RAGBRAI: Take the Ride of Your Life

By Sabrina Völz

For those of you who missed it, the 2013 con­fer­ence theme of the Amer­i­can Stud­ies Asso­ci­a­tion of Ger­many held in Erlan­gen was “Rur­al Amer­i­ca.” As some­one from Iowa, I thought I might be the only one attend­ing. Luck­i­ly I wasn’t, and lucky for you there is so much more to say about such a hot top­ic: hot as in chili pow­der, the kind used in authen­tic Mex­i­can restau­rants pop­ping up all over Iowa, and hot as in a sun­ny, humid August after­noon. Oh, there’s no place like home.

“RAGBRAI is a reg­is­tered trade­mark of and licensed by The Des Moines Reg­is­ter and Tri­bune Com­pa­ny. All rights reserved.”

If you don’t know where Iowa is, you are, unfor­tu­nate­ly, not alone. Many peo­ple con­fuse our state with Ida­ho. In fact, my favorite bumper stick­er reads: “Iowa—And, no, we don’t grow pota­toes.” So, yes, we Iowans do have a bit of pub­lic rela­tions to do. Besides, some of you might be plan­ning a vaca­tion or class trip to the U.S. and might want to con­sid­er a new des­ti­na­tion. Why go to Cal­i­for­nia, New York, or Flori­da like every­one else? Dare to be dif­fer­ent, and you just might have fun in the process. Iowa and fun are def­i­nite­ly not mutu­al­ly exclusive.

photo credit: The Des Moines Register
pho­to cred­it: The Des Moines Register

Even though it might sound like it, RAGBRAI is not a pes­ti­cide. It is an acronym for the Register’s Annu­al Great Bicy­cle Ride Across Iowa. RAGBRAI was found­ed in 1973, and although it was orig­i­nal­ly planned as a one-time event, RAGBRAI has been held annu­al­ly ever since. The tour takes bicy­clists on an aver­age 468 miles from the Mis­souri to the mighty Mis­sis­sip­pi Riv­er and changes each year. In 2015, it will be held from July 19–25. This time it will cross much of north­ern Iowa, start­ing in Sioux City, pro­ceed­ing through Storm Lake, Fort Dodge, Eldo­ra, Cedar Falls, Hiawatha and Iowa Riv­er Landing/Coralville, before end­ing in on the Iowa/Illinois bor­der city of Dav­en­port. Since the world’s old­est, largest, and longest bicy­cle tour­ing event for ama­teurs and a few pro­fes­sion­als is so pop­u­lar, RAGBRAI is lim­it­ed to 8,500 week-long rid­ers and 1,500 day par­tic­i­pants. Ride alone, ride in a group. Ride for a day, or for the entire week. It’s not a com­pe­ti­tion, so just R – I – D – E. Leg­end has it that the word “Iowa” means “rolling hills” in hon­or of the Native peo­ple who orig­i­nal­ly resided in the area, so every year some par­tic­i­pants are sur­prised that they do have to work up a sweat in places. It’s hot, I say.

pho­to cred­it: The Des Moines Register

The best part is not the cycling; it’s the chal­lenge, peo­ple, sto­ries, par­ties, and food. Eight com­mu­ni­ties come togeth­er to host the par­tic­i­pants. The Unit­ed States may be a coun­try of indi­vid­u­al­ists, but events like these are ties that bind. Online reg­is­tra­tions ends on April 1, 2015, so sign up soon for the ride of your life.

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