restaurant on the south shore. he is indeed our friend, Bobby from Colorado. Anyone still has a vivid picture of Bobby au nature in their head?


LawnchairMan, September 7, 2020 at 9:06 pm

As I mentioned in another thread, I was witness to a great race in Onawa the evening before Ragbrai 2018 started. After supper, I was walking back to camp when I saw a tractor pulling a cart full of visitors. On the sidewalk was a boy about three or four on a Big Wheel trike. He was racing the tractor and staying parallel to it. The boy raced for three or four houses and then spun-out. It was really cool. The whole cartload of people cheered!
It was an indicator of the great week to come!
Where else but Ragbrai could this have happened?


SFC JKL 2, September 7, 2020 at 10:39 pm

Riding in the middle of nowhere was a farmhouse. There was a sign that said “free water, pet the dog 10 cents” I pull up and the lady has a garden hose. A yellow lab comes trotting out from behind the house. I asked her where her donation box was for petty the dog? She said that it was just for fun. I explained that she didn’t understand the dynamics of what was going on. I said people will stop because you have a cool sign. Put out a box that says you are accepting donations for the local animal shelter or the ASPCA. Her daughter soon comes back with a small box and a sign that says donations for the ASPCA. No soon than she puts the box on the table, a man walks up and throws $20 in it. I stood there talking for about half an hour and they had raised over $100. Never underestimate the power of Ragbrai and what a good sign can do for you.


Larry Klaaren, September 9, 2020 at 2:17 pm

Somewhere between Stuart and Winterset last year (I think) a girl had a lemonade stand and a sign that said something like “Help me go to New York with the band next June.” Her brother was in the street with a sign that said “Help me get rid of my sister for two weeks.” I thought it was two candy bars and two lemon drinks funny.


Randall Murphy, September 10, 2020 at 8:16 am

Lawnchairman, I was on that cart full of visitors and remember that big wheel race. Thanks for jogging my memory. It still makes me smile.


T. Gap Woo, September 10, 2020 at 9:33 am

Ragbrai seems to be a magnet, drawing old friends from all over creation to the wonderland known as Iowa. Brian Neff and Jboz attested to that in their posts.

My “magnet” story happened in 2014. I finished the day’s ride between Okoboji and Emmettsburg. Mrs Woo found a motel for the night in Spencer, overlooking a huge John Deere dealership on the edge of a vast cornfield (what else!).

I was dog-tired and took a long, hot shower. It was about 8:00 and I was ready to hit the sack. Mrs Woo commented, “Ooh! Look out the window. Isn’t that sunset gorgeous?” and other distracting remarks to prevent me from dozing off. Keep in mind that I could barely hold my eyes open without the benefit of toothpicks.

Suddenly, there was a loud banging on the door. That startled the bejeebers out of me and I was awake in a shot. Mrs Woo, more startled than I was, asked me to see who was at the door.

I couldn’t see anyone through the peephole in the door, so I cracked it open to the limit of the safety chain. Who was at the door?

Daughter Woo #4 was in the hallway. She was driving on a cross-country road trip visiting Daughter Woo #1 in Colorado and was on her way back home to North Carolina. She detoured through Iowa to pull off this stunt. Mrs Woo and Daughter Woo #4 plotted the whole surprise!

That Ragbrai memory was caught on camera. Priceless!

See you along the I-O-Way in 2021.


Joe Chavis, September 30, 2020 at 11:15 am

Hey RAGBRAI kids. I really enjoyed reading the posts on this topic. This year had it happened woulda been my 24th consecutive ride, all the way from North Cakalaki. I got lots of only on RAGBRAI stories, most about the trust and generosity of the people in Iowa who allow me and our gaggle of funny talking southerners to camp, sleep, eat, shower – and just become part of their families for the week.
So my only on RAGBRAI is just a tiny bit of give back to this.

