About 40-some years ago, two journalists from the Des Moines Register in Iowa set out on a mission to prove that their state was beautiful-or maybe they just wanted to get out of the office for a few days. Either way, John Karras and Donald Kaul set out to bike across the entire state of Iowa in a week, documenting what they saw along the 410-mile ride. Register readers accompanied them on their journey, and thus, RAGBRAI-or the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa-was born.
Today, the ride has grown to an international affair, with tens of thousands of bikers coming from all over the world (America's own Lance Armstrong included) to tackle the length of the state in under six days.
"All you see for a week is bikes," said California Patch editor Brad Kava, who flew out to bike RAGBRAI for the 18th time.
"Anyone who's been in Iowa knows what RAGBRAI is," Patch regional editor Brian Morelli tells me over the phone.
Brian, who participated in the bike ride for the seventh time last week, decided to follow in the footsteps of the Register journalists and blog about what he saw along the way for Iowa Patches. From July 20th through the 28th, Brian documented sights, sounds, and observations from the ride by posting on Patch solely via his mobile phone.
"I was trying to document the ride for our readers and use it as an opportunity to tell them about Patch, because people from around the country come to this thing," said Brian. "I've done RAGBRAI in the past, but before you'd have to stop and get out your laptop. This year, I was able to create photo galleries, videos and vignettes on the fly, and that made it more enjoyable for me and people following the blog."
Brian certainly saw some sights along the way, including a barber offering straight razor shaves for scraggly bikers, a pot-bellied man challenging riders to leave the biggest hand mark by slapping his belly, and a town throwing a party with a full-on wrestling match.
RAGBRAI has become the state of Iowa's biggest event of the year, a time when people come together in towns along the route to aid and house the bikers and throw parties to celebrate the annual journey.
"It's one of the things that Iowa takes a lot of pride in," said Brian. "One of the things people around the country know Iowa for."
Head over to Brian's RAGBRAI blog to learn more about this quirky Iowan tradition and how Patch became a part of it in 2013 in a whole new way.
Two local bloggers from Mission Viejo Patch swept the "Best News/Political Blog" category. Shripathi Kamath, blogger and and resident of Mission Viejo since 1997, took home first place for his contemplative post on the life of Alan Turing. The post reflects on the magnitude of Turing's accomplishments as the father of modern computing and how those accomplishments were diminished because he was openly gay. Kamath's writing strikes the perfect balance of historical frankness and modern advocacy as he mourns Turing's untimely death and highlights discoveries in the field of computer science.
Patch Blogger Dan Avery took home second place in the category for his chilling post on the investigation of University of California at Irvine Professor Rainer Reinscheid, who wrote down violent fantasies following the death of his son. Dan reflected on the public's rush to declare Reinscheid guilty and cited his own experience with writing down violent fantasies after the tragic murders of his sister and niece years before.
In addition to the Mission Viejo bloggers, Rancho Santa Margarita Patch Local Editor Martin Henderson, who was recently recognized as Online Journalist of the Year by the L.A. Press Club, took third place for "Best Feature Story" for his article on the tragic suicide of a local man who jumped off of a bridge.
In other categories, Los Alamitos-Seal Beach Patch contributor John Crandall won third place for Best News Story for his piece on the first day of school in Los Alamitos. Also on Los Alamitos-Seal Beach Patch, users Johnny Newnes and Nicole Mynott, who blog under the joint name Confessions of Two College Foodies, shared the third place prize for Best Food Blog for their regular posts on recipes and local food reviews.
From all of us at Patch, a big congratulations to the winners for their phenomenal work!
Sometimes when reading stories that involve a lot of statistics, it can be difficult to navigate the murky pool of numbers in which the real story lies. We become bogged down in percentages and ratios, and in our frustration (or at least in mine), close that particular tab.
But thanks to the ceaseless wonders of technological development, our jobs as readers are rendered easy with infographics and data visualizations that help us understand the story.
Check out these visualizations created by Marion Patch Editor Brian Morelli with data from the Iowa Department of Public Health on same-sex marriage licenses in the third state to legalize it.
