Community

Gearing up in Iowa City: RAGBRAI spends the night there for the first time in decades

Riders roll Friday toward Riverside — and ultimately Iowa City for the night — during the next-to-the-last leg of the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. The ride ends Saturday in Davenport. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Riders roll Friday toward Riverside — and ultimately Iowa City for the night — during the next-to-the-last leg of the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. The ride ends Saturday in Davenport. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Bicycle riders scarfed down pies in Kalona, took selfies with a Starship Enterprise replica in Riverside and chomped pickles-on-a-stick in Hills before pitching tents and partying in Iowa City — the first time in 42 years that RAGBRAI stayed in the town overnight.

Friday marked the next-to-the-last day of the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa as the cyclists set up shop in City Park and then headed downtown for a late night of bands, food and drinks.

Somehow, many of the riders will nonetheless wake up early Saturday to make the last trek to Davenport.

For residents of Iowa City, it brings one more day of road closures and restrictions as the riders head out south of town, following Sand Road/Gilbert Street.

Some sights and sounds at the riders rode Friday into the Corridor:

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They had been sleeping just an hour when waked up and told to take shelter at the swimming pool from a tornado warning in Newton.

When Jacob Reed, 31, of Janesville, and John Hackbarth, 36, of Cedar Rapids, returned to their tent they saw winds had bent the frame and created holes in the cover.

“It was clear skies when we went to bed,” Hackbarth said. “It was only pouring for like 15, 20 minutes but it was pretty strong winds.”

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The brothers-in-law repaired the holes with duct tape, good for another night of camping at City Park.

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David Dvorak, 67, of Cedar Rapids, didn’t have to wait in line for food, drinks or toilets Friday in Iowa City. That’s because he rolled into town by 9:30 a.m., while vendors were still setting up on Washington Avenue.

“I like to beat the crowds,” he said.

Dvorak, who rides with the Hawkeye Bicycle Association based in Cedar Rapids, left Sigourney at 5:45 a.m., stopping only briefly in pass-through towns.

“It’s easier to meet new people when you’re by yourself,” Dvorak said. “And I can ride my own pace.”

Dvorak’s bike, a matte black Schlitter high racer recumbent, is slow on the uphill but flies downhill. A tail wind from Sigourney also helped him arrive in less than four hours.

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A tilted blue bus parked under a tree Friday at City Park caught the eye of Diane Foster, who was driving a support vehicle. While waiting for her husband to finish Friday’s leg of RAGBRAI, the 64-year-old Carver, Minn., resident, set up a paint easel in City Park to paint the bus scene.

“It’s just so cute,” Foster said. “If they turn out I keep them. If not, I paint over them. Maybe I’ll keep this one.”

Foster said the painting probably would take about two hours to complete. She said she tries to paint whenever she has time.

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The word “Kamikaze” marked the top of an old school bus in spotted in Kalona that has since been repurposed and painted blue. An inflatable poop emoji was placed at the center of the windshield.

Melissa McGinnis, 37, is a member of Team Kamikaze, a Des Moines-based RAGBRAI team in possession of the bus, which she said is used for tailgating and, during RAGBRAI, carries the tents, bikes and other equipment.

While McGinnis lives in Colorado Springs, she’s a native of Davenport and her grandparents are from Iowa City.

“It’s a childhood memory route,” she said.

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Rich Hawkins, 32, has some advice for first time RAGBRAI riders. The St. Louis native is nearing the finish of his first RAGBRAI and made a few mistakes he wants to warn others of.

“Be careful taking too many energy jells,” he said, adding he needed them Thursday to ride the Century Loop, which is extra mileage on RAGBRAI. “I had to pound a lot of energy to accomplish that and I’m paying for it today.”

Hawkins, who was cleaning his bike in City Park, said he also recommends new riders train more than he did, at least riding 1,000 miles before taking on RAGBRAI.

“First advice is train. Second advice is pace yourself if you’re not well trained,” he said.

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Storm, a roughly 50-pound dog, rode into Kalona for his first RAGBRAI on a tiny trailer behind Travis Parsons, 38.

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Resting riders took out their phones to snap a picture as Parsons, a Des Moines resident, tended to the dog.

Parsons is part of Team AHeinz 57, which represents the pet rescue location of the same name in De Soto. He was accompanied by another volunteer, Alyssa Schinkel, 23, of Ankeny.

“We’re out raising awareness to show everyone how awesome rescue dogs are and to gain support for the shelter,” he said.

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Kirstin Bergerud, 31, sported the image of World War II icon Rosie the Riveter and her “we can do it!” recruitment motto on her RAGBRAI jersey in Kalona.

Bergerud, of Springfield, Ill., said this is her second year participating in RAGBRAI, and it has been a peaceful one.

Selecting that jersey wasn’t intentional, she said; it just happened to be one of the only jerseys left at the store.

“I love it,” she said, adding it helps spread the word about female empowerment.

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“Why do you come to Iowa to ride a bike? Because everybody’s happy, having fun. Good food, good beer, good riding,” said Mark Noble, 55, of Minneapolis. “Living the dream.”

Noble and his teammate Phillip Swenson, 40, also from Minneapolis, were taking a lunch break at Big Grove Taproom after hearing beer recommendations from locals.

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The duo is part of a team called Shut Up and Pedal “because there’s a lot of whiners. Just shut up and pedal. It’s not that hard,” Noble said.

Their team is mostly from Minnesota and Omaha and totals about 20. They planned to camp at and plan to camp in Napoleon Park on Iowa City’s south side.

“RAGBRAI was the first time ever coming to Iowa,“ Swenson said, adding that he heard there were good breweries in the area.

l Comments: (319) 339-3172; maddy.arnold@thegazette.com

Erin Jordan of The Gazette contributed to this report.

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