Pork Chops and Cornfields: These Photos Capture What Makes RAGBRAI Special

The Best Photos From RAGBRAI's 50th EditionKersten Vasey

The scent of pork chops, grilled corn, and homemade strawberry pie. And then something rank. Is that coming from you or a cow you just pedaled past? You slow to a stop at the pig farm to reapply chamois butter, and “Back in Black” fades to “Free Bird” as various stereos on wheels whiz by. Back in the saddle, a roadside family of six throws a popsicle your way. You swerve to snag it and narrowly dodge a quad tandem in Speedos. It’s your fifth popsicle of the day and it’s only 9:30 a.m.—another average morning on RAGBRAI, a.k.a. the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, the largest and oldest recreational bike ride in the world.

Its appeal seems to defy logic: tens of thousands of people of all ages, many camping each night, descend on Iowa to ride hundreds of miles from the Missouri to the Mississippi during the peak heat of summer. The ride was the brainchild of two Des Moines Register journalists, John Karras and Don Kaul, as a challenge that swelled from 300 Iowans in 1973 to thousands from all over the world. Averaging 468 miles ridden over seven days, the route changes yearly while many of its riders stay the same—once you experience the magic and mayhem of RAGBRAI, it’s hard to steer clear.

An estimated 30,000 to 60,000 people took to the byways, bridges, and gravel roads of Iowa each day for “One L of a Ride,” the 50th-anniversary ride that launched on July 23, 2023, from Sioux City—just as it did 50 years earlier. Severe thunderstorms, surprise hills, and high temperatures were only small setbacks as the annual party on wheels proved once again that pain is temporary, and RAGBRAI is forever.

Registration is now open for RAGBRAI LI.

a boy holds a goat next to a sign that says goat selfies
A young rider poses with a baby goat at one of the many roadside farm stops that lure riders of all ages. Goat yoga, tractor rides, slip ’n’ slides, petting farms—all common stops on RAGBRAI.Kersten Vasey
two people point water hoses at each other
two cyclists on a gravel road ride a tandem bike
a man stands next to a poster with a portrait of a cyclist
Another humid and hazy sunrise greets riders outside of Carroll.Kersten Vasey

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