I am back to work now for several days after spending most of Sunday working on cleaning out the camper and getting the kids situated and ready for their work schedules. As I reflect back on the my most recent RAGBRAI experience (my 4th now), I must say that I am especially grateful to Lee for making this a reality in my life once again. Prior to this time, the RAGBRAI was something that I never ever thought or wanted to do again.
My now ex-wife and I used to do these rides together with our family and unbeknownst to me I found out that she was having an affair with another married individual that she met on a bike ride. She would even tell me that she was riding with this person and I thought nothing of it at the time. It was many months later that I learned the bitter truth of what they were doing during their rides. I hung on for a year, hoping it would stop, but it never did. His wife suddenly died with cancer which only simplified their choice of eventual marriage and a life “happily ever after”.
Riding a bicycle after those very dark years would make me literally ill. I tried to force myself many times to get on a bike, but couldn’t force the images and emotional pain I felt out of my head, finally giving it up, hanging my bike up in the garage where it collected dust for many years and believing at the time that I would never ride again.
Through this whole process, I managed to rekindle my friendships with many people of my past, several of which were my friends from my college days. They were there for me throughout the entire dark time in my life and have now become very close. Lee, my former roommate and the best man at my wedding, was one of those friends that I grew close too once again and it was as if there was no loss in time as we have had many fun times with each other and our respective families. He was the one that would always ask me about the RAGBRAI and how it was on his bucket list and that he really wanted me to do it with him. I insisted that I was not interested at all. He knew how I felt about riding bike again, but persisted nonetheless. (Did I mention that Lee is a professional therapist? I think he used his superb skills to finally convince me to ride again).
Since Lee NEVER quits or gives up (one of his endearing features), I reluctantly agreed to do the ride again this year with him at my side. I truly believe that Lee’s desire to participate in the RAGBRAI was only partially to serve his own desires to complete something that he has known about for many years. More importantly, at least to me, was that I believe Lee wanted to see me finally get on a bike and mentally force myself to suppress the demons that had prevented me from even considering doing this ever again. I can not thank him enough!
Luke, me and Lee. This would never have happened had it not been for Lee.
With the full support and outright encouragement of Natalie, my new love, I started planning for the ride as best I could with my work schedule. Training wasn’t as I would have wanted it to be, but it would be enough to see me through this relatively easy physical challenge. Lee and three of his friends joined us and I was lucky enough to have one of my favorite sons (Luke) ride with us and one of my other favorite sons (Noah) drive our Airstream to Orange City and to all the overnight towns on the route (a generally boring job, but he smiled a lot over the weekend for sure and was very helpful along the way). It was a great experience that will for ever more be filled with nothing but enjoyable memories and funny stories to recall in the years to come.
As I sit here contemplating all the energy that went into planning, preparation and participating in this great bicycle ride, I can’t help but to dream about the future ones I will be participating in, almost certainly with Lee at my side (or at least within two miles ahead of me on the route) and our loving friends and hopefully many members of both of our families, peddling their way from west to east, corn, bacon, pancakes and beer everywhere, during the hot and humid Iowan summer.
Finally, to top off the entire week, while Luke, Noah and I were driving back home from Lansing, Luke said, “Dad, that was the best RAGBRAI ever!”
Luke couldn’t have been more correct!