My kind of people on RAGBRAI

Bridget Mexwell

Returning to reality might be difficult for Heather Burns after all the joys she's experienced during her RAGBRAI journey.

This is the sixth in a series of blogs by espnW deputy editor and native Iowan Heather Burns, who is doing the Des Moines Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.

My faith in the kindness of people has been renewed after five days of riding RAGBRAI. The first town we stopped in Thursday was Pella. We had some awesome Dutch pancakes and Bloody Marys at the opera house, but I digress.

When we walked back to the town square to retrieve our bikes, a man was talking over the loudspeaker about the lost and found.

"If someone lost a plastic bag of money, it has been turned in," he said.

Yep, someone turned in money. A bag of money.

Other signs that people are good -- a man and his son helped me pump up my tires. A woman let me go in front of her at the showers, because my dad was waiting so we could go to dinner. My chain fell off; a man stopped and helped me put it back on. Another woman blew a tire Thursday. A man with a Navy bike jersey pulled over, asked which tire it was and then said: "Let's see what we can do."

And people hand out free food, everything from watermelon and bananas to homemade cookies.

Every town has free water and, because there are so many of us riding, we wait in line for it and no one complains. When you sign up to ride your bike across Iowa with 20,000 of your closest friends, you expect to wait.

And as you wait in line, conversations start up. People ask where you are from and how many times you have been on RAGBRAI. If you have been on the same rides, you compare notes about the best days and the worst.

After Monday, we all talked about how we weathered the thunderstorm. We are due for more, so the talk all day Thursday was what time the storms would hit. The ladies at a library where I was waiting to go to the bathroom checked the radar for us. Then they asked us how the corn looked. Crops, after all, are what makes this state run.

It will be weird to come back to reality after this. Re-entry into the real world will include toughening back up.

But for two more days and 115 more miles, I will enjoy the company of those around me who share my love for cycling and the state of Iowa.

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