Monday, August 2, 2010

Gritty bugs in her teeth

If you live outside of Iowa, have been in a cave for the last 38 years, just landed your spaceship from planet Xerox or have come in from the Out Back, you may not know about RAGBRAI. RAGBRAI is The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, as in The Des Moines Register.

The oldest, largest (an estimated 20,000 bicyclists) and longest (nearly 500-miles) tour event in the world, RAGBRAI attracts bicyclists from around the globe who gather every July in Western Iowa and spend a week riding across the state. This year's race starts at the Missouri River in Sioux City and ends at the Mississippi in Dubuque.

Cities and towns along the way reap the benefits of suddenly having their populations explode as bikers break for restrooms, refreshments, meals and overnight stays in parks, parking lots, churches, schools and even private homes.

I try to imagine what it would be like going on RAGBRAI but struggle with getting past the port-o-potties.

You see, I've always loved riding my bike, but if I went I'd have to have my wide cushy granny seat. Add to that a bicycle basket to carry Kleenex, tweezers for facial hair, teeth whitener, anti-wrinkle cream, a set of 32 hot-rollers, down comforter, feather pillow, nightlight, lots of fruits and veggies and my trusty bicycle bell to keep the coyotes away.

When I envision going on RAGBRAI, my picture is pretty sad. I see myself pedaling into Dubuque one month after the race ends, finishing dead last.

I'm all blistered and beat down from the wind and sun, not to mention a severely chapped behind. I roll into town and groan inaudibly, "I made it, I made it..," with no fanfare or anyone who gives a care.

Overrun by dark thoughts, I picture extreme discomfort: hurricane winds, driving rain, deadly lightning, drenched tent, wet clothes, flat tires, stripped gears, aching muscles, grapefruit-sized mosquitoes and gritty bugs in my teeth.

Maybe that's my problem: my visualization is right there in the old dumpster. I think a little dose of Robert Schuller's Power of Positive Thinking might get me in the right frame of mind.

Or perhaps I could draw inspiration from the Wilson family of Ames, Iowa. Greg and Shelli Wilson and their three children, ages one to eight, are riding in RAGBRAI this year.

According to the official RAGBRAI website, the entire family will travel on one bike, a three-person tandem with a tag-along for the two littlest ones.

The bike with the Wilson's on it weighs 600 pounds and is longer than the family van. As Shelli Wilson explains, "Greg is the captain. No matter what, he has to keep pedaling."

So what happens if everyone in the family but Greg decides to take the day off? Well, if the Wilson's can do it, maybe I can, too. (Nah, probably not.)

2010 © Copyright Paula Damon. A resident of Southeast South Dakota, Paula Damon
is a national and state award-winning columnist. Her columns have won first-place in National Federation of Press Women, South Dakota Press Women and Iowa Press Women Communications Contests. In the 2009 and 2010 South Dakota Press Women Communications Contest, Paula's columns took first-place awards statewide. To contact Paula, email, follow her blog at and find her on Facebook.

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