Observations about the ride

What are some things that you noticed this year that are different from last year (and years prior)?

My observations:
1. Way less fat tire bikes
2. I haven’t seen any bike boomboxes (excluding mine) 😉
3. More people staying toward the right

Now, I literally just thought of the reason for #3…I now leave at 6:00 AM (as opposed to 9:00 last year). Interpretation: older folks and/or more experienced riders start out earlier?

87 Replies

David Strahl, August 3, 2019 at 9:02 am

Consider this an open letter to the entire RAGBRAI nation. I have never added my voice to this forum before, but I feel compelled to try to bring this back to what this event is all about.

This was my 15th RAGBRAI in a row and yes some are better than others for many different reasons including the weather, the overnight towns, the pass through towns, etc. However, it amazes me than people will come on this forum to complain about what RAGBRAI is truly all about. I was in a breakfast line with a woman who stated she was from the Bronx. She said she goes on this ride to restore her faith in humanity. I have said the same thing for many years. It is about the overall experience. Yes some towns were better organized and welcoming, but at no point did I feel unwelcome. A case in point I stopped at one of the pass through towns on the last day that had a population of 300 and met the mayor. They had never been on the route and they did their best with what they had. So why should any similar effort be criticized. Embrace the effort and the people, sure some may not be as welcoming as others and we DO disrupt their daily lives, but the vast majority was very welcoming and the effort showed. If it were all about the money the ride would not be the same. The fact that people handled out free water is seen as a bonus, but to criticize people for not offering enough, seriously get over yourself. Make it a point to visit the roadside stands and spend time visiting with kids selling lemonade. Think about it some folks along the route may never see RAGBRAI come through their town again in their lifetime or for a VERY long time.

RAGBRAI is about the adaption to the conditions that are presented and everyone must adjust. There is no complaining on RAGBRAI everyone is in the same boat deal with it. The experience that everyone shares is recounted many times over at the end of the day with our riding friends in camp and the stories that are shared are part of the experience. Repeating RAGBRAIs adds to the overall storehouse of stories why else would one return. Part of the experience of “remembering when” this or that happened during year whatever is what we all build upon.

Our group had a power trip visit from the police chief in Winterset, but as we talked it was unfortunate, however, if that is what he wants his community to be remembered for so be it the rest of the visit there was great.

A word about the state park visit. I thought wow what a nice break to ride in the shade for a few miles and visit a park that I would not otherwise see. Sure there might have been some logistical issues, but what goes perfect. Re-water and move to the next stop. I thought it was a good idea to highlight the state parks when available. I remember from past experiences and maybe people should do this, but always carry a bar or two for emergency fueling. If the food was out or there was nothing you wanted to eat at least you could adapt.

Yes the mileage count was not accurate. This is not the only time that this has occurred on. It has occurred in past years. If you only want to ride 65 miles because that is what the map says, either stay home to ride a route you already know is 65 miles or SAG at the 65 mile mark. Again, adapt to the situation that presents itself. Are we now a people (Americans) that have become so soft and coddled that we cannot respond to unexpected circumstances without complaining that someone did not resolve the issue beforehand or upon demand. I find the RAGBRAI experience freeing that builds confidence and patience for other real life situations if others fail to see that value, too bad for you. The other critical element that people must understand is that fact that this event is based on volunteers. Some towns have more than others and there are different experiences based on that. Do not criticize them for the effort accept the fact some towns are just better than others and celebrate the ones that perform better. Remember we are guests and should ALWAYS be respectful of that fact and do not think we are so important that life revolves around us.

RAGBRAI is complex mobile event and somethings work better than other things. Also without trying anything new the event would become stale and less interesting. So during the after action discussions regarding the park visit will be improved next year. I would find it very unrealistic that the RAGBRAI powers are not on the route monitoring the stops. So next time the KYBO line will not cue up into the road that impedes bike traffic, simple fix, next issue.

A word about the electric bikers. I have mixed feelings about this. While on one hand I feel it is cheating, but if it get folks out on the bike that would not normally be out there that is a growth environment. However, I think the RAGBRAI nation will not be too kind to people who utilize electric bikes due to outright laziness. I was passed on a couple of hills by an older woman on an electric bike. As I struggled up the hill she just motored by seemingly effortlessly. Well that was some significant motivation for me. Once we got back on flatter road I dropped a couple of gears and motored out of sight of her at a pace that she was never seen again.

