Cyclists pose next to a sign in Tabor, Iowa, on the first day of RAGBRAI, a seven-day, 440-mile ride across Iowa. Photo by Pam LeBlanc


Chalk off the first 50 miles of RAGBRAi, a 440-mile bicycle ride across Iowa.

I’m here with eight folks from Austin, on a trip organized by Velo View Bike Tours. We drove 12-and-a-half hours in a van to get here on Saturday, and today we rolled out on our bikes.

Cyclists stop to eat pork chops from a roadside trailer during RAGBRAI, which started Sunday. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

So far we’ve pedaled past corn fields and pork chop stands, waved to farmers and stopped in towns. I petted a burro, watched a drill team perform to a drumlins and got my photo taken with a mayor of one small town.

This is cycling heaven.

It’s all about peace, love and bicycles in Shenandoah, Iowa, an overnight stop on this year’s RAGBRAI route. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

For one week, cyclists take priority. People who live along the route know not to drive unless they have to, so the roads are nearly car free.

The cyclists get into it, too. This is a ride, not a race. The only competition? To see how much you can consume. I’m on a mission to eat pie every day. We passed folks with stuffed chickens on their heads, jam boxes blasting and grins spread across their faces. The sun blazed, the heat rose, the fun brewed. I’ve been told not to miss the Mr. Porkchop food trailer or the naked rope swing.


So far, we’ve been through Glenwood, Malvern, Tabor and Randolph. We’re camping tonight in Shenandoah; I’m writing this from a camp chair. We’ve ordered pizza, and Oskar Blues Brewing is handing out free cans of beer. Nobody loses weight on RAGBRAI.

People are camped all over the place. Some are in team buses, outfitted with kegs and cookstoves, hammocks and coolers full of food.

Amanda Huyck, 40, another Austin cyclist, started her food tour with a brat, a bag of chips and a Gatorade at midmorning.

A group of cyclists with Velo View Bike Tours shows off temporary tattoos. Photo by Pam LeBlanc

“What I liked about that was it was 10:30 in the morning. I wish in my everyday life I could eat lunch at 10:30 in the morning,” Huyck said.

She also stopped at a pickle stand, where, it turns out, you can buy a pickle pass for $12 that gets you a pickle every day on the route.

“Then the pickle guys told me I was only 9 miles from the finish, so I slowed way, way, way down and put my bike in its baby gear and started talking to people,” Huyck said.

When she got to Shenandoah, the finish point for the day, someone pointed her to a bar where she could have her obligatory Bloody Mary, then she headed into camp.

On tomorrow’s agenda? A 75-mile ride with 4,000 feet of elevation. Don’t believe anyone who tells you Iowa is flat.

It’s not.