By Natalie Conrad
Herald Staff Writer
River Bend Bicycle Club members are gearing up for this year’s Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa that begins Sunday.
Three buses of 163 bikers total are departing this morning for the seven-day ride across the state, starting in Sioux Center.
The demand was so high, the club had to implement a waiting list for the trip, according to local RAGBRAI Coordinator John Bonte.
“With such a big group, our motto has always been: ‘Don’t be late, we don’t wait,’” Bonte said.
Preparations for the trip were made as early as December by Bonte, who has organized the bike club’s trip for the last three years.
With the journey ending right in Clinton, local bicyclists will be able to enjoy the amenities of friends’ homes along the way.
Club member Steve Tubbs of Delmar will provide drinks and portable restrooms for riders at his home. Another member, Gary Mulholland, is planning to have a party at his house along the route.
While 50 of the riders are members of the club, they come from a wide variety of locations. Many of the members are from the Gateway area, but there are members spread out far and wide, from Georgia to Tennessee, Texas to New York, Canada and more. Meeting up with new and old friends is a favorite part for many of the riders.
“Even though they are from far away, we really get to know these folks,” Bonte said. “The socialization and renewing of friendships is one of the best parts of RAGBRAI.”
Being welcomed by the different communities along the route is also a highlight of the trip, according to Member Arlyn Vander Eide, who has completed RAGBRAI with his wife, Mary Sue, seven times. The couple have been members of the bicycle club since 1980.
“The hospitality of towns is great,” Vander Eide said. “They really treat you well. It’s great to see friends you have made in the past and to meet new ones.”
RAGBRAI will celebrate 40 years of riding this year and is the oldest, largest and longest touring bicycle ride in the world.