As annual sporting traditions go, few match both the scope and novelty of RAGBRAI, an acronym for Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.* You can figure out pretty easily from the name what all is involved. What started as an offhand idea from DES MOINES REGISTER editorial writer Donald Kaul for a nice week-long summer vacation has turned into a decades-long annual event that attracts several tens of thousands of riders, both from Iowa and abroad.
So when we learned that the event would go right through the home of SbB’s Senior Midwest Analyst, Adam J, we couldn’t help but force him to wander the engorged streets of Indianola, documenting the conquering masses and their Spandex, body odor, and beer. Welcome to the Alcoholic Tour de France… de Iowa.
6:00 a.m. It is cold and wet. Overnight, it dipped well below 60 degrees, and it rained enough to make bare feet a laughable proposition. Each is bad enough; together, they exacerbate the other in a way that makes sleeping outside incredibly uncomfortable. Normally, when you think “Middle of July in the Midwest,” you more reliably count on “mosquito-ridden blast furnace with a side of crotch rot” instead of “when did it turn into September,” but it’s been a weird year.
So it’s with profound discomfort that this year’s RAGBRAI participants rise from their tents and get dressed and prepared for the day. 60 degrees isn’t objectively cold – hell, it’s downright balmy in November around here – but coldness is a relative feeling, and when all you’ve got between you and the weather is a thin layer of “sweat wicking” fabric (wicking isn’t even a word, people), 60 is enough to make your testicles run for cover in the warm, inviting folds of your large intestine.
The concurrent hangover, meanwhile, is merely insult hefted upon injury.
So the riders begin wandering the streets in search of food, breakfast, warmth whatever they can get in a small town you’ve never heard of.
What’s that? Oh, lord no, I’m not riding or traveling with them. The riders aren’t here yet. Far from it, in fact; they’ve got about 80 miles to ride before hitting town today. But even with that far to ride, at a leisurely 12 mph pace, they’ll make it to their destination – here – in about seven hours. That’s quite conducive to indulgence when they make it to town, something vendors, restaurants, and other establishments are rather hoping for.
As long as people aren’t too damned cold, of course.
*It would have been RAGBRAYM, but it takes far longer to ride a bicycle across your mother HEY-OOOO