It’s time to dip their back tire in the Missouri River.
Forty of Ottumwa’s Spoke Folk club members are heading to Sioux Center today for RAGBRAI, which kicks off Sunday.
RAGBRAI, or the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, started in 1973, and today thousands of riders from across the state, nation and world will put 471 miles on their bikes in seven days.
A tradition among the bikers, they dip their back tire in the Missouri River to start the ride in Sioux Center, and their front tire in the Mississippi River when they finish the ride in Clinton.
Marsha Parker, the club’s treasurer, said she starts riding outside in April, but that doesn’t mean she takes winters off.
“I really train year-round by going to spin classes at the [Ottumwa YMCA] in the winter,” Parker said. “It keeps your legs in shape year-round. Otherwise you’ll go out in the spring and your legs will be like Jell-O.”
Training is necessary, Parker said. Though RAGBRAI is considered a ride, not a race, bikers are still logging 50 to 100 miles every day for seven days.
“I like to have between 500 and 800 miles on my bike before RAGBRAI, though I know a lot of people with more than that,” Parker said.
A couple of those people are the Pettengill brothers, Don, of Ottumwa, and Gary, of Dayton, Ohio.
Don’s been riding for 40 years and has already logged 7,000 miles this year so far. This year’s RAGBRAI is Gary’s first rodeo; he’s tallied around 1,400 miles in preparation for the week.
“There’s no way I could keep up,” Gary said when asked if he and Don had or would ever compete.
Not only does your body need to be in shape, but so does your bike. Parker said riders should have a decent bike that’s tuned up, with good tires and brakes. And Parker is adamant about helmets.
This is Parker’s 18th year doing RAGBRAI, and it’s her 25-year-old daughter’s 13th time.
“I actually went the year I was pregnant with her,” Parker said. “Then I didn’t go for 12 years because she was little.”
But once she was old enough to go, the mother and daughter pair have been hitting the bike trails every year since.
It’s a multi-faceted event, said Josh Gettings, club president and owner of Riverside Cyclery.
“There’s stuff for families, cyclists, people who want to party,” Gettings said.
Surprisingly, Gettings has never ridden RAGBRAI.
He said he was going to this year but an injury means he’ll be driving the support truck — the seventh year he’s done so.
“But I’ve got plenty of time,” Gettings said. “There are guys in their 60s, 70s who are riding. I know I’ll ride it someday.”
There are eight host communities, where riders pitch their tents and stay overnight before hitting the pavement early the next morning. This year’s stops include Sioux Center, Cherokee, Lake View, Webster City, Marshalltown, Cedar Rapids, Anamosa and Clinton.
When thinking back on her years doing RAGBRAI, Parker made note of the weather and the food.
“One time in Newton, we stopped for something to eat as we were leaving town,” Parker said. “A man came out and said a big windstorm was coming with hail.”
Parker and her daughter decided to wait out the storm in the coffeeshop, sipping on hot chocolate until it blew over.
Another storm forced bikers to take shelter in a nearby school west of Des Moines around midnight one year, she said.
“I woke up my daughter and told her to get ready to take our stuff into the school,” Parker said. “I was getting ready, turned around and she had laid back down and went to sleep.”
The next time Parker turned around her daughter was putting her contacts in, struggling to stay awake as she thought it was time to get up for the next morning’s bike ride, not realizing it was still dark out and a storm was coming.
Once they ride into each town, riders set up their tents, find a much-needed shower and some food.
“We like to go to churches,” Parker said. “They usually put on good suppers, since they’re used to decent crowds.”
And it’s important to constantly hydrate, Parker said, especially due to the recent heat and humidity. Along the route, many groups help riders with this task, selling refreshments.
“But the best treat I ever had was a group who made ice cream cake rolls,” Parker said.
The group began advertising the rolls 65 miles away, and as the riders approached, the advertisements continued to countdown the miles.
“When I got there, I thought, ‘I’ve got to stop,’” Parker said. “We got a great big slice for $2.”
It’s time to dip their back tire in the Missouri River.
- Local News
- Building toward the future OTTUMWA -- If you're planning to come to the Ottumwa school board meeting, remember that it'll be on Tuesday because of the holiday. Everything else is the same. It will be held at 6 p.m. in the board office, 422 McCarroll Drive. Nearly all of the bu
- New life for recycled curtains in Eldon ELDON -- The American Gothic Performing Arts Festival, in conjunction with the McHaffey Opera House in Eldon, has given new life to stage curtains reclaimed from the Ottumwa Coliseum prior to its demolition. "When we began to discuss how to create an
- Travelers bring two lessons in one OTTUMWA — From a teaching standpoint, the timing couldn't have been better. Ottumwa High School educator Patti Durflinger was running an errand in Eldon Thursday when she saw two miniature covered wagons. She struck up a conversation with the "driver
- Weather will delay Beach opening OTTUMWA — Wapello County has seen snow one day, 90 degree temperatures another and a day with severe thunderstorms knocking out power and rolling semis on their side. Now, Ottumwa's children may notice the wild climate changes this month: The Beach O
- Rain this weekend, but no washout OTTUMWA -- The bad news? Folks shouldn't expect dry weather for the holiday weekend. In fact, some of the thunderstorms could be strong to severe. The good news? Forecasters don't expect anything like the violent weather of the past week. Thunderstor
Ottumwan bound for Oklahoma
OTTUMWA — “We do this because we love it; we love helping people through those tough times.” That’s the message from Brandon Holstrom who will travel to Moore, Okla. today to help those impacted by the tornado that has devastated that community. Hols
- Celebrating Eldon ELDON -- The annual festival celebrating the town of less than 1,000 ties the community's bonds tighter through a weekend of music, food, performances and tournaments. American Gothic Days will take over Eldon again June 7-9. "It's the town festival,
- Lawmakers: We work together for change DES MOINES — State representatives sounded happy Thursday after their session finally ended. But they weren't just happy to be going home. “I think it was a very successful session, where we kept the budget to a sustainable level,” said Larry Sheets,
- Memorial Day weekend typically calm for parks, law enforcement OTTUMWA — With summer unofficially kicking off this weekend, area officials ask those celebrating the holiday to have fun but stay safe. Parks Director Gene Rathje said while camping in Ottumwa Park began on April 1, this weekend is the site's first
- EBF students engage in community service EDDYVILLE - The Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont School Board learned this week about community service work students recently completed throughout the area. "The students did a great job. They were engaged in some service learning opportunities in Fremo
- More Local News Headlines