It is Sunday morning and I am headed home on the bus. It was a great week, AND I am ready to get back to work. I enjoyed riding for 7 days in a row, AND I’m glad I’m not doing 8. It was cool to hang around the 70ish people on our team, AND I’m looking forward to quiet nights with just Jeri.
We were asked over the course of the week to finish the sentence, “I RAGBRAI because…” My answer is simple AND complicated.
Simple: I RAGBRAI because I am called to do it.
Complicated: I don’t like to ride with lots of other people, sleep in a tent, eat junk food 21 meals in a row or meet new people. These 4 things make up the back bone of RAGBRAI. So other than the first year when I did it because I wanted to, I have literally been called in some way shape or form to do this week across Iowa. Here is where it gets really complicated. I do not know and have never known what my actual purpose is of being here. All I know (and I know it without any doubt) is that this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing. So I go and ride with others, sleep in a tent, eat junk food, and meet new people.
I have heard my Dad say a lot, “We are planting trees we will never sit in the shade of.” He uses this saying when he is trying to get someone to work at the Boys and Girls Club, or rake the leaves of an elderly person, or donate money to Hope College. These are all specific actions to attain specific goals that we may or may not get any benefit from.
I RAGBRAI because I know I am supposed to plant trees here. I just do not know when I am planting them or what kind of trees. And, here is the really complicated part that I cannot explain: I am perfectly content with this set up.
So what is next? There actually is a next bicycle adventure for me. I get one day off – today – and tomorrow I start the toughest ride I’ve ever done. In the month of August, I’m going to ride 1,000 miles and only take one day of vacation. That is 33 miles a day or just over 2 hours a day at my speed. This is my primary fundraiser this year. AND THERE IS STILL TIME FOR YOU TO GET IN ON IT. I will match whatever you donate no matter what. If I make the 1,000 miles, the match will go to LiveSTRONG. If I fall short, it goes to a 501c3 of your choice. You just need to make the donation by August 10.
SHINE! The Road Rider
I Ride For: Carl
My 5th ride across Iowa is about a mile from being done. We have a tradition with TeamLIVESTRONG to all meet a mile or two from the Mississippi River and all ride to the end together. It is pretty cool. We agreed to all roll out at 12:30pm. It is now 11:15am. I am way early.
I got up this morning at about 5:45am, and was on the road by 6:30am. While the 50-mile ride would not take me 6 hours, I had a lot of writing to do. Four or five flags in 6 hours is pushing it. However, when I looked at the top flag as I got on my bike, I knew I would only do one today.
Today’s ride is dedicated to Carl. A few weeks ago, I was asked by a high school friend to ride for him. Carl is a co-worker of his. I got a message last night that Carl made the rounds at work yesterday saying good-bye. Carl has made the decision to “coast” the rest of the way. No more rolling hills for him. He could have chosen the rolling hills route, but instead chose to live the time he has left as peacefully as he can.
It is tough to say good-bye. Many times when we say this, we are thinking we may never see this person again – and that may be true. So at times, we shorten it to just “bye” or “see ya.” I encourage you to not shorten it. Good-bye does not mean what you think it means. The phrase actually started in the 16th century with “godbwye” which was short for “God be with ye.” When we say good-bye, we are actually saying, “May God watch over you wherever you go.”
So yesterday when Carl said “good-bye” to those he worked with, he blessed them.
There have been about 70 people who have been part of the TeamLIVESTRONG team this week. And today, we will all head off in different directions. Some of us will get together at another event, and some of us will never see each other again. (Super Dave told the group last night that this is his last RAGBRAI. He covered up the emotional part of that announcement by proposing to Jessica in front of all of us!) As we part today, you can be assured that I will use the words good-bye with as many people as possible. They have sure blessed me, and I absolutely want God to watch over each and every one of them.
SHINE! The Road Rider!
I Ride For: David
As I have written before, I warn people when they give me flag requests that if they do not give me enough information to work with, I am forced to make stuff up. And then to top this, I rode with Linda for 5 minutes yesterday and warned her again. She did not give me much information, so I assume I have free reign. Here we go!
Linda (my fellow LiveSTRONG teammate) and her older brother are Irish twins, but that is where the similarities end. Where Linda is nice and soft spoken, David was always a brooding type. Shortly after high school, he moved away from home and settled in the town of Leon, Iowa. As you likely know, there is not much in Leon, but what attracted David was the biker gang – The Ethanol Eaters – The biggest, baddest biker gang in Iowa.
To join The Ethanol Eaters, David had to have his own bike. We are not talking bicycles here, these hogs have motors. He could not get into the Ethanol Eaters with just any bike. All E Eaters had to have – a Vespa. (Knowing this is a huge expense, the gang does offer financing at $36.87 a month for 10 years and this bad boy was all his.) When the Vespas all fire up and start driving down the streets of Leon, all 1,232 people go in their houses and lock their doors.
David was only part of the E Eaters a few years when he noticed it was getting more and more painful to ride his Vespa on the streets of Leon. A couple trips to the doctor, and David was informed that he had testicular cancer. This was 20+ years ago and before it was cool to have cancer. But David did not care. By this time, he was a hardened biker, and he was looking for a new nick name. He was sick of being called “Momma’s Boy.” Ever since his surgery, he’s been proud to be called “One Nut.” While some may laugh, they only laugh once.
