Let me start with a disclaimer for this post... it contains R rated material and strong language. Proceed at your own risk. Okay, for all my friends who will just laugh at that, here you go.
Ragbrai is an annual bike ride across Iowa. This year somewhere between 17,000 and 20,000 bikers participated in the ride. I've been hearing about it for years from my friend Chad and how crazy it was yadda yadda yadda. Much like many stories told between friends I assumed about half of it was true. So this year I had the opportunity to join him and the rest of Team Mosquito for a portion of the experience. Team Mosquito has been riding this for 20 years so it was nice to be with some veterans. The ride goes from Sunday through Saturday but I only was able to ride 3 of the days, and to be honest, that was enough for my first time.
Now there are two ways to experience Ragbrai. There are the serious riders that my team jokingly calls "the jerseys". They get up early (5am) eat their power breakfast, drink gatorade and stay well hydrated through the day and just cruise to the overnight. They might go out for lunch and have a couple of beers with dinner but they're in bed early so they are fresh for the next day's ride. Then there are the people that those people wish they could be.... US! The back of the pack riders. We wake up at 9am and crack a beer, hit the road at 10am and stop at the first bar we can find. Around lunch time we may have made it 10 miles and it's about time for some greasy tacos and some Black Velvet. We might still have 60 miles to go for the day but why hurry? We have until tomorrow morning to make it to the overnight! And if we don't, any ditch will do just fine.
This is the kind of stuff I heard prior to the trip, and much like yourself I thought 'that's insane'. And it is... but man is it fun! So I've compiled a few pictures to help tell the tale of Ragbrai 2010.
When Chad was telling me what to bring he only said don't bring a nice bike, don't dress like a biker (lest I look like a "jersey") and don't bring anything you care about keeping and/or not breaking. I thought the afro was a nice touch. It's actually over the top of my helmet so it's both groovy and safe.
This is a picture of one of the other teams "Team Bad Boy". In this picture you have on the left a full bar, complete with blender. On a bike out of frame to the left is a gas generator that will power that blender. In the middle you have a full sized cooler with beer, mixers and steaks for grilling on the FULL SIZED GRILL attached to the bike on the right! These guys literally will grill steaks as they are biking! Then in the foreground you will notice a kitchen sink. In addition to all of this stuff is all of their clothing, tents, sleeping bags etc... they carry it all!!
Part of the fun of Ragbrai is all of the activities that are planned along the route. For the people that ride the regular schedule there are bands and tents with food and other entertainment. This party was at someone's farm and if you look close you will notice that there a slip 'n slide set up that is about 200' long. There was also a band playing earlier. We came through this town too late to see the band but all these people are "back of the pack" and are hangin' out to party.
Around 7pm we rolled into a town called West Bend, IA. We had a bunch of drinks at a local bar and on our way out of town we stopped to see a landmark that I had never heard of. It's called the Grotto of the Redemption and it's quite impressive. This photo doesn't do it justice. It is absolutely amazing. It was built by one man over the course of his lifetime and it is made of very small stones that he collected from all over the world. Check out the link.
