I'm hanging out in the wi-fi cabana at a local little coffee shop here in Red Oak, Iowa this morning. It's the bonus of being the relief driver for hubby peddling on RAGBRAI.
For a time, I sat with two gentleman bikers grabbing breakfast burritos and coffees before they head out. We talked about the general tone of the event this year; seems a bit quiet from my perspective but I don't know the overall numbers. One of these guys has been participating in RAGBRAI for over a decade and the other just started a couple of years ago. The latter mentioned the commercial aspect of the event; he thinks it's a bit much.
Definitely the communities and businesses hope to cash in on a little extra traffic, but I don't think anyone is raking it in, least of all the small businesses in the towns. This is conjecture on my part, so if YOU are a business growing rich on this event please find me and pipe up!
Last night, this particular shop put out all the stops for prospective dinner guests. They had loads of prepared sandwich wraps, egg rolles, sandwiches, cookies, and ice cream. I mean . . . there were LOADS of them, each individually wrapped in foil or cellophane. I asked the owner today how sales went and she said not good. The main square did seem quiet when we were there at 8 p.m. I'm not sure where the crowds were.
In the meantime, this owner announced that today is her last. She is moving on to a job working with handicapped people and glad to have the work, but the tone of loss is here. As I look at the main square of Red Oak (the old buildings and quaintness) I wonder about the stories behind the shops and the people. Unfortunately, a lot of the storefronts are quiet. Maybe Red Oak is doing well elsewhere, but here on the square I wonder.
photo by James Justin, powered by flickr