Behind The Stories

Is This Heaven? No, It's Iowa.

The NPR newsroom was recently abuzz with rumors that three political correspondents had fallen prey to certain nostalgia for the Hawkeye State, after murmurs of slow summer news cycle amidst a grid-locked Congress began percolating around the coffee machine.

The tip-off came from an intern who'd been cornered by a White House correspondent sharing fond campaign memories from stops along miles of unassuming farmland dotted with purposeful, reliable cornfields. Soon word got out that a National Political correspondent had interrupted an editorial meeting with visions of pork chops big enough to have their own zip code and friendly locals offering sweet and savory pies of infinite flavors and textures.

Before long, several sources had placed Washington Desk correspondent Brian Naylor casually perched on the desk of producer and resident chaperone Arnie Seipel, chiding: "Because where else would you rather be in the last week of July, than pedaling across Iowa?" (Some claim to have witnessed Naylor flutter a single micro brew in front of Seipel.)

That's when the whole news staff became privy to an adventure of pie-loving proportion.

(left picture) Don Gonyea, Brian Naylor and Scott Horsley on day 1 of the RAGBRAI ride, team No Pie Refused is all smiles in anticipation of the infinite varieties of peach pie (a group favorite) to be tasted on the road ahead. i i

(left picture) Don Gonyea, Brian Naylor and Scott Horsley on day 1 of the RAGBRAI ride, team No Pie Refused is all smiles in anticipation of the infinite varieties of peach pie (a group favorite) to be tasted on the road ahead. NPR hide caption

itoggle caption NPR
(left picture) Don Gonyea, Brian Naylor and Scott Horsley on day 1 of the RAGBRAI ride, team No Pie Refused is all smiles in anticipation of the infinite varieties of peach pie (a group favorite) to be tasted on the road ahead.

(left picture) Don Gonyea, Brian Naylor and Scott Horsley on day 1 of the RAGBRAI ride, team No Pie Refused is all smiles in anticipation of the infinite varieties of peach pie (a group favorite) to be tasted on the road ahead.

NPR

More On the Bike Trip

Scroll through photos and anecdotes of their journey from start to finish on the Return to Iowa tumblr.

Listen to the guys catch up with NPR Host David Greene on Morning Edition and Iowa Public Radio's Clay Masters.

RAGBRAI Inventory
Miles traveled: 405
Mr. Pork Chops eaten: 11
Flat tires: 2
Minor crashes: 1
I (Heart) NPR pins given out: 179
Bottles of water consumed: 97
Corn field restroom breaks: n/a*
Friends made: 25,000

*what happens in the corn, stays in the corn.

And so began the voyage of NPR caucus-regulars Don Gonyea, Scott Horsley, and Brian Naylor (under Seipel's enabling eye) to discover the great state of Iowa outside of an election year blitzkrieg. Under the alias No Pie Refused, they ditched the campaign bus for bikes in Council Bluffs and joined up with the Des Moines RAGBRAI (Register's Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) misfits for their annual, open-air bike extravaganza. Not a press credential in sight, this rag-tag group resurfaced 400+ miles away on the banks of the Mississippi River, telling tales of Cupid Shuffle dance parties and year-round Christmas parades; sharing snapshots of the Dallas County Beef Queen; and illuminating lessons on the practical value of novelty bike helmets.

This is their story.**


**Disclaimer: "Their" story includes many creative liberties taken by a mid-level publicist suffering from serious cabin fever.


  • Mt. Ragbrai: A mountain of bicycles in West Point, IA. On the phenomenon of stretching "short rides" across a full day's time (on account of good conversation), one woman smiled and said: "That's RAGBRAI."
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    Mt. Ragbrai: A mountain of bicycles in West Point, IA. On the phenomenon of stretching "short rides" across a full day's time (on account of good conversation), one woman smiled and said: "That's RAGBRAI."
    NPR
  • "We're getting a street-level view, and we're talking about other things. Like Pie." - No Pie Refused
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    "We're getting a street-level view, and we're talking about other things. Like Pie." - No Pie Refused

