RAGBRAI Day 1: A river of bikes

Air Force Maj. Kevin Pieper, left, taking a quick break with Laura Sievert. The U.S. Air Force brings a team of 121 riders to RAGBRAI, who come to the rescue of anyone unlucky enough to have a flat tire or worse. | Submitted Photo
Posted: Jul. 22, 2019 4:00 pm

Editor's Note: Laura Sievert, executive director of Arts Quincy, is participating in the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa or RAGBRAI. The 427-mile trip will have her pedal Sunday through Saturday from Council Bluffs to Keokuk, Iowa. Laura is blogging about her adventure and the home-baked pie along the way.

Every time you do a big ride like RAGBRAI, you think you know how to prepare. I spent the last week in a panic about the impending heat wave, but here I sit, at St. Mary's Church in Avcoa, Iowa, eating a "PopeCicle" after riding 40-plus miles in driving rain. Maybe I should have prepared by bringing a jacket.

There are still 20 miles yet to go today, but the ride has already been full of interesting people. I met a 93-year-old who has ridden RAGBRAI 25 times. I met a trio of Indian engineers from the Chicagoland who couldn't say enough about Iowa's hospitality. I met four sisters who are spread out all over the country but have come back to Iowa for over a dozen years to reconnect.

And I've already run into Quincy folks I didn't know were riding and a guy wearing a Bridge the Gap shirt who isn't from Quincy but loves our race.

I think the people you meet and the stories you hear are the best part of this ride, which is the biggest and oldest bike tour in the country. Ten thousand riders will participate this year, and we will all get to experience the hospitality of the Midwest.

Speaking of the number of riders, I will never fail to be amazed by the way that many bikes looks on a road. It really looks like a river. Four or five wide on the (closed) roads for just miles and miles and miles. It's amazing!

With this many bikes on the road, it's inevitable that mechanical issues or wrecks can happen. The U.S. Air Force brings a team of 121 riders and flies by on the route, coming to the rescue of anyone unlucky enough to have a flat tire or worse. I really love that they offer the route angel help. I had a great conversation with Maj. Kevin Pieper from Albuquerque, N.M., about the USAF sweep team. Kevin confirms that Albuquerque may be hot, but it's a dry heat compared to the past few days here!

There are always interesting sights on this ride, too. I saw a guy riding in a taco costume, a team dressed like cows, and there are three ultra-runners out on the course running the 427 miles. Whoa.

No RAGBRAI blog would be complete without a food review. Highlights so far are the pizza fired in a brick oven built into the back of a fire truck, and the volunteer firefighters breakfast in Underwood.

My first home-baked pie was at a church in Neola. Faced with the decision between peach and rhubarb, I did the only thing you can do and ordered both! The rhubarb was the winner for the day so far, with a nice crust and a tang that was well balanced with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream.

More to come from the last 20 miles. I'm hoping it stops raining!

Things to Do