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Iowa couple takes in injured RAGBRAI veteran after meeting in ER

  • 25 July, 2019

Doug and Sue Swanson of West Des Moines were in the emergency room Tuesday night when Gary and Diane Chu, dressed in bike shorts and jerseys, were looking for a place to charge their phone.

Gary had hit a pothole on the RAGBRAI route near Indianola, causing him to crash. He and his wife, an Iowa native, were rushed by ambulance to a West Des Moines hospital, where he learned he had a fractured pelvis.

Discharged with pain medication and a plan to fly home the next day, the Wisconsin dentist was making his way back through the lobby when Diane informed him the local hotels were all booked solid.

The Chus, both RAGBRAI veterans, had nearly nothing with them, and needed to make a plan.

That’s when Doug and Sue chimed in: “Do you guys need a place to stay? We have a new townhome with a brand-new bed that you can certainly use,” Diane recalls them saying.

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“We started talking to them and we found out they were in a real pickle,” said Doug.

A charter bus delivered Gary’s bag to West Des Moines that night, and drove Diane back to her crew. She continued her fourth RAGBRAI ride Wednesday as Gary traveled home.

But first, he went to church with the Swansons.

“We had a sandwich and he got a hot shower and stayed overnight and we took him to church in the morning and drove him to the airport,” Doug said.

Gary made it home safe and is recovering, Diane said, adding they felt fortunate his injury was not more dire.

“That’s why I love Iowa,” Diane said Thursday. “That’s why I love this ride. It’s this Iowa hospitality that’s unbelievable.”


  1. Perry Haney

    Terribly dangerous road surfaces this year—worse by far than previous years.
    I’m sure there were many crashes.
    Heal well.

  2. Richard Reiter

    I don’t know what the counties are doing with their road repair dollars, but they sure are not spending it on the roads.

  3. Steve Boyce

    Iowa hospitality is what makes RAGBRAI so great from the people described in this article to all the people in the small towns along the route. We can’t thank them enough. As for the roads; some roads were very smooth and a pleasure to ride. Some roads were rough so my rule is to adjust speed based on road conditions like any other driving situation. RAGBRAI could do some research on how to best fill road cracks to make the ride better and provide inputs to the counties.

  4. twintandem

    Another example of Iowa caring was a rider from California had a wrist injury and went to the ER in Winterset where she was diagnosed and treated . Afterwards the Physicians Assistant that cared for her was done with her shift and offered her a ride back to her campground which was gladly accepted. The rider was very surprised and pleased with the care shown.

  5. Peggy Kerr

    As far as the county road conditions, it was an unusually severe winter and crews are still catching up. I don’t think it’s because counties are not investing in improving the roads. The Iowa ag economy makes farm to market transport essential. The constant freezing and thawing experienced in Iowa last winter leads to asphalt cracks and other damages. Concrete pavement is even more susceptible to this damage because it’s less flexible.

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