Showers, sandwiches in high demand at Waterworks Park

There are few frills at the RAGBRAI campsite in Des Moines’ Waterworks Park.

But after spending the morning on the road, turkey sandwiches and hot showers are luxuries in their own right.

“Showers are good, food is good,” said Mitsie Smith, 30, of Omaha. “It’s pretty basic.”

The Waterworks campground is actually a cut above the rest, she noted.

“The ground is flat, which is nice,” said Smith, one of thousands of riders who will spend the night in a tent. “And there are lots of trees, which is good for shade.”

For Smith, camping is part of the RAGBRAI experience.

The same is true for Steven Christensen and his 12-year-old son, Zachary, who plan to spend the entire week sleeping in what they refer to as “The Taj Mahal” of tents.

Hotel rooms? Who needs them.

“After a long day on the road, it’s great to have really almost nothing to do,” said Christensen, of St. Marys, Kansas. “It’s great to unplug. It’s great to camp.”

The camaraderie built up among riders on the RAGBRAI route extends to the campground, said the 43-year-old.

“When you’re out on the road, it might seem like it’s a long distance to the next town,” Christensen said. “But you start having a conversation with somebody and the next thing you know you’re riding into town. You make those same connections in the campgrounds.”

Spending time at the camp also allows riders to connect with the Iowans who make the ride possible, said Bob Schettek, of Houston.

Many Des Moines residents are spending the day serving food, handing out maps or just cheering on RAGBRAI riders.

“Having community people who support us so thoroughly and who are so helpful is just absolutely a godsend,” Schettek said. “We enjoy that.”

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