According to the calendar, spring is here – but with a 55 degree afternoon followed by a windy, 35 degrees evening, it’s a little hard to tell. Early spring in New Jersey is one of those months that you just never know. We are at that time of year where I would usually take a vacation to someplace warm, where you can hear the crack of the bat as it strikes the ball, where there is sunshine, and music, and fun. I try to escape the last few days of winter, hoping that it will truly be spring in New Jersey when I return. But this year, I am not taking my vacation – I am saving my days off to knock one off my bucket list.
It started out as an innocuous enough conversation. My brothers, sister and I were sitting out on the porch on a particularly hot and humid Iowa evening last year (actually, all July evenings in Iowa are hot and humid). RAGBRAI was headed through in a few weeks and would be making an overnight stop nearby. I said, “I’ve always wanted to go on RAGBRAI!”, which made everyone turn and look at me in disbelief.
At this point you’re probably asking, so, what is RAGBRAI? RAGBRAI is an Iowa tradition that takes place the last week of July, 41 years in the making. It’s a weeklong bike ride across Iowa. It’s not a race, but a ride – a tour of Iowa, on two wheels, with a lot of pedaling. It’s seven hot and steamy days on the back country roads through cornfields and cow pastures, turkey farms and small towns, with the local church ladies passing out homemade brownies at every stop. It’s a bit of nostalgia for me, as I can remember heading down to the city park in my hometown of Fairfield to see all the cyclists setting up their campsites for the night. Now, who in their right mind would ride a bike 400+ miles across Iowa in July? Well, RAGBRAI is the longest running, largest bike tour in the world. And in less than four months, I will be joining 10,000 of my soon-to-be friends on this awesome journey.
Now you’re thinking, shocked, “Darcy, I didn’t even know you were a cyclist!” I’m not. Or, I should say, I wasn’t. With the exception of a shaky afternoon bike tour through the streets of Amsterdam in 2010 including a stop at a windmill bar for a beer, I hadn’t been on a bike since 1991. Yes, I know exactly when, because once I purchased my first car, I never rode my tan Western Auto girly-style ten speed bike again. With the help of a couple special people who I drove crazy through my research process, I got my first new road bike since my teenage years from Dave and Tami at Montclair Bikery last September. The naysayers still think I am crazy, but if you know me, you know that once I set my mind to something, very few things can get me off track. And thus begins my journey to RAGBRAI 2013, which I invite you to follow in these pages.
Already, I have received tremendous support from my family and friends. My sister, Deb, has agreed to be my “support vehicle” (which really means that I get to sleep in her RV each night, as opposed to sleeping in a tent). My Jersey friend, Michele, has agreed to go along. Who knew that you could actually get a Jersey girl to agree to spend her summer vacation on the back roads in Iowa. But Michele is always one to take on a challenge, and she’s been a cyclist for a few years now. When I asked her to join me, she didn’t even hesitate to say yes – once I told her that we’d be sleeping in an air-conditioned RV, not a tent!
Oscar Coetzee is my holistic / sports nutritionist and fitness trainer. With his help, I am getting every cell in my body ready to take on this challenge with specific foods and structured, high intensity sprint training workouts. My teachers at Garden State Yoga are helping to keep my mind focused and my muscles strong and stretched. Soon, I’ll be receiving weekly sports massages to keep me healthy, keep my muscles flexible, and keep my training on track,
It’s not about a bike ride. It’s not about a check mark on the bucket list. It’s about a transformation: my transformation. Albert Einstein said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” How well this quote fits with my current life philosophy. Work life, balanced with fun life. Social time, balanced with alone time. Denville Dairy Flood Mud ice cream, balanced with carrot, beet, and celery juice. Changes in my physical body, balanced with changes in my emotional and mental body. Maintaining a balance, yet always moving ahead.