Nothing puts the “forever” in “Graceland Forever” quite like pulling on a blue and gold jersey and biking across the entire state of Iowa in July.
Every mile is up hill, of course, and on bumpy roads. Into the wind. Through swarms of gnats. And don’t forget the 117 percent humidity.
But fear not: Team Yellowjacket is heading out for a fourth year in a row on RAGBRAI, the (Des Moines) Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. This year the 16-member group of alumni and friends will join more than 10,000 other cyclists in the annual river-to-river trek from the Missouri to the Mississippi – even if it takes them “forever” to do it.
This year’s route meanders through the northern part of the state from July 20 to 26, with overnight stops in Rock Valley, Okoboji, Emmetsburg, Forest City, Mason City, Waverly and Independence before the final push to the ceremonial tire-dip at the riverbank in Guttenberg.
This year’s team of 16 – from Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Michigan, Colorado, Utah, and Alberta, Canada – includes five-year rider Betsy Shelton ’98, who pedaled her first RAGBRAI before Team Yellowjacket’s first official trip in 2011. The Lamoni native works as a communications consultant in Denver, where folks often ask her why she does it.
“Because I’ve lost my mind,” she joked. “But really, you go at your own pace. You meet interesting people. You eat delicious pie. It’s kind of the epitome of Iowa all in one week.”
It’s the epitome of Graceland, too. Every year, university alumni and Community of Christ congregations open their homes to Team Yellowjacket along the way, offering a warm (but air-conditioned!) welcome at the end of each day.
“It’s like a party all across the state,” said sag-wagon driver and honorary team “mom,” Doris Cadman ’67, of Ogden, Utah.
She drove a support van earlier this summer for her husband, Bob, and their daughter Kathleen “Paco” Cadman ’02 as they biked from Victoria, British Columbia, down the west coast to Tijuana, Mexico. The open road offered none of RAGBRAI’s spandexed hordes, which took Bob awhile to get used to.
“You come over a hill and just look down at the complete roadblock of everyone walking their bikes,” Bob said. “That first year, I hated it. After the first or second day I told Doris, ‘I’ll finish this, but I’ll never do it again.’”
But RAGBRAI gradually worked its magic. The Cadmans have returned every year since.
“It’s the camaraderie,” Bob said. “It’s the team and the whole atmosphere of it. I love it.”
SUPPORT THE CAUSE
Consider pitching in a dime or dollar for each of this year’s 418 miles. The contributions go to the team’s Alumni Endowed Scholarship Fund.
And if you’d like to join the team next year, either on a bike or in a sag wagon, email Des Moines Register reporter and alumni association board member Michael Morain ’01 at firstname.lastname@example.org.