The RAGBRAI trek across Iowa begins just after dawn with the ceremonial dipping of the back tire in the Missouri River. The departure from Sioux City is orderly but thick with all manner of machines. We are entertained on the top of the first hill by a cheerleading squad in full uniform. People are already on their lawn chairs and at street corners. It is 7 a.m. on Sunday and we have 68 miles in front of us. What began 38 years ago as a casual idea to ride a bike across Iowa is now the single biggest event in Iowa in off-presidential campaign years. Communities lobby organizers to bring the ride through their towns as the course changes year to year. Farms along the way offer up chicken and homemade pies. Two miles before our ride ends in Storm Lake we pull into one farm promoting free beer and hot dogs. We have not died but this seems like heaven…

We got a good look at the Mississippi before driving west to begin peddling toward it for seven days

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