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RAGBRAI 2018: No roadside vendors at beginning of Sunday’s ride

  • 22 July, 2018
  • Linh Ta

SOLDIER, Ia. — A common sight was missing at the start of the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa on Sunday: roadside vendors.

Cyclists looking for a coffee or water break at the top of the hills in Monona County were out luck. In May, the Monona County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance barring special use permits for RAGBRAI vendors in the unincorporated parts of the county.

The reason? Supervisors said they wanted to keep riders from stopping along the roads and posing safety risks. Vendors have complained that they pay fees to set up inside city limits, while those outside the limits pay less or nothing at all.

For riders Sunday morning, that meant long lines in Turin and Soldier.

“It was really crowded,” said Stacey Helstrom, of Johnson City, Tennessee. “It was packed.”

Day 1 photos | Mile of silence | Soar high above RAGBRAI | Video: Arriving in Onawa  | Gravel loop a popular detour

Popular roadside stops such as Mr. Pork Chop were found at towns. Cyclists found the Farm Kids stand inside Soldier, instead of outside by a cornfield.

Helstrom and David Roan of Chaska, Minnesota, typically like stopping at a fair trade coffee stand in the first few miles of the ride each day. On Sunday however, they didn’t see that vendor.

But because of the short length of the ride, about 44 miles, the lack of vendors wasn’t a burden.

“On a scale of one to 10, how did it affect my experience? I’d say a five,” Roan said.

Ray Schaeffer, 59, of Lake Zurich, Illinois, had a mechanical issue with his bike, but nowhere convenient to stop. He said the lines were noticeably long in Turin and Soldier, since there weren’t any vendors outside the towns.

“The lines were ridiculous,” Schaeffer said.

But with calm temperatures and short distances between each of the towns, the ride was manageable without roadside vendors.

“It’s RAGBRAI, so you have to be prepared for anything,” said Matthew Vanmaanen of Cedar Rapids. “RAGBRAI is a lesson on what you can live without.”

RAGBRAI Day 1 photos: Onawa to Denison

RAGBRAI Day 1 photos: Onawa to Denison


  1. Debbie Jones

    I miss the vendors along the routes, it’s not a safety issue. It is safer being able to stop and take a break in the shade. It helps spread riders out. I would say don’t ride through a county who doesn’t want you.

  2. Paige Palombo

    I didn’t even notice this until I saw this article. No problem at all. Distances were short and you could still stop and take a break anywhere you like. We can all be self-sufficient for that duration.

  3. BarryTantlinger

    Ragbrai started after we got out of Monona. Prior to that it, it was just a bike ride with occasional stops in ridiculously over-crowded towns.

    If this becomes common practice by counties, I’ll take my tourist dollars somewhere else.

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