As RAGBRAI 40 wrapped up in Clinton on Saturday, one team had reason to feel especially satisfied.
Team Flamingo, a group of 35 or so from the Cedar Valley and beyond, just finished their 30th year of riding Ragbrai. In that time, the team has raised about $100,000 for a variety of causes, such as a handicap accessible playground and scholarships for at-risk kids, said Mike Knapp, 61, of Waterloo and one of the teams founders.
"I felt guilty taking time off, so I started raising money," Mike told me during a stop in Mount Vernon on Thursday.
Mike Knapp started as a support driver decades ago. He said he put pink flamingos yard ornaments in the lawn so his group could find him, and someone asked, "are you Team Flamingo?"
"Yes, we are," Mike responded. And thus Team Flamingo was born.
The next year he rode his bicycle, and has ever since.
If you've ridden Ragbrai, you've probably seen Team Flamingo. Mike and his doppelganger Leigh Zeitz, a professor at University of Northern Iowa, dye their white beards pink. The group also wears pink hair, dons feathery pink boas and pink apparel.
"It's hard to get out of towns because everyone likes to take our picture," said Mica Lorenz, 63, of Waterloo, who is married to Mike.
Most of the team members have aliases. Mike is known as Big Bird, and Mica as Whiny Bird, and others go by Salsa Bird, Doodle Bird and Bongo Bird.
Check out more Ragbrai 2012 coverage from Patch:
The group has a core from the Cedar Valley, but has grown to include people from New York and Michigan. Several work at University of Northern Iowa and University of Iowa.
One of the newest riders is from Sioux City. A couple years ago he opened his home to Team Flamingo when Ragbrai kicked off there. He ended up falling in love with one of the members of Team Flamingo and before this year's Ragbrai they got married.
Now, they are another piece of the 30 year history of Team Flamingo.