The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

July 28, 2012

RAGBRAI riders make final stretch to Clinton

By Rod Schultz
Special to the Herald

CLINTON — Having survived the heat, hills, and headwinds of the week, Friday was one of those gifts that are given every so often on RAGBRAI.

I am Rod Schultz (Camanche High School class of 1986) and I’m leading a group of alumni from Grinnell College, where I work. It has been quite an adventure for all of them, and now I see the bonding and hear the stories that come from a week’s adventure that has been described as “tribal.”  

We left the western part of Cedar Rapids from our group campsite after a team photograph. Since we could sleep in, it allowed for a more relaxing day.

By the time we rode along the river and to the Czech Village, it was time to eat breakfast and take in the Bohemian culture of this beautiful area. After some Kolaches and breakfast pizza, followed by some accordion and polka music, we finally left town and climbed our first series of hills, hills, hills.

There are ways to convince yourself it is OK, when you use words like scenic instead of hills, and cooling breeze instead of headwind.  

Our arrival into Mount Vernon was easy as the northwest wind gently pushed us along. After being greeted by the Mustangs cheerleaders, I arrived on the Hilltop at Cornell College and met up with former Grinnell College employee and now president of Cornell, Jonathan Brand. The main street was packed to the rim with colorful cyclists and the festivities were entertaining.  

We rolled north and started climbing hills with those “cooling breezes,” enjoying the scenery along the way. Sometimes the portable toilets are busy in town, so the cornfields along the road tend to look like a scene from “Field of Dreams,” substitute cyclists coming of the corn.

One of our riders from Washington, D.C. who really enjoys the day at a nice pace summed it up best by saying, “I start the hills slow and then taper off.”

That is the beauty of this great ride, people of all ages, strengths and abilities go along for an adventure across it all.  

I’ve met so many fascinating people along the way, carrying on conversations on all topics. You never know who you will meet and how farfetched the stories will get. 

The day was so mild that our team has been sitting around talking and laughing without even going to the showers yet.  Old friendships have been rekindled.

Since it was also College Spirit Day, the jerseys have been fun to see and everyone asks about the colleges and universities, promoting the value of higher education all the way.

So, yes, it is tribal.  It is an adventure. It is RAGBRAI for 40-years now and my photo with John Karras on the century loop is a great souvenir. 

I am looking forward to ending in Clinton where my bicycling fascination all started with the River Bend Bicycle Club.

My ninth year is almost done. A new friend described it best when he said, “RAGBRAI is like joining the circus. It’s fun but then after a week you realize you need to go home.”