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.
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.