Saturday, July 28, 2007

The end

RAGBRAI XXXV saved the worst for last in terms of hills, and ended with a 56.6 mile journey from Dyersville to Bellevue. Twenty of the 24 CoeBRAI cyclists went the distance (477 miles). Tom Hicks and Pete Klein (shown wading in the Mississippi) logged 500 by completing Monday's century. Nary a rider needed a sag wagon. We never even opened the first aid kit.

I opted to end my ride on the high from Friday's journey and drove the camper to ensure transportation logistics ran smoothly (or so I reasoned). The 23 other participants tackled the 3,100 foot climb like champs and we all proceeded together to dip our tires in the Mississippi.

Now I know I'm biased, but the Coe College presence on RAGBRAI was evident throughout. Other Iowa colleges were represented, to be sure, but none stood taller than good ol' Coe. Off the road, I've never been a part of a group of strangers that meshed so well.

As participants return to civilization, I hope they'll share their thoughts on the ride. For me, no one will be surprised to learn this was a father-son experience of a lifetime. So it was altogether appropriate that the route included an overnight in Dyersville, the setting for the film "Field of Dreams."

And no one was prouder than me when I saw Zach entering Bellevue. He was intimidated by the final day's climb and hesitant to ride without his partner for the previous five days (or so I choose to believe).

Though I had been admonished by his mom not to push him, it was fun that she was the one offering the most encouragement -- even she knew he had come too far to not finish. I merely pointed out that hills were his strength, which I had witnessed first hand all week. After it became clear on Friday that I was slowing him down, I finally told him not to wait for me.

Once he learns how to use his gears properly, he'll be a cycling force. I don't know if he'll ever ride RAGBRAI again -- though it's encouraging that going for a ride tomorrow seems to be an option -- and I don't really care.

This week showed him that he can do anything he sets his mind to. It showed us both that he can do it without -- or even, in spite of -- me. And whether we're cycling side-by-side, or sharing a strawberry-banana smoothie break or I'm cheering him on from the shoulder of the road, I'm happy.

Thanks, buddy. You're a champ.

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