RAGBRAI: Wet, windy, and with 4 wheels

BY CHRIS CLARK | JULY 22, 2009 7:15 AM

INDIANOLA, Iowa — The rain started Monday afternoon and continued on and off until Tuesday at noon.

Riders mounted their bikes in Greenfield early Tuesday morning, embarking on the longest ride they will face all week, 77.2 miles to Indianola.

Along with the rain, cold temperatures, and wind that sent some tents rolling forced some riders to sag their way to Indianola but gave others even more motivation to saddle up.

Four Deere-Heart riders rode the team’s bus to Indianola High School, where they set up camp right on campus.

UI alum Jake Wilson said he felt like he was finally getting over the flu, and the weather had been good, he would have ridden.

“All I want to do is ride,” he said after paying $5 for a hot shower on the school’s campus. “But with this weather, I know I will just start getting sick again, and I don’t want to be miserable the rest of the week.”

But for UI senior Derek Bronner, who met up with Team Deere-Heart Monday night, Tuesday’s trip was his first ever organized bike ride.

When Deere-Heart rider and fellow UI senior Trent Wilson told Bronner he was going to “leave him in the dust,” it made Bronner want to beat him even more.

“I know it’s not a race,” Bronner said jokingly. “But, man, all this shit talking makes me want to whip him.”

I spoke with Vick and Veena Patel, co-owners of IC EcoCab, before they left Greenfield Tuesday morning.

Vick Patel said he and his sister were planning to head back to Iowa City after riding Tuesday to get back in time to run their cabs over the weekend, but with such poor weather, they decided to call it quits early.

Although the Patels, who consider themselves “commuter cyclists,” didn’t ride their bicycle cabs on RAGBRAI, they did find some success marketing themselves and their business.

“We had billboard ads on each of our bikes with a picture and a phone number,” Venna Patel said. “Riding [RAGBRAI] served a dual purpose. We had fun, and we also got a lot of people talking about the business. A lot of locals gave us shout-outs on the streets.”

Vick Patel, who is working on Ph.D. in physics at the UI, and Veena Patel, a UI junior, said they get a lot of recognition in Iowa City, even when they’re not driving their cabs.

“People feel pretty positive about what we’re doing,” Veena Patel said, and the opportunity to provide alternative transportation in such a bike-friendly city is the root of her business. “We’re lucky to be in Iowa City where we can give people the option of doing something a little bit different.”

While the Patels had to head home early, riders who finished Tuesday’s trek were just happy the worst is behind them.

Today’s ride takes riders on a 44.4 mile trip from Indianola to Chariton.

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