“Taking it to the streets” - Team FairTax at RAGBRAI

RAGBRAI article author, Diana Lowe - thumbnail 1By Di Lowe

RAGBRAI_4The Des Moines Register hosts an annual bike ride known as RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) each year during the last week of July. This year, 2007, marked its 35th anniversary, and 10,000 cyclists showed up to celebrate! Within the throngs, you’ll find organized cycling clubs from Alaska to Chicago; from California to Florida. You’ll also discover whimsical teams (Team Ibuprofen, Team Roadkill) and teams that wear their cause on their sleeves (Team Relay for Life, Team FairTax). The latter was represented by seven intrepid adventurers willing to take on the daunting task of pedaling 478 miles across Iowa, while preaching FairTax along the way!

Outfitted in our sporty, new FairTax jerseys (designed by in-house staff), we were easy to spot, and we thoroughly enjoyed the greetings we received from other riders already familiar with the FairTax. As Lisa, one of our teammates, put it:

RAGBRAI_2“As I rode in a pack of thousands of people, I was a bit taken aback by the enormity of the event, and I felt quite out of my element. There were people in costumes and funky bikes; there were large, impressively fast teams such as the U.S. Air Force flying past me, and then there was little ol’ me - I felt completely insignificant. Then, ‘lo and behold,’ the magic of my FairTax jersey began to kick in. People started riding up to me (usually passing me) cheering, ‘Go Fair Tax!’ I was an instant celebrity!”

This year’s ride had participants from all 50 states and over 20 countries. So we had the pleasure of introducing the FairTax to several “lower exposure” states, while also explaining the differences between the FairTax and a VAT to our European inquirers. On more than one occasion, I had a cyclist ride up with the question, “Since when can any tax be fair?” With an opening like that, it was easy to keep the conversation going all the way to the next town. Obviously, our discussion could be heard easily and other cyclists would add their two cents’ worth on tax reform as they pedaled past or lagged behind.

RAGBRAI_8We hit the road by 6:30 each morning and by about 7:30 we were usually separated. A few of us wanted to use the early morning hours to pedal long distances in the cooler temperatures. Others had their sights set on the roadside breakfast burrito stand just outside the first town. Aaron, being the youngest of the group, scampered off each morning and managed to squeeze in more activities every day than the rest of us combined. He exhausted his stash of tri-fold cards each day while waiting in line for the climbing wall, a biplane ride, or some local delicacy. According to Aaron:

RAGBRAI_9“The best FairTax experience I had was on the last day when I stopped to get some Beekman’s homemade ice cream. I sat in the back row under the canopy and began talking to the guy on my right. The FairTax came up fairly quickly, and as soon as I mentioned it, a man in the front row asked over his shoulder, ‘What tax?’ Before I could respond, another cyclist a few seats to my left answered, ‘FairTax, FairTax.org.’ Then a guy to my right chimed in, ‘I love that book!’ The guy I was originally talking to said, ‘Wow!’ and was clearly impressed. With the whole canopy crowd obviously listening, I gave him a short rundown and asked him to sign up on the tri-fold. ‘Sure!’ he said. ‘This represents what I’ve been saying for years!’ The rest of the crowd quickly depleted my remaining supply of tri-folds.”

RAGBRAI_3With bellies full of sweet corn and homemade pie, we’d arrive at our campsite -- always a “sight for sore thighs!” We’d set up our tents, stand in line for showers, grab something to drink, and then some of us would wander into the cooling tent. This is where we could often find John in the midst of a light-hearted debate over alternatives for tax reform. With his feet firmly planted on the ground and a fan at his back, he was quite content to partake in a good sparring session over our country’s political climate and each presidential candidate’s stance on the FairTax.

For seven days, we mounted our bikes and pedaled out into the masses to experience RAGBRAI while sharing our views on the FairTax. By midday on the 28th, each of us had dipped our tires in the Mississippi River to signify successful RAGBRAI_7completion of our adventure. After snapping our photos, Lisa and I wandered onto the main drag of Bellevue to celebrate amongst the bands, locals, and road-weary cyclists. We snagged a cool bottle of water at the FairTax booth and toasted our accomplishment.

We came. We saw. We conquered. And because of our efforts, a number of cyclists would return to their home state with great RAGBRAI stories to share, including one about a tiny team out to make a very big difference -Team FairTax.