This summer marked the 25th time I crossed the state of Iowa by bicycle with my husband, Mike. After a two-year hiatus, we were eager to return to the camaraderie of more than 20,000 people who test themselves to cover the 400-plus-mile, seven-day ride as part of RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa).
What keeps us coming back to this event year-after-year is how the route changes with new towns added to the itinerary. While the ride is always different, what remains constant is how warmly we are greeted by locals eager to show off what makes their community special. You never know who you will meet or where you may be inspired.
My inspiration popped up on the ride to breakfast on the morning of day three in the City of Havelock, population 145. Standing on a firetruck was a young girl named Teleigh clutching a bright pink sign asking cyclists to “fill the boot” to collect donations for a new fire truck. Teleigh’s father, Joe, is the city’s assistant fire chief, and he explained that the funds raised would help purchase a vehicle that could handle rough terrain to tackle grass fires in locations that a traditional fire truck cannot traverse. We of course made our contribution as a gesture of appreciation to Joe, Teleigh, and the rest of Havelock for hosting the ride and keeping us hydrated. (And they gave me permission to take this photo and share their story with you.)
The next day as we covered 105 miles from nearby Emmetsburg to Mason City, passing field after field of rows of corn, Joe’s fire truck was still on my mind. Through many small gestures of support from each cyclist, the entire community of Havelock benefitted and would have a new vehicle to protect their property and economic vitality.
I held onto this thought for the rest of ride. It reminded me that even in our much larger – and growing! – part of the country, there is always an opportunity to welcome more people to help us be a stronger community. Together, we help co-create the communities we live in, and by welcoming newcomers and guests, we can achieve greater goals.
Good ideas are always popping up. If you are newer to the area and have questions about our community needs, or if you are a more seasoned resident with a new idea that could help others, I would like to hear about it. By joyfully coming together we can build new vehicles to travel previously unnavigable fields. As Iowa has taught me for a quarter of a century, there is always space for another rider and new ideas. What is yours?