Every day at Ragbrai, I saw tons of folks with “VIRGIN” markered on their calves. I saw hazing: underwear worn over shammies, Speedos without any padding, and nicknames smeared in semi-permanent ink. I wasn’t the only first-timer by a long shot.
So having survived and enjoyed my first Ragbrai, I thought I’d take a moment to list out some tips I picked up along the way, so next year can be even better. in a word: carpe.
Treat it like a vacation. Enjoy it. If you want to stop for beer, stop. If your friends don’t, that’s ok. It’s their vacation, too. You can meet up later or continue enjoying the day alone. Carpe joy.
Get out early. Iowa is mufkin hot and humid, and that pavement radiates heat up as the sun bakes it down. Unless you like ovens, leaving as early as possible leads to better enjoyment and more time for fun stuff along the way. Carpe morning.Keep your eyes peeled. Watch for free water, lemonade, or beer along the whole way. Stop as soon as you see it! This is the good stuff, the social friendly heart of Ragbrai. Carpe free stuff.
Eat anything you want. You’re burning 2-3000 calories a day, so enjoy! Especially enjoy the homemade pies and ice creams. Skip the smoothies. They’re fine and refreshing, but homemade, there’s-the-churn-right-there ice cream is rare. There’s-grandma pie is also a jewel. Carpe homemade.
Talk with people. Dance with people. Ragbrai is about the people. Hell, the whole world is about the people. Spend a few extra minutes in town; they’re putting on a big party for you, after all! Carpe people. This might be literal, depending on how much free beer you’ve found and how loose the dancing is.
You will hurt, but you’ll forget the pain and remember only the good and awesome things. And they outnumber stupid things like pained wrists, numb fingers (mine still are tingly almost a week later), chapped ass cheeks, and muscle cramps. Also, your friends are hurting too. They just won’t say it. Carpe badass.
Eat breakfast as soon as you see it. The next town might have nothing at all, the mileage to it might be listed wrong, or it might not be as fun as here. In fact, I hardly ever saw two towns back-to-back that both had breakfast. Carpe breakfast.
Above all, this is a rolling party. Don’t get so caught up in the ride that you forget to have fun. And don’t get so wasted that you miss the ride. They’re both amazing. Carpe Ragbrai.