Thomas and Payton started the trip with their back tires in the Missouri river and ended it with their front tire in the Mississippi.
The week-long ride, called the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), covered 468 miles across the state of Iowa between July 22 and July 28. According to Payton, 25,000 people participated in the ride over the course of the week.
Payton said the temperatures during the ride were over 100 degrees some days, and that shade was a valuable but scarce resource.
“When you’re in Iowa you find out that there’s no such thing as shade. They use every single bit of land to farm corn or soybeans,” Payton said. “Sometimes you wouldn’t see a house for 4 or 5 miles. But the farmers are happy to let you come into their yard and use their shade trees; because that is pretty much the only place you find shade.”
Thomas popped two tires during the ride, mostly due to the heat. Payton remembered one day the temperature of the pavement was measured at 135 degrees. Thomas commented that people die every year during the ride.
“Everybody in the world thinks that Iowa is flat,” said Thomas, “but there could not be anything further from the truth. There might not be hills as steep as here in Georgia, but when you have a two-mile incline, it is not easy.”
At nights, the riders would stop and stay in different places such as college gymnasiums, YMCA’s, people’s houses and Payton said one night that they stayed in a daycare center.
“The daycare was interesting because they only had one shower and there were 75 people staying there,” Payton said.
The couple both grew up in Cedartown and attended Cedartown High together. After their graduation they both attended Jacksonville State University. Thomas and Payton both live in Cedartown. Thomas owns a sheet music business in Rome and Payton is a yoga and fitness instructor in Rome.
Thomas said that during his grad school work in Iowa he would see the races going on. This summer Thomas and Payton decided to go up to Iowa and participate in the 40th annual RAGBRAI, despite their lack of experience with cycling.
Both Thomas and Payton said that they had never done anything like this before. Thomas even said he didn’t own a bike until they began training for the ride a year ago.
The couple started training for the trip months in advance, riding around 1000 miles. Thomas stated that the Silver Comet Trail was a great resource for their training. Paytons’ training goal was to be able to ride from Cedartown to Rockmart on the trail without having to walk her bike up any of the hills.
According to Payton and Thomas, the trip would not have been possible without the kindness of strangers. People would offer space in their trucks for the couple to use for their extra gear or to transport them to the places they would stay for the night. Some people would even give free water to the riders as the rode by.
“People talk about southern hospitality,” said Payton, “but we don’t have anything on them. They really rolled out the red carpet.”
Payton and Thomas said they would really like to do the ride again. They also recommend it for any cycling enthusiasts.
“I’m not sure that I want to be a cyclist, per se, with all the high dollar equipment,” Payton said, “but I had a tremendous amount of fun.”
For more information on RAGBRAI, or to register for the next ride, visit the website at ragbrai.com.