RAGBRAI – Two teams, two stories

~by Taylor Bates and Tori Riley

The 2018 Registers’ Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI)® was the 21st time to ride across Iowa for Chicago native Brad Prendergast. Those 21 years have been all due to being “bit by the bug” as Prendergast put it.

Prendergast, along with 50 to 60 other Chicago residents, come together for RAGBRAI, forming team CUBS (Chicago Urban Bicycling Society). The team was formed 23 years ago and hasn’t missed a year of RAGBRAI since.

CUBS have a bit of luxury, with a charter bus bringing them to the start of the ride and taking them back home at the end. They also rent a hauling truck and vans for the week, so they don’t have to depend on the town or RAGBRAI shuttles.

The CUBS camped at St Joseph Parish Center | GCNO photo

Coming from Chicago, the bikers aren’t used to the kind of hospitality that Iowans offer during the ride. “If you came to my house in Chicago and said to me, ‘my friends would like to camp on your front yard, and we’d like to use your bathrooms and showers overnight,’ somebody would say ‘Get off my land!’” Prendergast explained. He pointed out that to him, the hospitality offered in small town Iowa, and across the state, is “just amazing.” He also pointed out that the people that open their homes and yards don’t get anything in return.

With “Iowa Nice” surprising the CUBS, they decided that it was time to figure out a way to give back to Iowa, even though they felt there was no way to truly give back. However, one member of the team knew about a camp in Iowa, Camp Courageous. Located in Monticello, the camp is a place for disabled children to spend some time away from home and meet new friends along the way. The CUBS decided to start raising money for the year-round camp. Now, the group has a charity auction for the camp that brings in thousands of dollars. Camp Courageous is even showcased on the riders’ jerseys.

Prendergast said that the group has a “lot of fun” throughout the week. “Everybody enjoys the ride part of the day, that’s always good. Some of it’s harder than others, some of it’s easier than others. It’s really a big sense of accomplishment.”

He also pointed out that RAGBRAI is something that he, and many others, plan their lives around. They genuinely enjoy taking part in the ride and really like to visit new towns while on the route.

“Towns should host,” Prendergast said. “I know it’s a strain on towns’ resources to bring us all in. We enjoy coming here, and we’re happy to contribute money.” After pointing out that many towns are now trying to keep RAGBRAI away, he really hopes towns start to realize how great it is overall. Prendergast doesn’t have plans to stop coming for RAGBRAI any time soon, and hopes that each year continues to be as great as the last.

While Chicagoans plan riding RAGBRAI as a vacation, the team of Iowa Pharmacy Association cyclists use it as a working vacation.

The size of the team varies almost by the day. In Jefferson, the team was 14 members strong, ranging in age from a student in his third (of four) years of pharmacy school to three who are nearing retirement age. There were two first year team members who rode with “Virgin” written on the back of their left leg, rather like a “Student Driver” sign on a car. “That lets other riders know to give them some extra space for their safety and everybody else’s,” a team member explained.

Most of the IPA team with hostesses Andrea Chargo and Tori Riley front)

Another member has been riding RAGBRAI for years and told stories of the 1988 overnight in Forest City. All the riders camped in a corn field and they just about cleaned out the grocery store after local meal planning fell short.

The team was marshaled by Anthony Pudlo, vice president of professional affairs. Like Prendergast, he said he caught a RAGBRAI “bug.” Six years ago his sister talked him into riding a couple of days, and he stopped and talked with pharmacists in the towns he went through. He said he enjoyed the bicycling and realized the ride could be a great time for outreach to Iowa pharmacists.

As they rode to Jefferson they visited pharmacies in Manning, Templeton and Coon Rapids. In Jefferson they visited the pharmacists at Greene County Medical Center and Hy-Vee, and they met Taylor Anglemyer at Medicap, who is new to the Iowa pharmacy scene.

Tuesday morning as they prepared to leave Jefferson he studied the day’s route and set the itinerary with a visit at Swanson Drug in Ogden and four pharmacies in Boone. He and IPA fellow Matt Pitlick each ride with buggies on their bikes with packets of information to deliver at each place they visit.

The IPA team also enjoys a bit of humor as they ride. Some of them added pill bottles to their bicycle helmets – some with only one looking like an antenna, and others with two looking like horns. Their pills? Skittles or Tic-Tacs, just in case.

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