Skinny-dippers enjoy pond near Runnells

Runnells, Ia. — Hundreds of RAGBRAI riders found an idyllic spot to swim — with or without their clothes — at a farm pond a few miles out of town. It was without a doubt the pond’s busiest day in the nine years since owners Mark and Jean Jennings built it on a patch of their hilly farmland.

“We always wondered if RAGBRAI might ride by,” Jean Jennings said.

They built the pond instead of renovating their kitchen, which she had almost regretted — until today. Inflatable pink flamingos perched by the curbside, and  Jimmy Buffett tunes pumped out of a set of speakers.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better day,” she said, as the crowd applauded someone’s cannonball behind her.

She grinned. “There have been lots of skinny-dippers — mostly wrinkly old guys. I’ve got to say, though: I have the utmost respect for everybody out here on a bike, no matter how old, no matter what they look like.”

A few minutes later, a man in his late 70s — pale as a marble statue — stripped bare and eased himself into the water, to a round of hearty cheers.

“The water feels great,” said Mike Seager, 32, of Eugene, Ore., wearing nothing but a pair of sunglasses. “It’s sort of bubbly on all your bubbly bits.”

Swimmers dried off on the grassy bank, smearing off the mud from their toes and smearing on a fresh layer of sunblock. Nobody seemed in a rush to move on.

But when they did, many dropped a few bucks in a jar the Jenningses had said up to raise money for the local food pantry and Heifer International, a nonprofit that buys livestock for farmers in the developing world. So if a family in India receives a water buffalo, they can thank some rowdy swimmers here in Iowa.

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