RAGBRAI! A book about an annual bicycle ride across Iowa? Who knew it'd be such a hit in the South Loop?
South Looper and author of the new book RAGBRAI: America's Favorite Bicycle Ride, Greg Borzo (who's authored other tomes about the Chicago "L," Chicago's old cable car system and where to bike in Chicago) seemed to know. He pretty much filled the Pritzker Auditorium at the Harold Washington Library (Borzo lives across the street) on one of last week's miserable weather nights. And believe me, not everyone was young and fit. A lot of people like me were there. (The average age of the RAGBRAI riders is 45.)
Borzo said there are a ton of stories about RAGBRAI to tell. And he's telling as many as he can in his book.
Yes. All of us were there to hear about a seven-day, 400+mile summer bike ride across a state filled with hills and corn fields. And a dip of the wheels at the end in the Mississppi River. And to listen to tales about the great hospitality for the thousands and thousands of riders who come from everywhere on earth. And about lots and lots of homemade pies made with lard.
Speaking of corn fields, that's where riders are expected to relieve themselves along the way, according to TJ Juskiewicz, who's been heading RAGBRAI for 12 years, and who also spoke at the library. He waxed poetic about how the residents of the small towns along each year's route (different towns and routes every year) can't wait to let the riders in to shower, sleep (in the guest bedroom, on the couch, or on the lawn in a sleeping bag if that's what you want) and to eat homemade delicacies--made with lots and lots of lard. "If you don't gain weight, you're not doing the ride right," he added.
RAGBRAI has been going every year since 1973--sponsored by the Des Moines Register. There've been octogenarians who've done exceedingly well. There've also been casualties along the way.
Groups of people sometimes ride together as a team. In fact, a team of Air Force service members ride together--and they help those who run into trouble with flat tires, bent spokes and broken chains.
In any case, it seems like for those who go, it becomes an addiction.
Most importantly, RAGBRAI is not a race. Anyone can ride any kind of bike. Kids are welcome. "Bandits"--those who ride without registering are NOT. Riders can wear costumes. There's a decided carnival atmosphere.
And I suppose if you don't like lard, you don't have to eat the pies.
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