RAGBRAI, the DM Register’s rolling folk festival, was bigger and better than ever on its 42nd ride


COOPER, Iowa, July 29, 2014 — Here’s a photographic collaboration on RAGBRAI coverage from Don Poggensee and myself.  The 42nd edition of Des Moines Register’s Annual Bicycle Ride Across Iowa used a very northerly, 418-mile route.  On at least two days, the Iowa State Patrol reported that there were more than 20,000 bicyclists on the route.  There were two deaths of cyclists — Tom Teesdale, 62, of West Branch, who died of a heart attack, and Frank Brinkerhoff, 74, of Sioux City, who was found dead in his tent from natural causes in a campground in Mason City.  But with a whole lot of great stops, this RAGBRAI is bound to be remembered as one of the best.  You can catch some of its ambience in the photos below here.

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There is always interesting headgear on RAGBRAI. (Photo by Don Poggensee)

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Getting ready to start this year’s ride in Rock Valley.  (Poggensee photo)

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An especially big bike on display in Rock Valley. (Poggensee photo)

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Riding high in Rock Valley.  (Poggensee photo)

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Would the trip across Iowa be shorter on this bike in Rock Valley? (Poggensee photo)

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They had big bikes on display in Hull, too.  (Poggensee photo)

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There is a lot of decorating done with bicycles on RAGBRAI.  (Poggensee photo)

Matt Richter above Graettinger gridlock July 21.JPG

Chuck Offenburger’s riding partner one day of RAGBRAI was Matt Richter, of the University of Okoboji Richters.  Matt, 34, works in the family’s The Three Sons clothing in Milford.  He lives in nearby Arnolds Park, where he serves on the city council.

Richters & Offenburgers July 20 in Milford.JPG

Because RAGBRAI overnighted in the Okoboji area, Carla and Chuck Offenburger (right) got to spend some time with their great friends Herman and Paula Richter, who are co-owners of the legendary The Three Sons clothing in Milford.

Chuck O at his spot on wall of fame U of Okoboji July 20.JPG

Chuck Offenburger for the first time got to see his spot on the wall of photos that the Richters have at The Three Sons clothing commemorating their 50 years in business.  They created the mythical University of Okoboji, and they’ve always said Offenburger was a professor of journalism.  In fact, they named the U of O “School of Journalism” after him.

Offenburgers salute Captain Steve Kennedy July 20.JPG

The Offenburgers took their places in the wonderful statue on the Lake Okoboji shoreline that salutes Captain Steve Kennedy, who was one of the most important supporters of development and tourism at the Iowa Great Lakes before his death in 2001.

Gridlock in Graettinger July 21.JPG

There was happy gridlock in Graettinger when RAGBRAI rolled into town on Monday, July 21.

RAGBRAI signs-in in Graettinger July 21.JPG

RAGBRAI visitors were invited to sign their names on a giant map of Iowa in Graettinger.  We can’t explain the sign’s guardian there.

RAGBRAI stops for a pork chop July 21.JPG

Here was the roadside “parking lot” one day when RAGBRAI stopped at the famous “Mr. Pork Chop” stand along the route.  It’s a tradition for RAGBRAI riders to stop for the big, thick, $8 Iowa chops that are grilled over corncobs by the Bernhard family of Bancroft.

Mr. Pork Chop & great-granddaughter Anna July 22 A.JPG

In Bancroft, which was on the RAGBRAI route this summer, the original “Mr. Pork Chop” Paul Bernhard, 86, was out meeting his fans.  Here his granddaughter Anna Bernhard, 11, of Des Moines, devours one of the famous Iowa chops. Behind them is Paul’s daughter Brenda Vaske, also of Bancroft.

Bad looking RAGBRAI nap in a ditch July 21.JPG
That’s a bad-looking RAGBRAI nap, you know?

Steve Smartt with trumpet July 22.JPG

Our pal Steve Smartt was sharing the National Anthem with all kinds of audiences as he pedaled his bicycle on RAGBRAI.  Smartt, a RAGBRAI veteran who just retired as associate dean for academic services in the graduate school at Chuck Offenburger’s alma mater of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, was carrying his 1962-vintage trumpet with him on a sling, and stopped 10 times on his RAGBRAI ride to play the “Star Spangled Banner” for groups.  In honor of the bicentennial of the anthem during 2014, Smartt decided to play it 100 times for audiences during the year.  He’s now had 75 performances of it, always playing it with the utmost respect and professionalism.  Smartt, whose career at Vandy spanned 33 years, has played in bands around Nashville since he was in high school.

s Largest Bullhead Crystal Lake July 22.JPG

Everybody stopped for a photo opportunity with the “World’s Largest Bullhead” on the shore of Crystal Lake in the town of that same name.  We took this photo of “Team Fiasco,” whose members come from Iowa City, Madison, Wis., and other communities. Why are they “Team Fiasco”?  “Well,” said one team member, “it seems like everything we do on RAGBRAI turns into kind of a fiasco.”

