Council Bluffs, IA: 22,500 BICYCLING FANATICS GATHER! (Day 3)

Day 3 … on to Iowa and the start of the RAGBRAI Bike Expo (largest in the U.S) … a bicyclist’s shopping dream come true … think Imelda Marcos at a shoe store … Kim Kardashian at a baby-clothes boutique … Tiger Woods at a porn convention, I mean a golf convention.  You get the idea …. Philip was excited!

We drove about 6 hours today through Kansas and Nebraska, passing a million charming towns that all had a water tower, a grain silo, a crumbling and/or restored “Main Street” with old brick facades ….every one of them more charming than the last.

Along the way, we loved stopping in an isolated Nebraska cornfield and had a picnic lunch, while the dogs romped around.  Then, on to Council Bluffs, Iowa, which is just across the Missouri River from Omaha and the Mid-America Center, which is a huge Convention Center with tons of parking lots, which is a good thing, because there were MILLIONS of people and vehicles going every which way, finding places to park and set up shop.  This will be the start of the RAGBRAI Ride tomorrow.

There are lots of groups and teams of people who have come from all over the country, and bicyclists clearly have a sense of humor. “Team Chemical Dependency.”  “Duct Tape Warriors.”  “Will Bike For Beer.”  Everyone has signs and banners and group t-shirts and crazy stuff.  People are walking around with mallard heads attached to their helmets … carrying 8-foot-long plush stuffed fish (for no apparent reason) …. and people for whom this is their first time at RAGBRAI have written “virgin” all over their arms and legs.  (At least I think that’s what it means.  Hmmm.)  Here is a typical group vehicle:

There are lots of RVs, and some people stay in hotels, but for the most part people are camping — we are talking thousands of tents set up everywhere, as far as the eye can see.  The lady at check-in told us that there are 8,500 week-long permits, 1,500 day permits each day, and then depending on the size of the “host city” a bunch of people just start riding along with the group for that day’s segment, even though they are not registered.  Since Council Bluffs is a pretty big city, they were estimating 12,000 additional riders tomorrow, totaling 22,500 bicyclists!  Wow!

People are in a partying spirit and as we walked the dogs at night before going to bed, everyone was sitting out in lawn chairs, BBQ’ing, playing music, dancing, chatting with friends and neighbors, getting their tents ready for bed, getting bikes set up for the morning, and looking forward to what the week will bring.  A beautiful sunset closed out Day 3!  We are so happy to be here!

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