Don’t remember what year nor what town. But just as I was ready to settle down to some fantastic food in small town Iowa, preparing to sit on the ground with my paper plate. I heard a commotion. The fuss was a bit hectic and centered around a gentleman who had managed to get some of the delicious food, kinda caught up in his throat. I went to the blanket where he and his friends were seated. Suggested that he kneel, and I applied my recently learned hinnie technique. It took three good attempts.

Needless to say, it was successful. I think I got a bit of an applause, from on lookers, returned to my paper plate, and announced that for my next act, I was gonna slide up against this here tree, and eat my food.

OK, now for the only on RAGBRAI part. I think it was maybe my 2nd or third ride, no cell phones to speak of, maybe I’d seen one or two. BIG OLE sheets of plywood for the message board. Some of you kids remember em. Well, anyway 3-4 days later, this rather cute woman walked up and said, Hi. I want you to do something for me. Well, ok. As we were walking away from the ‘Stonehenge’ looking message board, she told me that the guy who was choking was her dad, I think, and that he was too embarrassed to say anything the day of the event. Well, he and I both teared up a bit, hugged and he thanked me. The only on RAGBRAI part? How in the dickens did she find me? Well, maybe because there were only to Black guys on the entire ride. I guess….. Ya’ll be Fun and Have Safe.


Joe Chavis, September 30, 2020 at 11:18 am

Southerners…. make that TWO of us on the ride. dagg nab it. 2, the number… y’all know that I mean.


Dueywife, October 2, 2020 at 1:40 pm

I think it was either my first or second full ragbrai (2015 maybe), we were riding along and a group of fully nude cyclists come cruising past, men & women. Fully Nude!! That’s a lot of sunscreen. Not too shortly after they passed us, we caught up to them pulled off to the side donning their clothes before heading into town.


KenH, November 18, 2020 at 2:44 pm

A post in another thread that mentioned team MASH reminded me of this thread. This MASH is also an acronym but it has nothing to do with army hospitals. I know team MASH because one of my riding buddies lives next door to one of their members and we have cooperated and coordinated with them over the years. Great group of cyclists and human beings. One year on the way home my little group stopped to get some gasoline and snacks and there in the gas station convenience store were some MASH riders doing the same. They were talking to a man I did not recognize and I could tell by his outfit that he was a cowboy, err, no, not a cowboy, a priest! Anyway as they were talking and I was drifting around looking over the wares I overheard him asking them what MASH stood for.

Awkward silence.

Evidently they were Catholic and were not going to spill the beans to a priest no matter how hard he twisted their arms!

So I stepped in and resolved the situation. “I’m not a MASH member, just a friend of theirs”, I told him, “and since I am just a no account Protestant I am willing to tell you what they are too embarrassed to admit. It’s really not a crude or obscene name”, I said, “and if you have ever ridden a bicycle any great distance it is one you will instantly identify with.”

Arse (shall we say)

Once he knew he agreed with me and had a good chuckle over it.


montestaples, December 8, 2020 at 3:23 am

When I saw this post I immediately thought of 2006, day 2, Ida Grove to Audubon. DenBiker described that day pretty well but I would add a couple things. Many of those large hills were what I refer to as 40 mph hills which usually means coasting down at over 40 mph. Several times while having to pedal down those hills to keep from being blown over by the “gale force wind” I noted my top speed to be 12-13 mph. It was difficult to go any faster. There was a 20 mile stretch North of Manning in which there were no vendors of any kind, meaning no water. At one farm with a lot of shade trees and many bikers resting, many were lined up to fill water bottles at the hose connection on the house. There did not appear to be anyone home but I always felt that farmer had saved a lot of people from heat stroke that day without even knowing. That very windy day was also about 95 degrees. The best memory from that exhausting day was much later. A father and his son, around 13 years old I think, dragged into camp. It was his first RAGBRAI and that boy was done. He was ready to quit, call mom to come get him, and go home. About then someone walked up and said The Register had announced that this was one of the top 5 toughest days in the history of RAGBRAI. The look on that boy’s face went from total defeat to proud and triumphant. He had beat it. He could do anything.


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