Davenport — This is the 43rd article about tire-dipping at the end of the Register’s 43rd Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. So unless you’re new to Iowa or RAGBRAI, you could probably write this one yourself.
First-time rider Tamara Keith, riding with National Public Radio’s team No Pie Refused, suggested writing this final post as a Mad Lib. So give it a shot . . .
Like lemmings rushing to the sea, thousands of RAGBRAI (plural noun) gathered in Davenport to dip their front (plural noun) in the (body of water). The ritual marked the end of this year’s (number)-mile trek from the banks of the (body of water) in Sioux City, and now at the end, cyclists felt (adjective), (adjective) and (adjective).
(Suggested answers: riders, tires, Mississippi River, 462, Missouri River, sweaty, tired and proud.)
But as much as the memories of each RAGBRAI blur together for repeat riders, each ride has its own peculiarities.
This year’s ride was marked by seven days of nearly consistent mileage (about 70 miles each day), a lot of sunshine, a little rain, an optional gravel loop, and more than a few memorable hills leading into Coralville on Friday night and Davenport on Saturday.
“It was a blast,” said first-timer Tommy Maxwell, 33, of Maxwell.
He dipped his bike with two teammates — first-timer Ellie Harmon, 25, of New Albin and 10-year rider Perry Grant, 35, of Ankeny — along with hundreds of others around 1 p.m. on Credit Island, a leafy park that juts into the river. Riders pedaled 2.5 miles around the island to arrive at the sandy site.
All three teammates rode both Tuesday’s optional 100-mile “century loop” and Monday’s optional gravel loop, a popular RAGBRAI first.
“We figured if we’re going to do it, we might as well do all of it,” Harmon said.
Another first-timer, Gloriana Pack, 57, of St. Louis, rested under a tree nearby, waiting for her usually faster friends.
“I can’t believe it: I was the first one in,” she said.
Slowly, riders made their way to a cluster of food and drink vendors down the road, where local volunteer Karen Fischlein was passing around a Sharpie marker so riders could sign a big map of Iowa.
“I’ve just met so many wonderful people,” she said.
She woke early to drive over to one of the earlier towns on Saturday’s route, Wilton, where her sister Thelma Nopoulos runs the iconic Candy Kitchen ice cream parlor.
Nopoulos had mostly closed the shop since her 95-year-old husband, George, died in June. He had started working there as a boy, cranking the old Victrola records, and then worked behind the counter for most of the rest of his life.
“It’s just not the s same” without him, Fischlein said. But Thelma Nopoulos opened it for RAGBRAI for one last hurrah.
Back at the dip site, Fischlein watched bikers along the route into downtown.
“They just keep coming and coming and coming,” she said. “It’s just unreal.”
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