Finally, this event is about challenging yourself beyond your comfort zone. Think about it you just rode across an entire state and lived outside for seven days, the sense of accomplishment beyond your friends that laid on the beach for a week should be at the forefront of your mind. You accomplished something a small segment of the overall population could not. I have a friend with MS and they can only dream of this event through the photos and imagine the experience. Embrace the challenge, adapt to conditions and achieve the finish and sense of achievement.

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Derek Fye, August 3, 2019 at 10:04 am

I’ve been a firefighter/paramedic in southeast iowa for 11 years now. Our ambulance and fire trucks do not carry over the counter medications other than aspirin which we use for people with chest pain. It’s not that they were being rude they just don’t carry it.

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Niles, August 3, 2019 at 11:35 am

I’m always amazed by the complains like that I would die without xxx right here right now. In my place, we called it giant baby syndrome.

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Larry Klaaren, August 3, 2019 at 12:16 pm

I kind of thought the same about complaining about running out of food at the State Park. Although we did have 19 mile intervals between towns on a couple of occasions, I doubt if we ever went five miles without being able to get something from someone selling something to eat along the road. On the last day I just did not want to deal with lines, I am kind of like that sometimes, and I just ate fruit from farm stands from Denmark until I got to the Casey’s in Keokuk. At 149 pounds (I have been sick the last year and am down fifteen), I can not run on my reserves, but I had no problem finding something when I needed to eat on this trip.

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Mike Howe, August 3, 2019 at 1:55 pm

Lets also realize the difference between complaining and just pointing something out. Someone saying the distances were off or the roads were bad may just be pointing out an observation. Not necessarily complaining about it. I do feel that some people have taken their own responsibility for planning and adapting to the situation and have replaced it with entitlement and needing to have their *** kissed.

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Sandaltan ., August 3, 2019 at 7:25 pm

The mileage as shown by RAGBRAI will invariably be “off”, that is different than what you as a rider are experiencing because you are riding campground to campground and those campgrounds are not yet designated by each overnight community until long after the route is announced. Skunky refers to those miles as bonus miles, kinda like a BOGO at the grocery store, ya don’t have to pay extra. About six years ago we rode Rock Valley to Okoboji with the mileage ending at the intersection of the route and US 71. Many had to ride another six or seven miles to get to their bedroom for the evening.

RIDE RIGHT

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SFC JKL 2, August 3, 2019 at 9:46 pm

After the route announcement, I don’t even really look at the map. I’m going to ride until we get to the end anyway. I go out of my way to support the people who come out TO SUPPORT US. It’s the support of the great people of Iowa who make the ride what it is. Name another ride where people set up on the side of a gravel road selling water and gatoraid for you? On days like Sunday, it’s even more important. Let alone did they come out, they are out there in crappy weather to support you.
To use Pork Belly’s line, I think some people need to lower their expectations.

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Sunflower, August 4, 2019 at 12:27 am

I’ll take the position of chief complainer about Geode and the DNR.

I get the RAGBRAI vibe and my preferred way to approach it is to bag it and deal with whatever comes.

I’m not effete.

When I was pulling my son in a trailer, with race-ready legs, my range was 20 miles, tops.

I left prepared every day.

When the DNR gives a license to two vendors, one of which is selling hot dogs as its most substantial food, to a stop that might see 20k people go past it you’re dealing with people who just don’t give a damn.

That’s a piss poor attitude and not representative of how the vast majority of the people who plan for RAGBRAI handle their challenge.

I reserve the right to call people out on doing it badly and still enjoy my ride.

The DNR is not competent at this.

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Sunflower, August 4, 2019 at 12:56 am

Oh, and apparently TJ signed off on that. So yes, I can appreciate RAGBRAI and all the effort, experience and talent the Des Moines Register brings to this and still wonder what in the heck they were thinking when they put the DNR in charge of a stop listed on the map.

Bad brand control. I don’t see why this would be controversial or insulting. Feedback is how things improve and this was clearly a boner that shouldn’t ever be repeated.

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hnschipper, August 4, 2019 at 8:27 am

I’ll take the position of chief complainer about Geode and the DNR.

I get the RAGBRAI vibe and my preferred way to approach it is to bag it and deal with whatever comes.

I’m not effete.

When I was pulling my son in a trailer, with race-ready legs, my range was 20 miles, tops.

I left prepared every day.

When the DNR gives a license to two vendors, one of which is selling hot dogs as its most substantial food, to a stop that might see 20k people go past it you’re dealing with people who just don’t give a damn.

