Two members of this year's RAGBRAI Beloit team Mark Wold’95, executive director of development operations & alumni engagement and Al Ham'15, assistant director of alumni & parent relations and annual support, reflect on their week-long trek across Iowa in July.
The (Des Moines) Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) started 43 years ago when two journalists from the Des Moines Register invited the public to join them in a seven-day bike ride across Iowa. Three hundred people showed up, though only 114 finished the ride. This year marked RAGBRAI’s 44th ride, which saw a daily average of 18,230 riders over seven days. Each year, the route is different, with different communities applying to serve as overnight hosts or pass-through towns.
Team Beloit started its annual participation in 2013 when six intrepid Beloit College faculty and staff members made their first pilgrimage from the Missouri River to the Mississippi. From those six, Team Beloit’s numbers have swelled to as many as 18, and to as few as four, including faculty, staff, parents, friends, and alumni.
2017 RAGBRAI team members: Rick Brooks’69, Troy Hayes, Mark World’95, Al Ham’15
So why ride across “The Hawkeye State”?
MW: Five years in, I ride RAGBRAI to find the beautiful things that exist all around, and to remind myself that amazing things are hiding everywhere. Oh, and the pie… oh, the pie…
AH: In the spring of 2016, Mark was beginning his training for RAGBRAI 2016 and would occasionally invite me to join him on his afternoon rides. After several months of riding with Mark I began riding regularly on my own in the fall, and then continued to do so once winter passed. In early spring he suggested that I join the Beloit team for Ragbrai this year. Who could turn down such an invitation?
UNO was the game of choice while on the trip
So what’s the fun part? What happens on the ride?
MW: Donning our self-designed blue and gold cycling jerseys each morning, we venture out to ride across Iowa, meeting people from small towns of less than 1,000 to the state’s largest cities.
In each town, we encounter food, entertainment, and opportunities to learn about what each community values and puts forward as a valued part of their heritage. For some, it is the beautiful structures that they have maintained (like the Opera House in Corning). Others demonstrate their pride in community through the museums that document their history (like the National Hobo Museum in Britt), or the libraries and churches and schools that serve as gathering points for their communities.
In Cresco, IA, the team decided to go with a fan-favorite: Subway. They ate together on a retired train in a park at the center of town.
Of course, there’s also a lot of food. Each day, a rider can expect to burn between 2,000 to 4,000 calories during their riding time. Riders need to consume a lot of calories to make it through each day.
Whether it is a giant chop from Mr. Porkchop’s pink bus, a freshly flipped Cris Cake, a rootbeer float from Beekman’s Ice Cream (with ice cream made on the spot), or a third helping of spaghetti at the local high school, you pretty much have a free pass to eat whatever you want. Oh, and the pie… (though he might protest it, I think my partner Troy rides RAGBRAI just for the pie).
Will you do it again?
MW: Yes, I enjoy the challenge of the ride, the experience of meeting so many interesting people, and the opportunity to sport Beloit’s blue and gold (I don’t just work here… I’m also a very proud alumnus).
AH: Having completed my first Ragbrai, there are many things that stand out. Iowa is not as flat as I imagined it to be. I was far sorer than I expected to be, particularly during the week after we returned. I must admit that I underestimated the amount of food we would consume during the week. Even after the 450+ miles on the ride, somehow I managed to gain weight. But overall it was a great time with good people and a lot of food. So, will I go next year? Yes, I imagine I will.
To wrap up, some numbers from Team Beloit’s 2017 RAGBRAI:
Sunday, July 23: 70.3 miles, 1,283 feet of climb
Monday, July 24: 108.3 miles, 2,087 feet of climb
Tuesday, July 25: 54.3 miles, 934 feet of climb
Wednesday, July 26: 61.4 miles, 1,290 feet of climb
Thursday, July 27: 57.1 miles, 2,257 feet of climb
Friday, July 28: 63.6 miles, 2,483 feet of climb
Saturday, July 29: 47.4 miles, 2,900 feet of climb
Total:462.4 miles, 13,234 feet of climb