Political Reporters Hit The (Bike) Trail In Iowa

David Greene speaks with NPR's Don Gonyea, Scott Horsley and Brian Naylor about The Des Moines Register's Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. The three reporters are riding in the event, also known as RAGBRAI, to explore the Iowa they didn't see on the presidential campaign trail.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Okay. Political stories often come from the White House and they often take our political correspondents, say, to Iowa. That's where three of them are right now. But not for an election cycle, but actually to cycle. NPR's Don Gonyea, Scott Horsley and Brian Naylor are all on vacation together, pedaling across the state of Iowa, hundreds of miles with thousands of other cyclists. It's an annual summertime ritual known as RAGBRAI.

We were able to reach them this morning as they headed out for day three of their trek. And guys, what, you can't get enough of Iowa, you have to go there for vacation?

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: You can never get enough of Iowa, but we're seeing it from a bicycle seat this time and that's very different.

GREENE: I can imagine that's different. Well, Don, where are you now and where are you guys going to end up today?

GONYEA: We are in a campground, something that wasn't a campground yesterday or the day before, I might add, in Perry, Iowa. There's a full moon. There are stars. We got rained on last night. But the ride started in Council Bluff. We road on Sunday about 50, 53 miles, something like that, and then overnighted in Harlan and then a long ride yesterday. Now we're in Perry.

So we're two days into a seven-day ride.

GREENE: I'm really curious. I mean what made you decide to do this together.

GONYEA: We all spend a lot of time coming to Iowa to cover politics and it's always in advance of the Iowa caucuses. And when you criss-cross Iowa the way a political reporter does, you kind of hear about this event and it's this legendary thing here. And I think it was Scott who came up with the initial idea, but we thought wouldn't it be great to go back there during nonelection year and be able to talk to all of these, you know, really nice people we meet when we come to Iowa about things other than this candidate or that candidate or this issue or that.

So that's where we've been and that's what we've been doing. But let me hand the phone to Scott right here.

GREENE: Sure.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Yeah, hi, David. This is Scott.

GREENE: Hey, Scott.

HORSLEY: Yeah, my goal for this trip is if the phrase 2016 is uttered, it will only be the context of calories.

(LAUGHTER)

GREENE: I like that. So are people uttering that phrase or are Iowans really avoiding politics for now, taking a little break?

HORSLEY: We're certainly avoiding politics and no one else has volunteered it. We're mostly focused on just the pretty landscape and the nice people and trying to stay on top of that bicycle seat.

GREENE: And that itself can be a challenge. So did Don and Brian look at you and say you're crazy when you came up with this idea?

HORSLEY: They did. But it slowly won them over. Let me let you ask Brian about that.

GREENE: Yeah.

BRIAN NAYLOR, BYLINE: Hi, David. It's Brian.

GREENE: Hey, Brian. Are you staying on top of your bike seat, as Scott said?

NAYLOR: So far so good. Yeah, there haven't been any major incidents. I'll have to tell on Don, had a little trouble yesterday with a chain and I guess Scott blew a tube. But otherwise no scrapes or bandages to be seen.

GREENE: That's good news. And you're eating well. I see your photos on Tumblr. I mean this doesn't seem like you're losing weight on this bike ride.

NAYLOR: No. I think the reputation here is that this is the only bike ride that you can go on for seven days and actually gain weight because every town along the way opens its sidewalks - different, you know, kinds of food. And it's not only that, but between the towns, you know, at every little farm road, intersection or ends of driveways, people are selling Gatorade or granola bars or pork chops, watermelon. It's a cornucopia here.

GREENE: What goes better with a granola bar than a pork chop. Brian Naylor and Scott Horsley and Don Gonyea, guys, have a wonderful trip. Eat well, be well, and we'll talk to you when you get back.

NAYLOR: Thanks, David.

HORSLEY: Thanks.

GREENE: And you can follow their trip on Tumblr at ReturnToIowa.Tumblr.com. Ride on. It's NPR News.

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