Grinnell College alumni reunite along rolling hills, small towns of Iowa

July 30, 2018 — Somewhere between Ames and Newton Dylan O’Donoghue ’11 spotted a bicycle rider with a Grinnell College jersey.

From her bike, she shouted at the fellow RAGBRAI (The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) participant and subsequently learned it was someone from the class of 2010.

“So he jumped over and rode with us for awhile,” she says. “That sort of thing keeps happening at RAGBRAI. It’s way more fun when you run into people you know.”

More than 100 Grinnell College alumni rode in RAGBRAI this year, which began in Onawa on July 22 and wrapped up in Davenport on July 28. Riders travel a total of 428.1 miles on the route and climbed 12,576 feet during the week.

Although the route didn’t swing through Grinnell this year, it did pass nearby. A RAGBRAI dinner drawing about 110 alumni and friends of the College was held in Newton on July 25. A Grinnell College tent greeted riders the next day at a midday stop in Montezuma.

For the past six years, the college has partnered with Grinnell’s local bike shop, Bikes to You, to sponsor the group on the annual July ride. Team Grinnell – a group of Grinnell College alumni and friends of the College – was back in full force.

Group picture of the Grinnell RAGBRAI team 2018.
2018 RAGBRAI Team Grinnell

Mark Hatherly ’79 from Woodbury, Minnesota, has gotten to know a lot of different Grinnellians by participating on the team through camping, riding, and hanging out.

“These people are my friends now,” he says.

Hatherly partook in his eighth RAGBRAI ride, and enjoyed this year’s route along with all the diversions at each stop.

“The western Iowa route was really pretty,” Hatherly said. “The roads aren’t usually straight so you do a lot of climbing and get a lot of scenic vistas. I call RAGBRAI the state fair on wheels. The Minnesota State Fair is every day, and I go all 10 days because it’s something different each day. RAGBRAI is the same thing.”

Mle Davis ’98, a teacher from New York City, brought a whole contingent from New York and a friend from Chicago. They had 13 riders in all.

Davis knew about RAGBRAI as a student but didn’t have the means to participate. Years later she bought a bike and began building up her strength.

“It’s a great chance to come back and to get to know the state of Iowa a little more,” she says. “I like taking part on the alumni team and really enjoying spending time in Grinnell. It’s a great way to remember my time here.”

Jack Dane ’79 of Davenport rode in his seventh RAGBRAI. His first time was in 1996 on a tandem bike with his then 10-year old son, Calvin Dane ’08.

“Things have changed on the ride the last 20 years,” Dane said. “There are portable showers now, thankfully. People have a lot faster bikes. And there’s still a lot of good pie to eat.”

P. Carter Newton ’77 was riding in RAGBRAI for the first time.

“It’s been a great experience,” Newton says. “The trust is noticeable. People put down their $5,000 bikes and wait in line for ice cream for a half hour. Participating in something with that much trust is awesome.”

O’Donoghue and her husband, Joseph Wendel ’11, of Philadelphia were visiting Wendel’s parents in Ames when they decided to ride a couple of segments of RAGBRAI.

Three riders celebrate the end of a stage together
Three riders stop at the Grinnell College hospitality tent Montezuma.

“We didn’t actually meet on RAGBRAI but we did ride the same year, 2008, after our first year at Grinnell,” Wendel says. “She waved to me. It’s such a fun event. My favorite part is probably the meetups on the farms because it’s so quintessentially Iowa.”

Sign here for Happily Ever After

O’Donoghue and Wendel attended the Grinnell-in-Philadelphia Reception on Jan. 26 where Dean of the College Michael Latham spoke about Global Grinnell. The couple took home a raffle prize, a pen that was made from a tree outside Alumni Recitation Hall (ARH).

But the pen just sat unused until it was brought along for a special occasion.

O’Donoghue and Wendel recently had a self-uniting wedding, which is a Quaker tradition. They had to sign a marriage document, and that’s where the Grinnell pen made its grand debut.

“We thought it would be fitting to have Grinnell in that way be part of our wedding,” Wendel says.

—by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

Interested in riding with Team Grinnell next year? Bookmark this page for information each year about RAGBRAI.