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RAGBRAI 2012: ‘It’s been a family affair,’ a 40-year veteran says

  • 26 July, 2012

MARSHALLTOWN, Ia. — As the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa celebrates its birthday tonight in Cedar Rapids, eight dedicated people will take the stage for a short ceremony.

They are the eight people who, for 40 summers in a row, have ridden part or all of each ride or supported riders. For Windsor Heights resident Nancy Jo Hopkins and her husband, Jim Hopkins, two of the honorees, what became a tradition started with a simple newspaper ad.

“I never dreamed it would grow the way it has grown,” Nancy Hopkins said. “It’s really something.”

Jim and his son, Bill, both rode the first ride in 1973 after Nancy saw an item in The Des Moines Register from writer John Karras inviting people to take part. From then on, it became the family’s annual summer vacation, with Bill and Jim riding and Nancy supporting.

“It’s been a family affair since the very beginning,” Jim Hopkins said.

While the couple’s children rode the ride for several years, only Jim and Nancy have been able to continue consecutively. Even when they moved to Chicago for Jim’s job as a surgeon between 1988 and 1992, they came back to Iowa for the ride.

Being a surgeon, Hopkins says, work often kept him from riding the full ride each year. Sometimes, he’d be called back to Des Moines for an urgent surgery, he said.

For another of the honorees, Greg Harper, 53, riding the first RAGBRAI as a teenager was enough to get him hooked. Harper rode with his grandfather and sister on a section of that first ride from Williamsburg to Davenport.

“I had to write a special report or something to my teacher to be able to go out and do the ride,” he said. “I did that, and it was a great experience.” The next year, he rode the full ride.

Harper now manages Muscatine’s Harper’s Cycling & Fitness with his father, Charles.

Other honorees among the “Great Eight” include: Rick Paulos of Cedar Rapids, Margaret Paulos of Davenport, Carter LeBeau of Davenport, Scott Dickson of Newark, Del., and Randy Dickson of Sturgeon Bay, Wis.

The program in Cedar Rapids will be held on the city’s main stage, beginning at 9 p.m. It will also include other special guests and “surprises,” organizers said. A concert by Counting Crows will follow.


  1. Tina

    Special congratulations Rick Paulos and his mom, Maggie, for 40 years of RAGBRAI rides. And to all the Great Eight—hurrah!!!

  2. Karen Harper

    I am very proud of my awesome husband, Greg Harper. All of us here say kudos to you!


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