As I write this, there are 113 days 12 hours 34 minutes until the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa begins for 2017. On Monday, July 24, I will get to enjoy my fifth year of RAGBRAI coming through Ayrshire. I have had the pleasure of making breakfast, serving lunch and tending bar. It really doesn't matter what time of the day the riders pass through, the awe of some many bicycles as far as you can see is something everyone should have a chance to witness at least once.
I thought it would be fun to look at some of the facts that surround RAGBRAI and highlights from past years. Most of the information I have found was on ragbrai.com, which is the official website and is full of information. You should check it out sometime. You will be amazed at what you might find. Anyway on to some interesting facts:
1. The first RAGBRAI was held August 26-31, 1973. It began as a challenge between Des Moines Register feature writer/copy editor John Karras and Don Kaul, author of the Des Moines Register's "Over The Coffee" column. There were 114 riders that made the entire distance from Sioux City to Davenport, with about 300 that showed up for the start.
2. Clarence Pickard of Indianola was 83 years old and rode a used ladies Schwinn bicycle the entire way, including the 100-degree plus day from Des Moines to Williamsburg (110 miles). Pickards attire for the ride was a long-sleeved shirt, trousers, woolen long underwear and a silver pith helmet.
3. More than 200 other rides have used RAGBRAI as a model to follow when establishing their own bicycling events. This includes 34 states and the District of Columbia.
4. RAGBRAI has become a worldwide attraction and riders come from throughout the world. This is primarily because of newspaper coverage and article written in newspapers such as the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post to name a few.
5. RAGBRAI has been covered by major magazines including TIME, Reader's Digest, Sports Illustrated, Smithsonian, National Geographic's Traveler, as well as foreign magazines such as VELO Tonic in France and Sportrad and National Geographic's Globo in Germany.
6. In 2005, Sports Illustrated named RAGBRAI as one of the 25 Summer Essentials that absolutely must be done before Labor Day.
7. RAGBRAI has received nationwide broadcast coverage. The ride has been featured numerous times on ESPN's Sports Center, NBC, ABC, and FOX national news. It has been discussed at length on the "Tonight Show" with Jay Leno and "This Week with George Stephanopoulos.
8. In 1986, NBC's Today Show was on the ride and in 1987 featured RAGBRAI on the Sunday evening news and returned in 1995. The gourmet menus and chefs of Team Gourmet have been featured in Saveur magazine, Midwest Living and most recently on the Food Network.
9. In 1996, a German broadcast network joined the ride along with a news team from Rochester, MN and a large contingent from the United States Air Force.
10. Since the first ride, 326,650 people have pedaled 19,542 miles. Occupations range from self-employed to doctors, lawyers and celebrities. You never know who you might run into.
11. In 1988, an estimated 23,000 riders took part in the ride from Boone to Des Moines by 3 p.m. In 1992, an estimated 20,000 riders pedaled from Creston to Des Moines and in 2013, approximately 30,000 riders were counted from Perry to Des Moines.
12. In 44 years, RAGBRAI has passed through 780 Iowa towns, spent the night in 125 different overnight towns and with the completion of the 25th ride in 1997, has been in all of Iowa's 99 counties. To date RAGBRAI has been through 80 percent of the incorporated towns in Iowa.
One thing I have learned, you cannot prepare enough and no two rides are ever the same. The best way to cope with the stress of having RAGBRAI come through your town is to remember that you can never prepare for everything that could potentially go wrong and above all, HAVE FUN.