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  • July 23, 2020 8:15 AM | Dennis Carpenter (Administrator)

    Reprinted here at the request of Baoli Yang with the permission of author RON BERLER

    Of the countless sporting events canceled nationwide this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, few will be missed more than RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa). This week would have marked the ride’s 48th year. Instead, it will be its first miss. I first pedaled RAGBRAI in 1986, on assignment for Outside magazine. I loved it so, I returned twice on my own. Here’s the original piece. My hope is that it will inspire others to saddle up next July when, hopefully, RAGBRAI resumes:

    Team Flab is taking five atop a small rise just outside of Fernald, Iowa — an unscheduled emergency stop on day four, mile 240 of RAGBRAI, the annual amateur pedal across backroads Iowa. Across the highway is a roadside fruit-and-personal services stand, where for 50 cents — the price of two apples — a student from a nearby nursing school will walk on your aching back like a geisha, and then administer a total (well, almost) body massage.

    Team Flab’s two junior members are sprawled on the grass, flushed the color of bubble gum. They are waiting for the senior member to return from across the street. “If it weren’t for these stops, I’d never do this year after year,” remarks one of them, a pear-shaped Des Moines businessman in his thirties. He is fashionably dressed in a black Team Flab tee shirt and wrap-around shades.

    Just then, the senior member, a Des Moines insurance man in his forties, emerges from the personal-services tent. “Trust me,” he says, grinning. “This is not your normal bicycle marathon.”

    We are at the 14th edition of the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, known to natives as RAGBRAI. To cycling sophisticates, RAGBRAI (rhymes with peach pie) probably doesn’t sound like much: a no-pressure, seven-day pedal past 500 miles of corn on one side of the road and 500 miles of soybeans on the other, in sweltering heat. But this is the granddaddy of amateur bike marathons — a combination mellow Tour de Iowa and crazed, cross-state street fair. “A ten-speed Mardi Gras” is how the senior member of Team Flab describes it.

    Last July, 7,500 of us — or maybe it was 10,000, nobody really knows for sure — swept out of Council Bluffs, on the Missouri River, and pedaled 479 miles across the fertile, rolling Iowa heartland. Partying like frat boys, feasting like banqueters, we dipped wheels in the muddy Mississippi a week later in Muscatine.

    Supposedly, I was there to ride with the Siouxland Cycling Club of Sioux City, Iowa, and file a handlebar report on their trek across the state. This proved impossible. Not only was I unable to keep up with them, I couldn’t even wake up with them. Like some mysterious Bedouin tribe, they would dress and break camp in the eerie, 5:30 a.m. moonlight, an hour before what I considered morning drive time. I couldn’t catch them, either, because most had logged 1,940 more training miles than my 60.

    And so I pedaled with other strays. One was John Banks, a Florida businessman who complained that the only hills he ever climbed were the raised greens on the local golf course. Another was Penney Plumb, a computer programmer affiliated with the 100-member Harlan Huff ‘n Puffers Bicycle Club. “I thought I’d spend this week reexamining my personal philosophy and the way I’ve been living my life,” she panted after struggling up the topographical bumps northeast of Des Moines known as the Iowa Alps. “But honestly, all I can think about is the next hill.”

    It’s hard to explain the enthusiasm for RAGBRAI. The hours are worse than a sharecropper’s, and even RAGBRAI officials concede there are lovelier lands to cycle. It doesn’t seem to matter. From atop a lonesome rise overlooking miles of corn tassels switching lazily like cow tails in the breeze, the 40-mile line of cyclists seemed like some crazy, two-wheeled Shriners parade. “Corny as it sounds, you can’t imagine how the whole state gets involved in this,” said Don Benson, the retired Des Moines Register public relations manager who has coordinated RAGBRAI since 1973. ‘The communities the ride passes through go all out.” Small wonder. RAGBRAI pumped an estimated $100,000 into each of the six towns that successfully petitioned to be overnight stops — a considerable chunk for farm towns suffering hard times.

    What, to an Iowan, is all out? Swooping into Conrad (population 1,108) on day four, we braked, startled, in front of a half-dozen local women ringing a 16-ton Kilimanjaro of farm earth piled in the town’s main intersection. They passed out complimentary baggies full of town dirt and serenaded us with the village theme song, “Conrad, Black Dirt Capital of the World.” In Panora (population 1,211), 19-year-old Sheila Johnson, the reigning Guthrie County Pork Queen, was among the dignitaries who greeted us in the town square. The Audubon County Cowbelles and Cattlemen tossed us $6.50 dinners, featuring 12-ounce, charcoal-grilled ribeye steaks cooked to order, potato salad, baked beans, buttered rolls, Mountain Dew and homemade cherry pie. A farmer outside McCallsburg (population 323) opened his swimming hole and trucked in kegs and kegs of beer. Over in Washington (population 6,584), the self-proclaimed “cleanest town in Iowa,” residents invited us into their homes for hot showers. Near Green Mountain (population 126), a thoughtful farmer hung rolls of toilet paper from a fencepost abutting a field of nine-foot-high cornstalks. OLD FASHIONED BATHROOM, invited his hand-lettered sign.