Brian also created an interactive Google map that shows the density of same-sex marriage licenses in a population by county. Head on over to the article on Marion Patch to see the breakdown and read the full story. Who doesn't love a good chart?
When Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crashed as it landed at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday morning, the reaction online was overwhelming, visceral – and full of support. Napa Valley Patch Editor Carlos Villatoro took it upon himself to catalog some of those heartfelt reactions on Patch, namely those posted to Instagram. Below, take a look at the collection of Instagram photos taken in support of those affected, or visit Napa Valley Patch to see them for yourself.
Study skills expert Laura Maniglia answers questions live on Patch today on keeping learning going even when school's not in session. (STORY)
From The Lymes Patch:
Editor Jayne Keedle investigates a local motel that may, in fact, not be a motel at all. (STORY)
From Beverly Patch:
Blogger Dr. Jamie Engel writes about her grandparents' 70th wedding anniversary today and the secrets that made it work for so long. (STORY)
In other news around the field, check out the healthy debate in the comments section of one Chatham, NJ high schooler's column or tour the University of California at San Diego on a skateboard with this video on La Jolla Patch. And as always, be sure to check your local Patch page to see what's going on in your town!
"What is the most rewarding part of your job?"
Caledonia Patch Editor Denise Lockwood pauses and reflects, silent for a moment as she considers my question.
"You know, the most rewarding part...was looking at Jill's eyes and knowing that I didn't make her pain go away, but I helped her through a really difficult time in understanding what the problem was and why her daughter wasn't being found."
About a year ago now, Denise heard about a missing persons case through one of Patch's local partners. A 22-year-old woman from the neighboring town of Racine had gone missing several days earlier, and Denise, herself a mother, posted a story about the case in order to alert the Caledonia community and police about the case.
According to Denise, there has always been a disconnect between the communities of Caledonia and Racine, neighboring towns less than twenty minutes apart. Because of this, the Caledonia police, who had found the missing woman's backpack along the side of the road, had not been aware that she was missing prior to reading Denise's story.
After the story was posted, Denise made sure it went viral throughout the online community of Caledonia. Upon reading Denise's story, the Caledonia police sent out a search party less than a block from Denise's house. Denise herself jumped in to help out with the search for Rebecca that day, until, after a while, the girl's body was discovered at the bottom of a nearby rock quarry.
"I wrote the story and put it up and I was thinking, you know, 'I'm a mom of an 18-year-old' at the time, and I couldn't just sit still, and I decided I was going to go out and look for her."
Denise searched, knocked on doors and talked to people around the community looking for information. Rebecca's body was discovered later that day. The story was written, and the towns of Racine and Caledonia discussed how they could coordinate communication to prevent lapses in the future.
It seemed over, but just last week, Denise found herself at a local tavern with her fiancé when a woman approached her. The woman asked her if she was Denise Lockwood, "with the Patch." The woman went on to explain that she was Jill Ryan, Rebecca's mother. She hugged Denise and cried, saying, "Thank you so much for what you did. And please keep doing these things, please keep doing what you do."
When Denise responded that she didn't really do that much, Jill went on and said, "You don't understand how much that meant to me. Because, quite frankly, even though Rebecca is dead, we were able to have some closure and able to have some understanding, and really highlight a problem in how the police departments communicate with each other."
For Denise, Jill's reaction served as a humbling moment and a reminder of the power of Patch.
"Patch, I think, also really harnesses the power of the community, which is unique in that I think my role as a journalist is a lot different because you get to know people in your community a lot more, you connect with them a lot more," she said. "So it's hard to not jump in and help! And I think that's what Patch is about...that is what Patch means to me."
Denise has been in journalism for 14 years, but spoke passionately about her time at Patch and her unique ability to help connect the people of Racine and Caledonia.
"I'm not just a journalist, I'm someone who has value to a community, and Patch helps me do that."
Sydney Moyer is a recent graduate of Boston University where she earned a BS in Communications, and is currently a communications intern at Patch in New York, NY. Contact Patch at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet us @PatchPR.