Firefighters from New York City have ridden bikes as a team across Iowa for more than 20 years as Team Escape. The RAGBRAI group consists of firefighters from the New York Fire Department as well as departments in Arizona and California. NYFD firefighter George Healy and his team stayed at the Webster City firehouse during the stop in town and is grateful for the accommodation.
"We always love the Iowa hospitality. We firefighters normally stay at firehouses along the route and the local departments are very generous and giving," Healy said. "It's a lot better sleeping in air conditioning than out in a tent in the heat all night. We get spoiled a little."
Healy has ridden the RAGBRAI route for 16 years as of this year. He said the ride is always a challenge, but each year presents its own challenges. The ride to Webster City yesterday, which was about 82 miles, saw strong headwinds during the last half of the ride in addition to temperatures in excess of 90 degrees.
For Healy, the ride is as much about the physical challenge as it is reminiscing with old work friends. He said firefighters are often transferred around the country and RAGBRAI is a good opportunity to see friends that have transferred across the country.
"It's always great to come back for RAGBRAI, see old friends, get some days on the road to cool your head and pedal down Iowa," Healy said. "We love the food, we love the people and we love days where there's not a lot of wind and heat but you take what you can get.
He said the group was started along with the New York City police department 22 years ago and coordinated with other departments across the nation to make the trip.
Healy said it's his first time through Webster City. He said some of his coworkers married girls from Iowa and are more familiar with the area. He said he loves riding through the beautiful state of Iowa, but said he could do without Midwest weather in July. The firefighters have to take vacation time off to participate in RAGBRAI. While it's not an easy vacation, Healy said it's nice to get away from the big city and the exercise and friends make it all worthwhile.