I’ve had a lot of people say “I can’t believe you use a week’s vacation to ride a bike on the back roads of IOWA.” Oh wait, that was me 6 years ago before I did my first RAGBRAI, and I understand the concept is completely foreign to most people. Let me try to explain why I love RAGBRAI, beginning with the drive out. Remember when you were a little kid and dreaded seeing the school bus coming? But as an adult the Team Shagbrai bus is the greatest thing ever, complete with a keg tap, obscenely loud music and loaded with dancing 30-to-40 somethings acting like they’re in college again. And even though the bus is big and green it’s definitely not eco-friendly. It gets four miles to the gallon and leaks oil like the Deepwater Horizon. It also may be where you’re sleeping at least one night.
Once on the bike, it’s refreshing to be out exercising early in the morning every day, watching the sun come up over some beautiful parts of rural Iowa you might otherwise never see. If you have a hangover (which is entirely likely, especially after the band Hairball), it only takes 8-10 miles of suffering before you sweat it all out and another morning beer starts to sound pretty good again.
The teams and characters you meet on RAGBRAI are priceless. There’s the team that drags everything with them including, literally, the kitchen sink. Team Good Beer is good for at least a dozen varieties of craft beer. Team Stops A Lot….well, stops a lot. So does everyone else. I love that there’s at least one insane guy who does RAGBRAI on a unicycle or some other un-Godly difficult device, like a bike from the 1800’s, or one that’s on a frame 20 feet in the air, or standing up on bikes that are like eliptical machines. (all real) Then there was the guy in front of me talking loudly about how much he liked his new bike shorts because they breathed so well. As soon as we stopped I had to tell him it was because they were so sheer he may as well have been riding naked in front of me. Team Butt Crack, if you will.
And…the food! Yes, it’s possible to gain weight despite burning thousands of calories riding hundreds of miles. Mr Pork Chop, homemade pies, the pasta stand, Farm Boys breakfast burritos, pancakes and bacon at the local fire station…the list goes on and on.
All of the best things about RAGBRAI can lead to the pitfalls you just have to deal with, like lack of sleep, biking while dehydrated and/or hungover, sunburn, chafing in sensitive areas…ahh, the sting of Gold Bond on your private parts. Hot weather and climbing hills lets you know Iowa is most decidedly NOT flat and it’s when your love and hatred for biking collide. But it really is fun….I swear! I can’t wait! SHAGBRAI We Ride!