Thousands of riders from around the globe will be cycling into Fort Dodge on Monday and some faces may be a bit familiar.
Three former Fort Dodge residents will be riding across Iowa for the eighth time together. Paulette Harris (nee Grunwald), Mark Swedlund, and Jim Tarbox will be traveling from across the country to team up again for this year’s RAGBRAI.
Harris, Swedlund, and Tarbox originally met when they were teenagers as members of the Fort Dodge Lanciers Drum and Bugle Corps.
“Back then we learned how to travel together. We made a lot of road trips and we’ve been doing it ever since,” said Swedlund.
The three all graduated in Fort Dodge in 1969, Tarbox from St. Edmond, Harris and Swedlund from Fort Dodge Senior High. The trio reunited in 2008 to participate in their first RAGBRAI. Swedlund said they all committed to being more active with the goal of participating in the ride.
“I called Jim and I said ‘Hey I’ve got a crazy idea. What if we get in shape and bike across the state of Iowa?’ he said.
The three weren’t serious cyclists before embarking on their first ride,
“Before the first one we did, I bet I hadn’t been on a bike in 20 years,” said Tarbox.
After their first ride, they knew it was something they wanted to return to.
“We had a jolly good time and we’ve been coming back ever since,” said Swedlund.
Tarbox, who currently resides in Maplewood, Minnesota, said they all enjoy biking in their free time now, one more than others,
“Mark is not shy about sending me a picture on Christmas on the bike and I’m watching it snow out my window.” Tarbox said.
Swedlund now lives in Sebastopol, California, and says he enjoys being able to bike year-round.
Swedlund says there are many rides closer to home, but RAGBRAI is something special.
“This is totally different than any other biking experience,” he said .” In RAGBRAI, you come into town and you’re going to meet the mayor, you’re going to meet the county dairy queen, at least one or two of those as you go down the road, you’re going to experience pork chop on a stick, cookies from the Methodists, and the American Legion beer tent and everyone is going to be glad to see you and it’s a totally delightful experience.”
Tarbox said, “Another reason for us to do this is it’s fun to get together and get caught up and spend the week together…It’s a chance for us to see the old stomping grounds.”
The team will consist of Swedlund, Tarbox, and Harris, who now resides in Greene, Iowa, as well as Dave Svaleson (Fort Dodge Senior High class of 1972) of Elysian, Minn., Mike Schmidtmann of Warrenton, Va., Dr. Douglas Beaks of Washington, D.C., and Mike Wassenberg of Nashville, Tenn.
Swedlund said they are all excited to embark on RAGBRAI XLVIII, especially the overnight stop in Fort Dodge.
“We’re looking forward to being back there and proving we’re still alive at age 70,” he said.
”We’re excited to have a nice safe outdoor activity with 10,000 of our closest friends.”
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