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Offutt bicyclists conquer ride across Iowa

Courtesy Photo

Members from Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska pose for a picture while participating in a seven day, 411-mile bicycle ride that took place July 23-29 and spanned across the state of Iowa.

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. --

A group of bicycling enthusiasts from Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska recently completed a seven day, 411-mile bicycle ride that took place July 23-29 and spanned across the state of Iowa.

The annual ride, titled the Des Moines Register’s Great Bike Ride Across Iowa or “RAGBRAI,” is a challenging ride that is well-known among bicycle enthusiasts.

This year, a small group of 55th Wing members decided to participate in the ride. The group included Lt. Col. Michael Edmondson and  Lt. Col. Mathew Waszak, 55th Operations Group deputy commanders, Col. Clayton Seale, 55th Maintenance Group commander, his son Andrew Seale, a Texas A&M ROTC cadet, and Lyle Ostrander, 38th Reconnaissance Squadron program manager.

“We’ve all enjoyed biking and just wanted to challenge ourselves,” said Ostrander, who was the only member of the group to previously ride in RAGBRAI. “We camped out for a week and you pretty much just eat, sleep and ride.”

In addition to the five riders, a sixth person, Lt. Col. James Wills from the 1st Airborne Command and Control Squadron, volunteered to drive the support vehicle and camper from host city to host city each day.

Edmondson said it was an experience they couldn’t pass up.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for about the last ten years or so, but the timing never worked,” Edmondson said.

The route traveled across the northern area of Iowa this year, beginning in Orange City, Iowa near the Missouri River and ending in Lansing, Iowa near the Mississippi river. The daily routes ranged from 44.8–71.7 miles-per-day and riders camped at pre-chosen host cities along the route that included Spencer, Algona, Clear Lake, Charles City, Cresco, Waukon and Lansing.

The Offutt group began training for the ride in April, engaging in short rides on weekdays and longer rides on weekends.

“They recommend to ride at least a 1,000 miles,” Ostrander said. "We did more than that…having a good bike to ride definitely makes a difference.”

To participate, the Offutt group had to be chosen from a lottery. The ride only accepts 8,500 riders each year and they come from all over the world to participate in the ride that traditionally ends on the last Saturday of July.

Ostrander said it’s a win-win for both the riders and the state of Iowa.

“It’s a huge fundraiser,” Ostrander said. “It brings a lot of business to the small towns.”

The annual ride first began in 1973 when two feature writers for the Des Moines, Iowa newspaper, the Des Moines Register, decided to bicycle across Iowa and chronicle their experiences.