Our two members and recent retirees, Doug Powelson and Darrel Snuggerud rode across the southern part of the State of Iowa recently. They were a part of an annual bike ride, a tradition that started in Iowa in 1973, now known as RAGBRAI… “(Des Moines) Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa”. This also turned into a good fundraiser for Polio Plus.
The 7-day cycling/camping adventure is the largest of its kind, attracting over 20,000+ cyclists, of all kinds and across all age groups. Making the inevitable comparison with the Tour de France, Doug indicated that the Iowa riders were considerably less svelte-looking, burdened as they were with bike accessories and diverse, colorful and humorous outfits.

The adventure started with a dip-in at the Missouri River across from Omaha, NE. This year, the ride took a southern rural route, west to east , from Glenwood to Muscatine, with stops in six, small, overnight towns across the state; the route changes each year. At each town along the way, they were welcomed with music, food, drinks, and always local residents assembled along the roadside to meet, greet, and cheer them on their way. Leon, IA , with a population of 1,800, greeted 17,000 riders before 3 pm. Their route each day was accompanied by their buses carrying their camping gear and bike maintenance items, the police to clear their path, and ambulances in case of need.

Who said Iowa was flat? It isn’t. In the 420 miles they rode, our cyclists dealt with 18,872 feet of climb. Doug described it as interval cycling. They were either pedaling uphill or coasting downhill. Pre-ride conditioning should have included a few trips over the Oakridge or Skidaway Narrows bridges. The camping experiences along the route included hot showers provided by a converted school bus, breakfast and evening snacks with soda/water/beer in copious quantities. They had arranged to join up with the Wabasha Bike Club (Wabasha, MN) which managed all of the camping details. After setting up their tents, the group sat around and discussed the day’s experiences before heading in to the overnight town for the local celebration or retiring to their tent for much needed rest. Each morning they rose early to pack up and head out again for a 50 to 75 mile daily ride before 7 am.

The roads were in great shape, cleared of vehicular traffic, for the most part. While it was hot, perhaps not by Savannah standards, they did not encounter rain during the ride on any day. It was fun. Fun on bikes. Being on the road with so many cheerful participants, all going in the same direction, and meeting friendly local people along the way made the experience rewarding. Sure, it was physically challenging but doable as they encountered riders from 12 to 89 years of age who were doing the week long ride.

The last day came; Doug and Darrel rode into Muscatine with smiles on their faces. As they dipped their front bike tires into the Mississippi River and hoisted their bikes high in the air, they were glad to be at the end of this journey. Check that item off the bucket lists.
President Bill proposed a Club challenge for members at the July 20th meeting... Challenge Doug to ride 100 miles with the End Polio Now outfit to spread awareness. Doug completed 130+ miles of the ride with the jersey and shorts, generating over $650 in member pledges for The Rotary Foundation, targeted to the End Polio Now campaign.