DAVENPORT — Crystal Davis was among the cyclists lined up by the hundreds to dip their bike tires in the Mississippi River on Saturday in Davenport.
The Schenectady, N.Y., native had just pedaled 428 miles across Iowa and was participating in the traditional tire dip. She even biked an extra 20 miles to dip her tires in the Missouri River before the ride started last Sunday in Onawa.
“It is a good way to end a long week,” said Davis, 38. “I’m exhausted. I’m looking forward to getting home.”
I was among those who completed RAGBRAI 46 on Saturday.
Aside from a few detours, including a visit to the High Trestle Bridge in Madrid on Tuesday, which added miles, and a 10-mile gravel road shortcut today, which cut miles, I pedaled every day and every mile.
It is common for riders to catch a ride for all or part of some days, but with one of the best weather years in recent memory, I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to spend day after day on my bike.
After leaving Iowa City on Saturday morning, the route stopped in West Liberty, Atalissa, Moscow, Wilton (which was the meeting town), Wild Cat Den State Park, Montpelier and Blue Grass before reaching Davenport.
The mileage count for the day was 68.9 miles, one of the longer days of the week, with 1,585 feet of climb.
The Quad City Times Bix 7 road race also was going on Saturday in Davenport.
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I went to the dip site to talk to some people who’d just pedaled in. The lines were too long for me to dip my tire.
Davis has ridden RAGBRAI six times and plans to keep coming back.
“I love it,” she said. “I love the friendly Iowans.”
Davis had a somber introduction to RAGBRAI. She was the first person on the scene when a man had a heart attack running the Drops to Hops race in Cooperstown, N.Y.
She called 911, but the man wound up dying. When she read his obituary, it mentioned he loved RAGBRAI, which she had never heard of at the time.
“I wanted to do it in his honor,” she said, noting she felt a connection to the man.
The Leonard family also dipped their tires after riding the entire route.
“It feels good, and it is always great to do this with family,” said Keith Leonard, 56, of Holstein. “We were born in Iowa, but on RAGBRAI you see something different everyday.”
Leonard survived a heart attack 10 years ago, and during his recovery of walking, biking and losing weight, he decided he wanted to ride RAGBRAI. His son, Derek Leonard of Ida Grove, who was riding Saturday with his wife, Shawna, agreed to go with him, and they’ve continued for nine years.
The ride has become a tradition.
“It’s humbling to see what riders can do,” Derek Leonard said, recalling riding next to a person with disabilities.
As RAGBRAI concludes, I’m left with a blur of memories about new friends and the towns I’ve visited, more team koozies than I can count, and much thicker legs than a week earlier.
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