Stranger helps woman complete RAGBRAI mug collection

McNeal

Barbara McNeal with her sign on this year’s RAGBRAI.

After five years, the empty space above Barbara McNeal’s fireplace is full thanks to a cardboard sign and a generous cyclist.

The RAGBRAI coffee mug that McNeal has been on the hunt for since 2008 arrived in the mail Wednesday.

The Quad Cities native who now lives in Tallahassee, Fla., has been collecting the mugs since RAGBRAI first started putting them out about 20 to 25 years ago.

Until this week, McNeal had all of them except 2008 hanging above her fireplace. That mug, with a depiction of a rustic Iowa water tower inside a bicycle chain, was the only one she couldn’t find. That is until late July, when McNeal rode this year’s RAGBRAI with a cardboard sign on her bike that read: “2008 coffee mug, will pay $.”

I caught up with McNeal, a 33-year RAGBRAI veteran, as she pedaled from Harlan to Kimballton on day two of the seven-day trek across the state. A blog on the RAGBRAI website about McNeal’s quest yielded a couple leads. RAGBRAI Marketing and Media Manager Andrea Parrott offered up the ’08 cup she’d been using as a pencil holder.

But by then, McNeal had already connected with Iowa cyclist Sonya Staudt who’d seen her sign. “(She) quickly pulled out her phone, dialed my phone number into hers…and the rest is history,” McNeal said. Now, McNeal can sit back and admire her completed collection, at least until next year.

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