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RAGBRAI Comes to ROLFE

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Here they are coming into town.

A.k.a. The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.

FROM THE WEBSITE: RAGBRAI is an annual seven-day bicycle ride across the state.  Heading into its 48th year, RAGBRAI is the oldest, largest and longest multi-day recreational bicycle touring event in the world.  Des Moines Register Media has been the title sponsor of RAGBRAI since 1973.

Every year, the route is slightly different. This year, RAGBRAI came through Rolfe!

Someone put a lot of work into these.

This is only the second time they’ve come directly through my little town in the 15 years since I’ve lived here. The first time was 15 years ago. In a way, yesterday was possibly a last in a lifetime event for me. Who’s to say I’ll still be alive for the next one?

This kind of bike is called a Penny-farthing.

It takes months of preparation, and the closer it gets, the louder the buzz of excitement in the air. Giant bicycles someone made appeared throughout downtown to mark the event. I went out in the calm of the day before to get photos.

The seats of the bikes were made from old tractor seats.

Picture it: You have a town of about 500, give or take. Suddenly, a crowd of 20,000+ people on bikes comes riding through. It was WONDERFUL. To watch, that is. My bum hurts just thinking of doing it myself. I would have been content just sitting on the curb, conspicuously eating ice cream and shouting, “Buuurrrrn!!” as the skinny little munchkins went whizzing by. This is what will contribute to my early demise, I suspect.

This here’s Carl. He’s 6’1″. He was kind enough to stand in front of the bicycle to give a perspective on size. Thank, Carl!

But I didn’t sit on the curb (there isn’t one), or eat ice cream (I don’t have any). Like a proud citizen, I mowed and weed-whacked my lawn the night before so it would look its best. In the early morning, Julie came over and we sat on my porch to wave and wish the riders a hearty “Good morning!” and “Welcome to Iowa!” because people come from all over the world for this ride. Insane people, but people nonetheless!

Julie went home to wake Scott. I went inside to put on a bra (wouldn’t want to excite the masses) so I could venture out into public and take a few pictures.

Riders galore!
In all shapes and sizes!

It’s one thing to see 10 or 20 bikes at a time go zipping by from the narrow vantage point of your porch steps. When I went to the corner of my street and looked toward downtown, my jaw DROPPED. I’d never seen anything like it! MASSES!! Masses of humanity! There was music playing and tents set up and delicious smells of various foods. Totally worth putting my bra on for! I traipsed downtown to get more photos.

It was hard for me to capture the magnitude of visitors...
…so I took this photo to give you somewhat of an inkling.

The race always takes place in the last week of July, which is frequently boiling hot. This time, the weather was GLORIOUS. A high of 81, with lows in the 60’s and a beautiful, sunny day.

You can imagine what a boost it is for a small town like ours to have that many people coming through. Besides all the vendors, several enterprising folks and small organizations set up shop. A ladies organization – and I speak from personal knowledge when I say they do wonderful things – baked dozens of pies. They sold all 750 slices by 9:30 in the morning!

“Brownies for sale!”
View from the top of the water slide.

My enterprising neighbor Nikole raised money by selling brownies. She’s also fortunate enough to have the best and only hill in Rolfe, and she wisely used this to her advantage, laying down a huge white tarp complete with a hose to water it down. The words “Brownies!” and “Water Slide!” were ringing out through the morning. There were a LOT of happy customers! Even in nice weather, biking an average 67 miles a day, one would tend to get hot!

Perfect spot.
View from a bridge in the distance, courtesy of wee Julie.

It was a circus! It was a carnival! It was a mini-Olympics, all rolled it to one. And then, POOF! It was over. Julie and Scott drove through town in the aftermath. I expected to hear reports of lots of trash and water bottles left behind. Nope! Everything was clean, everything was gone, as if nothing had happened at all. But it did. I saw it! And it was WONDERFUL. A huge thank you to all those who made this event go so smoothly.

And with that, I leave you! May you find a bike with a comfy seat. May we all! Because you’re my favorite.

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