Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

July 25, 2013

In the House of Wood

Thoughts on RAGBRAI®

Steve Woodhouse

Knoxville — As I sit here Thursday afternoon, July 25, the first thing that comes to mind in regard to the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI®) is that there is a core group of people who deserve a very loud, strong and ongoing applause. 

I don't see how the event in Knoxville could have been planned any better. Of course, there were things that could have run more smoothly, but who is going to think of every last detail or possible situation? 

There was the issue with the 81 portable johns in front of the Fox. I'm hoping to get answers about that. Even though her shop appeared to be the downtown bathroom, I can't say enough good things about the positive attitude Carol Martinez demonstrated with that. 

My reaction would not have been similar. Carol, as I've known for years, is just a very nice person who cares about Knoxville and its success. I don't think she's a doormat by any means, but it's been my experience that she's a better, calmer person than I. 

Notwithstanding that, I thought everything ran very well. I didn't like seeing local businesses, such as Hometown Meats, blocked by bicycle vendors. However, I understand that, much like the johns, these vendors had to go somewhere. 

In regard to the riders themselves, I struck up conversations with several. I enjoyed each of these conversations. 

I'm not exaggerating by any means. EVERY ONE of them who took the time to chat was as pleasant as can be. Not only were they friendly and polite, but all of them said Iowans (including Knoxville residents) were the nicest people they could remember encountering. 

Part of the reason I'm giving RAGBRAI organizers such kudos is because I did not hear a single complaint about the event's structure. In fact, it was just the opposite. As I noted on our Facebook page, one woman said Knoxville was the most organized town of the ride up to this point. 

That's saying something, folks. I'm not trying to take any of the credit, as I'll openly admit, I did nothing to help organize RAGBRAI beyond my duties here to pass along information and work on the official RAGBRAI publication for Knoxville. I knew I would not have time or patience to make and fulfill the commitment that would have required, and I don't like to do a halfway job. 

If there is something that I believe we can take away, as far as something that the community can improve upon for the next time, is following the advice others have given in the past; IMPROVE OUR WAYFINDING SIGNAGE. 

I was chatting it up with a Pleasantville Police Officer outside West Elementary for a while yesterday and at least 12 people asked us where Knoxville High School is. It was my pleasure to help these people and the several others I helped navigate around town yesterday. 

There were a few frustrations I had when trying to get around. First of all, as I tried to drive home last night, there were riders who refused to stay on their side of the highway. 

I'm in a car, folks. I'll dodge you as best I can, but the highway is only so wide. I ran into the same issue on my way to Bussey this morning. 

I only bring that up because I didn't want to hurt anyone or have to report on any vehicle-bicycle accidents. Safety, like the highway, is a two-way street that needs to be respected. But, the few who did not get over comprised a very, very small percentage of the overall group. Of the 20,000 bicycles who left Knoxville this morning, I'd say maybe 100, on the high end, gave me this issue. 

I am very disappointed in myself for not timing my day better to get some photos in Bussey. I thought riders would spend more time in Pella.

We are expecting photos from others, however. But, there came a point as I tried to travel among the bikes that I realized we'd all be better off if I came back to Knoxville instead of pressing it. If you were in Bussey today and have photos to share, send them in. 

Overall, this event went more smoothly than I originally expected it to. I knew it wouldn't be a disaster, but I am just so impressed with the riders, the organization and everyone else who made this the best event it could be, thus following through on the promise of making Knoxville the best stop along this year's route.

Take care of yourself and thank you for reading.