Retired Iowa National Guard Members Trek across Iowa

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Rich Murphy
  • 185th PA
Several members of the Iowa Air National Guard joined the thousands of bicyclists in the Des Moines (Iowa) Register's 38th Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa®, better known by the riders as RAGBRAI.

Over 20 members of Team BANG (Bike Air National Guard) put on their team jerseys and started their 420 mile journey east from the shores of the Missouri River in Sioux City, Iowa to the shores of the Mississippi River in Dubuque, Iowa.

RAGBRAI is a nationally recognized bicycle ride that attracts over 10,000 riders from around the world every year. The ride historically begins on the west coast of the Iowa border, where riders dip their back wheel into the Missouri River. Riders then begin the 7-day journey through small towns across Iowa until they reach the east coast of Iowa and dip their front wheel into the Mississippi River.

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Steve Bonnes, a former member of the 185th Air Refueling Wing, began his 18th ride this year. Bonnes said, "This ride is a great time. I really enjoy the camaraderie of this group. Every year we make this trek and swap war stories."

Bonnes, an avid bicyclist, typically prepares for RAGBRAI by logging in 500 miles prior to the trip. "This year was really difficult. The weather has been so wet that we really have not had a lot of opportunities to get miles in."

Bonnes worked in the Iowa Air National Guard for 37 years, including 20 years with the 185th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) in Sioux City, Iowa, and 17 years in the 132nd Fighter Wing in De Moines, Iowa. Now retired, Bonnes sees cycling as a way to maintain his physical fitness. "I keep coming to RAGBRAI for the physical conditioning now that I am not using the fitness room."

Retired Chief Master Sgt. Jim Clark, also a former member of the Iowa Air National Guard, began his 28th ride this year. "The camaraderie of all the riders is great. We get to meet a lot of great people from all over the world at this event." He adds, "We get a lot people who ride buy and give us the thumbs up and shout 'Go Guard.'"

After receiving open heart surgery last fall, Clark admits the race is much more difficult now then when he was younger. "Twenty years ago, I did RAGBRAI with no problems. I'll tell you, it really takes a lot out of me now."

The members of Team BANG get support from several volunteers who drive a large moving truck that carries their tents, food, clothes, and beverages to each site. Clark said, "Of course, we do this trip a lot more civilized than we used to. We used to use The Register's 18-wheelers to haul our stuff. That was really a grueling trip."

The team also takes advantage of the hospitality of several members of the Guard family. During the first stop at Storm Lake, Iowa, the team set up camp at the home of retired 1st Sgt. Jaymie Bral. Bral, a formar member of the 185th ARW said, "I really enjoy having everyone here. I told everyone when they got here, make yourself at home."

The RAGBRAI event will conclude this Saturday, July 31st, in Dubuque Iowa. For more information about this event, visit the official website of RAGBRAI at

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