RAGBRAI might be a bike ride but first and foremost it is a cultural and educational experience. I am going to meet some really different people.

One of the groups I am anxious to see is the Wilson family from Ames.

Greg and Shelli Wilson got married on a dare. It was the summer of 2000, and they’d only known each other for about five months.

“She said to me, ‘You would never have the guts,’” Greg said. “We were married 15 days later.”

The Wilsons’ philosophy is relatively simple: Everyday life isn’t all that exciting on its own, therefore, do what you can to make it memorable.

“Life always tends to produce plenty of commas and periods,” Greg said. “What it’s your job to do is to add the exclamation points.”

Ten years and four kids after their unorthodox wedding, the two daredevils are still happily married, and are punctuating their lives with plenty of exclamation points. That’s why instead of celebrating their 10-year anniversary in some more traditional way, all six members of the Wilson clan will be participating in Ragbrai, a 442-mile, week-long bike ride across the state of Iowa that starts next weekend.

For some, Ragbrai would constitute a big exclamation point, but for their first “big ride,” the Wilsons are taking it a step further.

Meet the newest Wilson exclamation point: “Cliffy the Big Red Bike,” a 17-foot, custom-built monstrosity, outfitted with four saddles and a Burley child trailer hooked to the back.

I thought riding my trike was different until I read about the Wilson family.  I would never take four children on a ride like this but I would like to meet a family that would.

For education we have this …

The University of Iowa-based Office of the State Archaeologist is sending a team of bicyclists on the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa July 24-31. During the ride and at stops on the way, the cyclist-archaeologists will share information about the state’s history and archaeological resources.

More than 25,000 archaeological sites have been recorded in Iowa, and archaeologists estimate that 10 times that many have yet to be discovered. Artifacts are as many as 13,000 years old and include anything made or used by humans, such as tools, weaponry, dishes, burial mounds, or structures.

“Folks on RAGBRAI are out to have fun, but they’re also interested in learning about the state. It’s a nice fit for us to tag along and share information, reaching thousands of people in different communities on the route each year,” said State Archaeologist John Doershuk (photo, above), an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Anthropology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

In Sioux City the preparations continue for our arrival …

SIOUX CITY — Click, clack. Psssst. Laugh.

Those sounds punctuated the air downtown Saturday morning, and a sign RAGBRAI is nearing.

The event? Bicycle painting.

After a vigorous shaking, the spray cans flowed green, orange and other bold colors onto frames, gears and tires.

About 100 discarded bikes, painted by a handful of local committee members and volunteers, will hang downtown.

“But they’re not going to blow in the wind, we hope,” Melissa Lanzourakis-Joens said with a laugh, as she coordinated the effort.

The decorated bikes will replace the flags on light poles on 4th Street between Jackson and Iowa streets.

The bikes are among several touches to welcome cycling enthusiasts next week to kick off The Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.

Host families are getting ready …

On Sunday Mark Kemmerer, on South Shore Drive could be found cooking up a feast in his garage.

“We’re doing 6 turkeys deep friend, we’re going to smoke some briskets, we’re going to smoke some shoulders and just feed them when they get here, just because we want to,” said Kemmerer.

Kemmerer and his wife are ready for a houseful of friends.

They want to party with the 70 confirmed, and possibly more RAGBRAI riders who will camp in his yard during their Tuesday stop in Clear Lake.

Put all that together and more … and you get RAGBRAI.

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