I have been on RAGBRAI in 1999, 2000 and 2001 and I’ll start out by saying that RAGBRAI is a wonderful event that everyone who enjoys riding a bike should experience. I don’t know of any other type of event that lets you ride a bike on the open roads with thousands of like mined individuals. The joy of riding a bicycle through the Iowa countryside, passing through small towns, meeting townspeople and out of towners, eating great food and living outside for a week is a great experience.
Unfortunately I feel that RAGBRAI has gone downhill in the past 6 years that I’ve not gone. In the past I felt that the ride was about riding your bike across Iowa, visiting towns and the countryside, meeting new people and just being out in nature. It seems this year that RAGBRAI is more about drinking (which includes the huge profits from it) and about Lance Armstrong. I heard rumor that this year there were upwards of 30,000 riders. Now that’s a ridiculous amount of riders considering there are only supposed to be 10,000 registered riders. Well guess what happens with these numbers? The registered people actually get pushed out of their decent allotted camping spots to make way for the non-registered people. Registered people end up with crap camping locations next to the shuttle or next to the beer garden and miles away from the register truck. I have experienced it first hand. It’s a crap deal. There seems to be no enforcing of rules when it comes to camping areas. It seems you can camp anywhere whether you have a pass or not.
Not only that but I noticed that this year the beer gardens were often placed right next to the campsite. Now how the hell does anyone sleep with a band playing and loud obnoxious drinkers constantly making noise until the wee hours of the morn? Especially when it’s all happening only a few yards from where you are camping. I think it’s rather obvious that the drinkers are being catered to and not the real riders. It’s all about the money. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy having a beer just as much as the next guy but I focus on the ride during RAGBRAI and not on the alcohol consumption.
The Lance effect also was an issue this year. It seems that many people were on RAGBRAI for the simple hope of seeing or meeting Lance Armstrong. Also there seemed to be many wannabe Tour de France riders. They ride fast and recklessly and think they are the only important people on the road. There were less courteous people on the road than I remembered in the past. Also less people were giving other riders the heads up when they were passing. It’s no wonder there were so many accidents this year. I’m not saying that everyone was inconsiderate, I’m just saying that there were more this year than any other year I’ve been on.
Yes I admit that I have many gripes about this years RAGBRAI. I just feel that it could have been sooooooo much better. I do have to say that this year had the best weather of any year I’ve been riding it. Kudos to mother nature on that. Now if the Register would just clean up their act, I think the ride could potentially be great again.