    “I knew we had found our niche,” said John Karras, the godfather of RAGBRAI, “the night in Guthrie Center, our second year, when I arm wrestled the town strongman at midnight.”

    According to Karras, a retired Register copy editor, there was never supposed to have been a second RAGBRAI, or even, really, a first. In 1973, Karras persuaded Donald Kaul, a notorious couch potato and then the paper’s Washington columnist, to cycle with him across the state and reacquaint himself with rural Iowa. Very casually, they mapped out a seven-day route and made motel reservations. As an afterthought, they invited readers to join them.

    When the two arrived at their starting point, a Sioux City motel, they were astounded to find 300 eager cyclists awaiting them. Among these was Clarence Pickard, 83, of Indianola, who showed up on a woman’s Schwinn (a woman’s bike was easier to mount, he explained), wearing black sneakers and a silver pith helmet. Clarence won hearts a few days later when he lost his bearings and peddled onto the interstate. Rescuers set him back on course, and somehow he completed the trip. Ten years later, RAGBRAI XI was posthumously dedicated in his honor, with each entrant receiving an arm patch emblazoned with a likeness of Clarence’s helmet. He remains the ride’s greatest folk hero.

    Inspired by Clarence, 1,800 cyclists joined Karras and Kaul the following year. In 1983 the Register was forced to begin charging a modest entry fee ($12.50 then, $25 now) to defray organizational expenses and hold down registration. Last year, admission was limited to 7,500. Even so, several thousand additional day riders managed to join the procession.

    Some may wonder: Who are these people who flock to pedal away a perfectly good summer vacation in deepest Iowa? Eyeballing the highway, it seems like just about anyone. Eleven-year-olds on hot-pink Univegas, slurping snow cones. Schools of bare-chested teenage Casanovas buzzing packs of tube-topped cycling girls. Moms and dads with toddlers strapped into sidecars. Moms and dads with dogs strapped into sidecars. Geriatrics pump-pump-pumping along on antediluvian clunkers.

    Lately though, it seems that RAGBRAI has been discovered by a tonier set. According to a recent survey, approximately two-thirds of the event’s adult riders are professional or managerial folks — Midwestern yuppies whose campsites often resemble their living room — a television here, a tape deck there, TV trays loaded with Chablis and Brie. “The Register and the larger bike clubs have long provided trucks to haul sleeping bags and tents,” explained Dave Kass of the Siouxland club. (I did manage to catch up with the group each evening.) “Some of us just have a broader definition of what is essential camping gear.” In Red Oak (population 5,333) the first afternoon, one Siouxland member, John Kota, 43, reclined on a chaise lounge like Lawrence of Iowa — freshly showered, reading a newspaper and enjoying a chilled beer. A few yards away his personal staff — two teens hired for the week at Dickensian wages — hastily erected his tent. Our campsites — located on high school football fields, town parks, front lawns or wherever there was room (we doubled the populations of most host towns) — looked like Whole Earth Catalog home-furnishing conventions.

    Early on the second day, when the only sound on the road was the clicking of derailleur gears, still another kind of cyclist pedaled our way: Bruce Babbitt, a would-be Democratic nominee for president. The former Arizona governor had mounted his bicycle in the hope of increasing his name recognition in Iowa, prior to its primary, from near nothing to…well, something.

    The Babbitt entourage consisted of the candidate, his wife (punk-chic in black cycling shorts accented with pink racing stripes and a hot-pink top), two security officers, an advance man (until his knees blew out) and several reporters. Babbitt rode at campaign speed, waving to curious farmers and talking issues — children’s rights, nuclear disarmament, anything at all — to whomever pedaled along. On the advice of his wife and political advisers, he had equipped his chocolate-brown Schwinn Le Tour Luxe with “as many American-made parts as I could find.” Babbitt began his Iowa education almost immediately. Encountering a soybean field, he pointed from his bicycle and inquired, “What’s that?”

    Though Babbitt made it across the state, he met with indifferent success. On one hand, the former governor achieved mention in Time, People, the Wall Street Journal, and on NBC TV’s “Today” show. On the other hand, the Arizona Republic reported this exchange between the candidate and Pat Link of rural Maxwell:

    “So you’re running for president?”

