The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly on RAGBRAI was Mostly Good Until We Met the Pro-Life Proselytizers

The good, the bad, the ugly, the crashes, the RAGBRAI proposal, and the real now,and faux Christians on RAGBRAI.

The good:

The first day of RAGBRAI I ran into an adorable little boy, a real RAGBRAI-er, Jayden Skalberg, 7 years old, and his dad, Bryan Skalberg, from Stanton, IA. Jayden looked like a real laid-back young fellow, the kind of easy going kid we need more of on RAGBRAI. I got a photo, and they're anxious to see it.

I also got a photo of one-year-old Elsie, another cutie, and Matt in Orange City. I assume Matt is her Dad.On 

Speaking of Dutch country, I got a photo of Arlyn Schaap in a Dutch outfit with big buttons at the top of his black trousers.

On the third day I crashed in the first two miles or so out of town. I was talking to a nice young woman named Emily from Iowa City and bumped someone's back wheel. I don't know if he cut in front of me and was suddenly there, too close, or if I just wasn't paying attention.

Anyway, he didn't go down. He kept on going. I went down hard and I hate that feeling of falling with no control. It seemed like as soon as I started to go down, I could hear bikers yelling, "Biker down! Biker down!" to clear a space around me.

An EMT from Highland, Indiana, Ed Watrobka, was riding right behind me and was wearing his EMT T-shirt. He'd just proposed to Natalie Collom, also from Highland, Indiana, who is a surgical technologist from Community Hospital. They both had their medical kits with me and patched me up real good in the road. They were so nice! The father of the bride, John Collom, was also riding with them.

A bicyclist who'd been blocking from us told us to get the hell out of the road in a very angry voice and then said it again. I signaled to him that I didn't appreciate his tone, especially since I was still dazed and confused and bleeding all over, and I kept my comments short and sweet. He kept yelling, so then I started crying. I wasn't proud of it, but the man hurt my feelings. Then he apologized.

Ed Watrobka cheered me up after we'd moved to the side of the road, and Natalie continued to wrap me in gauze. Luckily, I didn't break anything. 

I know the couple is going to be very happy together because they're so nice, and I told them so. Got a photo, too.

The bad:

At the Comfort Inn in Fort Dodge, a North Dakota man who was hired to drive for a team out of Minneapolis, came in to snag one of the last two rooms in the place, and said he'd just gotten out of the hospital with kidney failure from dehydration and he was going to kill his roommate. He said he called eight people to tell them he was hospitalized and no one called him back. 

I told him a lot of people were having a hard time getting cell phone service and Wi-Fi because of RAGBRAI demand, but he said, "I called eight people! No one called me back. Not even my roommate." He clearly felt that betrayed.

He said the doctor would only release him from the hospital if he promised to go home and have some blood work done in the next couple of days. He said he was mad enough he might just go home and send the Minneapolis team, a group of 90 riders, a bill.

The ugly:

There was a rumored fatality that the Fort Dodge Messenger and the Des Moines Register said was not a fatality. A man named Murphy, 38 years old, from Urbandale rode without back lights on his bike at 5:30 a.m. and a pickup truck ran into him at 50 mph. He was taken to one local hospital and then air-lifted to Mercy Hospital in Des Moines. He was still alive, in good condition, the last time I read about him in the newspaper, but had a separated shoulder and some other injuries.

Real Christians and hateful, scary Christians:

Vital Ministries men handed out free slices of watermelon with welcoming smiles and handed out cards printed with their ministry's website:


I'm grateful they didn't proselytize.

Then several pro-lifers came by with huge, horrifying photos of aborted, mangled fetuses proudly displayed on the side of their vehicle. An elderly man whipped out a megaphone and started proselytizing against abortion on the other side of the street from a vendor who'd set up to raise money for a kids' basketball camp. There were little kids with her, kids under 10, and they were mesmerized by the huge photos of the mangled fetuses. 

