Friday, February 29, 2008

My first RAGBRAI

Witnessing one of the most infamous streaking events of Iowa's week long bicycle ride across the state (RAGBRAI) overshadowed most of the pain caused by my biggest rookie mistake: lack of training. During the 2004 summer bicycle ride widely viewed as a rolling spring break for the 40+ set the average participant can't fit into any norm. Arguably the first bicycle ride of its kind in the US, RAGBRAI attracts families, racers, casual riders, people in spandex on carbon frames to unicyclists to Huffy riders in cut-off jeans. There is no norm, no average. The ride can be non-stop party from river to river for one person or a wholesome family picnic for the approximately 500-mile bicycle ride.

On the second day of my first partial attempt to participate in this infamous Iowa bike ride, the lunch stop provided a surreal mix of the extremes. Conveniently located just beyond the halfway point, Olin and its residents provided the means for a restorative lunch break with beer gardens, vendors hawking almost any food you could wish for, live music and perhaps most sought after... massages. During my hard earned lunch break, I found the massage tent and promptly signed up. As I stood inside the tent waiting impatiently for my turn on the massage table, the sounds of the crowd buzzing and whirring outside began to lull me into reverie. Then a strange murmur broke through the steady hum outside the tent, so I stepped out to see what had muted the party. Just as I stuck my head out I saw three naked bicyclists racing through town, turning the corner around the town square and out of sight into the throng of cyclists already on the road. They pedaled so fast I couldn't say for sure, but I believe the streakers only wore helmets and shoes.

The second the temporary nudists left our view, the crowd cheered and went right back to the cheery chatter and hubbub that preceded, no one scandalized or outraged. We shared a collective shoulder-shrug, "eh, that's RAGBRAI" and all returned to the business of vacationing on a bike ride across Iowa during the hottest week of the year.

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