    “If everybody like you will help me.”

    “What’s your name?”

    The third evening out, in Perry (population 7,053), a Siouxland cyclist named John Gray sat me down at a picnic table. “I want to tell you about a few of RAGBRAI’S legendary figures,” he said, explaining that I rode too slowly to run into any of them myself. It is true that on the first day I arrived too late in Emerson (population 441) to witness members of the Team Silver Streak Bicycle Club belly whop across the floor at Chip’s Office Lounge, which had been wetted down with beer served by the mop tub.

    “Back in 1979 there were the Boxheads,” said Gray, an attorney and veteran of six RAGBRAIs. “These were a group of young men who rode the entire day with boxes over their heads, as evidence that they had each consumed a 12-pack of Pabst. Some had to be escorted by state troopers into camp at night.”

    He also told of Pat Doyle, then 20, a truck driver from Dubuque who vowed to stop at every saloon along the 1978 ride. Alas, Doyle spilled from his bike in Iowa Falls, some 250 miles short of his goal.

    I myself hadn’t done much drinking, beyond roadside lemonades. I was simply too tired. What night energy I had left I saved for the host community’s town square, each transformed into a carnival-goer’s paradise: Confectionary stands shoulder-to-shoulder with fried chicken stands, pastry stands, rock ‘n roll bandstands and, of course, beer stands.

    That night in Perry, we achieved lasting bicyclist brotherhood when computer programmers Julie Snodgrass and Steve Hanel dismounted their turquoise Santana tandem bike in a nearby town park and, before thousands of cheering cyclists, recited their wedding vows. They were married by the Reverend Art Seaman, who wore khaki bicycle shorts for the occasion, to complement his clerical shirt and collar. The bride stood before him in a skintight white cycling suit, set off by puffy satin sleeves and a lace skirt. The groom had altered his black bicycling shorts and white, short sleeve jersey to resemble a tuxedo, complete with cummerbund and tails. Reverend Seaman advised the couple, “Marriage is like a bicycle wheel. Sometimes it is round and perfect, but other times it falls out of balance and needs to be trued.”

    I first noticed the sag wagon two days later, on day five. By this time I was cycling with what John Karras termed the zombies.

    “The zombies,” explained Karras, “shouldn’t be on the road in the first place. They ride with their shoulders together and their heads down, pedaling oh so slowly, without even the energy to talk.” Well, excuse me. Our itinerary that day had called for us to cycle 78 miles across land as rolling as a pleated curtain, against a steady, 15-mile-per-hour headwind. The sag wagon followed behind the pack, scooping up the terminal droopers. We zombies were ambivalent about giving up and accepting a ride. True, it would mean an end to our suffering. But sag riders were booed and hooted all the way to camp, even by the sag wagon drivers. I preferred the ten and a half hours of road pain.

    That was the night, however, that my world changed and I fell in love with RAGBRAI. A thunderstorm packing 60-mile-per-hour gusts whipped through camp, causing thousands of us to seek shelter in Belle Plaine High School. We slept, curled like spoons, in the hallways, the classrooms, the school library. When we awoke, the rain had ceased, most of our tents had survived and the wind had shifted. From there on, aided by a gentle breeze at our backs, RAGBRAI was a plains-flat proficiency run.

    There is an attitude, a certain self-confidence that comes from living physically. This no doubt explains why a few of us former zombies stopped to knock back a few beers at a roadhouse inn outside of Riverside (population 826) at 8 a.m. on the final morning of our ride. We were full of ourselves, filthy, loud, our riding gloves worn slick, our bicycle togs pungent and sweaty. We might even have taken over the place, had not a commercial ended on the bar’s TV and live coverage of the Tour de France resumed. We stared at the leader, America’s Greg LeMond. He pedaled with such force and fluidity.

    It’s hard to explain what happened next. On the television, hundreds of Frenchmen cheered as the leaders swept through a small country crossroads. In a strange way, their cheers seemed directed at us. Someone mentioned the thousand or so people already lining the streets near the finish line in Muscatine, 35 miles east.

    The cyclist next to me hopped off his barstool. “What are we waiting for?” he demanded. We marched from the bar and pedaled down the road.


  • June 08, 2020 10:03 AM | Dennis Carpenter (Administrator)

    A group are of members gathering to send a wave of encouragement to Baoli in his hospital room at Saint St. Luke's Hospital on Saturday.

  • June 02, 2020 9:18 AM | Dennis Carpenter (Administrator)

    The HBA Board voted to suspend organized club rides through August  due to the lingering Co-Vid virus outbreak.

