Tag Archives: cycling

Just get on the bike

The night before I was about to make good on my pledge to do a day of RAGBRAI, I was a ball of nerves. I love to ride my bike around town but in all honesty, I’m not a super confident cyclist. I still have a lot (everything!) to learn about how my bike works, and I get nervous taking my hands off the handlebars to signal. I wear gym shoes instead of clip-ins. The extent of my “training” this summer has been a few rides from our neighborhood through downtown, commuting  a mile (uphill both ways) to work, and one women’s cycling night with the Collective last week to get a porkchop and beer.  But damnit, I wanted to go a little bit more than I was scared to go.

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This winter when we learned Leon, Iowa would be a RAGBRAI overnight town, I vowed this would be my year to finally cross a day of riding off my bucket list.

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RAGBRAI week is endless logistics for our family, because for the past few years Joe’s been working and riding different portions. It can get to be a headache, but Joe would be able to drop me off in Creston early in the morning and then pick me up in Leon pretty easily. The Cash farm where Joe’s family holds its reunions is just a few miles down gravel roads from there, and it would be an easy spot to camp and for Joe to hang with the kids while I was on my ride. Plus, after a long day pedaling country highways, this is the kind of sunset you dream about:
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For me, a RAGBRAI day was a symbolic finish line in being the mom of a tiny baby. Eileen turns one in October, but I decided that I’d like to be done nursing  by late July. The ride was going to be a chance to challenge myself and celebrate the strength of my body. (Despite not training, the fact that I’d experienced unmedicated childbirth just nine months before makes any endurance activity seem possible.) My body still felt foreign to me after my second child and I know that setting goals and logging miles is a way for me to get comfortable in my own skin again. And, sweetly, the kiddos made a literal finish line at the farm entrance.

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What surprised me the most was that once I got over the fact that I was setting out on the longest ride of my life, the SOCIAL aspect of RAGBRAI really freaked me out. I had originally thought my sister-in-law would ride with me, but that didn’t work out. I know a lot of people who would be riding, but the idea of being the 11th wheel or dragging down people who would be faster than me was mortifying. I’d much rather travel at my own pace and be in my own head than worry about small talk and someone else’s timetable. (Hardcore ENFP vibes. At least I know myself!) I actually kind of like the feeling of being alone in a big crowd, especially moving along toward the same goal. In ways, RAGBRAI kind of reminded me of walking the Camino through the tiny towns in northern Spain.

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Tuesday morning, we got up before dawn and loaded up my bike and drove to Creston. I lucked out with not-too-hot late July weather, no trouble with my bike or body and truly enjoyed the roller coaster hills and a little bit of solitude. A highlight was randomly meeting up with Kerri, one of Joe’s INHF co-workers, in Mt. Ayr and eating pie with her crew and listening to Damon Dotson under a tree in the town square.

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I averaged about 10 miles an hour, including stops, but waited until the end to crack open a beer, because as a solo newbie, that felt like the best approach for me.

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Kerri and I are working with a group on putting together an October women’s ride that benefiting the Des Moines Bicycle Collective women’s programs, so if anything that I just wrote resonated with you — I’d love for you to participate! It will be October 1 and go from Des Moines to Ankeny and back , with activities that empower female cyclists of all abilities. If you’re interested and scared because a) you don’t know a ton about bikes b) you don’t get in many miles or c) you can’t find a friend to ride with you, it boils down to this: Just get on the bike! You’ll be glad you did.

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Filed under Iowa adventures, Travel

Pedal the Prairie

We packed up bikes and seats and a trailer and spent the morning at the Neal Smith Natural Wildlife Refuge “Pedal the Prairie,” a free spring bike ride and grand opening celebration for the Prairie Parkway Bike Trail.

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It was a 10-mile round trip between the Prairie City trailhead (where we started) and the Prairie Learning Center, with rolling hills that I’m proud to say I tackled without walking the trailer. Don’t try Joe’s crazy bike selfie at home, kids. (They closed off the road to cars for this event.)

