'Shift: The RAGBRAI Documentary' to premiere May 4: Meet the subjects featured in the movie
Editor's note: "Shift: The RAGBRAI Documentary" premieres May 4, 2023, at the Varsity Theater in Des Moines. Tickets are available now at VarsityDesMoines.com.
The Buffalo Lodge Bicycle Resort concierges can always tell when a guest from Iowa has checked into the hotel.
Every time an IA zip code pops up, owner Torie Giffin squeals with excitement and whips out her phone. As a longtime fan and rider of RAGBRAI, she’s got Iowa stories to swap and photos to page through and an all-out love for a state that has never been her address but feels so deeply rooted to her self-image.
“RAGBRAI has a way of making our world smaller and bigger at the same time,” she says.
The connections riders forge over seven days span the continent, if not the globe, she says. But the collective spirit of pure joy on the ride — and the way participants wrestle with their personal “why” for putting their lives on hold and baking in the July heat — acts as a much-needed yearly reminder of just how much we all have in common.
The new film, “Shift: The RAGBRAI Documentary,” will explore that spirit through the lens of the people who ride, the towns that host and the space RAGBRAI offers riders to find themselves — literally and metaphorically — in the middle of nowhere. Specifically, the movie follows three riders and a pair of community leaders as they overcome obstacles and reach new heights, changing their lives in the course of the weeklong ride.
Tickets for the “Shift” exclusive world premiere are on sale now! The red carpet event will be held at Des Moines' beautifully renovated Varsity Cinema at 7 p.m. on May 4. A post-screening talk back will feature directors Kelsey Kremer and Courtney Crowder in conversation with some of the film’s subjects.
Visit DesMoinesRegister.com/RAGBRAIdocumentary or VarsityDesMoines.com to purchase tickets or to learn more about the film.
The Des Moines Register is beyond proud to show the world what our team has been working on for two years.
We won’t offer any spoilers, but we do want to tell you a little bit more about the subjects in the documentary. Their interviews below have been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
More: 'Shift: The RAGBRAI Documentary' releases trailer; premiere coming in May
Hometown: Colorado Springs, ColoradoTorie’s story: Torie rode her first RAGBRAI in 1999 as an unattached 30-something looking to soak up the Iowa sun. When she returned more than two decades later, she’d been married and divorced, become a mother three times over and was in the process of weathering her youngest son Daniel’s brain cancer diagnosis. Setting off for the 2021 ride just days after a round of chemotherapy, Daniel and his mother wanted to make their trip, maybe their last trip together, as life-affirming as possible. But when a chance comment from a fellow rider about Daniel’s e-bike threatened to ruin their vacation, Iowans replied with a fierce kindness that wouldn’t just change the pair's seven-day adventure ― it would change their entire lives.
What stuck with you from RAGBRAI '99 that made you want to come back?When I saw families riding across the state together on my first RAGBRAI, I dreamed of having my own family one day that would take part in this ride, and it has been so amazing to have that realized over the last two years. It meant the world to me that my mom and daughter rode last year. They really wanted to experience what we experienced in 2021 when Daniel rode, and to be a part of, in a small way, what Iowa meant to us and what Iowa had done for Daniel.
What did it feel like to be part of the documentary?The whole reason I was willing to be vulnerable and be on the camera was to make Daniel’s story matter and to hopefully inspire other people. I wanted to make sure the story came across with enough heart that it might change someone’s opinions about e-bikes or change someone’s thinking that they can’t into they can.
What do you know about yourself post-RAGBRAI that you didn’t know before?My first thought is that I'm still fun! One of my fondest memories of last year was being close enough to hear the bands at the houses we were staying at. One night after we’d all gone to bed, I hear scratch, scratch, scratch on my tent and my 20-year-old daughter is like, “You want to go see the band?” And we snuck out of our camp like we were kids and went to the concert and had the best time ever.
Are you coming back this year?Yes! We started looking forward to this year on the first day of last year.
More: Check out newly announced 50th anniversary RAGBRAI pass-through and meeting towns
Hometown: Mobile, AlabamaAdam’s story: Adam is a recovering opioid addict who is bicycling through all 48 contiguous states to raise awareness for addiction recovery while fundraising to eventually build a Christian-focused rehab center. A first-time RAGBRAI rider, Adam rode with his son, Liam, 10. Forging a stronger relationship than either thought possible, the pair conquered mental and physical challenges that they say will continue to shape them long past the tire dip.
Liam turned 10 during RAGBRAI last year. What’s he up to now?Liam is in fifth grade. He’s been focused on his schoolwork and archery. We're going to Alabama State Championships with archery. He's done really well; he's got the mind for it.
