A Spandex Vacation

I don’t remember when I first rode my bike. I don’t remember when I first realized I love biking. I don’t think it was when the training wheels were removed and I bit it in the front lawn. I don’t think it was when my neighbor’s front wheel hit my back wheel and I skinned my knees on the gravel driveway (picking tiny rocks out of an open wound is not love inspiring). I imagine it happened sometime between then and when I went on my first bike tour. 11 years old. 7 days. 500 miles. Sounds like a great time, right?

1997 group shot; I'm on the left

I’m on the left in the GIANT t-shirt.

There I was in Whoknowswhere, Iowa on the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. Ah RAGBRAI. What a glorious thing. My companions? My badass 13 year old sister, my dad, one of my uncles, and my $100 teal Roadmaster. Oh, and probably about 12,000 other cyclists.

It was fun but man, it was a struuuuuuggle. Whoever claims that Iowa is a flat state has clearly never schlepped a 30+ pound bike across the state. I sagged. A lot. (In case you don’t know, sagging is when a rider is too tired to continue. On RAGBRAI the rider goes to the opposite side of the road, turns his/her bike upside down, and waits to be picked up by the “sagwagon.”) We ate homemade cinnamon buns and attended festivals in every town. We got free t-shirts and ate corn on the cob dripping with butter – onto said free t-shirt. Despite how ninth circle of hell it may sound, most of my memories from the ride are fond ones, so much so that 18 years later, I signed up again.

The pinwheel and I survived RAGBRAI XLIII

The pinwheel and I survived RAGBRAI

My Raleigh and I trekked from Chicago to RAGBRAI XLIII (that’s 43 for those like me who struggle with Roman numerals over 10). Joining me this time would be my dad, my brother and his girlfriend (who would wind up leaving early after a bad wreck on the morning of day one), and three friends. Oh, and probably about 20,000 other cyclists. I had done no other tours since RAGBRAI 25 so why do the same one?

I wanted to prove to myself that I didn’t need to sag.

And have fun of course.

It’s not that I’m ashamed that I sagged because that would be ridiculous. Come on folks; cut me a break. I was 11. It was more to test my 29 year old self.

Goals = accomplished! I wasn’t the fastest and I sure did complain about how sore my butt was and how loud people snored, but I did it. Not only did I have fun, but I crushed the mileage. I even completed the century day, although not quite as easily as the 14 year old girl I saw on an ancient steel Schwinn with her purse in the basket and no water bottle. She looked like she was out for a Saturday afternoon ride to her grandma’s house

But I digress.

RAGBRAI was a vacation from the structure of adult life. Work didn’t matter. Eating healthy food didn’t matter. Showering didn’t even matter. The only things that mattered were making it safely to the end town and staying hydrated (and getting to the ice cream stand before it closed).

Every bike ride is a vacation; that’s why I love riding my bike.


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