Tuesday, July 22, 2008


RAGBRAI, the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. The Friends of Wilson Island State Recreation Area asked me to take pictures of the riders coming to the park this weekend. As a tradition among the participants, they dip their back tire in the Missouri River at the beginning of the week, and their front tire in the Mississippi at the end of the week. Because Wilson Island is on the Missouri River, the Friends group decided to organize the tire dipping at this new location. I believe it's usually done just off Highway 30, under the bridge that goes over the Missouri into Nebraska....but personally, doing it at Wilson Island is a much better site. The place is gorgeous...and plenty large enough to handle any of the riders that want to come. It's quite a bit more scenic (and more bike friendly) than under the Blair bridge.

7:00 am
I finally get my rear out of bed...get showered and dressed...then sit down with my camera and laptop. Normally, a person would do this kind of prep stuff ahead of time....but I had a brainstorm in a dream last night. You see....I've been trying to figure out how to post these pictures online, and arrange them in such a way...that were I a rider, I wouldn't have to scroll through pages, and pages, and pages, and pages of pictures trying to find myself. I was thinking that I'd post them by times, 10:00 am to 11:00 am...and so forth. Makes great sense...but I couldn't figure out how to download them to my computer in such a way. Seems easy enough....but when you have hundreds of riders getting photos taken....things get hectic quick. In my sleep, I remembered something I saw when we were loading my camera software onto the laptop, and it might just be what I need. Long story short...IT WORKED!!!! So, I load up all my gear...and head out.

I arrived at the park around 9:00 am...and helped everyone out there already (they were camping) load up their gear, and we headed over to the riverfront to get set up. We set up the canopy, unloaded chairs and a table....hung the banner and got the camera ready. It wasn't very long before our first riders arrived. (they technically were not the first RAGBRAI riders to dip, as dad said he saw some riders showing up on Friday when they arrived in town). But OUR first group of riders to dip were from Colorado.

The first couple of hours, I was able to take photos at the river's edge, and spend time at the tent (in the shade) in between groups arriving. After noon though.....I didn't leave the boat ramp area (except for the ONE mad dash to the outhouse) until 8:00 that evening.

What a crazy day!!! It was hot....like really hot....the proverbial "fry an egg on the ground" hot. You know from my previous posts that I detest heat!!!! :-) I drank a million bottles of water, and went to the restroom once, all day. Craziness! There were riders of all shapes and sizes. There were people who looked like they were born on a bike, and those that I really wish I hadn't seen in spandex. 99.9% of them were happy and friendly. The ride from town to the river is roughly 12-13 miles...so they were all hot and tired when they arrived...but it didn't affect their spirits (I can only imagine that this will change as the week rolls on!). Most of them were truly excited to have someone taking their photo! Many had a camera of their own, and were equally excited that I was willing to take their photos with them as well. They were all only expecting to be able to lean over as they were on their bikes, and take a picture of their tire in the water. Telling them that I was going to take a full body/bike shot for them...you'd think I'd handed them solid gold bars...and when they found out we weren't charging them to download...well....they were happy, let's just say that. Many of them asked if we were taking donations. I told them we had a place on our website for donations, if they chose to do so. I can't wait to hear what the Friends group makes from doing this. Could be exciting!!!!

There isn't a picture of it, that I know of...but I was wearing a buff on my head this weekend. You know, those things that the people on survivor wear....except there's no way in hell I'm able to wear one as a shirt or a skirt as they do. :-) I was wearing it down on my forehead a little...and the resulting sunburn is embarrassing...you can only imagine.....my forehead is cut in half right across the middle....red and white...it's pretty bad!! :-) I was spared any other sunburn action. My sunblock worked great...but it melted off of my face pretty early on. :-)

The Des Moines Register had a couple of columnists, correspondents (whatever you want to call them) show up at the River that afternoon. Every time I turned around...they were shooting footage of me taking photos. I avoided an official interview...but they got mom. :-) I stood and talked to them for quite a while though...as they were standing down on the riverfront filming the people I was taking photos of. From what I could find online....you see me in some of the footage they used....but luckily, there is other stuff going on to distract people from noticing I'm in the shot. :-)

There were riders from all over the country and the world. We had a large board for people to sign where they were from.....Switzerland, Germany, Iraq, France, Italy, etc....and most of the 50 states. One of the riders that really got my attention was a gentleman named Dean. I remember him, because he specifically asked me my name and shook my hand. He offered to bring me back food or something to drink (on his bike) to say thanks for what I was doing for these riders. What a great guy!!! He also had no bicycle seat. I asked him if it was tiring...riding all day without a seat to sit on?? He said, "it's better than having a sore a$$ after riding all day".....I guess I couldn't have put it better myself if I'd tried.

At some point in the afternoon, my camera (my baby) started giving me an error message. I replaced the battery, and it worked fine after that. That would have been bad!!!!

Numerous times over the course of the day, some campers brought their dog down to the boat ramp for a swim. He was an old, old, old half Newfoundland, half black lab...named Dudley. He could barely walk...but boy could he swim!!!!!

At about 7:30 pm, I hit a wall. The numbers of riders were dropping, and I finally got a chance to sit down at the tent. Once I was down, I was in trouble. Sunset is around 8:30, and it takes roughly an hour to bike to the park. So....the end of the riders should be around 8:00 at the latest. That's when we started taking everything down. There were a few riders coming into the park a little after 8:00, but I think we stopped at a good time. The bugs were starting to get bad, and we were all tired. The Friends group only advertised the tire dipping until 7:00, so we did good staying a little later for those last riders.