After this little stop things got a little wild and I don't have any more photos from the rest of the night. I know there are some floating around because everyone wanted a picture with the crazy dude with the afro but I haven't seen any yet. Maybe check the Team Mosquito Facebook group to see if any surface. But here's the gist of it. We made another stop in Whittemore, IA and things got crazy! The party was in full swing and we started drinking copious amounts of alcohol. Team Mosquito controlled the juke box and thus the mood in the bar. It was an epic party! I was dancing (which I don't do often) and fun was had by all. At some point we decided it was time to move along and go to the next party which was at a golf course. There was a live band and karaoke contest. Now for those of you that know me well, you know I can't resist an open mic or a karaoke contest so I jump on stage and rocked some Journey! Apparently everyone loved it and they voted me into the finals. The prize was free beer for your team for a year so I had to bring my A game. I was all over the place, jumpin' around, singin' my heart out, but in the end a dude named Monkey Boy from team Emu beat me out (I got second). I still think it was rigged. The good news is I made quite the first impression with my team and some of the other teams. I have proven myself as a true back of the packer. Anyway, so we are still like 4 - 6 miles from the overnight so we make like a baby and head out. I can't ride in a straight line to save my life and about 3 miles into the ride while going about 20mph I jumped a curb and crashed my bike into a street sign. Luckily I was okay and so was my bike. It looked bad enough for a number of people to stop and see if I was alive though. I wish I had a HD video of that crash. I'm sure it was hilarious to see a guy in biker shorts rolled up to his balls and an afro wig just slam into a street sign at full speed! That would have been a YouTube hit for sure! Again, looking on the bright side... my afro saved my life! When I got back to the bus, I passed out in the street. Apparently many people tried without success to wake me up but eventually I made it on to the bus where I spent the next 8 hours. All in all it was a great first day and I think I popped my Ragbrai cherry in style! 75 miles, probably as many drinks, some great stories and I didn't die!
Day two was considerably less eventful mostly because I sagged out the first half of the day. I was in tough shape in the morning and decided to ride the bus to the 1/2 way point for the day and meet up with everyone there. I waited around FOREVER and finally caught up with them at the VFW in Garner.
We hung out there for a long time and finally after dark decided to head the next 20 miles to the overnight in Clear Lake.
About 1/2 way we stopped on the side of the road for a second and all of a sudden it was a party! First a few other bikers showed up, then the Team Duct Tape bus which was handing out beer like candy at a parade! Then a bunch more bikers with a super loud stereo! It was awesome!
We finally moved on and after one more stop along they way, we made it to the overnight where we promptly set up our tents and headed out to another bar. The bar was kind of lame but this was pretty funny.
This dude was totally wasted, and passing out at the bar. So Monica decided to do some body art on him.
Then someone else got his back and arm.
Day 3 started out awesome! We woke up and had a beer or two and then biked a whole 2 miles into the town of Clear Lake and stopped for some breakfast. It was the best food I ate on Ragbrai. I had a big omelet and a bunch more drinks! As we were leaving we came across this.
This is a homemade contraption called the quad bike. It's two tandem bikes welded together. There is a full bar in the middle and a bunch of other stuff. The canopy has solar panels on top of it to power their lights and stereo and underneath the canopy is all of their gear like tents and clothes etc... It's pretty awesome.
Our next stop was at the American Legion in some other town. Same-o same-o so I'll just show you the pictures.
This team is sponsored by Budweiser. They have an awesome bus!
Kyle is talking to this dude that has a handlebar mustache and yes it says "Free Rides" in the back of his head.
Kyle somehow talked his way behind the bar. He had strict instructions not to touch anything. I can't imagine how hard that must have been for him! LOL!
After leaving this town we heard there was a party out in the country somewhere so we set out to find that. We came across a town of 12 people that had been turned into a big stop for the bikers.
These are some ladies that were hangin' out at the party.
They had built a man-made pond and put a massive rope swing on it. I was confused though because here is this awesome rope swing and no one was using it! WTF?! Some guy told me they couldn't figure out how to get the bar back to the platform. Well this made no sense to me so I had to go fix the situation. There was a rope and a weight and after about 3 tries I was able to toss the weight through the handle and retrieve it. PARTY ON! Apparently they had been charging for this earlier but by the time we showed up no one really cared. They even gave us 3 for 1's on beer! I love the back of the pack!!!
Here's some video of the swing.
After that we found some dude that was giving rides on this scissor lift. Weird... but why not. We're in Iowa and we're drunk. It sounded like fun.
So we pretty much shut that party down and then the group parted ways. Half of us rode to the bus and the other half rode to and off route party where they spent the night. This was my last night on Ragbrai and I was spent from the days activities so I found a nice spot on the roof of the bus and passed out for the night. All in all it was an excellent experience and I will for sure be coming back next year! Anyone brave enough to join me is welcome!