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RAGBRAI Rambling

-by Sharon Vermeer, Dietary Manager at our Senior Care Campus

RAGBRAI ended last Saturday, July 27. If you’ve been hiding under a rock and don’t know what RAGBRAI is, it stands for Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, a bike race organized by the Des Moines Register in 1973. In 2017 RAGBRAI XLV started in Orange City. The usual ride averages more than 67 miles a day, and can range from 35 to 85 miles a day (and you can make it longer by riding the extra loop if you’re really insane). This year they started in Council Bluffs and ended in Keokuk, dipping their bike tires in the Mississippi, as is tradition. My brother-in-law rode the race for years with his National Guard group. I have never ridden. I’m sure it is fun, but all I ever think about when bike riding is how sore my derriere is getting…so, no, I’ll take a pass. But I know there are a LOT of riders from our area, and this year a new group joined the masses. Well, kind of.

Landsmeer Ridge Retirement Community activity coordinator Christa Smith had an amazing idea: have a week-long mini- RAGBRAI at Landsmeer Ridge. She shortened the route to one lap equaling ½ mile. She provided bikes, helmets and a clipboard so they could keep track of who rode, how long, and how far. She had a map of Iowa out all week that showed where the riders were each day. She also vowed that whoever logged the most miles could dump a pail of water on her! But she was a little concerned. Would anyone ride the bikes she put out? Or were the tenants, well, over the hill? (Lots of hills on RAGBRAI…yeah…).

Smith didn’t have to worry. The tenants took to it like, uh, riding a bike. Don Schreur, Phyllis Vander Werff, Art Hielkema, and Dean Hofmeyer were particularly dedicated to it. Bikes were rode, miles were logged, and finally, on Friday afternoon, it was time for the grand finale. I made sure to show up on time so I could hear who had ridden the most miles.

A kiddie pool (complete with rubber duckies) stood in for the mighty Mississippi. Under a large tent, tenants could get floats: root beer, orange and strawberry. And at the entrance stood assorted bikes: children’s bikes, three-wheeled adult trikes, and even a 53 year old Huffy bike with a banana seat.

A staff race started the celebration: twice around the circle. Maintenance Man Tim clearly won on his banana seat bike, while poor Smith came in half a lap behind everyone else (in her defense, she was “riding” a bike that came up to her knees…). Then the announcement: the most miles were logged by Don Schreur! He had logged 209 laps, sometimes riding twice a day. Together everyone rode 388 laps. Besides the dunking, they had decided if the group rode 132 laps (equal to the second longest stretch of RAGBRAI), Smith would ride the banana seat Bicycle inside the building for a full day wherever she had to go at work. She’ll be riding that any day now…

It was time for the big dunking. Smith filled a five gallon pail from the baby pool. “Boy, Don, this is pretty heavy,” she worried. “ Do you want me to dump some water out?” Fortunately, Henry “Hank” Jonker jumped up from his chair and he and Don carried the bucket to the sidewalk to dump on Smith. Jonker lifted it half way up, and Schreur let go of the bucket . As Smith squeezed her eyes shut and got ready for the water, Hank commented “You know, Don, you really should never dump water on a woman.” “That’s ok, that was the deal!” laughed Smith. Schreur chimed in, “Yeah, I earned this! That was the deal! She’s gonna get it Hank!” So Hank lifted the bucket over Smith’s head…and dumped it over Don Schreur. Schreur stood with his eyes wide and mouth open in shock, completely drenched.

I almost fell off my chair I laughed so hard. And while we all roared with laughter, Hank just shrugged, smiled and sat back down in his chair. Smith swore to Schreur that she knew nothing about it, and he still got to dump a bucket of water on her.

Wow. Do they have that much fun at RAGBRAI? Maybe I should get padded shorts,,,and one of those new electric bikes that you don’t have to pedal much with…