Cindy (my sister), my mom and I decided to head into town to catch some of the action there. The town is usually hopping with activity...but it was getting late. I was hoping to get some pics of the fields full of tents. There won't be many yards or green spaces in town NOT covered in tents!!! It's so pretty to see. I was pretty sure that it was going to be too late to get good pictures of it, as the sun was almost down. :-(

On the way from the park to Mo. Valley, we passed a group of bikers riding along the interstate. Technically, I don't think you can do that....but after seeing what group it was, I wasn't surprised. Team Bad Boys....now, correct me if I'm wrong (this information was given to me by word of mouth)...but this team has an interesting story. They come from Colorado....bike all the way to Iowa...then do RAGBRAI?? The first biker we passed had a HUGE marine cooler strapped the back of his bike. The next one had a HUGE box with shelves on it...the shelves held bottles of booze, he was carrying the bar. The next two we passed were overflowing with bags and such...they were obviously carrying all the clothes and supplies. And last but not least, the person at the front of the pack had a HUGE smoker/grill on the back of his bike. How they were able to balance all that weight and ride as far as they do....it's beyond me. And it seems they do this every year. Can you imagine?????

We pulled into Mo. Valley, and the excitement level in the air increased exponentially. It's always amazing to drive through town when RAGBRAI is there. The energy is so fun and positive. Main street...which is also Highway 30 is almost shut down. Pedestrians have the right of way...and there are bikes everywhere. Not one yard is without tents!!! And the buses....man, they are everywhere. A ton of the bike teams have purchased old school buses...of which they've painted in crazy colors and their crazy names. Team Bad Monkey, Team On-Tap, Team Old School....the list goes on and on and on. I had my window rolled down and was trying to take pictures of the town...but that's when my camera officially quit for the day. It kept giving me a system error. I really hope it isn't busted for good. I haven't taken it anywhere to see what's wrong with it yet...and still need to get online and see what I can find out about this error message it's giving me. I was about in tears. I soooo wanted to try and capture the excitement with pictures. My sister let me use her camera...but I was so bummed about mine, I probably wasn't as gracious as I should have been. We drove all the way through town on Highway 30, and turned around near where we used to live. We were trying to figure out how to get back to the other side of town...but having no luck. The city had one way street signs everywhere....seems that once you got to the East end of town...that's where you had to stay. :-)

We did finally wind ourselves around and make it to the other side again. But took another street goin East...to see what else was going on. About 1/4 of the way across town (for the second time), I started standing up in the passenger seat - out the sunroof to take pics. Everyone started honking and waving at us. It was pretty funny, really. At a stop sign, some very nice people asked if I was throwing candy and such. I promptly started doing the 'beauty queen wave'....which was met by cheers. Quite cool!!! One gentlemen (probably in his 40's) came up and asked where we were headed. I told him we were driving east, so we could go west. It seems they all knew exactly what I was talking about. He asked if we had room for 4 (him, his wife, and a couple they were with). Cindy said that if two of them could fit in the 2 foot space between the backseat and the back hatch...then we were good to go. The ladies asked us to pop the hatch and they climbed in. The two gentlemen got in the backseat with mom. It was a VERY tight fit...but we all made it. The 2 couples we picked up were from Tennessee (near Knoxville, I believe)...which made me think of a very close friend of mine. She would have been homesick just talking to them. What awesome people!!!! They were having a blast driving around with us....with me standing up out of the sunroof taking pictures. I did take one or two pictures while turned around in my seat...to get our guests on film....and to show people how squished everyone was. :-)

We finally made it to the soccer fields (near the football fields) back on the West side of town. Our hitchhikers tried to pay us for the trip...but we turned them down. We had a blast, isn't that what this event is all about?????

On our way around the soccer fields (trying to get out of town), we came upon a dude laying in the middle of the road, tangled up in his bike. By the time we drove up to him, he had gotten it off the road. We pulled over and asked if he was ok....he said (with a smile) "oh yeah, I'm fine.....I'm just drunk"...and off he went. What a happy dude. Bet he wonders where all the scrapes on his arms and legs came from when he wakes up!!!! :-)

By this time the weather is started to look, per tradition, pretty gnarly. Tons of lightning and funky looking clouds. After we dropped Cindy and mom back at their Wilson Island campsites..I drove out of town. The weather was looking worse and worse, in the distance, over Mo. Valley. I stopped my car and tried to get pictures of the clouds and lightning...but my big camera was down for the count...and my little point and shoot just couldn't capture it. The wall cloud (yes, a wall cloud) was HUGE!!!! I drove a little further, and just before getting on the interstate, I stopped again. The cloud had moved past Mo. Valley....but little mini tornadoes (2 of them) were spinning down out of the bottom of the cloud...then back up. Man, I really wish my camera could have taken some shots of that!!!!!!

All in all....it was an awesome day!!! I was unable to walk for three days after....due to all the squatting while picture taking. But even that was worth it!!!! My sister and dad are trying to organize a team of us to participate in RAGBRAI next year. I might consider it, if they decide to take the route through Iowa flatland...is there such a thing?? :-) :-)

Web links of the event....

Link to the RAGBRAI page,

Link to the Wilson Island SRA page,
(I don't know when the link to the pictures I took will be up and running.)

Also, I will be posting some misc shots of the day on my webshots page....as soon as I get done working on the tire dipping pictures on the Friends site.

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