Cycling Memories: RAGBRAI

This week, Girl on a Bike invited people to post their favorite cycling memory to her blog. Prize for posting? A chance to win a $50 gift certificate to Revolution Cycles. (See here for her writeup and contest).

Her post prompted me to dig into my bicycle memory bank. As I thought back, my first time riding RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa) entered my head. Thanks, Girl on a Bike, for the opportunity to reminisce!

Bike Friday at RAGBRAI

One of my many favorite cycling memories is of my first time riding across my home state via RAGBRAI.

Having grown up in Iowa, I was always somewhat aware of the ride, but could not figure out people’s enthusiasm for it. Ride from the Missouri River to the Mississippi River through little Iowa towns? What is exciting about that? Plus, 500 miles over seven days over the entire state seemed like a long way to ride.

Then I moved to the East Coast, away from my Midwestern roots. After my move, I took up riding. It was exciting to be a cyclist in Washington, D.C. It’s such an active city, and the weather allows riding year-round.

Even though I had grown up riding a bike, I had never done much multi-day riding. I loved all the places I learned about through being on my bicycle, and I realized that I had never done that in my home state, a state that has the largest organized cross-state tour in the country. What was I thinking? I set my heart on riding across Iowa.

Cyclists on the RAGBRAI Route

To make the trip even better, my sister agreed to ride with me and my mom offered to carry our stuff from town to town. It was a perfect setup.

Every day we rode, I thrilled in seeing the towns fill up with cyclists from all over the country. Amy and I savored eating maid-rites and kringla– foods I grew up with but rarely found on the East Coast. I enjoyed pedaling the country roads of our home state, taking photos of barns and cornfields, and feeling the occasional undulations of the road beneath my wheels.

Stop Town on RAGBRAI

The best part of our week was a stop for ice cream in Popejoy, a town of fewer than 100 people and within 30 miles of my hometown. My sisters and I were paying our bill when we heard one of the volunteers say, “Hey, aren’t you Cathy’s kids?” What?! Only in Iowa! That was the essence of RAGBRAI for me. I may have grown up and left Iowa, but it will always be home.


  1. That was a very nice story. My parents took part in RAGBRAI a couple times when they lived in Iowa before moving to the east coast. It sounds like a pretty awesome experience, one that I think i need to but on the “to-do” list. 500 miles in seven days does seem like a good challenge. It would certainly be a whole lot more than I’ve ever ridden to-date. Woohooo Iowa!


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