HAWKEYE — Polka music performed live by Hawkeye’s Sally Boie emanated from Hawkeye City Park’s gazebo on Friday afternoon as riders of the 2022 Des Moines Register’s annual Great Bike Ride through Iowa continued rolling.
Hawkeye Mayor Don Kelly said he visited runners who he said complimented the city.
Everything was set up the day before the runners passed, Kelly said. It was the result of three months of planning from the announcement of the affected route and meetings every two weeks.
1996 is the most recent year RAGBRAI went through Hawkeye. The last two nights that year were Cresco and Fayette.
Miss Hawkeye Bailey Poor and her family visited the cycling guests.
She spoke to a runner who had participated in RAGBRAI for 40 years. Another was riding the bike he had ridden around 1987, again this year. “They said, ‘This gets me through,'” Poor said.
She said she has met runners from as far away as Canada and the UK.
“Everyone has been super nice,” she said.
Bailey’s mother, Bethany Hanson, told the story of the 1996 ride that passed through Hawkeye en route from Cresco to Fayette.
That year, Hanson’s father worked at the agricultural cooperative where he weighed the teams on the scale and announced the results, much to the amusement of the cyclists.
A team of tandem cyclists relaxed on the cool grass between a few benches amid polka music.
Members of the three couples had attended high school in Morgan Hill, Calif., all live in different cities and got together for the big bike ride, said teammate Devin McCutchen of Sacramento.
Teammate Jackie Arlew of Denver, Colorado, said she enjoyed the lush greenery, the rivers, and learned that the hills of Iowa were “perfect for tandem biking.”
There was 2,025 feet of climbing on Friday alone, on the 63-mile trek from Charles City to West Union.
McCutchen, who works for his state parks, was impressed with the wide array of plants, as were his teammates.
“Truly blown away by the beauty of the state, especially the ecological diversity we’ve been through,” he said.
The team members listed several prairie plants they had observed, Queen Anne’s lace, coneflower or purple coneflower, black-eyed susana, goldenrod and chicory.
“I was amazed by all the different cultures, learning about the different subgroups that are part of it,” McCutchen added.
“I love seeing how diverse the group of people is and how interesting it is that some are completely self-sufficient and others are firmly supported during the ride. It’s great to see that diversity,” said Billy Arlew from Denver, Colorado.
“We really appreciated the volunteer effort of the people who live and work in the small towns we pass through,” said Olivia Henry of Sacramento. “This is clearly a huge volunteer effort for which we are very grateful. In cities where there are only a few hundred people, hosting—is it 17,000 people or more—is such an incredible gift to us. We don’t think we deserve it, but we are grateful.
“I really like how many people are coming out and doing the ride and watching the ride that aren’t really cyclists,” said Nick McCurry of San Diego. “It’s kind of an event in itself. We met a couple from Singapore who bought a tandem bike from Walmart that they are riding just for this vacation.
“It’s such a welcome change as a cyclist to be welcomed and cheered on and applauded as we pass instead of being buzzed by cars and not having a lot of space,” he said.
“The cars have been great, the traffic control has been great. The only danger is going past the beer tents in the late afternoon,” McCurry said.
Lisa (Hermsen) and Todd Grawe have attended the big bike ride since 2007. Now living in Urbana, they graduated from Starmont in 1989 and 1990.
“Lots of good people there, very helpful,” Todd said of what he learned from the race.
“It’s amazing to me how many people come from other states and countries even to ride RAGBRAI,” said Lisa, the driver of the team support vehicle.
“The weather has been great,” Lisa said, with others agreeing.
High temperatures for the week of the bike ride were in the mid to low 80s.
Mike Kuennen of Fort Atkinson, father of Derek Kuennen of Oelwein, led the support for his team, which he said joined the big bike ride Monday in Ida Grove. That’s because on Sunday they were wrapping up a Randall family camping reunion in Charles City, which more than 100 people attended, their teammates said.
Eric Erickson, of Estherville, rode a recumbent bike with the Adaptive Sports Iowa team of more than 50 people, a number that includes sweeper support as well as mechanical assistance.
Erickson, who has a noticeably smaller right arm, was pushing the bike with an American flag attached on W-14 south of Hawkeye, around the east turn on 190th Street toward West Union.
“Letting people know we’re proud of America,” Erickson said of the flag.
“And it keeps me visible on the highway, in practice. If I can get somebody to take their foot off the gas for 35 seconds, then those guys don’t have to call the morgue,” he said, pointing to assisting troopers from the Iowa State Patrol waiting for his sweep team.The troopers included Jason Marlow, Burlington – who used to officiate in college basketball in northeast Iowa – and Paul Gardner, Fort Dodge.
When the sweep crew arrived for Erickson, Jose Rodriguez, Minneapolis, got to work figuring out why the chain wasn’t spinning the rear tire.
Sweepsman Joe Laslo, of Kelley, Iowa, said about half of the 50-54 ASI Farm Bureau team riders in attendance are challenged.
As a sweeping team, their goal is to make RAGBRAI accessible to anyone with a physical or visual challenge, Laslo said.
Laslo said the participants are bigger than their limits.
“They have a bigger heart than any professional football player,” he said.
Participants included people with spinal cord injuries using handcycles (which are powered by the arms), people with cerebral palsy using recumbent tricycles; and a couple of blind people, each of whom brought their own sighted rider, riding tandem bikes.
There is no residency requirement to participate in Adaptive Sports Iowa.
“They can live anywhere in Iowa, USA, we’ve even had athletes challenged from anywhere in the world,” Laslo said.
RAGBRAI is perhaps the most visible event ASI attends, he said. Additionally, they offer wheelchair basketball and beep baseball for the blind.
Yee Jia and Gracia traveled to the United States from Singapore with the goal of seeing all 50 states.
“We heard the best way to see Iowa was through RAGBRAI,” he said. “Actually, we’re here to do something in all 50 states.”
She quit a job in academia; him in finance.
“We try to take the road less travelled,” he said.
True to the title of their YouTube channel, The Proper Paupers, the couple, who say they are “fresh out of college,” bought their supplies at Walmart.
“It’s all from Walmart,” he said. “We’re trying to show people that you can do RAGBRAI penniless, so we have about $200 cash for the seven days and our bike is from Walmart.
“It really broke down a number of times,” he said.
“The nice people of Iowa,” helped them fix it, Gracia said.
“Iowa is not flat,” Gracia said. “Iowa is full of cornfields, but most importantly Iowa is full of people who are kinder beyond our wildest dreams.”