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RAGBRAI: Through Thick and Thin and 450 Miles Across Iowa

I’m still going through bike withdrawal. I’ve got the RAGBRAI afterglow. Ask my coworkers, ask my neighbors, ask my other half. I think most people come back from vacation with a glow – tan or otherwise. I got both.

RAGBRAIpies.JPGSome may think riding a bike across Iowa, in July, in the heat and humidity, is pure torture and definitely not in any vacation website they’ve ever looked at. Call me strange, but I think otherwise. Ambling across rural Iowa with sweet smells under your nose (and some not so sweet), quaint towns, the friendliest people and the only big question of the day being “what to eat next?”: It’s a slice of pie to me.

Yeah, it’s hot and humid and exhausting. But the slow pace of your day from atop a bike causes everything to become a bit clearer. It's so cliché, but you do start to appreciate the small things and the details of the scenery. And the only multitasking done is when you reach for your water bottle while calling out rumble strips.  

After a few days of riding you fall into a routine. Sleep. Eat. Ride. Set up tent. Take down tent. Rinse and repeat. It was an easy rhythm to get into especially when shared with my best friends.

RollingHillsofIowa.jpgThree of the last 5 years my friends, Mary, Mel, and I have done RAGBRAI. I don’t know of many friendships that could survive 7 days, 24 hours a day together, living out of a tent, cycling everyday through heat, humidity, rain, sleet, thunderstorms, lightning and wind. Harsh, but kind of fun. I think there’s a certain type of camaraderie formed because of it. Spending 6 or 7 hours a day in the saddle discussing various topics from the inane to the silly, to being serenaded with songs from The Music Man to, well…you get the picture. We’ve all got friends like this. You know who they are, right? The “A” friends. The ones that you don’t need to explain things to.

I don’t know if I could have done the ride without them. Well, OK, I guess I could have done it alone, because with 10,000 new friends made along the way, you’re never really alone on RAGBRAI. There’s always someone to talk to as you pedal from one small town to the next. Cyclists are on the roads from sunup to sundown, in thick or thin packs depending on the terrain or the food vendor set up on a nearby farm. You have random conversations with people about the weather, their bike, the teams, the corn, the hills/lack of hills, how many times you’ve done RAGBRAI, where you’re from, have you seen Mr. Pork Chop. All instant little bonds made.  

StrormLakeCampSite.JPGSometimes we tend to categorize our friends, such as friends from home, friends from work, and so on. And we have all friends that we’ve known since elementary school or college; connections we’ve formed from our shared love of movies or food or IPAs. But I think some of the tightest bonds are those forged with friends we climb with, hike with, cycle with…activities where you’re pushing your limits, depending on others, battling the elements, working towards a similar goal.

Wouldn’t you agree? What’s your favorite long-distance ride? Who do you share it with?

Posted on at 5:53 PM

Tagged: Cycling, Iowa, RAGBRAI, Travel, bicycle and bike touring

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Chris a.k.a Rocky Mountain Goat

I have done RAGBRAI nine times since 1996. Combines camping, cycling, friendship, food & drink into a week long alternate reality which I am never satisfied leaving.

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Chris a.k.a Rocky Mountain Goat

I have done RAGBRAI nine times since 1996. Combines camping, cycling, friendship, food & drink into a week long alternate reality which I am never satisfied leaving.

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