To the average onlooker and to those being served, it was a local business doing its civic duty.
To those who know and understand, it was vintage Rock Valley Physical Therapy, typical of the 470-plus RVPT family members when it comes to giving back. It was an exercise in community engagement, care and compassion, mixed with a heavy dash of civic pride and fun.
On the front lines of the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), stood 11 dedicated souls, members of Rock Valley’s DeWitt, Iowa-based clinic, welcoming riders and supporters to the next-to-last leg of the seven-day, 426-mile route across Iowa.
Dressed in Rock Valley garb to begin the day and later in the famous yellow volunteer RAGBRAI assistance T-shirts, the likes of Kerri Hurning, Greg Bender, Jessica Lenstra, Deana Trotter, Keeley Green, Sue Hassenmiller, Dana Cook, Michelle Keester, Chase Knoche, Audrey McAleer, and University of Iowa student Ben Miller, directed and assisted countless riders and supporters making DeWitt home for what was the final stretch of their cycling journey.
RAGBRAI is known for being the oldest, longest and largest recreational bike tour in the world. It invites cyclists from across the globe to ride across the state of Iowa, from the western side to the east. At the beginning, bike tires are dipped in the Missouri River — and at the end — they are dipped in the Mississippi. Riders would depart DeWitt the following morning (Saturday) and ride the final 31.6 miles of the journey to dip their bikes in the Mississippi River at Clinton, Iowa.
A first-class, first-rate town of approximately 5,000 and the county seat for Clinton County, DeWitt is a place that for decades — thanks to its leadership and business mainstays like Rock Valley Physical Therapy — has always extended the welcome mat for those making a visit.
On that gorgeous, sun-kissed Friday in the heart of America, Rock Valley’s DeWitt-based clinic was the welcome center for thousands of riders and teams, all hoping to find their way through in hopes of settling in on what would be the final overnight in their RAGBRAI journey.
“Our team did a great job,’’ said Hurning, the forever-energetic and always upbeat manager of Rock Valley’s DeWitt clinic, noting the day began at 7 a.m. and was slated to end at 3 p.m., but some from Rock Valley worked shifts at a variety of outlets into the night. “Everyone who stopped was grateful for all that we were doing. They would pull up in a camper and we were guiding them where to go and they would say: ‘You guys are great, this is so good.’ ’’
Hurning, who has long been involved with the DeWitt Chamber of Commerce, said RAGBRAI was a perfect team-building/give-back opportunity for Rock Valley Physical Therapy.
“Our parking lot was filled with tents and it gave us a chance to assist anyone who came through, but also to work together to give back,’’ Hurning said, then bringing to light a humorous quip about the “Lost & Found’’ charter group and about a man — handling support for a group of riders — who was filling the state with Monarch Butterflies along the RAGBRAI path. “We managed to get a break, have a potluck-style meal with everyone from the clinic and have a staff meeting as well.
“Later in the day, nine of us went to the (Clinton County) fairgrounds and — in our yellow shirts — and helped there as well,’’ added Hurning, who began her RVPT career 20 years ago and has been on the ground floor for some amazing company growth.
“I can tell you the riders were at ease once they saw the yellow shirt. It was more hospitality later with people asking for showers, church groups or Boy Scout groups offering a meal and a number of other things to make sure people found where they were going and what they needed.’’
Hurning had high praise for DeWitt city leaders and townspeople who accepted what was a huge challenge to make the day. She explained how DeWitt decision-makers were approached late 2020 by RAGBRAI organizers to host the last overnight stop, meaning the town would need to set up camping and prepare food and entertainment for thousands of hungry, thirsty bikers with dollars to boost local businesses.
Maquoketa, just 19 miles north, decided to bow out of the 2021 tour because the week dates conflicted with a major road project scheduled for this year and the Jackson County Fair. It was a chance for DeWitt-based businesses to snap back after a pandemic year of limited retail shopping and in-person dining. With approximately 15,000 extra people coming through the town, DeWitt was bound to experience gain on many fronts.
“It worked from what I saw,’’ Hurning said of the efforts of all involved.”For those who were engaged they put their best foot forward. Of course there were those who simply stayed in for the day, but I believe it was a great day for all involved.’’
A great day brought to light by those who make Rock Valley Physical Therapy special on so many fronts.
By: Johnny Marx, Storyteller