RAGBRAI Riders Rolling into Coralville
By Gregg Hennigan, Reporter
CORALVILLE, Iowa – Many RAGBRAI riders go at a leisurely pace, taking in the pass through towns, eating – and perhaps drinking – along the way.
Not Richard Varn.
“I’d hurl if I stopped and ate a pork chop in the morning,” the 53-year-old said.
So Varn, who lives in Des Moines and grew up on Solon, left Grinnell at 5 a.m. Friday and biked the 75-mile route straight to Coralville. He was one of the first RAGBRAI participants in town, arriving about 9:20 a.m. even after losing time to a broken spoke.
More than 10,000 other riders were expected to follow him as Coralville serves as the last overnight stop on the weeklong bicycling trip across Iowa. RAGBRAI finishes Saturday in Davenport.
RAGBRAI headquarters is at S.T. Morrison Park in the heart of town, which has effectively become a large campground.
Riders will enter the park on Eighth Street by crossing under two arches of a structure resembling the brick facade of Kinnick Stadium, home of the Iowa football team. A Herky the Hawk statue is at the entrance.
They’ll then travel over a 30-yard “field” that is Eighth Street painted green and striped with yard and hash marks. There are also black and gold end zones, one saying “Coralville” and the other “Hawkeyes.”
A large recreational vehicle that should have been passing through the mini Kinnick hit the structure and popped out one of the panels this morning, but it was repaired quickly and before any cyclists arrived.
Coralville is host of RAGBRAI’s inaugural college spirit day, and a community known for its love of the Hawkeyes will have to accept seeing more Iowa State red that it probably cares to, plus the colors of the University of Northern Iowa, Drake University and others.
Sarah Dorman, a 32-year-old from Carroll in west-central Iowa, wore a red Iowa State baseball cap. She joked with someone that she should probably take it off, but it stayed on her head.
“It will be OK. I’m not scared,” she said.
Shawna Colvin of Tiffin came out with her three young boys. They were all dressed in Hawkeye gear, including 7-week-old R.J. Six-year-old Jack and Riley, 3, played on the street-turned-football field before the cyclists arrived.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Jack, who wore a black No. 32 jersey.
Counting riders, support crews and area residents who come for the festivities, more than 20,000 RAGBRAI-related visitors are expected here today, which would surpass Coralville’s population of 19,000.
Organizers have been planning for this day since February, said Laurie Haman, vice president of the Iowa City/Coralville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. About 500 volunteers are working the event, and 200 homes are hosting riders.
All 32 Coralville police officers are working today, Chief Barry Bedford said. Six reserve sheriff’s deputies and two Iowa State Patrol troopers will help tonight, and area law enforcement will monitor intersections on the RAGBRAI route today and Saturday, he said.
In three previous Coralville RAGBRAI stops, the last being in 2006, no one associated with RAGBRAI has been arrested, Bedford said. Just a few locals.
All the visitors also mean business for the area. Hotels have been sold out for months. About 24 food vendors and 14 non-food vendors are in the park selling clothing, offering massages and cooking pizza, grilled items, sandwiches and even Mexican food.
Jerry Sweeting of Jerry and Margie’s Catering in Riverside brought 1,100 bratwursts, rib-eye sandwiches, hamburgers and hotdogs. He’d like to sell 1,000 of them but said having fun is another reason he came.
“It’s just enjoyable to see everybody’s get ups and what they wear,” he said.
Cheba Hut, known for its marijuana-themed menu, has a tent carrying its slogan, “Where the only thing fried is an occasional customer.”
Some of the sun-baked riders who have reported that this week has been hot and hilly might disagree.
Click here for a list of activities related to today’s RAGBRAI stop.
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