We are home, and are in the midst of what I like to call “re-entry” back into the real world.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. Last week was real… very real. It was an adventure of epic proportions, where my husband and I bicycled across the state of Iowa on our tandem with 17,000-19,000 of our closest friends on RAGBRAI.
It ranks up there as one of the most memorable weeks of my life.
RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) is a week-long bicycle ride from the west side of the state to the east. Riders typically dip their back tire in the Missouri River at the beginning, and then the front tire in the Mississippi River at the end. This was our (my husband’s and mine) third RAGBRAI on our tandem bicycle. He’s completed many RAGBRAIs, but this was just my third. I’d have to say, this one was the best yet!
Maybe it was because we seriously trained for it with over 900 bicycle miles in before the ride began. Or maybe it was because, together, we were 40+ pounds lighter than last year and we were physically stronger. Maybe it was because I knew what to expect. Or quite possibly it was due to me letting go of “control,” and just enjoying where the route took us. It may be all of these reasons, a combination, or none of the above.
But, nevertheless, our week was amazing.
Each year’s route is different. This year’s was 420 miles (our ending odometer read a total of 450.5 miles) over those seven days, and traveled the southern third of Iowa. At Mount Ayr, we were only 20 miles from the Missouri border.
(Map taken from RAGBRAI.com)
Most of the small towns we traveled through and visited on the route were much smaller than the crowd of bicyclists who filled their streets. These small-town folk knew how to feed a large crowd, and pie was found at almost every stop. (Don’t judge me, please, but I think I had 3 pieces of rhubarb pie!)
Everyone–and I seriously mean everyone–was so friendly, those in the towns and those on the ride. I can’t recall one single angry or grumpy person. Not one. This ride rekindled and restored the love and hope I have for my fellow man. With all the violence and hate going on in the world, RAGBRAI reminded me how people can still get along and be at peace, even in a larger-than-life crowd. On bicycles. In the summer heat.
Our week was challenging.
It wasn’t a perfect week by far. I had moments of frustration. I didn’t sleep that great in our tent, and my legs cramped up most nights. My seat wasn’t so happy after day 4. I’ll even admit my husband and I bickered a time or two, and we needed to be reminded we were on the same team. Some of the hills were killers. (But we never walked up a hill once!) And, putting up our tent each day and taking it down the next morning got a little old.
We had to wait in lines for almost everything, and if you know me, I detest standing in lines… eating, port-a-potties, showers, water refill stations, etc. Until about day 3 and we got creative. We found places where lines didn’t exist, and got really good at being strategic with our stops. We became masters at finding hidden gems in most locations.
Our week was humbling.
We knew others were praying for us, and we were humbled and thankful for their prayers. It was as if we could feel those prayers! We had strength we didn’t know existed within us. Bill and I shared once-in-a-lifetime special moments. We saw God in unexpected places.
We had no bike issues, except for the chain falling off twice. No big deal though. Also, we had no weather issues, except for the first couple of days being extremely warm. This is the first year we didn’t have to bike in the rain. We were able to rise early, arrive to our camps safely, and had long stretches of time to relax in the afternoons and evenings. It appeared to us as if God had taken care of every detail of every moment of every day. We were blessed and humbled. If you were one who prayed for us, I thank you. I am honored that you would do so, and I appreciate it more than I could ever express. Thank you!
I looked on RAGBRAI’s website today, and they’ve begun the countdown for next year. Lord willing, I assume we’ll again sign up in January and will be riding it next July. I imagine we’ll do it as long as we physically can, and I pray we have many, many years ahead of us for that.
May God bless you and keep you!