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Yep, that’s a strider bike bungeed inside the Burley.

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At registration, each rider got a cute bag with “seed bombs” to throw along the route, which featured a newly paved and expanded refuge entry road with four-foot bike lanes on each side.

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We saw the Bison herd on the horizon, and took in the fresh air. There were people of all ages and abilities riding and everyone just seemed so happy to be out! The event featured a free lunch and  a few fun activities set up behind the Prairie Learning Center, too.

Today will be one of those days I always carry in my heart from this stage of our little family’s life — one of those sweet mini adventures that prove we didn’t just change diapers and fret over feeding schedules when our kids were tiny people.

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I can’t believe last summer was our first time to the Refuge. (Their Concert on the Prairie fundraiser is coming up again in a few weeks.) I have to thank Brianna Patrick, the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge visitor service staff and volunteers — and the weather! — for such a lovely morning. Check out more of the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge upcoming events on Facebook.

Pedal the Prairie was part of a really fun bike month for me. I went to a lot more events than I thought I would (even won this great purple bike bag/backpack from a women’s bike maintenance event at Rasmussen Bike Shop!) and am excited to take on a day of RAGBRAI (not pulling a trailer) this summer.

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Filed under Family Fun, Iowa adventures

Scenic cycling by tandem

On our first full morning in Hood River, we decided to do a cycling excursion with the fam along the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. I think it was about 20 miles round-trip from the shop to Mosier and back.

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Formerly U.S. Highway 30, it’s now closed to cars, and the trail curves around cliffs overlooking the Columbia River. It was the most scenic bike ride I’ve experienced. Joe and I rented a tandem Raleigh road bike from Discover bike shop in Hood River. Joe said that the joke on RAGBRAI is to call tandems “divorce bikes.” He thought it would be funny if I took a picture pretending I threw him over the cliff:

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Riding a tandem as a couple definitely demands extra communication, trust and patience. I couldn’t see over his back, or break, shift or steer, which took some getting used to — especially as we climbed the curvy highway up to the trail head. Once we got in a rhythm and Joe started calling out when he planned to shift, or when we needed to coast and we figured out a somewhat elegant mounting and dismounting, it was totally fun. Of course, we had a flat about a mile in, but the shop outfitted us with a spare tube and thankfully Joe knows how fix things.

675deb9e012511e39cc922000aaa090c_7For people who live in more mountainous areas, the trail is relatively easy. We Midwesterners are used to things being a little more flat, but we survived. My cousin Beth was a total trooper!

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It only makes sense to pause for scenic vistas, right?

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377d5894013211e38e0d22000ae903cf_7One of the neatest features was riding through these old tunnels:

1150470_10101640020842040_1263989307_oWe heard there was a cute ice cream shop in Mosier from two women who loaned us a bigger pump to fix our flat, and the thought of a creamy celebratory cone definitely provided the inspiration to power through some of the hills. Once we got there, we learned the ice cream shop had closed. Thankfully, a convenience store next door to it had frozen treats. I enjoyed my favorite – a caramel magnum bar – while looking out at a totem pole.

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It was uphill after our treat, but once we got back to the scenic overlook, we were able to coast back to the trailhead.

9c5c2664012811e38a7322000a1fa414_7Still married!

945cd244013511e3904e22000a1f928e_7After not biking for the duration of my pregnancy, it felt amazing to get back in the saddle. I’m still struggling a bit to get back into shape post-baby, but I so appreciate the ease with which my body moves now that I don’t have a big belly altering my center of gravity and the insane swelling in my legs and feet has gone down.

I’d love to bicycle up the trails to the Ankeny Aquatic Center, like Joe and I did last year, but I think we’ll have to wait until next summer, when Emmett’s big enough for the bike trailer.

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Filed under BS outside the Midwest, Travel