RAGBRAI is the annual, weeklong bicycle ride across Iowa. It's been going on every year in July since 1973. The ride starts on the western side of the state at the Missouri River and ends on the eastern side at the Mississippi. It takes a different route each year, traveling backroads, stopping each night at different towns along the way. This year my hometown of Cedar Falls was the fourth overnight stop. On Wednesday, July 22nd, 15,000 cyclist peddled into town from the west on 27th Street.
I found a spot to set up my easel. It was a perfect, not too hot day for bicycling along the verdant Iowa countryside. It was a lovely day to dabble with my paints in the open air. This was about noon. Many riders waved or called out to me as they passed. A few stopped to see what I was up to and chat. It's not just Iowans that ride RAGBRAI. I talked with people from New York, Missouri, Oklahoma and Illinois. When I told one man that I was part of an international group called Urban Sketchers, he excitedly shared that he'd just purchased Marc Taro Holmes book The Urban Sketcher.
At each stop, the RAGBRAI tribe is welcomed with facilities for overnight tent camping. Each town offers their own version of a party atmosphere with live music and food booths. The Cedar Falls campus of the University of Northern Iowa became the epicenter for all things RAGBRAI on Wednesday. And then in the morning, the bicycling horde packed up and peddled out of town, heading southeast for Hiawatha. The end of this years ride will be Davenport on Saturday.