Saturday, July 22, 2006

Dreaming of Cycling

Ever since I read about it in Gourmet Magazine (or possibly Fine Dining -- this was a number of years ago), I have wanted to participate in RAGBRAI. RAGBRAI is a week-long bicycle rally through the small towns of Iowa that has the reputation of being a pie-eating, beer-drinking, rolling party. "Wow!" I thought, this sounds like the event for me and Robb! Sign us up."

As this event completely conflicted with my long-term summmer job at the Glimmerglass Opera, RAGBRAI became a sort of running joke with me and Robb and my Iowa-raised Glimmerglass boss, Ellen. If work was too miserable, I could fantasize about eating pie alongside of the road on a scorching hot day in rural Iowa.

When I decided, for a variety of reasons, not to return for my ninth year of running the paint shop for the Glimmerglass Opera, Robb tried to cheer me up by reminding me that we would finally be able to ride RAGBRAI.

Flash Forward to Spring, 2006.

Robb is in the hospital at California Pacific Medical Center, and his roommate has just been told that unless he starts proving that he is working toward his recovery, he will be moved out of the spine and brain center, and into a nursing home situation. So, this roommate, who was using a walker at the time, started telling all the doctors, therapists and nurses that he planned to run the San Francisco Bay to Breakers race. (Bay to Breakers is such a wild party that it makes RAGBRAI look like a church revival meeting.) Everyone was really moved by this man's motivation. And then, one afternoon, Robb heard his roommate laughing on the phone about how he had conned everyone with his good attitude, and how hilarious it was that he had actually convinced them that he intended to run Bay to Breakers.

Oh well......recovery means different things to different people, I suppose......

Flash Forward to the Present

In addition to thinking about gettng a wheelchair, Robb has been investigating the options available for adaptive bicycles. Actually, to be more accurate, Robb is looking at recumbent trikes. These cycles offer back support, and do the balancing for the rider.

And because they are all custom made, they're not cheap.

We haven't figured out how we might afford a bike like this, although we are hoping to test drive a few models.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to actually ride an adaptive bike in the crazy, happy go lucky rolling party that is RAGBRAI????

Here is an excerpt from the above link, written by a minister who completed RAGBRAI on a hand-crank cycle (he was a paraplegic). He recounts his experiences and outlines a few of the basic rules:

Eat pie early and often.

Food is the great reward of RAGBRAI. By the time you've been biking for three or four days, your metabolism is cranked up so high that you can eat six full meals a day and still go to bed hungry. The good folks of Iowa fill this gnawing need with a limitless supply of pork burgers, watermelon, corn-on-the-cob, homemade ice cream, beer, spaghetti, and pie. Pie is the perfect biking fuel. Strawberry rhubarb is my personal favorite. Eat lots of it. Don't wait till you're hungry. You may already have missed the best pie of the day...

I used to revel in my independence on RAGBRAI. I needed nobody. That's all changed now. Last year in my inaugural handcycle ride I suffered a series of frustrating flat tires. Sifting in the gravel by the side of the road, unable to get to nearby shade, I went through my entire supply of patches and realized I needed help. I didn't have to wait long. A crowd gathered. One guy tried another patch. One guy went back to look for a bike repair stand. One guy went forward to find a ride to the next town. One big guy just stood over me and provided shade from the sun. He was my favorite. Finally, a deputy sheriff arrived, threw me and my bike in his blazer, drove me to town, took my bike to a repair stand, and sat me down in a chair in the shade next to an old guy in overalls. "This is our mayor," he said, introducing us. "Anything you want, he'll get it."

I turned to the old guy. "Really?" I asked.

Sure," he said.

"Well, then, could you get me a beer?" And darned if the mayor of Roland, Iowa, population 1,005, didn't get up out of his lawn chair, disappear through his screen door, and return a moment later with a cold Bud for a crippled cyclist camped out in his front yard!


shiloh said...

Hey Robb and Lisa,check E-Bay for recumbents. I've looked there myself for the two wheeled versions but there are three and four wheeled ones. They are not give-a-ways but they are affordable. If you've already done this never mind. :)

Peace Balance said...

Look into various agencies around you. When I worked at Eatern Mountain Sports in VT one of my part timers full time job was with an agency called vermont adaptive sport and ski. He was involved in all manners of helping people get out.

Anonymous said...

Hey there!

Bike riding is a great thing- I used to do it all the time when I was a kid in Pennsylvania and riding by the Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish farms. Don't sweat the price- it will be worth it- and let all of us know what you need to pay it off, I more than fancy we will ALL EAGERLY chip in to fund a "sore bike butt" fund. It's nothing compared to the price you guys have been paying already, and we are all well aware of this.

The way I look at it, You guys will get fresh air and exercise, and Robb will start to feel a sore bottom more often. All good things.

When you get it, he can start racing small kids, just as a petty way to feel superior to his fellow man. I raced and CONQUERED a bunch of energetic 8 year olds when I went downhill sled racing last winter. It didn't hurt my pride AT ALL that they were kids. Screw 'em, it builds character to lose to a girl whose is now 40 years old today. Good God, I'm getting OLD.
If is snowed in your part of California I would build you guys a racing sled!

- Annalisa and Gary

Anonymous said...

We've always wanted to do Ragbrai as well - Joanne's parents do it every other year or so with some Iowan ex-pat freinds of thiers in San Diego. We even came close to driving the van for them one summer. Perhaps we'll have to put together a retired glimmerglass team one summer.

There was a nice article on the recumbent bike culture in Bicycling magazine last month or the month before - if I can dig it up I'll scan it and send it out your way. We've talked about getting one for joanne at some point so she can ride long distances again (wrist problems). I'm riding alot these days - keep me in the loop if you guys find something I think I could motivate some people at centerstage to help out. - tom.


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