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Banana suits and Evil Eyes, ‘Ordinary’ doesn’t ride on RAGBRAI

BY CHRIS CLARK | JULY 23, 2009 7:15 AM

CHARITON, Iowa — The last 24 hours of RAGBRAI have been my most exciting.

After rain that plagued riders until their arrival in Indianola, the sun came out Tuesday afternoon and refreshed riders all day Wednesday.

Tuesday night, Indianola streets were crowded until the early hours of the morning with RAGBRAI participants and locals who came out to see a band covering everything from AC/DC to Lady GaGa.
I joined six Deere-Heart riders Wednesday morning for the trip to Chariton.

Temperatures were in the 80s, and the 44-mile ride left me and many others baked. But the beer was colder than ever, motivating thousands of riders to stop and take advantage of tasty food and fresh beer throughout the trip.

My group and I stopped in Lacona, which proved to be a popular place for riders to hop off their bikes and spend some time off the road.

We found a spot outside of Rudy’s Rendezvous, a local bar right off the bike route, where we kicked back a couple of rounds and talked about some of the nonsensical team names and the outrageously dressed riders we have spotted so far.

Since the start of my RAGBRAI journey, I have seen and done some things I am not really used to: “showering” with a plastic bag that releases water at the same speed used for Chinese water torture, parking a school bus in the middle of a baseball field, and camping out next to a person from the Netherlands.

But just sitting back and people-watching has surprisingly provided some of the best entertainment.
Team NumNutz, the Crank Addicts, the Alcohawks, Huff & Puffers, and Team Updog. What’s Updog, you may ask … exactly.

While in Lacona, I ran into Jenny Keeney, a cofounder of Team Evil Eye, a relatively small team with riders from Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

As riders with Team Evil Eye drank and danced, Keeney said she doesn’t really know why she named her team the way she did, but, she said, “We’ve been giving the evil eye since 2007.”

Keeney said she and her teammates like to stop and have a beer in almost every town on the ride. By the time we ran into each other, Keeney said her teammates had stopped in every town on the way, and some even scaled a climbing wall in Milo, the halfway mark of today’s ride.

“During the ride, we don’t like to get real crazy drunk or anything,” Keeney said. “We’ll have a drink in one town, and a mile later, you don’t even know you had it.”

While Keeney said one motivation for her riding is to gain bragging rights on non-RAGBRAI riders, some gain more bragging rights than others.

Not because of their average speed, or their slick maneuvering. They earn reputations for their appearance.

Three days into RAGBRAI, I have seen some outrageous looking bikes.

A tandem bike, painted white with black spots, with both of its riders dressed up like cows. An entire team wearing long purple wigs. And members of Team Budweiser wearing kilts on their entire ride across Iowa. I’ve seen it all.

But one man, who I had the honor of meeting Wednesday morning, was wearing a massive yellow banana costume, riding a sit down tricycle that was also decorated like a banana.

“You want a picture with me?” he asked when I walked by as he was getting ready to continue his ride.

“I don’t know if I’ll fit in there with you,” I said. “But, hell, now you got me hungry.”


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