Walking into Ventura in huge crowd July 23.JPG

Wednesday, July 23, was a short, easy 38-mile ride from Forest City to Mason City, and the weather was perfect.  Thus, RAGBRAI’s number of participants mushroomed that day.  The route got so clogged that cyclists had to get off their bikes and walk about the last mile into the town of Ventura!

Hometown homage Lynne Lorenzen Ventura July 23.JPG

RAGBRAI riders pay homage at a sign that recognizes basketball great Lynne Lorenzen, who led the Ventura High School girls basketball program to a state championship in 1987, when she became the nation’s all-time leading scorer in prep basketball.

Bob & Karen Brooks Moline IL at Surf monument July 23.JPG

Another favorite stop for RAGBRAI rides was at the historic Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake.  In this photo, Bob Brooks, of Moline, Ill., is shown at the memorial marker having his photo taken by his wife Karen.  The marker tells the story of how rock ‘n’ roll legends Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper shared their last performances at the Surf in February 1959 before dying in a plane crash when leaving Clear Lake.

Fateful phone booth Surf Ballroom Clear Lake July 23.JPG

The sign in this fateful phone booth in the Surf Ballroom tells quite a story.

Dennis Swift & Deb Aslett of Boise dance at Surf July 23.JPG

Old time rock ‘n’ roll was playing on the sound system of the Surf Ballroom when RAGBRAI visited.  Among the bicyclists who got out and danced on the historic floor were Dennis Swift and Deb Aslett, both of Boise, Idaho.  Note the paintings overhead of Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper. RAGBRAI rider Don Gonyea, a political correspondent for National Public Radio, looked around the Surf and said, “I’ve almost got goose bumps standing in here.”

Park Inn Hotel Mason City RAGBRAI July 23.JPG

The RAGBRAI route came into downtown Mason City right in front of the Park Inn Hotel, the handsomely and carefully renovated hotel that was designed by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright. In this photo, you can see many of the nice “Prairie School” design features that Wright gave the building.

Frank Lloyd Wright & bicycles RAGBRAI Mason City July 23.JPG

Across the street from the Park Inn Hotel, there is this statue of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who designed the historic hotel.  On RAGBRAI day, Wednesday, July 23, the statue also served as a good place to lean your bicycle for a time.

Mike LaValle & Alessandra Tormene in Clear Lake July 23.JPG
RAGBRAI attracts people who have all kinds of ties beyond the bike ride.  Here is Des Moines restaurateur Mike LaValle and Alessandra Tormene, who works in international relations for the government of Italy.  She was riding on this RAGBRAI, which was her sixth, as a member of “Team Veneto,” a group of five riders representing Iowa’s sister state of Veneto province in Italy.  In her job, she helps arrange all kinds of people-to-people exchanges with other nations.  When her own son came to live in Iowa for an extended experience, he stayed with the LaValles in Des Moines.

Kyle Munson writing in Clear Lake july 23.JPG

Here is the Des Moines Register’s Iowa columnist Kyle Munson, who was writing the lead stories on what was his fourth RAGBRAI.  He is shown here writing a column — and note the roll-up electronic keyboard he was using — in the bedroom of the Rod Snavely condo at Clear Lake, where Munson had stopped for a reception  on the afternoon of Wednesay, July 23.  Munson not only was riding his bicycle and covering RAGBRAI, he was also hosting “Team Veneto,” the group from Iowa’s sister state in Italy, by helping arrange overnight accommodations and special activities for them.  Munson also allowed one of his predecessors on the Iowa column, Chuck Offenburger, to bunk in with the group for a couple nights, too!

You can write the photographers chuck@Offenburger.com or donpog@netllc.net or comment on the photos by using the handy form below here.


3 thoughts on “RAGBRAI, the DM Register’s rolling folk festival, was bigger and better than ever on its 42nd ride

  1. Thank you, Don and Chuck, for the terrific images and captions. They really gave a sense of what this year’s RAGBRAI was like. Liked Team Fiasco’s honesty!

    Allison Engel, Los Angeles

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