Only a smattering of people walked about Des Moines’ RAGBRAI Village by 11 a.m., surveying the tents lining downtown’s Court Avenue and Locust Street bridges. Very few wore bike jerseys.
Leigh Wilcox, a 62-year-old RAGBRAI veteran from West Des Moines, was among the first handful of riders to arrive in the event’s largest overnight town . As organizers and food vendors hurried about in anticipation, Wilcox inflated an air mattress. His tent, already set up, claimed a prime spot on the Des Moines River.
“We were just pee-dinking today,” Wilcox said of his early arrival. He left Perry, Monday’s overnight town, at 6 a.m., and stopped three times to visit family and friends along the way. His secret? A pricey carbon bike whose speed is second-to-none, he said.
This year marks Wilcox’s 28th RAGBRAI, he said, give or take. He rolls in early in each day to work the tent for Bike World, a store his friend owns.
Brian and Margie Collins of Washington D.C. also arrived early to Des Moines, but didn’t plan to take in the concerts and festivities planned downtown.
“The food is good, but (we’re) not so much for the nighttime partying,” Margie Collins said.
The two, both in their 50s, count this as their fourth RAGBRAI. They’re staying in hotels this week and are here strictly for the ride. Well, that and rhubarb pie.
“They always want to fix it with strawberry,” Margie said, “but I want the tart rhubarb. Don’t cut it with anything.”
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