  • May 11, 2020 9:55 AM | Dennis Carpenter (Administrator)

    With sadness we regret to inform you that Baoli Yang, one of our HBA members, friend and club president has had a serious bicycle accident on Saturday, May 9.

    Baoli is recovering at U of I Hospital after spinal cord surgery. We are all hoping for a speedy and complete recovery. Please keep Baoli and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

    HBA Board


  • April 23, 2020 2:19 PM | Dennis Carpenter (Administrator)

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    RAGBRAI® XLVIII postponed to July 25-31, 2021 due to COVID-19

    Des Moines, Iowa April 20, 2020 – RAGBRAI XLVIII postponed to July 25-31, 2021 due to COVID-19.

    As we’ve watched the impact COVID-19 is having on the world, we’ve continued to plan and adjust our timelines, hold key conversations with our trusted partners, and determine the best course of action for all parties involved.

    After deep consideration and collaboration with the eight overnight town executive committees, government agencies, the public health department, and official business partners of RAGBRAI, we’ve made the difficult decision to postpone RAGBRAI XLVIII to 2021.

    “The safety of our riders has always been the most important focus for our RAGBRAI team and we feel the decision to postpone to 2021 is the right one,” said Dieter Drake, ride director. “We strongly feel that this is in everyone’s best interest.”

    RAGBRAI takes months of planning and preparation. Based on the extreme disruption COVID-19 has had and will have on the planning, we didn’t feel it was responsible to move forward and put the safety of our riders, crew, communities, or residents of Iowa at risk.

    “While we wish we were biking across Iowa this July, our resolve is to make 2021 even better and we look forward to lifting up these communities when it is safe,” Drake said.

    The RAGBRAI XLVIII route will remain the same for 2021. The towns along the route have already put a substantial amount of work and resource into planning and will have the opportunity to showcase their communities in 2021. The full route with meeting and pass-through towns will be announced later.

    Refund options for registered riders.

    All riders who have registered and paid for 2020, will have three options.

    Transfer their 2020 registration to the 2021 ride. Any rider who chooses this option is not subject to the lottery and will receive their wristband and bike band in 2021. In addition, they will receive a $15 merchandise voucher good through Dec. 31, 2020.

    Request a full refund of their 2020 registration.

    Donate their registration to Iowa Bicycle Coalition. The non-profit works 365-days a year to advocate, educate, and enhance bicycle laws and safety in the state. Their work goes a long way in making Iowa safe and fun for cyclists.

    All riders will be required to fill out a request form by June 01, 2020 to be eligible for the full refund. Riders who do not fill out a form by June 01, 2020 will automatically be transferred to the 2021 ride.

    Registered riders can access the form and more information at: ragbrai.com/registration.

    For a detailed FAQ, please visit ragbrai.com/about/faqs

    WHAT’S NEXT:

    RAGBRAI is planning summer and fall activities including a weekend ride this fall. More details will be released this spring


  • March 31, 2020 9:09 AM | Dennis Carpenter (Administrator)

    As you may know that as of Monday (today), Linn County had the most confirmed coronavirus cases of any county in Iowa, with 71 cases. With the current pandemic situation, the fast-changing local condition, the HBA board had an emergency meeting tonight (Zoom meeting in accordance with the social distancing) and decided that it is prudent and responsible to our club members and the community in general to suspend our scheduled group ride season for the months of April and May, probably for June as well. These will include the weekly Wed evening rides, weekly Sat and Sun rides, and the monthly full moon rides. There are two uniquely HBA rides scheduled in early June, Swine Trek and Holy Toledo. Due to the amount of work involved in preparation and announcement, the board decided to cancel those two rides for the time being, and maybe to do something in the fall if we are back to normal.

    Another casualty of the current situation is our annual spring picnic, scheduled on May 3rd. Diane Bradford and her social committee had worked hard to get it ready. They have reserved the location, set the menu, and assigned each member for what to bring. Even though we are not going to enjoy their creation, if you happen to see them, please say thank you for their efforts. Our fall picnic/annual meeting scheduled for Oct 11th is still on track and please mark your calendar.

    Currently RAGBRAI has not been affected yet, and our RAGBRAI Director, Mark Sillman, is monitoring the situation closely and have frequent conversation with the leadership of RAGBRAI. We will let you know when we get close and if there are changes.

    Let’s all do our part and together we can win this battle.

    Thank you, be safe and be well.

    Best regards,

    Baoli Yang

    President of HBA


  • February 10, 2020 11:54 AM | Dennis Carpenter (Administrator)

    RAGBRAI announces 2020 route: Annual cycling event will pass through these Iowa towns.