David is now feared throughout Southern Iowa. It only took one little kid to point at his crotch and giggle for David to send the message. That little boy never forgot the man on the Vespa with the Ethanol Eaters in his body stocking uniform who took all his twirlers. Word spread quickly and no one snickers at old “One Nut” to this very day.
SHINE! The Road Rider
David, hope you have a good sense of humor. I know to have testicular cancer 20+ years ago was almost a death sentence. I also know (from reading) that the treatment was horrible. So glad you are still here to hopefully laugh at my story. It was fun creating it as I rode the last 20 miles today.
P.S. Your Irish twin sister is very cool. If you are half as cool as her, you may join my gang any day – The Dutch Boys.
I Ride For: Annette
I’m at my last stop for the day – West Chester, Iowa. As I was wondering around scoping out what to get to eat, I saw a sign for “Biscuits & Gravy” and realized why people like to play golf. I don’t play golf and never really understood the draw. Now because of biscuits & gravy, I do. I am so relieved. Aren’t you too? Oh, maybe I need to connect the dots.
Dot #1: For the last 3 years I have talked a few co-workers to coming to Iowa with me.
Dot #2: Last year, Scot came along. He made another co-worker, Doug, look in every town for biscuits & gravy.
Dot #3: On the third day, they found a place. They waited in line for 40 minutes and were turned away just as they got to the front. Ran out!
Dot #4: Scot later found biscuits & gravy, but to this day still bitches about that one time.
Dot #5: I walked by the biscuits & gravy sign today and thought of Scot and Doug. I messaged them that I missed them.
See how that all comes together! Biscuits & gravy = golf. What? You still don’t get it? I guess I have to spell it all out.
Golf is the common experience that is fun and challenging and completely voluntary. Have you met a golfer who did not spend 90% of their time complaining about this hole or that wind? Or, bragging about this score or that lesson? What fun would that be if no one around you really understood what you were talking about.
Today, I feel so fortunate that Keith, Scot, Doug, and Phil (x2) were able to share this Iowa experience with me. They are the only ones I work with who really understand what it is like to bike 70ish miles a day with 20,000 others and eating pie, pork chops, ice cream, and biscuits & gravy every day.
I never met Annette, but I hope she had people like this along with a shared experience like RAGBRAI in her life. She ran out of time in her 50s. She was a wonderful wife and mother. My cousin says she raised 4 amazing kids. I bet she did not need any dots to connect biscuits & gravy and golf.
I Ride For: Jan
I’ve been hanging out with people effected by cancer for the last 8-9 years. I have heard hundreds of stories, read blogs and posts, and generally imagined what it is like to have or support someone with cancer. During this time, my guess is I have put about 40,000 miles on my bike. That is a lot of time to think.
Using the rolling hills of Western Iowa, I have created an analogy of what cancer may be like:
It starts with a flat road. Life is going along pretty smooth. You have the small undulations of normal life like your cable TV does not work, or there are no fresh avocados at the store in January. However, life is pretty much a flat road.
Then comes “you have cancer.” The road drops out from under you. It is so steep going down that you are afraid that if you touch your front brake you will go over the handle bars. No matter what you do, the bike just keeps going faster and faster as you have to make hundreds of decisions in a matter of days. There is not time to think, only to react. Hopefully, you have a great support crew who head you in the right direction because you do not have time and the brakes are completely gone.
With the first treatment, the road goes up at 17%. You can get up the hill, but it is super slow and so damn long. AND, it winds as it goes up so you never know where the end is. You ask people as you go by, but some say, “just around the bend” and others say, “oh, you’ve got miles and miles of this.” Which is it? This ride is tough enough and now you cannot get a simple answer to a simple question. “I just want to know how much further to the fricken top!”
The summit arrives and the initial treatment is done. Now comes the grinders. Hills as far as you can see, but none as steep up or down as that initial plunge and climb. These hills are doable, but they take a little out of you with each one. When you get to go down, it is kind of fun. The pedaling is easy, but then you start to pick up speed and have to focus. No relaxing here. Must keep the diet in check and take the meds at exactly the right time. Then at the bottom, you pedal hard as you know the next round is coming. There is a moment on each hill where the momentum of the downhill has not been completely eaten up by the gravity of the climb. It only lasts for 2-3 seconds. This is the candy bar or cookie you know you are not supposed to eat, but you know you are going to feel like crap soon, so the heck with it.
The climb is the climb. Not a dang thing you can do about it, but put one foot in front of the other. It is the same hill for everyone. There is no rhyme or reason why you have an easier time than others and some go by you like you are sitting still. Everyone in the infusion room hates it. The hill makes some stronger and sucks the life out of others. It does not matter age, or race, or gender the hill does not discriminate.
At the top, your legs are burning just a little and you can feel it get a little easier. You are not as sick today as you were yesterday. You realize that you have made it through another round. The hill did not kill you even though for a moment you wished you were dead. You can relax and pedal easy. This is the time to do a long weekend or catch up on some yard work. This is what life is supposed to be like. You are still moving, but you are no longer in pain. This lasts for 20-30 seconds and then you start picking up speed on the next ride down.
What do you think? Am I close Jan? Know that I am not a survivor. Just someone who is trying to understand what you are going through. I absolutely know that my ride across Iowa is nothing like your fight with cancer. If I have not offended you, I would love to hear from you (and others) how close I’ve come in my analogy.