Group hopes to use RAGBRAI to restore Iowa’s Monarch populations


Nick Fetty | July 23, 2015

The Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) kicked off this week and one CGRER member is hoping to use the event as a opportunity restore Monarch butterfly populations in the Hawkeye State.

CGRER founding member David Osterberg and University of Iowa College of Public Health research support specialist Nancy Wyland organized an event last week inviting people to help make milkweed  “seed bombs.” These bombs consist of soil, compost, and milkweed seeds rolled into a ball – roughly the size of a golf ball – which will be distributed to RAGBRAI riders as they make their way through Mount Vernon Friday afternoon.

Riders are encouraged to toss these seed bombs in ditches along roads in Linn and Johnson County to bring back milkweed plants with the hope of restoring Iowa’s Monarch butterfly population. Estimates show a 90 percent decline in Monarch populations over the past 20 years.

Osterberg and his group helped create roughly 600 seed bombs as part of a larger effort spearheaded by Monarchs in Eastern Iowa, a group that aims to store Monarch populations in Eastern Iowa. Last year the group raised and released approximately 1400 butterflies.

Among the riders participating in this effort is Kelly “Milkweed” Guilbeau. The Grinnell resident, who sports a butterfly costume during the ride, first began tossing out seed bombs last year. Guilbeau also manages a blog which focuses on Monarch butterflies.

This year marks the 43rd anniversary of RAGBRAI with approximately 20,000 participants on this year’s ride.

Imagine Energy Traveler available to RAGBRAI riders


Nick Fetty | July 24, 2014
The Imagine Energy Traveler. Photo via irenew.org
The Imagine Energy Traveler.
Photo via irenew.org

The Imagine Energy Traveler – a mobile solar energy generator and educational tool – will be part of the 431-mile trek for this week’s RAGBRAI.

The trailer has amenities that allow RAGBRAI riders and other patrons to charge cell phones and other mobile devices using solar-generated energy. Patrons can also enjoy free popcorn made in a solar powered machine. The trailer also showcases various energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and aims to educate users about these practices.

The Iowa Renewable Energy Association began fundraising, planning, and designing the trailer in 2013 and the following year, Dr. Craig Lust, an Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Iowa, joined the effort. Funding was made possible through a grant from the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) – “a federal program designed to improve the research capacity of eligible states or regions, making them nationally competitive for future grants.”

The Imagine Energy Traveler has made stops at several county fairs and other festivals in eastern Iowa this summer. Currently the traveler can be reserved for free for various events on a first come first served basis. The trailer will be on the University of Iowa campus on October 15 and 16 as part of Meeting the Renewable Energy Challenge event.

Edit: Due to logistical issues, the Imagine Energy Traveler project was not completed on time and therefore not part of RAGBRAI or any other events. 

Cooler temps offer needed relief for RAGBRAI bikers


Cyclists ride through rural Iowa during RAGBRAI (Dave Herholz/Flickr)
Cyclists ride through rural Iowa during RAGBRAI (Dave Herholz/Flickr)

After enduring two days of high temperatures and gusting winds, RAGBRAI cyclists will get a much-needed reprieve from the heat during Wednesday’s leg of the ride.

Today’s RAGBRAI route takes bikers from Forest City to Mason City, a distance of 38.5 miles. Conditions in both cities are dry and mild, with comfortable temperatures and low wind. Cyclists were greeted in Forest City yesterday by above-average temperatures and wind gusts at up to 30 miles per hour. The National Weather Service issued a heat advisory for western Iowa Monday and Tuesday which was lifted Tuesday night.

With average summer temperatures in Iowa expected to increase over the next few decades, RAGBRAI will become even more challenging for bikers who make the trek across the state. Extreme heat combined with exercise can cause elevated heart rate, and increased sweating can lead to dehydration and electrolyte depletion, putting even more strain on the heart. A respected cyclist suffered a fatal heart attack during Monday’s RAGBRAI route, the first cyclist to die during RAGBRAI since 2010.

American Ethanol team participating in RAGBRAI XLII


Nick Fetty | July 22, 2014
Members of the American Ethanol RAGBRAI team. Photo via GrowthEnergy.org
Members of the American Ethanol RAGBRAI team.
Photo via GrowthEnergy.org

The 42nd (Des Moines) Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa – better known as RAGBRAI – kicked off on Sunday and this year’s event features a nearly 200-person team representing American Ethanol.

This year’s route passes through “the heart of Iowa’s ethanol producing regions” and ethanol plants along the route will host various events throughout the week. The Biofuels Mobile Education Center – a 45-foot trailer with touch screen computers and other interactive equipment – is making stops in Emmetsburg, Charles City and Mason City. The No. 3 American Ethanol Chevrolet SS – driven by 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Austin Dillion of Richard Childress Racing – will also make stops in Emmetsburg and Mason City as well as Sheldon.

Since 2011, American Ethanol has been a key partner in implementing green efforts for NASCAR. As of September 2012, more than 3 million miles have been fueled by Sunoco Green E15 – “a highly oxygenated unleaded race fuel that contains 15 volume percent ethanol.” Growth Energy, POET, Green Plains Inc., Monsanto and New Holland have also teamed with American Ethanol to sponsor the RAGBRAI team.

For updates from the American Ethanol team throughout RAGBRAI, follow the group on Facebook and Twitter.

Iowa City musicians advocate for the environment during RAGBRAI


Photo by channone, Flickr.

A pair of Iowa City musicians used RAGBRAI to help promote environmental advocacy.

Elliott Beenk and Griffen Harris make up the “indie-beach-blues” band Chasing Shade. Harris is a University of Iowa graduate, and Beenk is going into his senior year at UI.

They rode RAGBRAI with all of their music equipment attached to their bikes using custom-built trailers. These trailers included portable solar panels, which collected energy to power the musicians’ performances during the ride.

Read more Beenk and Harris’ experience here.

Iowa Geological & Water Survey analyzes RAGBRAI route in brochures and podcasts


RAGBRAI riders in Orange City. Photo by mrsdkrebs, Flickr.

The Iowa Geological & Water Survey website has released a series of brochures and podcasts detailing the nature RAGBRAI riders are traversing this week.

The podcasts contain interviews with multiple geologists and other environmental experts. The brochures focus mainly on the geology of each day’s route.

Both the brochures and the podcasts are available here.

Environmental focus on RAGBRAI’s hosts: Sioux Center


Photo by dwcouch, Flickr,

Over the summer we will highlight the environmental efforts of RAGBRAI’s host communities.

The seven-day bike ride across Iowa begins in Sioux Center on July 21st. Sioux Center has implemented a series of initiatives in recent years to better the city’s environment.

Since 2009, Sioux Center has hosted an annual E-Cycle Event focusing on the proper disposal of recyclable electronics. This past year, 27,334 lbs of electronics were recycled.

Sioux Center is also active in addressing energy concerns. The city offers discounted home energy audits to limit energy waste and lower energy bills. Sioux Center also offers a wind energy option for homes through their RiverWinds program.

Learn more about Sioux Center from the city’s website here.