    Image may contain: 4 people, including Lynda K Ficken Haddy and Tom Pardonek, people smiling, people standing and indoor

    RAGBRAI Route Announcement Party January 25th at the Hiawatha Community Center. Photo of Lynda, Paul, Tom and Richard in a four way tie for guessing the 2020 route, counter with a selection of 9 variations of chili (all delicious) and trophy for first place chili won by Tom Ehlen.

    $900 was raised to benefit Connect CR by silent auction of a quilt, travel bag and a purse set all made by member Sunny Zhang. Thanks to the Social Committee, the time and talents of Sunny and the support provided by Northtowne Cycling & Fitness and all who contributed to a successful Route Announcement Party.





  • October 16, 2019 8:56 PM | Dennis Carpenter (Administrator)

    I just wanted to touch base on the recent events with RAGBRAI. It is a very sad development I am sure you have all seen on TV and been reading about concerning the announcement by the Des Moines Register that TJ Juskiewicz and his entire RAGBRAI crew have left RAGBRAI. In the announcement they said TJ started a new bike ride called Iowa's Bike Ride. They gave some of the information about the ride in the article and also why TJ and his crew decided to leave RAGBRAI. The Register stated there will be a RAGBRAI for 2020.

    At this point and time HBA is going to step back and see what develops. I feel we need a lot more information and to let things shake out and cool down before jumping to conclusions or making any rash decisions at this time.

    I am not going to set up our website to start taking applications on Nov 15th like normal. We have plenty of time to see how things will shake out and get joined up. I will keep you updated as we move forward as to developments going forward.

    Many of us have ridden RAGBRAI for many years and this is devastating news. RAGBRAI is very deep in tradition. 2023 will be the 50th year for RAGBRAI. We have heard some of what TJ and his crew are upset about. However this in my opinion is probably the straw that broke the camels back unfortunately. So patience is the best order of the day at this point. As we get more information and can start putting things together I will get them out as quickly as possible.

    Until we know more thank you for your patience. Have a Great Week!!

    Mark Sillman

    RAGBRAI Director Hawkeye Bicycle Association


  • August 13, 2019 11:41 AM | Dennis Carpenter (Administrator)

    Click this link to take survey.

    https://hba80.wildapricot.org/Sys/Poll/8754

  • July 16, 2019 5:41 PM | Dennis Carpenter (Administrator)

    As you may recall, earlier in the spring this year we had a social event at Northtowne Cycling and Derek showed us a video about a new trail project called ConnectCR. That was the first time we heard about it and in the past several months we got more information about this project and now ConnectCR is the talk of town, and I am very excited about it. You can see the video again here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCPZ3jWsw08#action=share, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j02f8ik_WTQ#action=share).

    Briefly, ConnectCR is a $20 million project to beautify (the word they used is revitalize) the Cedar Lake and construct a pedestrian/biker bridge (the sleeping giant) across the Cedar River near the NewBo and Czech Village in downtown. As any good campaign, the heavy lifting is almost done, with almost $18 million pledged, and now it transitions into a more public phase to generate more support from the general public like us and more importantly to create more public awareness of this project. HBA as an organization has always been an enthusiastic supporter of trails and trail enhancement in Cedar Rapids and Linn County. This campaign fits very well with our mission statement that “HBA promotes bicycling safety and advocates bicycle friendly communities”. As you may proudly remember that during the last major campaign to finish trail paving to Center Point, HBA played a major role by raising more than $33,000 (out of about $100,000 local support needed to secure grand funding).

    I feel, as you do, a keen ownership anytime I ride to Center Point on this section of CVNT. We are going to have a similar feeling when we ride across the Cedar River on this brand-new bridge. So, will you please join the HBA board to spread the words and to give your full support.

    Here is what the board would like to do:

    1. Please send your donation to HBA, make it payable to ConnectCR (which is registered as a non-profit organization and your donation is potentially tax-deductible).
    2. As we did last time, dollars given to ConnectCR will be counted as points earned riding towards offset for the RAGBRAI fee in the coming years.
    3. Our club will match, dollar for dollar, all donations from HBA members up to a total of $5,000, and this will ensure a bench or a plaque on or near the bridge with HBA’s name on it.
    4. Any donations will be entered for prizes to be drawn at our fall social for gift cards to local bike shops and a finely-crafted quilt donated by a member (pictures of the quilt will be uploaded to our website soon). Additional chances to enter to win those prizes are the raffle tickets to be purchased at our fall social. Details of the prizes and rules will be provided later.

    Thank you for your support and let’s make this happen.

    Hawkeye Bicycle Association

    Board of Directors


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