When you think of RAGBRAI, what word sticks with you?Camaraderie. Just the ability to be out there with 20,000 people, and the fact that we all became a brother and sisterhood of people connected by the bicycle. It lingers, the fact that that many people are all focused on one thing together, even though we're all doing it separately. It's like gold, absolutely priceless.
What do you know about yourself post-RAGBRAI that you didn’t know before?I know how to be a more encouraging father, and more encouraging friend. I think I found more grace that week with trying to be a better father.
If you think about the story of RAGBRAI as a fairy tale, what is the moral of the story?Happy endings don't have to end. There can be another happy ending this summer at 50. And there can be another happy ending and 51 and 52. As far as a fairy tale is concerned, I think “ending” is really the bad word. It's a happy beginning.
More: What to know about the RAGBRAI's 2023 starting, ending and overnight towns
Ian Zahren and Andrew Boddicker
Hometown: Lansing, IowaIan and Andrew’s story: Andrew and Ian are a community-focused couple living and working in Lansing, a hamlet of about 800 people in northeast Iowa. Last summer, they took on co-chairing the Lansing RAGBRAI committee, which planned and executed the tire dip and the final day of the ride. Over nearly a year of planning, the stress and the joy of marshalling their small town to great success would try not only their relationship, but also their commitment to rural America.
When you think about RAGBRAI, what comes to mind?Andrew: Being tested (laughs). But, seriously, it really proved that not only are we capable of a great deal, but we're even stronger when we work on things together. That was, of course, true with RAGBRAI, but since RAGBRAI we've done a great deal many things together as well and that continues to be a proven success.
What did it feel like to be part of the documentary?Ian: I have been a performer for most of my life, so I wasn't uncomfortable with the idea of having a camera close. But I think what is really exciting is the fact that you showcased these communities and their people because in a lot of culture, we're kind of known as flyover country and there isn't a lot of attention given to people or places like this. It's just really nice to shine a spotlight on kind of the wonderful, magical place that “flyover country” can be.
We’ll explore this in the documentary, but how did RAGBRAI impact your community?Ian: We took a lot of that money that we were able to raise through RAGBRAI and we distributed $112,000 of profit to other nonprofits in our town: our schools, our churches, our city government, police, fire departments. We were able to really enhance the services and what it means to live in this community. We also took some of that money and did a giant community initiative to draft a 10-year vision plan for our town.
What do you know about yourself post-RAGBRAI that you didn’t know before?Andrew: I didn't know that it really only takes a matter of asking a lot of questions to get something done. I think people are just really afraid to ask, but we didn't know anything and we just asked all the questions and we made all the contacts and we figured it out. I believe more in myself. I'm not afraid to face something that's really unknown.
More: New to RAGBRAI? Here's everything rookies need to know before riding across Iowa
Hometown: Des Moines, IowaDayna’s story: Dayna, a longtime RAGBRAI rider, started seriously bicycling as a way to heal from a personal tragedy. But over the years, she’s set a personal goal to make cycling a safe space for Black and brown women. On last year’s ride, revelations came to her that would change how she looks at healing and at leading this new charge in the bicycling world.
When you think about RAGBRAI, what comes to mind?When I reflect back on last summer and getting through the ride, it's just, wow, the muscle memory of what your body can do when you get out of your head. On some of those hills, I just settled in, focused on that front tire and just pedal, pedal, pedal. So that's what I've been thinking about these past eight months whenever I feel like life is getting life-ish: You can do hard things, you can. We are designed to do hard things.
You were always so honest in your interviews for the documentary. Where does that come from?For me, it’s just: Let's get truth in the room. I'm really big on being accountable, otherwise you don't learn and you don't grow. I want to emphasize I'm not perfect, so when I make those mistakes, I own them. It isn't easy. I'm the hardest on myself when I do that because I know better and I always want to do better.
What do you know about yourself post-RAGBRAI that you didn’t know before?Last year was probably my most favorite RAGBRAI because I felt that it was not only a beginning, but a closing of sorts. I was being ushered into something new in my life. I didn't realize how tight of a grip I held on parts of my life. And I realized last year that it's OK to let go.
Are you going to be on RAGBRAI this year?I’m all signed up! We’re trying to get surrounding groups involved in the ride. Major Taylor and Black Girls Do Bike, we’ve partnered to get as many brown and Black folks from those clubs to ride as are interested. And one of the young students that I mentor, she was going to do one day, but now she’s going to do the whole thing!
Courtney Crowder and Kelsey Kremer are the directors of "Shift: The RAGBRAI Documentary." Reach out to them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Tickets for 'Shift: The RAGBRAI Documentary' premiere are on sale now