Knoxville — The Ride Right Team for the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI®) is riding the 2013 route this week. Yesterday brought them from Des Moines to Knoxville.
Riders from Altoona, who accompanied the team on the ride in an unofficial capacity, described yesterday's ride as hilly and wet. The weather is unpredictable, which is understood by RAGBRAI® Director TJ Juskiewicz.
"It's Iowa," he said. Juskiewicz and the rest of the Ride Right safety team gathered at Peace Tree Brewing Company last night. They met with the local safety committee, which has already ridden the route through Knoxville and Marion County. Issues the local team have identified with roads have already been submitted to the City and Marion County.
This proactive approach to safety impressed the statewide safety team, according to April Verwers. Verwers serves on the local executive committee, as well as the safety subcommittee.
"They were very, very happy with the Ride Right group," Verwers said. The meeting included discussion of things that need to be done to ensure the safety of the riders and everyone involved. "It was very positive," Verwers added.
One of those concerns is on the Mile Long Bridge, and the connector extensions. As one drives over the bridge, the segments are connected with interlocking metal grooves, though there is enough space between the grooves for slim bike tires to hit and get caught. Verwers and others report that 3M is working on a cover to try to solve that issue.
The Altoona riders said the grooves were their only concern with the bridge and that they did not like stopping at each one to walk their bikes across them. The view of Lake Red Rock, from the bridge, they loved.
Fixing the gap in the grooves should find a long-term solution, according to Juskiewicz. He believes the bridge would be a good complement to any bicycle route, given the scenery one can take in as they cross it.
Juskiewicz said he is also encouraged by the excitement Knoxville has shown for being an overnight host city.
"Every time we're in town, you can just feel it," Juskiewicz said. He has spent 10 years with RAGBRAI® and participated as a rider one additional year. What he has learned is that Knoxville should be thankful for the time and effort its local committee has, and will continue, to put into RAGBRAI®.
"I don't think poeple understand the time and effort put in by this local committee," Juskiewicz said. He estimates that, by the time the event is over, they will have spent over 500 hours volunteering, all in an effort to showcase the town.