Friday, February 8, 2013

In Which CR Joe Is Starting To Reconsider RAGBRAI …

Pavel Novak took this photo of Mount Everest, which I downloaded from Wikicommons. Is the Karras loop my Mt. Everest? Is this the year?

RAGBRAI 2012 was tough. Very tough.

Hundred-degree afternoons. Headwinds. Unrelenting sun in the drought-stricken desert of western Iowa. An ill-timed thunderstorm in Marshalltown that robbed me of sleep when I was already worn out.

But then, it changed. The final days were spent in company—first, I saw some MMU friends on the pleasant day I rode into CR. It was only 95 that day and the wind was not our enemy. A ride of more than 80 miles in 95 degree heat with side winds doesn’t sound like fun until you realize how vastly more pleasant it is than a ride of 60 miles facing a stiff headwind in 105 degree heat.

And company always helps.

That night, and the next, I slept in my own bed, and the next two days, I rode with two siblings and a brother-in-law.

I wrote yesterday that I was in Des Moines, attending the Iowa College Media Association Convention. That night, I sent my sister and her husband a Facebook message that I was in town, and they quickly made plans for a noon trip so that they could just say hello for 10 minutes in a hotel lobby.

Ah. Shucks. It was sure nice to see them. And they are starting to think—you know, Des Moines is on the RAGBRAI route this year, so one day mid-week would be in a “house,”—maybe this whole-week bike ride thing is not so cray cray. . .

And if they do it, and if my other biking sister does it, well. Hmm. Food for thought.

I had planned to do only a few days of RAGBRAI this year for three reasons: 1) Last year, 2) A trip to Paraguay will cut some of my training time and 3) I wanted to walk the Bix this year with my wife.

The wife, however, seems to be encouraging the bike ride. I don’t think she minds the week alone, and we can go for walks at any time. And, while we can’t predict what the weather will do—who knows, it could be another hot, dry summer—the RAGBRAI route is much easier this year. Plus, it goes through Des Moines and Fairfield, two towns I have connections to.

Today, at the ICMA convention, I listened to a very uplifting speech by Charlie Wittmack, a Des Moines attorney who completed the “world triathlon,” swimming the Thames and the English Channel, riding a bike thousands of miles across Europe and Asia to reach Nepal, and then scaling Mount Everest.

After describing the ordeal of riding across deserts and mountains, Wittmack said, “all I had left to do was to climb Mount Everest.”

Yikes. And I balk at a bike ride I’ve already done twice?

The story was both inspiring—and oddly familiar. I remember someone chatting about this guy before. Who do I know who is also a lawyer in Des Moines? Oh, that would be my sister. She also bikes and so does her husband—who, I think, was the one who raised the topic of Wittmack one summer weekend when Brigid and Eldon and Cate and I did the Raccoon River Ride.

At ICMA, Wittmack talked about the importance of doing something just a bit more than you thought you could. Me, I hate to stand on a chair, and I guarantee I’ll never climb Everest. It’s there and it can stay there. But a third RAGBRAI? Maybe even the 100-mile loop?


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