Thousands of bicyclists are making their way across southwest Iowa on the 37th annual RAGBRAI, The Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, and they’re enjoying the cooler than normal temperatures.
After a 52-mile trek from Council Bluffs to Red Oak on Sunday, the bicyclists embarked on a more challenging, 72-mile journey this morning, taking them through Stanton, Villisca, Nodaway, Corning, Prescott, Williamson and Fontanelle before another overnight stop in Greenfield.
Some riders left Red Oak as early as 5 a.m. Virgil Buff of Vermont was among them, although his early departure was not by his choice.
"The people we ride with, they’re bike shop guys and they need to go to the next town and get a good spot for setting up next," Buff says. "So if we want our stuff to go, we’ve got to get up and let ’em take it, otherwise it’s a long day packing."
Bicyclists from every state in the U.S. and at least 20 countries are participating. George Paulsen came all the way from New York to peddle across the Iowa countryside. Paulsen says RAGBRAI allows him to get away from it all.
"It’s the ‘funnest’ week out of my life, about," Paulsen says. "I get to just fall off the grid…I don’t usually, you know, watch too much TV this week; just kind of loose it into the Iowa scene."
Despite the challenging course, most riders were enjoying the trip’s early stages. Lance Ashland of Eagan, Minnesota, was among those anticipating a tougher ride today, but Ashland says it’s worth it, just to enjoy his native Iowa again.
"Growing up in Iowa, it’s kind of one of those things you have to do at least one," Ashland says, noting this is his second RAGBRAI. "I guess I wasn’t cured after the first one."
James Benningfield of Tuscon, Arizona, is making his second RAGBRAI trip, too. He has a few goals for the week.
"This is a social ride. This is not a pace-line race across the state. It’s a lot of fun," Benningfield says. "I had my piece of apple pie that I came after."
In addition to the cooler-than-normal temperatures, there was some light rainfall early this morning to cool the riders along today’s RAGBRAI route.