Tri States Public Radio Staff
Sun July 26, 2009
RAGBRAI: Dip It Down in B-town
Burlington, IA – The Mississippi River is known by many names. They include The Mighty Mississippi, The Great River, and The Big River. On July 25 it was known by another name: The Finish Line.
RAGBRAI wrapped up its week-long ride across Iowa at the Mississippi in Burlington. The heat, the hills, the wind and the rain were all forgotten as riders celebrated their 440-mile trek.
RAGBRAI is a physical challenge, and Andrew Lynch of Brooklyn, NY says it can also be a mental challenge. "I'm a New Yorker and camping is not something that enters into daily life," says Lynch.
He was exhausted by the time the week ended but is glad he rode. "If there is any way to see Iowa, this is a really cool way to do it," says Lynch.
This was Lynch's first trip to Iowa. He was invited to the state by a buddy who was looking for someone to ride with in RAGBRAI.
This year's home stretch featured an extra challenge. Bicyclists could choose to ride up Snake Alley. Many declined to do so, but many others took on the challenge.
Snake Alley is a brick road in Burlington that rises six stories over a single city block. It twists and turns so much that Ripley's declared it the most crooked street in the world.
By mid-morning, riders crowded the Port of Burlington to take part in the RAGBRAI tradition of dipping their front tire into the Mississippi River. When the ride started one week earlier near Council Bluffs, they dipped their back tire into the Missouri River.
Happy riders posed to have their picture taken. Some lifted their bicycle overhead in triumph.
RAGBRAI is an acronym for Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. The ride was started by the Des Moines Register 37 years ago and the newspaper still organizes the event. Susan Patterson Plank, Vice President of Marketing, says about 10,000 people registered to ride in RAGBRAI this year. She says thousands and thousands of others also rode along for some or all of RAGBRAI. She says the Iowa State Patrol estimates there were 16,500 riders one day this year.
Many riders say RAGBRAI is such a huge draw because of the people they meet. One person who feels that way is Brenda Hanson, who drove up from Texas to ride in RAGBRAI with her mother, Kathy Hanson, of Madrid, IA.
"There are a couple bike rides in Texas but it's just pretty flat and hot," says Brenda Hanson. "There's not the hills, there's not the exciting scenery, the friendly town people. People in Texas don't really care. The couple rides I've done down there they just sit there and look at you. I'll wave at them because that's what we do in RAGBRAI and they just look at you as if they're wondering what you're doing."
Many other riders say they're also impressed with the folks they meet in small towns throughout Iowa. Those people provide food, water and housing for the bike riders as they make their trek across Iowa from west to east, from the Missouri to the Mississippi.