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7 Days, 7 Bikers, 471 Miles

Iowa’s a state brimming with small towns. In fact, every city except Des Moines meets Best of the Road’s small town standards. The 2010 U.S. Census showed Iowa boasts more than 911 towns of less than 10,000 residents and 675 towns of less than 1,000.

Iowa’s smallest towns, with less than 1,000 residents each

Tomorrow, my family will be exploring some of these small towns on a seven-day bike trek from Iowa’s western border on the Missouri River to its eastern border on the Mississippi (471 miles). We’ll be riding in the 40th RAGBRAI, an annual event that began when two columnists from the Des Moines Register published the idea as a lark, undertaking essentially no preparation yet inviting readers to join them. They were quite taken aback when 300 people appeared to participate in their rather ambitious little stunt. The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa had begun.

RAGBRAI 2009: Hawkeye, Bingo, Scoots, Beanie, and Pops

This year the route will take 10,000 riders from Sioux Center (population: 6,704) to Clinton (26,459), by way of Cherokee (4,673), Lake View (1,182), Webster City (7,642), Marshalltown (25,814), Cedar Rapids (127,764), and Anamosa (5,745). Riders camp along the way, enjoying, in equal quantities, church suppers, local bars, swimming holes, live music, and Iowa corn. You may call it madness, but don’t call it a race.

There are seven of us along for the ride: my parents, Pops and Hawkeye; me, Bingo; and my siblings, P Diddy, Scoots, T Dog, and Beanie. Pops will drive our support vehicle, a Class A RV, which has yet to be named. Five of us have ridden RAGBRAI once before, and all of us are pretty stoked for this family vacation. Follow along beginning Saturday, if only to see how many pork chops we can eat in a week. Iowa, here we come!

For more information about RAGBRAI, the oldest, largest, and longest bicycle touring event in the world, visit their website.

Fun Fact: With the Missouri River on the west and the Mississippi River on the east, Iowa is the only state whose eastern and western borders are formed entirely by water.

Wish Christine luck and tell us where you’ve biked in the U.S.!