ESD colleagues are known to enjoy hanging out after work. But to bike across a state together for an entire week while raising money for charities is new territory.
Kurt Karnatz, Mike Thomas and Nathan Snydacker just completed The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, better known as RAGBRAI. Started during the Nixon Administration, RAGBRAI is the oldest, largest and longest recreational bicycle touring event in the world. About 20 charities in Iowa benefit from RAGBRAI’s largesse.
Each day, the trio left their campsite around sunrise and joined a horse of bikers heading east.
“There were some characters,” Thomas said. “One guy wanted to ride a wheelie for all 400 miles – we didn’t see him while he was not doing one. Guys were on unicycles, 1890s bikes.
“The most awesome thing is no one had to lock up bikes. It’s such an amiable group.”
As the ride progressed, the relatively flat landscape became hillier.
“It got more strenuous as it went on,” Thomas said. “And then going down some of the downhills at 40 mph scared me to death – my arms were shaking.”
Karnatz and Thomas were riding in their first RAGBRAI, while Snydacker had participated last year, finishing in his hometown. The trio joined about 8,500 others in biking more than 400 miles over seven days, starting at Iowa’s western border near the Missouri River and ending at the Mississippi River. They camped out each night in various Iowa towns (tents and bags were transported daily by a RAGBRAI truck). Food – including sensational grilled pork chops — was purchased from Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, 4-H clubs and other vendors.
“Riding hundreds of miles in the heat and humidity of an Iowa summer, sleeping in a tent next to thousands of other people and waiting in long lines for a porta-potty doesn’t exactly sound like fun on the surface,” Snydacker said. “But once you are in the thick of it, and look a little deeper it becomes something fairly wonderful.”