The Oldest and
Largest Bicycle Ride ANYWHERE!
by Pat Turner
Why would anyone travel almost three
days to start a weeklong bicycle ride of about
500 miles? Because this ride in Iowa called
RAGBRAI is the oldest and largest bicycle ride
anywhere. This is its 43rd year. The initials
stand for Register's Annual Great Bike Ride
Across Iowa. Register refers to Iowa's largest
newspaper the Des Moines Register.
I rode RAGBRAI in 2007 and in 2010 and
could not wait to return to Iowa. This past week
was awesome, maybe the most fun bicycle ride I
have ever experienced.
They had 10,000 official riders who
registered and at least that many more who jump
on the ride and do not register.
After an 800 mile auto trip from
Atlanta to Davenport, Iowa, my almost 17 year
old grandson Mark and I boarded our tour bus for
our cross state ride from the ending town of
Davenport, Iowa to the starting town of Sioux
City, Iowa. Many people park at the end town
like we did and catch a bus to the beginning.
When we pedal into the ending town on the last
day, we are ready to head home. Although the
route changes each year, the ride always go from
the western border of the Missouri River to the
eastern border of the Mississippi River.
Pat Turner and
his Grandson, Mark
The bus ride gave us our last
opportunity to experience AC for a week. There
are several charter companies that provide
support for riders. Bubba's Pampered Pedalers
had over 225 people on his charter. I have
traveled with Bubba many times including my
coast to coast ride in 2013. He chartered three
big buses to get us to the start of our ride.
For each rider, Bubba's crew sets up a
tent, blows up an air mattress, carries luggage,
provides a big tent for shade, supplies snacks &
soft drinks, and carries us by bus from the end
town of the ride to the start. RAGBRAI is a
great adventure with camping, portable
bathrooms, and living outdoors. I didn't
experience any air-conditioning or porcelain
bathrooms for a week. I didn't miss them either.
The bus ride on Saturday under blue
skies showed us that Iowa is not flat and that
the corn is tall in Iowa. It's all good!
Here are a few facts about the Iowa
corn. In 2014, Iowa corn farmers grew almost 2.4
billion bushels of corn on 13.2 million acres of
land. (Source: USDA) Almost all of it is field
corn with only about 3000 acres of sweet corn.
Except for a few sections near the
Missouri River in the west and the Mississippi
River in the east, Iowa has rolling terrain and
a few challenging hills. Our week long ride this
year included over 16,000 feet of climbing.
Riders are treated to several
Burma-Shave like signs along the road. My
favorite one said this.
your friends you going to ride in Iowa
They look puzzled and ask you why
You simply have to answer with one word
Just tell them pie."
We passed well over 75 opportunities to
buy homemade pie along the route. I confess I
had at least two pieces per day. Food vendors
set up booths in every pass through town plus
others set up along the roadside. They offer
almost anything you can think of including
breakfast burritos, pork chops, hamburgers,
brats, hotdogs, pasta, watermelon, smoothies,
Gatorade, water, and of course pie.
My favorite is Mr. Pork Chop. Inch
thick pork chops are grilled and handed to you
with the bone wrapped in two paper towels. No
fork, no knife, and no plate are needed. You
gnaw it right off the bone like a caveman. I had
to have this juicy morsel at least every other
Mr. Pork Chop
RAGBRAI is much more than a bicycle
ride. It is a rolling party. Every over night
town has name act music entertainment. Every
pass through town during the day usually has two
or more live musical performances.
An absolute highlight for me was high
school senior Maddie Poppe who drew a crowd in
the gardens at New Hartford, Iowa.
She was unbelievable. I was riding near
the outskirts of town and heard her music. I
stopped, parked my bicycle, and listened to her
for over an hour. You will hear her name in the
future. She has both amazing talent and a warm
What was a typical day like? For me the
schedule started early by waking up no later
than 5:00 AM. Most days I was up by 4:45 AM. I
packed my two duffel bags, took them to Bubba's
baggage truck, applied sunscreen, filled up my
two water bottles, added air to my bicycle
tires, and looked for the crowd of riders headed
out of town. I never consulted a map; I just
followed the crowd.
I usually was on the road just after 6
AM. Although I had my grandson and other friends
camping with Bubba, I departed on my own. Since
I was the slowest rider, I knew that everyone
else would quickly pass me and arrive at the
next town much earlier than I would. Riding by
myself allowed me to stop whenever I wanted to
stop and gave me the most opportunity to meet
other riders. I had conversations with at least
25 other riders. I met a Methodist pastor, a top
official with the National Institute of Health,
and lots of retired people like me.
Upon cycling into camp at the next
town, I went to my sun baked tent, unpacked my
duffel bags, put my fitted sheet over my air
mattress, and tried to organize for the next
day. I would then take a shuttle to the portable
shower truck. Showers usually cost $6 but Bubba
had an arrangement with Joe's Wet Shack that
gave us a shower for $5.
Mark, my other buddies, and I would
then focus on where we should get dinner. By the
time dinner was over, I was ready for bed. I
started on this ride thinking I would have a
little free time. I had no free time in camp.
That is the beauty of this trip. You ride, you
sleep, and you eat. The next day you start the
cycle all over again. Seven days pass very
hauled out their old bicycles as decorations
We were blessed with outstanding
weather. It only rained on us twice and the
temperatures were very mild. The week before
temperatures were in the 90s but we experienced
comfortable temperatures in the 80s. One cool
morning was 56° when I started riding.
You can check out the professional
photographs from this ride at
RAGBRAI.com. Click on galleries and then
click on the best 69 photos from RAGBRAI.
Weekly Group Rides!
SABA hosts several weekly
group rides each week. The schedule is as
Road Rides 2015:
Tuesday Nights: 6:00 PM
- leaves from Hayesville Square in Downtown
Hayesville. Approximately 20 miles out and back
through the Tusquittee area.
Wednesday Nights: 6 :00 PM - Wednesday night group road ride leaves at 6:00 PM from the big rocking chair at
Owltown Market on
Hwy. 129. The route varies through the Trackrock Valley. Mileage approx. 12 to 25 with A & B groups.
For more info contact Blairsville Bikes & Hikes
Thursday Nights: 6:00 PM
- 1st and 3rd Thursdays
of the month meets at John C. Campbell Folk
School in Brasstown, NC 28902,
2nd and 4th Thursdays of
the month meet at Appalachian Outfitters at 104C Tennessee Street, Murphy NC 28906.
Route varies weekly. Please
check our Facebook page to see if there are
any last minute changes.
Mountain Bike Rides 2015:
Monday Nights: 6:00 PM
- Weekly group ride at The Hanging Dog Trail
System in Murphy. This trail requires an
intermediate skill level rider. We generally
pedal as much as the group would like, around 8
to 10 miles. The ride begins at the Trailhead.
Come ride the Dog with us.
Thursday Nights: 6:15 PM -
ThurThursday evening at Jack Rabbit Trails. Leaves the parking lot at 6:15 PM. Usually involves getting a bite to eat afterwards. Blairsville Bikes & Hikes 706 745 8141
RAGBRAI 2015 - Yes, they had cow pie throwing contests!
RAGBRAI 2015 - Riders wore a variety of costumes. These were two babies in diapers!
SABA Membership Dues
You can now pay your membership dues online
at active.com for additional details view our
membership page here
Now You Can Find
Us on facebook!
SABA has a
profile and we
encourage you to
For those of you not familiar with facebook, it
is a social networking site which allows us to
share news, events, photos, and more amongst the
Facebook friends, sometimes known as "Fans" are
eligible for special offers from SABA. We
encourage you to "Like Us Now" and help spread the