R - Register's
A - Annual
G - Great
B - Bicycle
R - Ride
A - Across
I - Iowa
"Register's" is short for The DesMoines Register (Iowa) newspaper. Several years ago one of the column writers had the idea to have a group of bicycle riders start on the western border of the state and ride all the way to the eastern border in 7 days. It has grown very popular over the years and now has a few thousand riders of all ages and from several states who take part in the ride. Some go all the way, and some might only do a segment in their local area.
Small groups of friends will bike together as a team, with matching outfits, hats, etc. There are lawyers, doctors, farmers, retirees, young kids, whole families, husband/wife duos, and everything in between. A tradition started with dipping the back wheel of the bike in the Big Sioux River, that is the state's western border, at the beginning of the ride, and when they get to the other end, they dip the front wheel into the Mississippi River - the eastern border of the state. Or if the ride starts in southern Iowa, they dip in the Missouri River. This year the Rock River goes through Rock Valley. I suspect some traditionalists will drive all the way to the Big Sioux several miles further west and dip there yet tonight.
Each year a different route is planned with different towns as the starting point, as well as at the end, and different towns along the way. Some towns are designated as overnight stays, others have meals, snacks, drinks, entertainment. It is a huge project for each town involved and each town is financially benefited.
This year they start in Rock Valley, just 8 miles east of here. I saw buses, trailers, and many cars and bikes on the highway through Hull this afternoon, on their way to Rock Valley to spend the night, and they will start the bike ride early tomorrow morning. The early birds will leave before sunrise, and they slowly drift out of town. Each person or team has support teams that carry supplies, extra bike tires and repairs, along with sleeping tents, bedding, clothing, etc. So there are a LOT of people on this journey! Rock Valley will be wall-to-wall people, bikes, tents and trailers by this evening. It really is a sight to see. Some bikers elect to stay in private homes if they can find someone to host them several weeks before this. I guess they really don't like roughing it in tents. And some people love to party most of the night and things sometimes can get pretty noisy and rowdy. But for the most part everyone is orderly. Some people get lost and can't remember where their tent is.
The Ride has at least one celebrity that has been riding with them the last few years. That is Lance Armstrong. Tonight he is going to be the guest bartender in Rock Valley to raise funds for the flood cleanup Rock Valley was so severely hit with earlier this summer.
After the bikers leave Rock Valley tomorrow morning, they will come through our town. Some will eat breakfast in Rock Valley, but many will wait until they get to Hull, so at least one of the churches is serving breakfast, another organization is also doing that, and I have no idea what else people will have to offer them. I happened to drive downtown yesterday and noticed the town has decorated for this event, and with some very clever ideas. So today I headed out with my camera and here are some pictures of the more unique displays to welcome the riders.
I won't be going downtown to see it all tomorrow as there will be so much congestion and I would just be in the way. I got to see the crowds when I lived in Sibley and that town had the privilege of having them spend the night. I watched the bikers straggle into town and down Main Street in groups, and they just kept coming and coming! House yards all over town, as well as the city parks, were covered with bikes, people and tents. And they all needed to be fed supper. Several churches hosted full meals, and some ran out of food, but other places had plenty so nobody went hungry.