• Sun July 27 2008
  • Posted Jul 27, 2008
Brian Morelli Iowa City Press-Citizen A man riding his bike across Iowa in nothing but a loincloth, that is what stuck out to Caitlin Copper-Leehey on her first day of RAGBRAI. It wasn't just the loincloth; it was what the 19-year-old from Iowa City did about it. She marched up to him, flipped out a form and gave him a citation. "You are getting a citation from the Single Women's Brigade," she told the man as he collected his dish of ice cream from Beekman's, a vender on the route. She looked him up and down. "Splendid Use of Spandex" -- she crossed that one off the list. "Personal Foul" --- check. "Moving Violation" --- check. Then she handed it to the man. He got a kick out of it, and so did everyone in line, including Copper-Leehey's mother, Mary Copper. This is one of the silly pranks and gags that people play on RAGBRAI. For Copper-Leehey, who aside from a day in kindergarten and a day in sixth grade is a RAGBRAI newbie, this was her first experience with this. "You just have to not be so shy, and get into the spirit of RAGBRAI," Copper-Leehey said. On her left calf, "RAGBRAI" was inscribed with black marker, and her right calf read "VIRGIN." Newbies are referred to a "RAGBRAI virgins" and a mark on the leg is customary. Copper-Leehey had made a pact with herself to go on a RAGBRAI by the time she was 21, so she is a year ahead of schedule. By the time her first day of RAGBRAI 2008 came to a close, Copper-Leehey was loving it, she said. The ride left from Missouri Valley on Sunday morning, and stopped in Beebeetown, where the Press-Citizen caught up to the mother and daughter moments after they ate Mama Rafael's breakfast burritos, one of the many offerings from roadside venders. Next was Underwood, Neola, Minden, Shelby, Tennant and finally Harlan, where Copper Leehey and the thousands of other riders would spend the night. In all it was a 59-mile ride on Sunday. It was pretty hilly, about 3,800 feet of climb through Western Iowa, but the wind was virtually non-existent, threatening rain never came to fruition and much of the early day was relatively cool for Iowa in July. Later in the day, the sun blazed. "It was great. I loved it. Physically, I feel good," Copper-Leehey said. Today, she will depart from Harlan and 83 miles later will reach Jefferson, in what is considered one of the hilliest days ever on RAGBRAI. The ride will end on Saturday, after 472 miles, on the eastern edge of Iowa in Le Claire, but not before swinging through North Liberty, Solon and Tipton, among other stops. Copper has been coming to RAGBRAI for 12 years or so, and she was visibly proud and excited to have her daughter on the ride with her and to be able to introduce her to all of the features. "I wanted her to catch the panoramic experience of RAGBRAI," Copper said. "It's not just the biking." They both came with a group of 170 as part of the Bicyclists of Iowa City entourage. They will camp with that group, but mother and daughter plan to stick together for the week. "It's a special mother-daughter thing," Copper said. 'It's a special week."

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