Over the last few days of RAGBRAI, I asked a number of people what they were looking forward to the most about getting off the bike. Almost all of them talked about seeing their family as the top of their list. This was cool, but kind of made me feel like a schmuck.
Here are my top three:
1.) Drinking out of something other than a plastic bottle.
2.) Taking a private shower with the water just the right temperature.
3.) Sleeping in a bed.
(It is not that I did not miss Jeri, I did. It’s not like I had to choose. If I could only have one, of course I would choose Jeri. Besides she would not even be interested in being within 5′ of me without a shower!)
Well, I got #2 and #3 before I left Iowa. I had to wait until I got home to drink out of something other than plastic. Of all the restaurants we could have chosen in Davenport, we went to the one Saturday night that was only serving drinks in plastic cups. “You have got to be $#!+ing me,” was my response. “Well we have glasses, but we are not using them today.” That made it even worse. The glasses were in the back, but I could not have one. (They were serving the food on plates that were NOT paper, so that was good.)
I’ve made the transition back to real life relatively easy. Camping gear all got aired out and put away. Bikes were cleaned and greased. I had no problem the second night in a bed (The first night when I rolled over and could not feel the edge of my sleeping pad, I thought I was falling out of bed. Weird!). I got a glass of water with a real glass and ice cubes as soon as I walked in the house. Work today feels good, but it will take me at least one more day to be completely caught up.
So the big question: What about next year? I don’t know yet. I have, however, done some scheming. Do I think I could recruit 20 people next year? Maybe those who have come with me in the past can recruit another person and then they would get a discount on the $2,000 fundraising requirement that I have. What about journaling the total amount of food I eat over the 7 days? Could I help Jen with her commitment to Jack by getting a bike that he could pedal with me? (Jeri says I’m obviously going. We will see.)
While I’m not ready to commit to 2016 yet, I can write with confidence that 2015 was my most fun RAGBRAI so far. I was more relaxed. I was in better physical shape. I had a clear purpose (be a host to those I recruited and finish all the flags.) I was at peace with being different than most of the others I was with, and I think they were too. AND, I was content to be right where I was at 95% of the time. I liked the bed, shower, and glass of water when I got it, but I was not in a hurry. Even today, I am content being at work. I’m not glad RAGBRAI is over. I don’t wish I were still riding. I am just good where I’m at. I guess that’s why they call me Jeff “Good Where He’s at” Mulder.
SHINE! The Road Rider
I Ride For: David & Mary
I bet you thought RAGBRAI was only 7 days long. In most cases, you would be right. However, I needed to do one more ride in Iowa before I headed home.
While the alarm going off at 5:30am was the same as yesterday, it was nice to put on my cycling kit standing up. It was also nice to not have to roll up a wet tent, brush my teeth next to a tree, or mix a water bottle with electrolyte mix. Like yesterday, the Horse and I were ready by 6am. So off we rolled.
I biked along the Mississippi on a bike path all by myself. I passed 2 runners, 1 duck and 13 geese. That was it. No other bikes. No music. No vendors. But, I am still in Iowa and still riding where others did. I am alone on the bike path AND still connected with everyone who was here yesterday.
I’ve never done one flag with two people on it before. But, how could I do a flag for either of these two without the other? David ran out of time just under 2 years ago. His mom, Mary, is a cancer Veteran. I never think of one without the other. For now Mary is alone in her fight AND the two of them will always be connected.
The Road Rider
I Ride For: Dustin
It was a great day today. I cannot think of a better way to end it than with this flag.
A few years ago when our youngest boys were playing Lacrosse and Baseball, I heard the song “The Boys of Fall” by Kenny Chesney for the first time. I remember wishing that they could have that team around them. I especially wished all four of my kids had this:
“It’s I got your number, I got your back
When your back’s against the wall
You mess with one man, you got us all”
There is no doubt in my mind that not only does Dustin understand this song, he has it. Here is how I know. When reading up about Dustin in preparation for this flag, I found out he requested his port (where they pour in chemo) be put in a really weird spot. When asked why, he said, “Because that’s where it will not interfere with my oxygen tank.” You see, Dustin is a full-time fire fighter who did not want to let his teammates down just because he was going through cancer. Wow!
While I knew this was special, I did not make the connection between Dustin and “The Boys of Fall” until today. Yep, shortly after I recovered from John Denver, this song came on. Yes, it was a crying day. And it gets better.
