'Shift: The RAGBRAI Documentary' to premiere May 4: Meet the subjects featured in the movie
- 31 March, 2023
- Courtney Crowder and Kelsey Kremer
The Buffalo Lodge Bicycle Resort concierges can always tell when a guest from Iowa has checked into the hotel.
Every time an IA zip code pops up, owner Torie Giffin squeals with excitement and whips out her phone. As a longtime fan and rider of RAGBRAI, she’s got Iowa stories to swap and photos to page through and an all-out love for a state that has never been her address but feels so deeply rooted to her self-image.
“RAGBRAI has a way of making our world smaller and bigger at the same time,” she says.
The connections riders forge over seven days span the continent, if not the globe, she says. But the collective spirit of pure joy on the ride — and the way participants wrestle with their personal “why” for putting their lives on hold and baking in the July heat — acts as a much-needed yearly reminder of just how much we all have in common.
Hometown: Colorado Springs, ColoradoTorie’s story: Torie rode her first RAGBRAI in 1999 as an unattached 30-something looking to soak up the Iowa sun. When she returned more than two decades later, she’d been married and divorced, become a mother three times over and was in the process of weathering her youngest son Daniel’s brain cancer diagnosis. Setting off for the 2021 ride just days after a round of chemotherapy, Daniel and his mother wanted to make their trip, maybe their last trip together, as life-affirming as possible. But when a chance comment from a fellow rider about Daniel’s e-bike threatened to ruin their vacation, Iowans replied with a fierce kindness that wouldn’t just change the pair’s seven-day adventure ― it would change their entire lives.
What stuck with you from RAGBRAI ’99 that made you want to come back?When I saw families riding across the state together on my first RAGBRAI, I dreamed of having my own family one day that would take part in this ride, and it has been so amazing to have that realized over the last two years. It meant the world to me that my mom and daughter rode last year. They really wanted to experience what we experienced in 2021 when Daniel rode, and to be a part of, in a small way, what Iowa meant to us and what Iowa had done for Daniel.
What did it feel like to be part of the documentary?The whole reason I was willing to be vulnerable and be on the camera was to make Daniel’s story matter and to hopefully inspire other people. I wanted to make sure the story came across with enough heart that it might change someone’s opinions about e-bikes or change someone’s thinking that they can’t into they can.
year was being close enough to hear the bands at the houses we were staying at. One night after we’d all gone to bed, I hear scratch, scratch, scratch on my tent and my 20-year-old daughter is like, “You want to go see the band?” And we snuck out of our camp like we were kids and went to the concert and had the best time ever.
Are you coming back this year?Yes! We started looking forward to this year on the first day of last year.
More:Check out newly announced 50th anniversary RAGBRAI pass-through and meeting towns
Hometown: Mobile, AlabamaAdam’s story: Adam is a recovering opioid addict who is bicycling through all 48 contiguous states to raise awareness for addiction recovery while fundraising to eventually build a Christian-focused rehab center. A first-time RAGBRAI rider, Adam rode with his son, Liam, 10. Forging a stronger relationship than either thought possible, the pair conquered mental and physical challenges that they say will continue to shape them long past the tire dip.
Liam turned 10 during RAGBRAI last year. What’s he up to now?Liam is in fifth grade. He’s been focused on his schoolwork and archery. We’re going to Alabama State Championships with archery. He’s done really well; he’s got the mind for it.
When you think of RAGBRAI, what word sticks with you?Camaraderie. Just the ability to be out there with 20,000 people, and the fact that we all became a brother and sisterhood of people connected by the bicycle. It lingers, the fact that that many people are all focused on one thing together, even though we’re all doing it separately. It’s like gold, absolutely priceless.
What do you know about yourself post-RAGBRAI that you didn’t know before?I know how to be a more encouraging father, and more encouraging friend. I think I found more grace that week with trying to be a better father.
If you think about the story of RAGBRAI as a fairy tale, what is the moral of the story?Happy endings don’t have to end. There can be another happy ending this summer at 50. And there can be another happy ending and 51 and 52. As far as a fairy tale is concerned, I think “ending” is really the bad word. It’s a happy beginning.
More:What to know about the RAGBRAI’s 2023 starting, ending and overnight towns
Ian Zahren and Andrew Boddicker
Hometown: Lansing, IowaIan and Andrew’s story: Andrew and Ian are a community-focused couple living and working in Lansing, a hamlet of about 800 people in northeast Iowa. Last summer, they took on co-chairing the Lansing RAGBRAI committee, which planned and executed the tire dip and the final day of the ride. Over nearly a year of planning, the stress and the joy of marshalling their small town to great success would try not only their relationship, but also their commitment to rural America.
When you think about RAGBRAI, what comes to mind?Andrew: Being tested (laughs). But, seriously, it really proved that not only are we capable of a great deal, but we’re even stronger when we work on things together. That was, of course, true with RAGBRAI, but since RAGBRAI we’ve done a great deal many things together as well and that continues to be a proven success.
What did it feel like to be part of the documentary?Ian: I have been a performer for most of my life, so I wasn’t uncomfortable with the idea of having a camera close. But I think what is really exciting is the fact that you showcased these communities and their people because in a lot of culture, we’re kind of known as flyover country and there isn’t a lot of attention given to people or places like this. It’s just really nice to shine a spotlight on kind of the wonderful, magical place that “flyover country” can be.
We’ll explore this in the documentary, but how did RAGBRAI impact your community?Ian: We took a lot of that money that we were able to raise through RAGBRAI and we distributed $112,000 of profit to other nonprofits in our town: our schools, our churches, our city government, police, fire departments. We were able to really enhance the services and what it means to live in this community. We also took some of that money and did a giant community initiative to draft a 10-year vision plan for our town.
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