Olson pedals across Iowa

Courtesy Photo Above, Huron cyclist Dennis Olson with his son Matt and daughter-in-law Eryn, who met on a bike ride.

HURON — For more than a year, Huron cyclist Dennis Olson has been waiting to participate in one of the popular cycling events in the upper midwest - the Des Moines Register’s Ride Across Iowa, or “RAGBRAI.”

In July, Olson, along with 80,000 other enthusiasts, completed the 500-mile trek from the Missouri River at Sioux City to the Mississippi River at Davenport. It was the 50th anniversary of the cross-state ride, which began with a much smaller number of participants in 1973. Olson, who made the ride for the 26th time, has now been part of the ride for more than half of the excursions.

“I thought back on the first RAGBRAI I rode in back in 1985,” Olson recalled, “at a rest stop early in this year’s ride. Things were so much different; everyone wore casual clothes and nobody had helmets.”

The equipment has changed as well, from bikes with no gears, to those that now have 10 or more and the ever increasing popularity of electric assist bikes. This year was a challenge, as the heat index passed 110 most days of the ride and Olson said his sense of accomplishment was like no other year.

Among the other organized rides in which Olson has ridden are the RASDak - the Ride Across South Dakota - and the final Argus Leader event in Sioux Falls.

It was on one of those rides, accompanied by his son Matt, that they met a young rider named Eryn from Sioux Falls, at a rest stop. They struck up a conversation, began a long-distance relationship and eventually married.

“I am grateful for the friendships and memories that I have made on these rides,” Olson said. “There is a tremendous sense of community among the riders. I am already looking forward to next year’s RAGBRAI.”