When the song was finished, I turned off the music for the day and pondered my wish for my kids. It took a while, but all of a sudden I realized that Cole has his “The Boys of Fall.” They are Dave, and Jeff, and Preston, and Steve and John and Bill and the rest. He would do anything for these people, and they would do anything for him. AND they are 100% reliable! That is the coolest gift for a Dad ever. Someone has got the back of your kid. Wow!
It was a good thing I had sunglasses on because the light bulb then really went on. These people are my “The Boys of Fall.” The names of those I am closest to may be different, but I know that if I call, they will all come. I don’t know why it took me 4 years, a country song, and a fireman with cancer to figure this out, but I’ll tell you it ranks right up there with falling in love with Jeri and the miracle of kids. It is the coolest, safest, most comforting feeling. I only wish I would have put all the pieces together sooner than 6 hours after everyone left.
Here is a short Video of Cole’s and my “The Boys of Fall.”
#fightlikehell Dustin and thank you!
The Road Rider
I Ride For: Danielle
This is going to be a tough one…
When I came up with the idea to do five flags a day, I sent it out to all my LiveSTRONG teammates. I started getting requests right away. With the exception of the one day I did for just First Descents, I loaded each name as I got it in this order: Day 1-Flag 1, Day 2-Flag 1, Day 3-Flag 1, etc. Essentially, the order who I rode for was random.
I rode for Danielle today, but she ran out of time on Monday. She was one of my cousin Debbie’s best friends. Debbie was with Danielle holding her hand when her breathing finally evened out and then stopped.
I have known since Monday that this would be a tough post. Like the others I have ridden for this week who ran out of time, I did not know Danielle. But, what do I write for someone who I could have ridden for two weeks ago, but saved this flag for RAGBRAI?
As usual, God with the help of music helped me. One of the two songs I want played at my funeral is “Poems, Prayers, and Promises” by John Denver (the other is “Be Thou My Vision”). I grabbed this song many years ago as how I think about my life. “And I have to say it now, it’s been a good life all in all.” is exactly how I feel about my life.
This song came on for the first time this week about a mile from one of the towns. I was thinking about Danielle. I usually get emotional when this song is played. Then this part came on:
“The days they pass so quickly now
Nights are seldom long
And time around me whispers when it’s cold
The changes somehow frighten me
Still I have to smile
It turns me on to think of growing old
For though my life’s been good to me
There’s still so much to do
So many things my mind has never known
I’d like to raise a family
I’d like to sail away
And dance across the mountains on the moon.”
While listening to this song and thinking about about all the things I want to do, Danielle did not get to do most of these things. She wanted more time, but will not get it.
When this realization hit me, the tears started pouring down my cheeks. Just as the song moved on to the next chorus, some of my teammates rode up. I don’t think they could tell, and I didn’t say anything. I don’t really know why. If there was ever a group who would understand, it would be this group of people. I guess I just wanted to keep this feeling all to myself for a little while. I don’t know why, I just did. As we left the town, I pulled off and my teammates continued on. (Sorry Cindy, Wendy, Andrew, and Phil for being more anti-social than I am usually.) I just wanted to be alone for a few more moments with my thoughts about Danielle.
I will likely never know if doing this flag today and not last Sunday was part of God’s plan or not. I do know that God uses our successes and failures to help others and us. Today’s lesson for me is: don’t wait because we will never know when we might run out of time. Shalom Danielle
The Road Rider
3Hours 33Minutes on the road
I Ride For: Stephanie
What a day! This is exactly how I wanted RAGBRAI to end. The past three years it has always been rush, rush, rush. Gotta get going to the meet up site, to get our bags, to get in the car, to get home. It took a great week and gave it, while not poor, a rushed ending.
Not for me today. I still have to get to the meet up point by 1pm. However, I started early enough that I don’t need to rush. I actually found myself tagging along as others went past and stopped myself. While this is efficient, I cannot see anything while doing this. And, I’m not in a hurry! Knowing that I am spending the night in Davenport (only 2 miles from the end) makes a big difference.
Stephanie would likely not relate. She is a triathlete who usually wins when she competes. She is also a cancer “veteran.” Just a couple years ago as she was starting to make the jump from shorter distance to Ironman, she was told she had cancer. Actually, being an athlete moving to a new distance made it worse. She just assumed the pain and tiredness was due to her change in training. Just push through the pain. At this stage, Stephanie is all clear and winning every race she enters.
SHINE! The Road Rider
P.S. I thought it was tough to get a double name like MaryBeth on a flag. Then, I got to Stephanie. I was not drunk or super tired. This was the only way I could fit it! Hahaha
2Hours 33Minutes on the road