That’s a piss poor attitude and not representative of how the vast majority of the people who plan for RAGBRAI handle their challenge.

I reserve the right to call people out on doing it badly and still enjoy my ride.

The DNR is not competent at this.

Did other vendors apply for a license at Geode that were denied?

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Larry Klaaren, August 4, 2019 at 12:09 pm

It is no one’s responsibility to provide food on the spot at the time you demand it.

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jake d, August 4, 2019 at 5:05 pm

Sandaltan, I agree with your post 9 out of 10 times. However, when the bonus miles increase from 20-25 miles in years past, to almost 60 this year, TJ is flat out fudging the numbers. Most towns have hosted before, and know where the main campground will be. That is how the mileage used to be figured. Anyone doubting that should know it came straight from from John Karras himself.

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Jboz, August 4, 2019 at 6:26 pm

I always buy a tee shirt with the map and daily mileage printed on the back. I might have to break out a Sharpie and make a few corrections. Other than that, in retrospect it’s not that big of a deal.

On the Geode matter, from where I stand it was a less than great experience. It’s that simple and I’m not crying about it, but that one small aspect kind of sucked and no amount of rationalizing changes that basic fact. Does it mean that I didn’t have a great time? Absolutely not. I enjoyed the week immensely, and look forward to doing it again. It’s the same each year…mostly great, but always a few wrinkles. Loved it, but I’m not going to be a pollyanna and pretend that every aspect was wonderful when there were a few minor negatives.

Every year I have a blast and so far every RAGBRAI has been on the whole phenomenal. This year was no exception.

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Brady Bisgard, August 5, 2019 at 1:15 pm

I was underwhelmed by this ride.
There is never a guarantee of smooth roads, but lots of rough roads gets annoying.
I was not impressed by the Highway Patrol. I expected them to direct traffic. What I saw was officers just standing there letting me make sure I was safe to cross. And crossing the 218 there were no police anywhere!
Four foods that make my Ragbrai are pie, pulled pork, watermelon and sweet corn. I got the pie. I was first at Kelly’s Berry Best Pies, and it WAS good! I found so-so pulled pork, and average watermelon, but the one corn I had was not sweet. It had a weird aftertaste. I only saw corn the first few days. I assume the weather had something to do with that. (I got out too soon for the free corn)
I had a couple of spaghetti dinners early in the week but couldn’t find one the night before century day. That’s when I need to stoke up.
The thing that made me mad was being forced into the pass through towns. I couldn’t believe the 18 wheeler parked across the road. Other rides had barricades that could be skirted if I wished. I understand the towns wanting to make sales, but I should have the choice. If I’m not hungry and have enough water, then I just want to roll on. Forcing me into town just makes me want to keep my money in my pocket.
Camping in Council Bluffs was not pleasant. We were in a soybean field with eight inch stubble to pitch our tents. It was more dirt than plant, so when I heard the thunder and sprinkles I packed up. Later risers got mud on their shoes. The good thing about the sprinkles was that I got to Atlantic before any serious rain.
I didn’t bring my sound system this year. When I did, I selected songs that were either up-beat or had something connected to roads. Several riders thanked me for the Sousa marching tunes when climbing. It does help! I finally got tired of the same songs, so I left the extra weight at home. I heard only a couple of riders with boomboxes while I rode. Our choice of music didn’t match, but neither did our speeds.
I stayed overnight at the end of the ride. I had thought it would be interesting to see the swell and ebb of riders coming and leaving. What I felt was a loss. All my Ragbrai friends left. I’m a big boy and can handle being alone, but it caught me off guard. Had a bunch of friends stayed, it would have been different.
So, I didn’t have as much fun this year as I had in the past. I can assume that next year will be better! I will make sure that what ever I lean my bike on won’t fall over. (reference to Weird Thing post)

There were police at the crossings on 218 as long as you were there during open route times. Also “what I saw was officers just standing there making sure I was safe to cross” uh that’s what they are supposed to do?

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Tim TenClay, August 5, 2019 at 1:49 pm

This was my 5th Ragbrai (over 10 years). It was the first one where I did NOT feel like the baggage truck riders were treated as 2nd class citizens. With the exception of Burlington, the shuttles were all great and the overnight towns seemed prepared.

A lot of crappy roads in the 2nd half of the week, but all in all… (despite my first Ragbrai experience of food poisening!) I thought it was great.

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