Time to Pack Up the Bike

By: 
Steve Carlson

Time to Pack Up the Bike…..

….and take it to Iowa.  Based on the fact I am getting emails inquiring about the spring CRW century, it is clear people are working to fill out their biking dance cards for 2020 already.   With more and more airlines becoming bike friendly…maybe this summer is the time to consider going out of Massachusetts!   CRW does not endorse any particular out-of-state rides, but there are plenty to choose from.  RAW, RTR, BRAN, RAIN, Cycle Oregon, Bike Maine, Cycle Zydeco, Cycle Adirondacks are a few of the popular smaller rides with 500-2000 riders.

Then, of course, there is the granddaddy of all rides….RAGBRAI.

RAGBRAI, known formally as the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, is the oldest, longest, most participative bike ride in the world.  It began in 1973, covers 450+/- miles and attracts over 18,000 riders annually! RAGBRAI began in 1973 when the Des Moines Register’s featured columnists John Karras and Donald Kaul decided to go on a bicycle ride across Iowa and write articles about the experience. They wrote of their plans in the paper, encouraging the public to join in the excursion.  Approximately 300 people made their way across the state from the Missouri River east to the Mississippi River on this first ride.  From this, the legend was born!

I am an Iowa guy and my roots run deep and with fond memories of the state.   But, while I grew up there, I had never done the ride.  This makes little sense, right?  So, in 2015, I decided to buy a bike (not having ridden since grade school), get into biking shape (by joining CRW) and do my first RAGBRAI.  I have now done five and don’t expect to stop riding them any time soon.

Honestly, I had a blast!  This ride is not like any of the other rides I have previously mentioned or ridden.  Those rides are smaller, more hard-core and advanced.  RAGBRAI is about socializing as much as it is about riding!   Towns along the route roll out the red hospitality carpet as bikers dismount and walk through the towns…you have to walk because the road is blocked with thousands of bikers.

But no worries, as there are pies, music, marching bands, craft beers, pork tenderloins, ice cream, corn on the cob, WWE ring fights,  tractor displays, petting zoos, goat yoga and a myriad of carnival type festivities to keep you entertained until you are able to rise up once again onto your saddle.

Once on the road, you will be challenged by 90° temperatures, rolling hills, gravel and century loop options and endless lines to use a kybo.   After some 50-70 miles, you will arrive in the host town where you will erect your tent, listen to entertainment in town, drink a few beers, head back home, um I mean tent.. and repeat this rolling county fair until you arrive at the Mississippi River, where you will ceremoniously dip your front bike tire into the river and claim yourself as a “winner”.

So, consider packing the bike this summer and heading to God’s Country ("Is this heaven?  No, It's Iowa."  Field of Dreams, 1989).

Do the hardcore stuff, but throw in a little crazy and let loose your social id!   

RAGBRAI registration opens on November 15 for 2020. If you have questions, feel free to hit me up!

Steve Carlson is a CRW Board member and also a member of the Century Committee.