(Editor's note: With the 2010 RAGBRAI recently passing through neighboring Quimby and Washta, Struck ran across an old column written the last time RAGBRAI stayed in Cherokee on its first overnight.)
In the midst of all this RAGBRAI stuff I've once again found myself hip-deep in, I've uncovered a startling revelation.
And that is the fact that there are some riders of bicycles who think they are of a higher caliper than the common man.
At a recent RAGBRAI meeting at some ongodly early-morning hour I simply refuse to get accustomed to, the nettlesome issue resurfaced about the RAGBRAI riders having to ride about a quarter mile into the Cherokee Mental Health Institute campus to access the proposed central information site.
There was some concern voiced by local bicycle enthusiasts who have participated in RAGBRAI in the past that this little trek and bit of inconvenience was a real hardship on them.
"Do you mean to tell me that there are riders who have just biked 65 miles that day, and have committed to the entire RAGBRAI week of nearly 500 miles in seven days, who will be upset because they have to pedal a quarter mile in and out of the MHI campground for whatever vital information about our town they need?" I asked incredulously.
"Have you ever done it?" came a reply.
Yes, I've biked a quarter mile, I shot back, knowing the person was questioning if I had ever ridden RAGBRAI on a bicycle. I got a laugh. I won the argument. Big deal. And the matter was dropped.
As the day progressed, I began to wonder just what type of person constitutes an official RAGBRAI or distance bicycle rider. Is there an official stereotype?
I know they are from all walks of life, from all 50 states and 20 foreign countries. I know most of them are the most wonderful, awe-inspiring human beings on God's great earth. I know most of them clean up after themselves. I know most of them are God-fearing men, women and children totally appreciative of whatever we did to accomodate and entertain them during their overnight stay in Cherokee. I know most of them remain grateful to us for eternity. I know there are the ya-hoos among the officially licensed RAGBRAI riders who can give all the good guys a bad name.
And, I also know, like marathon runners, that there are some riders extremely proud of their biking accomplishments and personal regimens which maximize their health, endurance and physical conditioning in a trendy, savory social activity.
Ye gods, some may even look upon themselves as celebrities!
Then it dawned on me. Celebrities don't tolerate inconvenience of any kind. Celebrities are most often spoiled, coddled, entitled, silver-spooned brats with no clue how to cope in the real world, so they stay all wrapped up cozy in theirs.
And damn the fool who dare question their motives and actions.
No, I'm not a distance bicyclist or RAGBRAI rider. Yes, I do think RAGBRAI and its history and tradition are one of the neatest things to ever happen in Iowa and the world. Founders Donald Kaul and John Karras, formerly of the Des Moines Register, were geniuses so far ahead of their time it wasn't even funny.
But RAGBRAI riders just ain't Lance Armstrong, or the Beatles, or our courageous military fighting forces. And they never will be.
They're, well... bicyclists - athletes if you will - with a penchant for pedaling great distances with others of like mind for the personal challenge, well-being and social interaction involved.
And if a lousy quarter mile is gonna throw them, maybe they should get off the bike and back into the real world.