Blind Riders Take On RAGBRAI

By: Jake Wasikowski
By: Jake Wasikowski

It’s called the oldest and largest bike touring event in the world. RAGBRAI brought about 10,000 bicyclists to western Iowa, starting the journey in Glenwood and making it to Atlantic. Groups from all over the country are peddling the plains. Keith Elliott and Melissa Saltzman didn’t just ride together, though. They formed a special bond on the roads because Melissa is blind.

“And so I have to be behind someone and basically all I can do it pedal,” Saltzman said. “And I have to depend on the person in front of me to take me to the right places and to guide me to the right places.”

“It’s a blessing for me to be out here, and it’s exciting for them, so it’s a good team,” Elliott said.

Elliott is with the National Camps for the Blind, and the organization brought two people with visual disabilities to this year’s first day of RAGBRAI. The two rode almost 60 miles.

Kathy Broeker said her other senses are heightened when she rides.

“Your endorphins kick in, and it’s really fun because you’re around all these other people that love cycling too” she said. “It’s just all the bikes together at one time.”

Riders find their share of ups and downs on the road, but they take them in stride. The 472-mile trek is in its 39th year and is showing no signs of slowing down.

“It feels awesome,” Saltzman said. "I mean, I can’t describe how awesome it feels. I love it.”

Ten riders were treated Sunday for heat exhaustion. Many riders will camp out in Atlantic Sunday night. RAGBRAI continues Monday as they head 65 miles north to Carroll, Iowa.

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