Four years ago, a group of people from Aurelia were sitting around talking, as people are wont to do - and there MAY have been some liquid refreshment involved, too - though I can't say that for a fact. The conversation took place at the former Francis Tap, though, so...
Anyway, as I hear it, Nancy Webb and Jim and Paula Weathers were trying to console their friend, Denny "Weiner" Wieland, who had wanted to ride in RAGBRAI, but wasn't able to do so.
The group decided that they would organize an Aurelia version of the famous RAGBRAI event. RAGBRAI, of course, stands for (the Des Moines) Register's Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, an annual event which draws hundreds of people, over the course of a week, to ride their bicycles across Iowa, from the Western to the Eastern border.
The Aurelia version, of course, would be much shorter, and less strenuous, than RAGBRAI. Like RAGBRAI, however, it would not be a competition. Though some RAGBRAI' ers have been known to turn the event into a time-related event - trying to finish in as little time as possible - the Aurelia event, it was agreed, would absolutely NOT allow that kind of individual into THIS event!
The component of RAGBRAI which would be incoporated into the Aurelia event, would be the "getting together and having fun" component.
And so it was that the first BRAA (Bike Ride Across Aurelia) took place in July of 2003. An estimated 25 participants, riding a variety of bicycle types, including small "banana seat" bikes, tandem bikes, and a vintage bike, took off from the Aurelia City Park. The group made four planned stops along the way, stopping at some homes, where riders were offered a soda or beer. Riders paid $5 a person to ride, and they were dealt a playing card at each stop. At the conclusion of the ride, the rider with the best poker hand would win the money in the "kitty." It was soon decided that this should become an annual event, and it has been ever since, held on the second weekend in July.
There were an estimated 45-50 riders at the second BRAA in 2004, and 60-80 rode in both 2005 and 2006. The race ended at Francis Tap the first few years, where riders enjoyed a free post-ride meal of chili dogs, chips and bars. This year, riders started and finished at the Aurelia Golf Club, where they not only had the usual post-ride "chow down," but were also treated to music by the band LSB.
The course for the ride is changed from year-to-year. Webb says the first ride took about 2 hours, and it's been about the same length each year since. Paula Weathers says that last year, riders could wear reflective orange vests if they chose, and didn't have to follow the prescibed course - they could get from "point A to point B" by whatever route they chose.
This year, instead of riders taking a playing card at each stop, they just drew a full hand at the end. First place money this year was $100, and second and third places paid a combined total of $100. Since all collected money goes to pay for expenses, such as refreshments at the stops, the band, and clubhouse rental, Weathers feels that next year they may scrap the whole "poker run" concept because it's a big hassle. Riders would still be charged $5 to ride, however, because of the expenses incurred in providing refreshments and entertainment.
The old phrase, "a good time was had by all" seems to fit the BRAA like a .... er, glove. The participants look forward to the annual ride, and having a good time, enjoyng each others' company and the nice Iowa weather- not to mention good eats and liquid libation.
A hearty invitation is extended to all to join the group next year - so mark your calendars for the second Saturday in July, get yourself a bike (if you don't already have one), and be prepared to have a good time!