RAGBRAI rolls through Marshall County

State Center, Melbourne welcome thousands of riders from around the nation and world

T-R PHOTOS BY ADAM SODDERSTop left: Day four RAGBRAI riders formed a seemingly endless stream from Ames in the west to State Center by mid-morning Wednesday. Their final destination was Newton. Middle left: In both Melbourne and State Center, murals attracted many riders to take pictures and appreciate. This mural was the work of Melbourne native Eden Buck and depicts the city’s former, famous “Mouse Hole” tunnel, the American and Iowa flags and the city’s water tower. Bottom left: Melbourne was ready for the influx of thousands of riders despite its small size. The town hosted several vendors and had plenty of shade to keep the riders fed and cooled off around lunchtime Wednesday. Top right: For many riders, RAGBRAI is a time to take life a little less seriously and dress in a wacky fashion. Along with creative helmet decorations, some riders sported interesting jerseys, such as one featuring a kitten shooting laser beams out of its eyes. Bottom right: It didn’t take long for Main Street in State Center to become packed with bicyclists Wednesday morning. While many riders came into town and explored the games, food and entertainment options, some opted to zoom on through to Melbourne and beyond.

STATE CENTER – By late Wednesday morning, a seemingly endless stream of bicycle riders from all over the state, country and world flooded State Center from the west. RAGBRAI had arrived.

Months of preparation led up to the big day Wednesday for State Center and Melbourne, cities with populations of about 1,500 and 830, respectively. Residents and vendors greeted colorfully-dressed riders, their support crews, spectators and more.

“I’ve done three (RAGBRAI rides) and I’m a big cyclist,” said Terry Redmon of Olympia, Wash. “The first one was a southern route, then last year we did the northern route and I figured I would come back and do the middle of the state.”

Taking a rest on a bench along Main Street in State Center, he said the ride is different than the Seattle to Portland bicycle ride he does in the Pacific Northwest.

“The heat and humidity, you can’t replicate that in Washington,” Redmon said.

He said “the people and the history” behind RAGBRAI make it a special event.

“The ride that I do in Seattle has been going on since the 1970s as well, but not as much of a tradition,” Redmon said. “Here, you’ve got three or four generations that have done the ride and you still see young children doing the ride with their parents … it’s kind of cool to see that.”

Other people from out of state said the ride was something they looked forward to.

“It’s been good, (Tuesday’s) route was easy,” said Christina Brown of Phoenix, Ariz. “I’ve done some triathlons, nothing multi-day like this.”

New York City natives Katie Reilly and Alice Kindheart said they have enjoyed their ride through the state. Their team name, “Laser Kitties and Friends,” was fitting – Kindheart’s jersey featured a kitten with purple laser beams shooting from its eyes.

“There was a whole group of us coming out here to a place where I haven’t spent a lot of time and getting to explore the area,” she said. “So far it’s been great, the scenery has been beautiful; the people have been great and really friendly.”

Each year, RAGBRAI manages to attract riders from several countries to Iowa. This year, one of them was Tony Ron of Ecuador.

“This is my ride number sixteen,” he said. “I loved Ames, the university.”

Ron said he’s also looking forward to seeing Iowa City later in the route. Also enjoying RAGBRAI this year was Sandy Pumphrey, who is originally from England but now calls Cedar Rapids home.

“It’s the first year doing the whole thing, but I’ve done a couple different days here and there,” he said as he took a rest along a Melbourne sidewalk. “I just picked up some pulled pork here … it was yummy.”

Pumphrey said he has always enjoyed riding his bike and saw RAGBRAI as a good challenge.

“It’s just fun, I love the fact that so many different people are out here,” he said. “It’s not just the people who ride all the time, but you’ve got old folk, young folk, people in shape, people not quite so in shape, it’s just a mixture, I love it.”

Of course, many of the riders were not as far from home. The Thierer family from Carlisle were in State Center early Wednesday.

“I like going to all the small towns in Iowa, or just any sized town and just kind of taking in what they have to offer,” said Nick Thierer. “We get up bright and early, we’re on the road by 6 a.m. so we can get done pretty early, beat the heat.”

His sister, Stephanie Thierer, said she’s acting as the family’s support staff.

“I was impressed, State Center was prepared for all these people … when we rolled in well before 7 (a.m.), they already had tables set up, food ready,” she said. “Some of them aren’t even ready by the time these guys roll out, by 9 or 10 (a.m.).”

Veteran RAGBRAI riders and sisters Karen Parrott and Cindy Reilly, both of Coralville, said this year’s route has been relatively flat. They took a few minutes to inspect their bikes near a recently-painted mural of the Melbourne Mouse Hole.

“My sister and I have ridden 28 RAGBRAIs … we were on RAGBRAI IV,” Parrott said.

Reilly said the event has changed much since their first ride.

“I’m not wearing jean shorts and I’ve got a helmet on my head,” she said with a smile.

Local vendors in both towns said the influx of riders kept them busy.

“We sold coffee, but we sold out of it,” said volunteer Jake Thompson of State Center as he manned the Mouse Hole Replica booth in Melbourne. “I’ve seen a lot of smooth operation, between people taking out trash, people pointing directions out for others, booths are selling well, there’s a lot of variety here.”

Aileen McKinney and her team were selling cold refreshments like water, lemonade, Gatorade and pop to thirsty riders along Main Street in State Center for the Delta Nu Study Group.

“We’re doing it as our fundraiser for the West Marshall Foundation Scholarship Fund,” McKinney said. “We sold all out of pop and Gatorade … we were out of Gatorade by 11 a.m., easily.”

Other vendors in both towns sold everything from pie and pizza to smoothies, beer and shirts. There was also an appearance by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell during the ride Wednesday.

This year’s ride brought thousands of riders, support staff, families, friends and spectators through Marshall County. Wednesday’s ride ended in Newton and bicyclists will wake up Thursday and ride their 68.6 miles to Sigourney.

The ride ends this year on the banks of the Mississippi River in Davenport. The total length will be 468 miles.

For more information, visit https://ragbrai.com/

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Contact Adam Sodders at

(641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com