"Don't look!" their mother yelled at them and told them to go back to the back of the truck. Of course, the kids looked anyway. They'd never seen anything so horrifying, and neither had I.

The mother told the pro-lifers that her kids didn't need to see that. Bicyclists yelled at them as they passed. Both the mother and I walked across the street to give them a piece of our mind(s). 

But the proselytizers were filled with self-righteousness, creepy, scary self-righteousness, given the offensive and disgusting nature of their large photos.

I called the sheriff. Remember. I asked for help, but so far I haven't been arrested.

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Matthew Georges July 28, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Sorry to hear about your accident Maria, I'm glad you weren't injured too badly. However from your description it does sound as if the accident was your fault. You are responsible for watching out ahead of you, just as you are in a motor vehicle. This is also the reason I choose to ride later in the day, since the crowd of inexperienced riders has cleared out by then.
Maria Houser Conzemius July 29, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Matthew Georges, I already admitted the accident was probably my fault. That's how you know the accident was probably my fault. At 106 degrees, people do bonk and do get dazed and confused. The bicyclist might have cut in front of me and come in too close, without allowing enough distance between us. Due to the extreme heat and the shock of the crash, I'm not sure. I was a good Samaritan to bicyclists far more in need of help than I was. I picked up a 71-year-old man with a heart condition, diabetes, and a bad knee who really was dazed and confused in the heat. He didn't know what town he was in even after I told him once or twice, couldn't read a map in the car, and definitely needed help. He was extremely nice and gave me a kiss before his wife picked him up. "God bless you," he said twice. He was wearing a cross. I liked Harley. His team doctor had already told him he was done for the week but he tried one more day, one day too many. His wife came and got him in Marshalltown after I drove him there. I also picked up a nice woman from Iowa City who'd pulled her Achilles tendon. I drove her to Webster City. I picked up a 19-year-old, who biked with me to the next town, who'd grown up on a farm near Columbus Junction. She'd ridden every mile of her first RAGBRAI till the last day, when she was walking up a hill with knee pain. I took her to Clinton. I offered help to several other people but they managed to either tough it out or get ahold of their partners.
Maria Houser Conzemius July 29, 2012 at 05:06 PM
So Matthew, you were on RAGBRAI too?
Matthew Georges July 29, 2012 at 05:52 PM
I didn't say you weren't a good Samaritan or a nice person, but it is always important to be hyper vigilant about your surroundings especially when riding in a group. I was on the ride this year, self supported. Our team rides towards the tail end of the pack for several reasons: first, who wants to wake up before 6AM on vacation? Second, we avoid the massive crowds of cyclists that dangerously mix spandex clad pace lines with novice riders and children. The crowd makes it hard to take the downhills at enough speed to be able to carry you up the other side. Next, we often arrive in the pass through towns as the vendors are beginning to shut down and often offer us better deals or even free food they don't want to take with them! I think it is important to visit the small towns and to stop and smell the roses rather than spinning your way to the end town before noon. Lastly, ask Frank Iowa and he'll tell you the most colorful and interesting people come out at night on Ragbrai! I had a great time again this year, my second. We took naps in the shade for hours when the sun got too hot and carried coolers to always have a cold beverage on hand when we wanted one. We always got to the end town before midnight. As with many things in life, but especially Ragbrai, it's the journey not the destination that is most important.
Maria Houser Conzemius July 29, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Matthew Georges, I am naturally hypervigilant. I really think the heat was affecting me. Enough about that. I can really get into your attitude toward NOT getting up before 6 a.m. on vacation. We got up at 6:15 a.m. most mornings and I was still exhausted by the end of RAGBRAI. You sound like a tough rider. Glad to know another RAGBRAI-er. There's all different kinds of riders and ways to do RAGBRAI. Riding out to RAGBRAI is getting really popular and I look forward to doing that some day. When we started we had two young children and an elderly man, my father, so we brought our car for when someone got tired or too hot or both. We got used to doing it that way, but some day, I'm going to do every mile!


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