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Rock Island native skates his way through RAGBRAI, rests in Burlington

BURLINGTON, Iowa - As thousands of bicyclists roll in Burlington on July 26, there is one participant who is actually participating while rollerblading.

29-year-old Caleb Smith is a Rock Island, Illinois native who now lives in Des Moines, Iowa.

He is rollerblading his way across the state of Iowa for the third time and he says it's not easy.

"You get caught on a hill, you get caught behind people, you lose your momentum. That makes it really challenging," said Smith.

However, as he skates more than 420 miles across the State of Iowa, he says his intention is to inspire others.

"I want to show other people that its possible," he said.

It's a physically demanding task. Sore feet and aching ankles cause some pain.

Still, this skilled skater says the experiences along the route make the physical challenges worth it.

"Everyone has their own story that you normally wouldn`t catch unless, you know, you`re riding down the road with them and you have nowhere to go but forward," said Smith. "So, you just talk for hours and hours and hear their stories and hear about their lives."

Burlington's RAGBRAI committee publicity chair, Dustin Roth, says Burlington is happy to be a part of the experience as riders arrive in town.

"People riding RAGBRAI different ways is awesome," said Roth. "It just shows the dedication and the fun that people have riding RAGBRAI,"

Visitors in Burlington will experience live music, food and drink vendors, and a view of the Mississippi River.

Nearly the entire downtown was flooded with bicyclists on July 26.

Organizers say the economic boost that the RAGBRAI riders will bring to Burlington is welcomed.

The population of Burlington nearly doubled for the night of July 26 as the riders camped out.

Burlington being an overnight stop is a rare occurrence. Typically, once RAGBRAI riders meet the Mississippi River, they dip their tires into the river water and that marks the end of the ride.

This year, a twist in that plan is benefiting Burlington.

"We are the final overnight. So they come here, we’ve got their full attention for the night, and then they wake up early and they head to Keokuk," said Roth.

Riders will head to Keokuk, Iowa, where the ride will end, on the morning of July 27.

As for Caleb, he says an ice bath for his feet will be among the first things he does upon finishing the ride.

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