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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 19, 2017

RAGBRAI riders dodge rain for Charles City stay

Jul 27, 2017
RAGBRAI riders enter downtown Charles City after crossing the river Wednesday, July 26, 2017.

By JEFF REINITZ, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

 

CHARLES CITY — Rain spurred Bob Elliott to pull his bike over near Rockford on Wednesday morning.

The Dysart resident and RAGBRAI veteran — he keeps track of his tours by counting the bands on his bike’s crossbar — found shelter under a tree just long enough to check the forecast on his phone. Deciding the rain wasn’t going to let up any time soon, he mounted up and kept peddling ever eastward toward Charles City.

So it went for the convoy of cyclists riding day No. 4 of the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. Wednesday’s leg started in Clear Lake and passed through Thorndale, Swaledale, Rockwell, Cartersville and Rockford before arriving for an overnight stay in Charles City where riders were greeted by the aroma of barbecue smoke and music mixed in with the occasional light shower at Central Park.

High school friends Bert Holland of Charles City and Bob Warner of Iowa Falls were two of the first to set up along the route inside Charles City, perching folding chairs at the corner of Main and Court streets just before the bridge to wait for the riders to arrive.

“We just came down and wanted to be somewhere where we’d be off the sidewalk and under a shade tree,” Holland said.

The first riders began arriving early, trickling in while volunteers were setting up.

Kevin Muilenburg and Brent Schulte, members of Team Impact, a Des Moines-area group based around an Assembly of God Church, hit the road early to avoid the weather. They broke camp at Clear Lake around 5:30 a.m. Wednesday and rolled into Central Park in Charles City before 9 a.m.

They kept a good pace to keep ahead of the rain but stopped to grab slices of homemade raspberry and apple pie for breakfast in Rockford. Aside from the physical effort, the ride is largely a mental game, said Schulte, teaching yourself to endure through the strong wind and hills.

Kelsey Forsyth, chair of the city’s RAGBRAI committee, said hosting an overnight on RAGBRAI is a great way to show off Charles City’s hospitality.

Wednesday’s theme was “The Last Hump Before the Hills,” marking the turn in terrain for the riders.

“Typically, RAGBRAI is downhill after Wednesday, but this year it’s uphill from Charles City, so we wanted to touch on the hilly part after Charles City, and Wednesday is also known as Hump Day,” Forsyth said.

The committee has been planning for about six months and enlisted some 300 volunteers to pull it off, she said.

“Everyone has really stepped up to the plate in the last week or two,” Forsyth said.

The event was a boon for local merchants.

Mike Lidd, who operates Lidd and Cordray, the 128-year-old clothing store on Main Street, used the occasion to show off some of the classic bikes in his family’s collection. Among the Columbia and Docker apparel, a red tricycle that used to belong to his daughter graces the store’s front window, and beside it is his niece’s circa 1980s Schwinn Stingray complete with a banana seat.

In another window sits a replica of a penny-farthing bicycle, the classic style with the immense front wheel that sometimes requires a ladder to mount. Lidd bought it from a local blacksmith who created it.

Lidd, a former marathon runner who has ridden 1,500 bike miles this year, plans to join RAGBRAI for Thursday’s push to Cresco, if the weather cooperates.

A few doors down from the clothing store, Deb McNeilus and friends gathered outside her Darbe & Co. Boutique, which offers accessories.

This is the first time McNeilus has been in business for a RAGBRAI, and her boutique was right on the route.

“It’s going to be so much fun. I love it,” she said. “We love the people.”

Downstream from the downtown area, just past the whitewater course, the Cedar Valley Cyclists set up camp, and members Joan Kresser of Raymond, Rebe Sckrabulis of Chicago and Heather Burns, formerly of Waterloo, now of Hartford, Ct., relaxed under a pavilion.

Kresser said Wednesday’s leg was the lightest thus far.

“It was overcast, no wind, no rain until we got here. I’d say it was the easiest,” said Kresser, who is on her 18th RAGBRAI.

Sckrabulis said Wednesday was a nice change following the crosswinds that came Tuesday. She plans to take a short detour on Thursday to stop by a friend’s house near Lawler.

“They are excited because it’s only four blocks, five blocks off the route,” she said.

Also joining the Cedar Valley Cyclists this year is 11-year-old Nicolas Boyer of Neenah, Wis., who is riding with his father. His mother, Heather, is a Waterloo native.

This is his first big bicycle ride, and he likes the camaraderie that comes with traveling in a large group and enjoys the hospitality of the towns they pass.

“I like how the community comes out and shows support for the riders,” Nicolas said.

This year’s Cedar Valley Cyclists group was about 180 strong.

Thursday’s route passes through Ionia, New Hampton, Lawler and Protivin before stopping for the night in Cresco.

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