Thousands of riders camped here last night, but by 11 a.m., Des Moines Waterworks Park was a ghost town. Only one tent was still pitched, with a couple of bikes strewn on the grass in front of it. All was still; there were no signs that its occupants would be waking soon. Just a few bags of trash and some overturned chairs at empty tables were reminders of the numbers who had made the tent city home for a night.
A blue school bus sat running at the campground’s entrance, waiting for I e of the riders it was servicing to finish taking a shower in the port-a-potty-walled add-on at the back of the bus.
“It can be a little bit on the campy and rustic side,” said Coleman Tucker, of Houston, who was off to a late start this morning after spending Tuesday night partying with friends. “But you don’t have to wait in line.”
And having a bathroom available, even a plastic one, “At 4 in the morning, it’s clutch.”
Walter Aten, 30, originally of Evansdale, is the proprietor of the Superior Hawgs bus. He charges $175 for the week to provide the amenities and transport gear from one campsite to the next. This year, he is serving 20 riders.
“I usually try to leave really early,” to find the best campsite far from the others, Aten said. But having to refill his water tanks for the shower, “it takes a little bit more time to get out of the campsite.”
About two miles from the official campground, Steve Skrine, of Chicago, was one of three guys breaking down his team of five’s camp on a bank above the river, where they slept the night before.
Loading the rear car seat, which was used as a makeshift sofa, back into a van, Skrine, 50, said, “You gotta utilize everything when you’re roughing it at RAGBRAI.”
Skrine and the others were heading to Monroe to switch off with the rest of their team for the ride to Knoxville. Last night they opted not to go downtown for the festivities, instead going out for Mexican and then hanging out at camp.
“After a vigorous day of riding,” Skrine said, “we partied on site, then passed out under the stars.”
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