    NPR
  • Breaking camp, day 3: (l-r) Don Gonyea, Scott Horsley, and Brian Naylor. Rumors have started swirling that Horsley ties the tightest do rag. Remains to be seen.
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    Breaking camp, day 3: (l-r) Don Gonyea, Scott Horsley, and Brian Naylor. Rumors have started swirling that Horsley ties the tightest do rag. Remains to be seen.
    NPR
  • From tumblr: "There's a joke that White House photographers like to play on newbie reporters. After flying into a foreign capital on Air Force One, they'll tell first timers, 'Just leave your bags in the overhead bin. They'll be delivered to your hotel room.' This is not true. But the crack team at Pork Belly Ventures... deliver[s] gear for hundreds of RAGBRAI riders to our tents each afternoon."
    Hide caption
    From tumblr: "There's a joke that White House photographers like to play on newbie reporters. After flying into a foreign capital on Air Force One, they'll tell first timers, 'Just leave your bags in the overhead bin. They'll be delivered to your hotel room.' This is not true. But the crack team at Pork Belly Ventures... deliver[s] gear for hundreds of RAGBRAI riders to our tents each afternoon."
    NPR
  • From tumblr: "Chatting with @claytonmasters of @iowapublicradio at the Des Moines camp. Then heading to the hotel."
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    From tumblr: "Chatting with @claytonmasters of @iowapublicradio at the Des Moines camp. Then heading to the hotel."
    NPR
  • No Pie Refused took great joy in pulling 'I (Heart) NPR' buttons from fanny-packs, and 'making it rain' over the crowds along the route. That is, until a ubiquitous 'Condom King' made a power play for the RAGBRAI spotlight. This sign says it all: 'We Love NPR!'No Pie Refused: 1. Condom King: 0.
    Hide caption

    No Pie Refused took great joy in pulling 'I (Heart) NPR' buttons from fanny-packs, and 'making it rain' over the crowds along the route. That is, until a ubiquitous 'Condom King' made a power play for the RAGBRAI spotlight. This sign says it all: 'We Love NPR!'

    No Pie Refused: 1. Condom King: 0.

    NPR
  • Horsley (l) and Gonyea (r) reach the half-way point and reflect on the trip, thus far. Window puppet muses, "Why do the cute ones always ride so fast?"
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    Horsley (l) and Gonyea (r) reach the half-way point and reflect on the trip, thus far. Window puppet muses, "Why do the cute ones always ride so fast?"
    NPR
  • All smiles Gonyea notes, "This chop has its own zip code."
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    All smiles Gonyea notes, "This chop has its own zip code."
    NPR
  • From tumblr: "Novelty helmets are a common sight. The Corn Sharks. Team Spam. The Bone Heads. Humor aside, they have a practical function, making it easier to spot one's teammates among the spandexed multitudes."
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    From tumblr: "Novelty helmets are a common sight. The Corn Sharks. Team Spam. The Bone Heads. Humor aside, they have a practical function, making it easier to spot one's teammates among the spandexed multitudes."
    NPR
  • Taking a breather from pork chops and peach pies in favor of some good old mid-western tacos.
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    Taking a breather from pork chops and peach pies in favor of some good old mid-western tacos.
    NPR
  • From tumblr: "BREAKING NEWS. Horsley flat tire. Happening now! Bussey, IA." But what caused the mishap? A witness swears that Horsley twitched ever-so-slightly during discussions surrounding the 'lovely bass' that Gonyea contributed to the 'symphony of snoring from surrounding RAGBRAI tents.' Details unconfirmed.
    Hide caption
    From tumblr: "BREAKING NEWS. Horsley flat tire. Happening now! Bussey, IA." But what caused the mishap? A witness swears that Horsley twitched ever-so-slightly during discussions surrounding the 'lovely bass' that Gonyea contributed to the 'symphony of snoring from surrounding RAGBRAI tents.' Details unconfirmed.
    NPR
  • Musing from the last RAGBRAI stop before ending at the Mississippi River: "Is this Heaven?" "No, it's Iowa."
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    Musing from the last RAGBRAI stop before ending at the Mississippi River: "Is this Heaven?" "No, it's Iowa."
    NPR

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