What I learned at RAGBRAI
July 31, 2014
by Nikki Javurek, PeopleForBikes government relations manager
A welcome sign at one of the host houses I stayed at.
You know those posters that say, “All I really need to know, I learned in kindergarten/at summer camp/watching Star Trek”? Well, after last week, I am feeling the exact same way about RAGBRAI®. Riding long distances day in and day out, sometimes with rain and lightning, sleeping on floors, and being part of a newfound team of strangers sure seems to teach you a lot about life in general, and even more about yourself.
That said, for those of you that read my other blog posts about RAGBRAI, and for anyone who is thinking about riding RAGBRAI, wants to try out road riding, or just needs a little active vacation from reality, here’s what I learned at RAGBRAI:
My team––what a great group!
1. The people, man. Every single person that you come in contact with is awesome. No, seriously. Not only is everyone “Iowa Nice,” but they would go the extra mile more than the average person. One night, our housing fell through, so everyone on our team went through their networks and within half an hour we found someone that took the 14 people on our team into their home, fed us amazing food, and made us feel like we were part of the family. Those kind of people don’t exist everywhere.
Also, the people that I rode with were fantastic. My team was made up of all different levels of riders, which on RAGBRAI meant that the three beginners banded together to form an amazingly supportive group (shoutout to my Hens!) and all of the really good riders cheered us on, let us draft them when it got too windy, and made sure that we made it to the end every day. All I can say is that Iowans are good people.
2. So many feelings. Now that I’m back in the real world, I keep looking at my RAGBRAI wristband and realizing that, as my favorite child motivational speaker says, “I feel…I feel…I feel happy of myself!” As you may have read in my first blog post, I had no idea what I was getting myself into and I didn’t know if I’d even be able to make it through the first day. So when I look back at the 360-something miles that I rode, not only am I proud to say that I did it, but I smile thinking about the people that pushed me to do it and supported me along the way.
(L to R) Mark Wyatt of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, PFB President Tim Blumenthal and TJ Juskiewicz, RAGBRAI Director, all helped me along the way.
3. It’s all about the Benjamins. The economic impact of this ride on towns across Iowa is impressive. Each day, we started in one town and rode through anywhere from five to 10 other towns that had food, water, resting space, bike repair tents, beer gardens, chamois butter vendors and anything else you may need (especially pie…). The amount of money that this event brought to small towns throughout Iowa is to the tune of $24 million dollars, which is a big splash in the economy in one week.
Tim enjoying some homemade pie and ice cream mid-ride.
4. OMNOMNOMNOMNOM. When I got to RAGBRAI, one of the first things someone said to me is, “A lot of people do this ride and think they’re going to lose a bunch of weight by the end of it, but you won’t. I actually know someone that gained 15 pounds.” And after the first day, I found out why. There are culinary delights famous to RAGBRAI that you “just have to try,” according to everyone I talked to, including breakfast burritos from Farm Boys, neverending pancakes and sausages from Chris Cakes (they actually flip them up and you have to catch them on your plate), and tons of homemade pies. There’s a group of folks from NPR that ride under the team name “No Pie Refused.” The most Iowa-tastic lunch I had was sweet corn on the cob, a juicy porkchop that you hold in your hand with a napkin from Mr. Porkchop, and freshly squeezed lemonade. I only have two words to describe eating your way across Iowa: holy yum.
5. Chamois cream. Because seriously, ouch. (And if you don’t know what it is, here’s a good primer that I found when I googled it after a very awkward conversation with a coworker who just said, “Um…well…just make sure you use chamois cream…because…uh…just look it up!”)
Some of my freshly caught Chris Cakes, topped with liquid butter, of course.