RAGBRAI

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Pleasant Hill
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RAGBAI stands for The (Des Moines) Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. And when I tell folks that I'm from Iowa, RAGBRAI often comes up in conversation, along with Winter, and the Hawkeye State being confused with Ohio or Indiana.

RAGBRAI began in 1973 when Des Moines Register feature writers John Karras and Donald Kaul decided to go on a bicycle ride across Iowa. Both men were avid cyclists. Some 300 cyclists began the ride in Sioux City, and 114 of them rode the entire route during this somewhat informal affair. The ride was announced with only six weeks' notice and it conflicted with the first week of school and the final weekend of the Iowa State Fair. After the ride was over, Kaul and Karras wrote numerous articles that captured the imaginations of many readers, including me. Among those who completed the 1973 ride was 83-year-old Clarence Pickard of Indianola. He rode a used ladies Schwinn and wore a long-sleeved shirt, trousers, woolen long underwear and a silver pith helmet. The newspaper received lots of calls and letters from people who wanted to go on the ride but couldn't for various reasons. Hence, a second ride was scheduled in 1974, but before the Iowa State Fair and the start of school. And from there, this event has been held every summer and at different angles across the state.

At the beginning of the ride, riders traditionally dip the rear wheel of their bikes in either the Missouri River or the Big Sioux River (depending on the starting point of the ride). At the end, the riders dip the front wheels in the Mississippi River. The route changes from year to year, and has even gone through my home town of Estherville. The event gives these overnight and pass through towns along the way an economic boost, and a chance to show Iowa's big and generous heart.

The 2010 ride also begins in Sioux City and starts tomorrow (July 25th). Participants are now picked by lottery and are limited to 8500 week-long riders and 1500 daily participants. This year's route runs for 442 miles, ends in Dubuque, and ranks as the 3rd easiest historically, as far a hills and mileage go. However, the heat, humidity, bugs, and maybe rain might provide extra incentive to either finish or hang around one of the host towns a little longer.

Both my brother and my Dad have participated in parts of RAGBRAI. Unfortunately, due to a busy California-based schedule and poor planning, I've only had the opportunity to watch and hope for another day.

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RAGBRAI

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