Column: An adventure across Iowa on RAGBRAI

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 10, 2006

Jon Laging, Talking Sports

Traveling through life one meets all kinds of interesting people. They lend spice to your life for if everyone was alike, living would be dull indeed. I wrote about such a person a few years ago. He made his living through the sporting life. He lived on his own terms and died the same way. Dan opened my eyes to the many colors of life and that all people do not live the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. existence.

Adventure became appreciated and the good times described in Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck’s book about his travels with his dog were envied. As were those in William Least Heat Moon’s Blue Highways. Least Heat Moon’s wife divorced him and he lost his college professor job. He decided to buy a van, equip it and travel his road map’s blue highways, eventually writing a best seller about his experiences. (Talk about making something out of nothing.)

I have always admired adventure and adventurers. I didn’t realize that these past years I was working with one. You would never know it from his demeanor, but Warren is an adventurer. It took eight years to learn he has been a log and dam operator on the Mississippi, worked in Alaska as a ranger fighting forest fires and was described in the U.S. News and World Report, exploring caves in Mexico. He has spent his life learning about the outdoors either above or below ground.

His latest adventure was bicycling across Iowa. The RAGBRAI. (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.) He applied to a team of cyclists, was accepted and began planning for the event. He invested a thousand dollars in a bike and biking clothes. It sounds like a lot, but it’s actually fairly cheap when compared to a week&8217;s vacation. Even taking a family of four to a Vikings’ game costs about $500.

Warren began getting ready this spring and told me there was seldom more than part of a day between bouts of training. That&8217;s dedication.

The RAGBRAI has become an international event with 10,000 accepted out of its many applicants. It started this year with the rear wheel dipped in a western river, the Missouri and was completed when the front wheel was dipped in the Mississippi. The ride was about 450 miles long stretching over seven days.

Warren said that he was never in distress, but the second day was the most difficult as the riders were fighting heat, hills and a headwind. He slept well each night and perhaps the best piece of equipment he brought with him were ear plugs for there was noise until the wee hours of the morning.

I asked him why he decided to make the ride. Much like the cross country biker I interviewed years ago, he thought it would be fun and he liked to ride bike. Warren said the last day was the best, for as they approached the Mississippi through tree lined streets and beautiful homes, they were cheered. The riders were treated extremely well by people along the roads with food and drinks the entire trip. Said that a lady told him to go into her kitchen and get himself a drink. People couldn’t have been nicer.

I was fascinated by Warren’s account and came to realize that the ride didn&8217;t have to point to anything. That the ride itself was self sufficient and more than enough. It was an adventure and renewed the spirit.

I asked Warren, if he was planning on any more bike rides. He was, and thought that riding cross country with his wife or even up to Alaska would be a lot of fun. After all, he still has his bike and his clothes. I hope he does, and if he does, I get to write about it.

(Jon Laging writes a regional sports column from his home in Preston.)