You find yourself smack dab in the middle of nowhere, yet you are compelled to keep moving onward.
Rumors of what awaits you at the end of your journey grow more incredible with every mile you traverse. It will alter your mind. Your soul will be cleansed. Your physical being will be transformed. There will be pie. Lots of pie.
This isn’t the end of the Sixties and you’re not traveling to a music festival in Upstate New York. This is the end of July and you’re trekking across Iowa by bicycle.
Sunday, July 24th marks the beginning of RAGBRAI – the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. For those that have never heard of it, the question “why would you want to ride a bicycle across Iowa?” usually arises.
As a famous American cyclist once (ghost) wrote, it’s not about the bike. It’s not really about Iowa, either. It’s a quest – an adventure shared with around 20,000 other people, give or take a few thousand.
It’s the people that ride RAGBRAI that define it, yet make it difficult to define at the same time. There is no single type of person that accepts the challenge of biking 450 miles from the Missouri to the Mississippi over seven consecutive days.
You're just as likely to spot a middle aged woman in a t-shirt and cut-offs as you are the stereotypical suburban cyclist in Spandex. You'll see moms pulling tots in trailers and dads dragging tikes on tag-a-long bikes. There are teens and grandparents. The fit and the not-so-fit.
Then there are the crazy ones. The guy who wears a banana costume and rides a recumbent "bananamobile" bike is the first one to come to mind. The guy that does the entire ride on a unicycle is also at the top of the list. Costumes. Face paint. Outrageous outfits. It's like people watching in Las Vegas after Cirque du Soleil lets out.
Wherever one hails from or whatever his or her stripe, each rider becomes part of a unique community that is ultimately seeking the same thing - personal achievement. On that final day of riding, after their front wheels have been dipped into the Mississippi River, each is part of a select group that shared the same journey.
As those that attended Woodstock would likely attest, the journey was just as enlightening as the destination. RAGBRAI dispenses with the destination altogether and provides the outline for a personal adventure. It's up to each individual to color between the lines. Or outside the lines...
More to come as I ride the first two or three days!