Where’s Waldo on RAGBRAI XXXVI??

Okay, this post is going to need a bit of explaining for those of you who have never witnessed or participated in RAGBRAI. RAGBRAI is the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. It occurs the last full week of July each year. Approximately 20,000 cyclists participate. The route changes every year, with an average of about 500 miles covered. This year’s ride was shorter (471 miles) but hillier (22,000 feet of climb) than most years’. Certain towns are designated as overnight host communities, and all 20,000 cyclists set up camp on every bit of open grass available unless they are lucky enough to score a host family willing to lend them a bed or some air-conditioned floor space. This is a catch-all type of bike ride because it is not a race. You see serious cyclists and serious beer drinkers; 8 year-olds and 88 year-olds; teams consisting of hundreds of riders and loners in a sea of 20,000 other riders; Iowans galore and people from every other state and many other countries; unicycles, bicycles, tricycles, hand-cranked cycles, tandems, even rogue roller-bladers. RAGBRAI is the oldest and largest state ride. RAGBRAI week is pretty much the best week to be in Iowa — ever.

The 2008 RAGBRAI route and logo.

You’re never the first, you’re never the last, and you’ll never get lost. There are always bikers as far ahead of you and behind you as you can see.

The towns get pretty crowded, too.

Iowa’s not flat, but it’s not the Andes, either. Most of the hills were negligible, though Day 2 was the 11th hilliest day in 36 years of RAGBRAI.

A unicyclist. I think that’s Mike’s challenge for the next time we do RAGBRAI.

A lot of families ride together like this. I saw one train of 5 this year. I also saw a kid and a dad pair, and the kid’s sign said “does all the work,” but he was asleep with his hands on the handlebars, his feet on the pedals, and his helmet resting on the crossbar in front of him. Aww…

The teams are a fun aspect of the ride. Some, like ours, consist of a small group of family members or friends. Others are associated with geographic locations or clubs. There are even some very large operations that recruit from around the country and only really come together for this one week. A lot of the teams have “pimped out” buses, and most have t-shirts or jerseys with funny slogans and clever names. Some teams get really into the crazy RAGBRAI spirit and choose to dress up.

I’m not sure if this is team “Dairy Air” or another cow team, but they get really into it. Their bikes, their bike shorts, and even their hair-dos are cow-spotted.

Here’s a duo from team “Pie Hunters,” in which every member sports a representation of their favorite kind of pie on their helmet. Little old ladies along the RAGBRAI route make the best pie. My favorite this year was a strawberry/rhubarb a la mode!

“Team Bad Boy” is a bit insane. They probably carry more gear than anyone else on the ride, but it’s hardly bike-related gear. This rider has a bar on the back of his bike. Another team member had a generator and another had a grill. Ouch!

“Team Tutu” has been around a long time.

An Iowa City team.

I’ve always liked to play dress-up, so of course we needed a team name that would justify some fun costumes. [By the way, “we” are Mike and I, my sister Kristen and her husband Josh, my brother Nick, my Dad, my Mom (our support driver), and my Aunt Jan (for the last two days).] Josh came up with a clever team name that we almost went with: The Cherry-Poppin’ Brady’s. You see, newbies on RAGBRAI are commonly referred to as virgins. Since my entire family has done RAGBRAI before, our only virgins were Mike and Josh. We popped their cherries. Although this was a fun team name we ended up going with Team Where’s Waldo? instead. Everyday a different person on our team dressed up as Waldo and got lost in the sea of bikers. Everyone else dressed up according to our theme of the day. Over the course of the week, Waldo went to the beach, the office, the pirate’s cove, Hollywood, the rodeo, the rock concert, and the jungle. Everyone on the team had a “license plate” attached to his or her bike so that other riders would know to look for Waldo. It was a kind of fun game and we got a lot of people to play along. On the day my Dad was Waldo he was interviewed by a journalist. The following day we got a headline in the Register. Check out the article.

My license plate the day I was Waldo.

Team Where’s Waldo ready to set out on day one: Where’s Waldo at the beach?

Rodeo day, with Aunt Jan as Waldo.

I think I’ve given you a decent amount of background info, so I’ll now focus on giving you a few more photos from the week.

Iowa has a lot of barns.

A lot of pigs, too.

But I bet they hope not to end up here. Mr. Porkchop is a RAGBRAI legend…not that I’ve ever even eaten there…

Beekman’s is a RAGBRAI staple, too. They make the best ice cream!

I probably don’t even need to mention that there’s a lot of corn in Iowa — that should go without saying. I think Mike and I each ate an average of 2 cobs a day.


Sweet paint job!

Booooo! Pussies!

A two-headed cow preserved through taxidermy.

“I feel pretty, oh so pretty.”

Dad, Kristen, and Josh participate in a frozen T-shirt contest.

Unfortunately, RAGBRAI is not without its accidents. I didn’t hear of any fatalities this year, though, and the ambulances are always quick to arrive on the scene.

A fun roadside decoration.

Iowa scenery.

More Iowa scenery.

One town originally populated by Danish immigrants served up some kind of pancake ball for breakfast.

The same town had a pretty neat windmill.

More bars in more places….

Mom and Dad at the ISU botanical gardens.

A butterfly took a ride on Mom’s shoe at the botanical gardens.

The headliner for entertainment in Ames was Styx. Apparently we missed a Lance Armstrong speech on the same stage a bit earlier in the evening. Lance rode one of the days this year, but team Livestrong had 100+ members riding.

This is Kathy, and her dog Miss Joey. Kathy and Miss Joey have been doing RAGBRAI for years, but I never realized before that she was riding a Bike Friday (you know, like the folding bikes Mike and I own). Mike and I met Kathy and talked to her for some time this year. She’s eccentric and interesting, and Miss Joey is quite the award-winning pooch. Joey even has her own web site.

The chiquita banana tricycle was pretty cool — especially when it was shooting down a hill.

Believe it or not, every single port-a-potty I went into over the course of the week was surprisingly clean and fully stocked with toliet paper. Once, though, the guy in the unit next door was playing “Guess where I am” with the person at the other end of his walkie-talkie. He proceeded to make some rather disgusting noises, so I bet the other person figured it out.

A RAGBRAI-style watering hole.

After biking 471 miles successfully, my bike decided to get a flat tire while we were awaiting instructions for where to meet Mom to head home. *Sigh*

My Dad, Mike, and I finished the entire ride (Mike and I having done it self-supported), and everyone else put in a respectable amount of miles. This was my 7th RAGBRAI, and perhaps one of my favorites. Although I’m sure I won’t make it back for the ride every year, I’m hooked and I know I will complete many more RAGBRAIs in years to come. You’re welcome to join us next time!

The finish line.

2 Responses to “Where’s Waldo on RAGBRAI XXXVI??”
  1. Anonymous says:

    Great entry, pics and commentary. Congrats on another successful ride! antkathy

  2. Anonymous says:

    You seem to have alot of flat tires! They are riding naked in St. Louis, Mo. this week.Charlie

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