RAGBRAI (130 miles on a bike seat)


I recently rode more than 130 miles on my bicycle over two days.  It was glorious.

If you are biker in the U.S. Midwest, you may have heard of RAGBRAI. For those of you who haven’t, it is an acronym for the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. One July week every year, thousands of bicyclers start on a town on the Missouri River and ride ranging 60-100 miles daily until they reach the Mississippi River. There is a different route every year and host towns vie for the privilege to have an influx of bikers – and their dollars – grace their town limits either for a ride through, or an overnight stay.

Riders camp, sleep on couches (of any acquaintance they can talk into), or hotels. The route is announced at a January release party and hotels are immediately booked up. The tradition is to dip your tire in the Missouri at the beginning and again dip in the Mississippi at the end.

The ride started in 1973 by John Karras and Don Kaul – two newspaper writers at The Des Moines Register. It was little more than a challenge in the beginning by two guys that liked to bike. After 45 years, the official total to week long riders is ~8,500, but there are many more riders that join for a day or two and the throng can swell to an estimated 36,000. (Lance Armstrong has ridden days for several years.)

It’s this last group of riders in which I fall.  I’ve ridden days here and there four different years, but never two in a row.

I held my own both days. I passed a lot of people; I was passed by a lot of people; and I didn’t crash despite all the bikes. I’m proud of myself.

I have a couple of favorite moments. The first was when we were riding up this long-ass, steep hill — long, as in over two miles and a tough grade. By the time I got up that hill, a fellow rider had gotten off her bike, pulled out her small trumpet like horn and was playing the theme from the movie Rocky.  #perfect

Another favorite was on the second day, late afternoon in the hot, relentless sun going up hill after hill and I stop at the first place I see shade. The shadow of a big red barn at the top of a hill.  Three 30 something males had the same idea and were already sprawled out in the grass.  I plop down while we discuss the relentlessness of the sun — did I mention the relentless sun? — and we exchange first names.

Paul has a quart bottle of clear alcohol in one hand and of bottle of pop in the other and he is taking a drink from each before he swallows. One of their friends rides off the road and de-bikes while laying down on his stomach in one motion. He swears he isn’t going to make it unless he naps forever right there.  They have stories to tell from the entire week, partying, sleeping in a cemetery under the stars, losing people, etc. Good connecting in the middle of nowhere America.

It was glorious. The more than 130 miles on my bicycle I rode over two days.  Next year, I might need to do a week.

— Namaste

Bicycling to Work

bikeI’ve always wanted to live close enough to my work to be able to bike there. The thought of leaving a smaller footprint on the earth by bicycling somewhere I go five days a week has appeal to me. Also appealing, is the drive at the busiest time of day is a major dislike of mine, so why not slow it down and enjoy the commute.

For the past year, I’ve lived within three miles of my work. Where I live, we celebrate May as Bike Month and are encouraged to use this month to bike to work. The perfect storm.

Day 1. May 1. It’s pouring. I do it anyway with slicker over my backpack and ball cap to keep the rain off my face. I do it. My jeans and underwear stay wet until noon. But. I did it.

Day 2. Beautiful cool morning. I feel like a kid riding to school. I notice how awake and good I feel at 9am.

Day 7. Flat tire on the way to work. Had to walk half of the way so late and sweating.

Day 10. Worked from home. Scared away by rain chances.

Day 15. F it. I drove.

Day 20-30. It was unseasonably hot. As in, hot at 7am hot.

I’m so glad I rode to work for Bike Month, but there were negatives. I sweat too much. The day’s first half hour was me mopping sweat off myself while I cooled down. It didn’t help that it is up hill the entire way to work. However, the ride home was relaxing and a great transition to my real life. Another negative is the time it takes to not only bike there, but secure your bike, change out of your bike clothes, and do it all over again at the end of the day.

The positives outweigh the negatives and I plan to continue riding to work regularly. I love how I felt at 9am. I really had gotten my heart pumping already and it was so easy to fit exercise into my life without it taking up a great deal of time.

