The City Cyclist

A Bicycle Vacation

By - Aug 12th, 2011 04:00 am
Sign-up for the Urban Milwaukee daily email

Part of RAGBRAI tradition, Mark and his two sons dip their tires in a small pool (representing the Missouri River) before the ride.


As I approached age 50, I wondered what I could do to commemorate this milestone year. My thoughts almost immediately turned to RAGBRAI – the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa — the oldest, largest and longest bicycle touring event in the world. I had heard stories and thought, “no, not for me.” But now, in my Golden year, why not? Let’s live a little!

So, off to Iowa I went to ride from the Missouri to the Mississippi River, accompanied by my two sons and 9,997 other cyclists. In all, our trip would take seven days and cover 481 miles.

Iowa isn’t the most exciting place to ride (a lot of corn and soybeans), but that part didn’t matter — the real highlights of the ride were the various communities and individuals along the route.

Every village and township we traveled through and to opened their arms to us. And why not? When was the last time your town of 200 had 10,000 visitors in one day? Every school, church, and community group was selling something to us. Everyone turned out to see the parade and welcome us to their little part of Iowa. Many of the towns had developed a theme to highlight their community, and carried it through with signs, activities, and T-shirts. Kids young and old enjoyed spraying hot riders with water hoses or super soakers.


Some of the fun RAGBRAI fashion!

Other communities highlighted their heritage through a wide variety of foods. Pies were always plentiful, and pork was everywhere; pulled pork, pork chop on a stick, smoked pork loin sandwiches, pork ribs. About the only pork item I didn’t see was pork ice cream, but there were other varieties of delicious homemade ice cream along the route.

481 total miles of riding, and I gained weight.

The highlight for residents was the endless parade of bicyclists, riding every style of bike you can think of, decked out in just about anything you can imagine.

There was Banana Man (think “Peanut Butter Jelly Time”). There was the guy wearing only a loincloth, the rider dressed as Superman (down to a red thong over his bike shorts) and there were the women with the fake naked butts. Helmets were accessorized with anything from flowers and zip ties, construction cones and Margarita glasses, to wind turbines and animal heads.

Another RAGBRAI tradition – dipping tires into the Mississippi at the end of the ride.

No wonder people set up their lawn chairs and got out the coolers.


All in all, it was an enjoyable week. Sure, the weather could have been cooler and the accommodations more comfortable. But I had gone for the atmosphere, and I don’t know if that experience can be found anywhere other the RAGBRAI.

*A quick update for riders of the Oak Leaf Trail: the underpass under Bluemound Rd. at the Menomonee Parkway is open! Even though the Parkway is technically closed at Bluemound, the underpass allows bicyclists on the Oak Leaf Trail to continue their ride uninterrupted by construction or traffic. Enjoy!

0 thoughts on “The City Cyclist: A Bicycle Vacation”

  1. Anonymous says:

    […] ThirdCoast Digest […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *