Des Moines Register documentary about RAGBRAI will feature Lansing RAGBRAI 2022 and organizers Ian Zahren, Andrew Boddicker

To be featured in RAGBRAI documentary... Andrew Boddicker, left, and Ian Zahren, principal organizers of Lansing RAGBRAI 2022, were interviewed for a documentary about the annual ride being produced as part of the Des Moines Register’s plan for celebrating RAGBRAI’s 50th anniversary next year. Photo credit: Kelsey Kremer/Des Moines Register.

by Julie Berg-Raymond

In late March of this year, Des Moines Register award-winning Iowa columnist Courtney Crowder announced to readers that the Register was seeking stories “from riders who have overcome, grown or smashed a personal goal because of RAGBRAI.”

RAGBRAI is, of course, an acronym for the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa - the oldest, largest and longest recreational bicycle touring event in the world. Next year will mark the ride’s 50th anniversary.

“In our newsroom, that is an achievement well worth celebrating,” says Crowder.

Part of the Register’s evolving plans to honor RAGBRAI in its 50th year is a documentary project that was filmed this summer. Incorporating stories from riders who answered Crowder’s request for what she calls “RAGBRAI moments,” the film will also focus on at least one community’s planners - in order, Crowder says, “to show the impact that RAGBRAI can, and does, have on rural Iowa.”

And so it happened that Crowder - one of the film’s producers - and her camera crew came to Lansing this summer to interview two of the principal planners of Lansing RAGBRAI 2022, Ian Zahren and his husband, Andrew Boddicker.

“Not only are Andrew and Ian dynamic personalities, but after living in big cities, both domestically and abroad, they made the conscious decision to move back to rural Iowa to begin their married lives,” Crowder says. “Their dedication to building bridges within the Lansing community to ensure its stability and growth for the future makes them great representatives for the power RAGBRAI can have at a local level.”

As for Lansing, itself, Crowder says it’s “an incredible place, and the community certainly put its best foot forward during this summer’s RAGBRAI. We had the pleasure of attending a planning meeting as well as interviewing Andrew and Ian separately and together. We are still going through footage and storyboarding how their portion will fit in with the completed documentary.”

“Almost from the very beginning of the RAGBRAI effort here in Lansing, we were informed that Lansing was chosen as the town that would be zoomed in on as part of the tale in the documentary,” Boddicker says. “They wanted to feature an overnight town to show what goes on behind the scenes and the impact RAGBRAI can have on a community.”

For Boddicker and Zahren - and the volunteers who worked on no less than 20 committees in the effort - planning Lansing’s participation was, from the start, about the people and place of Lansing.

“We asked ourselves: How does RAGBRAI catapult this town into its next phase?” Boddicker says. “That was at the top of our mind throughout the process and to share that story is important - and what better way, than a documentary? The interviews were great. The filmmakers are top-notch creators and storytellers, and they will weave a beautiful tale for RAGBRAI.”

Boddicker, who owns and operates Walking Space - which offers a variety of wellness-centered, multi-day, long-distance group walks - thinks of RAGBRAI as “an epic journey. Like all journeys there are ups and downs; but it is the perseverance, grit, vulnerability, and triumph at the end that gives a person the confidence and belief in themselves that they have what it takes - on the journey and in life. It is not unlike other journeys.”

As an example, Boddicker offers the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain, a 500-mile pilgrimage where nearly 250,000 people journey every year. “Having done it in 2015, I underwent a transformation that forever changed the course of my life. Dare I say, I probably wouldn’t live in Lansing if I hadn’t walked that journey and I certainly wouldn’t have founded a business based on the idea of walking as a healing journey.”

RAGBRAI has the same potential for impact,” Boddicker says. “Sure, there is the revelry and party side of things; there is also the transformation that many undergo whilst struggling through and giving time to their inner thoughts during miles and miles of riding. It has tremendous potential for positive change, and we witnessed that ourselves - even in our little town on the river.”

For Zahren, the story of RAGBRAI “is really a story about the human condition, in a lot of ways,” he says - and about drawing attention to what he considers a kind of rural renaissance in this country. “There is a definite kind of a stigma about (rural living),” he says. “But we just haven’t found that to be the case. There really is something magical about the rural life.”

Indeed, that “something magical” was always at the heart of the ride. “Fifty years ago, two journalists from the Des Moines Register set out on bicycles with the simple mission of telling the story of Iowa,” Crowder says. “They knew that to really understand our state and its inhabitants they needed to be on gravel roads, on Main Streets and in town squares.”

The documentary film is expected to be released just prior to RAGBRAI’s 50th ride, in the summer of 2023.