Last summer, I spent two hours after work three days a week riding my bike to get in shape. This year, my daily shorter rides, but on more hills, got me in just as good shape and were much more enjoyable.

I got to know the neighborhood dogs. 🙂 I got to know the kids on their bikes riding to school. I smelled the Spring flowering bushes; felt every bump; and waved at people watering their flowers or walking their dogs.

I wish more people used the bike for transportation where I live. In my office building of nearly 3,000, mine is the only bike in the bent and scraped up bike rack. Compare this with say Copenhagen, Denmark, where 50% of the population bike to work or school daily. And, 90 percent of Denmark’s population own a bike while only 56 percent own a car.¹

I really didn’t wear makeup and couldn’t fix my hair.  I guess this is the reason more women don’t bike to work. It was freeing yes, but I do admit that I felt my professionalism could be considered compromised. If it was more accepted, I think it would change America’s beauty standards.

So with this past weekend being the official start to summer, plan to do something new these months to reinvent yourself just a little. And, be sure to let me know what those things are.

— Namaste


¹ City of Copenhagen, The Technical and Environmental Administration Traffic Department. Copenhagen City of Cyclists: Bicycle Account 2012. 2013.


One is the Loneliest Number

I love that song.  Three Dog Night had it right. One is the Loneliest Number. If you are on your own out there.  I mean — on. your. own. — not living a block from your parents who still help you landscape, not in a marriage, long-term relationship, or living with family, and not a member of an extended community, then you know what I’m talking about.

Media has written about the affects of social media, and how many of us are feeling isolated even though we may be reaching out daily to others online.  I definitely have felt loneliness in the last 10 years.  Me. The person who loves to be by myself — content to traipse around outside alone, sit alone, travel alone, go to the movies alone has many times of loneliness.

Take yesterday for instance, I went on a biking party ride. It’s an annual event in February and I’ve always wanted to do it. Only 24 miles but it is the time of the year when the weather can be -20 degrees while snowing, or 70 and sunny. Yesterday it was 40 degrees, windy and raining.

I certainly wasn’t the only person riding alone. Most of the solitary riders were men who have no problem doing things by themselves. Right? I told myself, the couples or groups of riders probably simply think I’m new to the area and haven’t gotten to know many people. Ha! Native.

What my problem is, is I like to do things on my own terms. So the ride starts at 10am, but I want to sleep in and get there when it fits into my schedule. Buddy went with and we took side trips to parks to let him run, chase squirrels and piddle here or there. I see people drinking and having fun in groups but I don’t want to feel the effects of alcohol tonight. I want to knock out some work I didn’t get done on Friday. So I’m to blame for my “alone” lifestyle.

I enjoyed the day riding and being part of something.  It was fun maneuvering the day the way that made me the happiest. I’m glad I do this. But I admit, feelings of loneliness floated over me/ around me like dust around Pig-Pen.

I’m not sure what to do with those feelings. Maybe you can’t have it all and sometimes, I’m just going to feel lonely.  I guess I can live with that.  Now que that song again. . .

— Namaste

Cycling Century Ride

Two weeks ago, I rode 108 bicycle miles between Sunday through Saturday. This probably wasn’t the first time, but in previous years, I didn’t keep track of my miles. One hundred and eight miles is a time commitment when a person works full-time, has family responsibilities, and is the sole person doing chores around the house. It takes me two full hours on the bike to go about 20-22 miles.

I’ve ridden single days on RAGBRAI  but never over 75 miles.For century ride Tomorrow this ends — with a century ride, 100 miles.  Eight people from the group I’ve been meeting with every week, are taking off at 6am and will ride half way across the state. I’ve been told to put chamois butter on (not sure where), I’ve learned about the Gatorade chews to pop along the way, have my protein bars, have oiled the chain, and filled the tires. I tried to ride this a month ago and only made it 60 miles but it was terribly hot and humid that day. Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and low 80s.

If I live, I’ll tell you all about it.

— Namaste

P.S. It was tremendous fun!