Cyclists from across the country started the seven day, 418-mile ride across Iowa for the 42nd annual RAGBRAI Event. For the first host town on this year's route, Rock Valley, it was a difficult month preparing for the event after a flood destroyed area homes.
Up to 30,000 bikers pedal their way out of Rock Valley this morning. It was a sign of a job well done for the community that turned a flooded town into a welcoming home for the cyclists.
"When you get a lot of water in the spring it'll flood you out. I mean it's something. I've been through it, too, so I know what they're going through," cyclist Dennis Dippel said.
Dennis Dippel is riding in his 23rd RAGBRAI. He's also from Belmond, Iowa, another community that dealt with floods this year. He says bringing in the thousands of bikers to Rock Valley is a great way for the town to recover.
"The money it brings in. Overnight towns, the money, if it's good weather it'll bring in the people and people buy stuff and that's this town needs is a boost like that," Dippel said.
The RAGBRAI community is also playing a big role in the recovery. After hearing that Rock Valley still planned on hosting the event after the flood last month, RAGBRAI Director T.J. Juskiewicz knew the organization needed to help out. Bike shops with ties to RAGBRAI donated $2,000 to help the flood victims. There was also buckets throughout Rock Valley where bikers were able to donate money.
"I know the buckets looked full. Hopefully they were all hundreds and not ones," Mayor Kevin Van Otterloo said.
After all that Rock Valley has been through, Juskiewicz says it's the least RAGBRAI could do.
"There's thousands of dollars that came into this community as just an extra thank you, because we know they could have been doing cleaning basements and cleaning different things affected by the flooding, but they helped out and said that we want to host RAGBRAI," Director T.J. Juskiewicz said.
It's been an experience that the City's mayor hopes to see again in his town.
"Well it's going to take a whole team effort to get this ready again if we ever get it again. We've got to work hard and everybody's got to pitch in or we're never going to make it work," Van Otterloo said.
Juskiewicz says with how the community rallied around hosting the thousands of bikers, that won't be a problem.
"A lot of amazing effort from the town. We can't wait to come back here again," Juskiewicz said.
Cyclists today rode over 69 miles from Rock Valley to Okoboji. The last stretch of the ride is on Saturday.
Click here for a map of the RAGBRAI route.