Friday, August 5, 2011


Aka the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Where You No Longer Give a Shit What You Look Like. From peeling yourself off the air mattress in the morning, to curling up into lumpen balls of sweat anywhere there’s a shady patch during the ride, to going for a swim in a pool in the overnight town then looking at the long line for a shower in a trickle of cold water in a communal room and thinking – ech, pool, shower, same diff. Clean enough.

One member of the Slothians realized she had forgotten to bring a comb or brush, but managed to pick one up at a store……4 days into the trip. Me, I just keep my hair in a ponytail or braid, so a comb is kind of redundant.

And those people you see sticking their hands down their crotches? No, there isn’t a sudden epidemic of cyclists looking for a “happy ending” – it’s just them putting on some chamois cream in broad view, no longer caring that this might be considered a bit unseemly in polite company. Whatever that is.

Then you have people white with sunscreen, slathering it on thickly in vague hopes of preventing more sunburn, or white lips due to the same slathering of Blistex (ahem), or pouring water down their shirts or standing there with watermelon juice dripping all over themselves and hey, who cares?

I’ve heard rumors that people actually hook up during RAGBRAI, and this leaves me a bit incredulous. Seriously? That must be true love right there, if you can look at someone else under such circumstances and think hey, now there’s a catch.

* * * * * * * *

Today, Wednesday, is our shortest day mile-wise, a mere 55 or so, so even though Ann and I are status quo in terms of getting up (not earlier, not later), I resolve to take my time today. Well, not that I haven’t been, but I’ve felt the pressure to try to finish so as to minimize time in the blazing hot sun. Today? Ech, whatever. So when shortly into the ride I see a huge what-appears-to-be-papier-mache cow by the side of the road (and such a happy looking cow too!), of course I stop. I take some pics and am walking back to my bike, when Ann goes by, yelling “Is everything okay?”

Me: Yeah, I was just taking a picture of the cow!

Ann, continuing to ride by: What coooooooooooowwwwwww……………?

Clearly Ann is a much more focused athlete than I am.

Then I stop to wish Owen a happy 80th birthday, and chat with him and his veteran friends as they dispense slurpees for donations. Then there’s the 100-year old farm, which has a beautiful wildflower garden. I chat with the 92-year-old woman who still lives there, and farms it with the help of her kids, with 6 out of the 8 of them living within a few miles. This is all so amazingly cool. Even though it’s still insanely hot and humid.

One of the towns today leads to a quest for pie, because for miles and miles, we’ve been seeing signs that promise “Optimist Club’s best pie in the WORLD!” or something like that. So naturally, like lemmings, we’re all looking for this pie – which, as it turns out, sold out a few hours beforehand. What the hell, people get up and start riding at 3AM so that they can gorge themselves on all the PIE? Apparently so.

But as I’m trudging down the street, dejected, what do I hear but Ann as she’s hanging out on the sidewalk, and yells the magic words: “Tasha – pie?”


I clump over, where there’s the horrifying sight of one of the Optimist Club women about to throw away an entire pie! Good god! She must be stopped!

Optimist Club Woman: See, it’s underdone a bit, so we can’t really sell it.

Ann: I already had some – it’s really good.

I look at the pie, some kind of yummy-looking berry concoction, which looks pretty damn good to me. I feel I have no choice – I rescue the pie from its sad fate. This is probably the least selfish thing I do all week.

The lovely woman also gives us a handful of forks, so Ann and I camp out on the sidewalk, eating pie, making friends as we offer it as well to those sitting around us seeking shade. Now, I’m not saying pie is the great unifier or anything – though wait, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Would our government really be in such sad shape if they sat down and

worked things out over pie? I think not.

* * * * * * * *

One of the coolest things I see on this whole trip is in the town of……I forget which. It’s not important, because it could have been any town. During the ride I had seen cyclists wearing Team Flamingo jerseys – hot pink, and usually with a feather boa draped around their necks or somewhere on their bikes. So I’m walking down the main street of one of our towns, past a nursing home where the front patio is packed with the residents, most of them in wheelchairs, and while they probably came out to witness the RAGBRAI spectacle, right now they’re rapt with attention. All listening to a Team Flamingo woman who’s standing there……and playing the violin. Beautifully so, I might add.

I ask a nearby TF person if she’s been carrying her violin with her on her bike this whole time, and the answer, of course, is yes. And here she is, making the day of all these elderly people, who are

spellbound. It’s a moment that’s beautiful and perfect in its simplicity and wonder. I get a little teary and sentimental as I watch and listen, but then I yell FREEBIRD to break the spell, and all is back to normal.

Okay, so I don’t really do that, but pretend that I did. I don’t want my reputation as a bitter and cynical and mean person to be shattered or anything. I am NOT a softie, hear??

* * * * * * * *

That evening after setting up in Altoona I decide that this is the 2nd best town in the world, after Griswold of course. The Altoona Rec Center actually has nice showers, with good water pressure and water that’s not freezing cold! And lots of them, rather than just 2. I know, the mind reels! So I’m in a happy frame of mind (hey, I’m easy these days – the other day the purchase of Blistex was enough to make me view the world as one big shiny wonderful ball of fun) when I go off to the concert venue to meet up with beloved Cancerchick Sally, who lives in this awesome town.

Before I go there, I stop off at the mobile internet computer trailer to check the weather – and cackle with laughter when I see that even now, still, at 7PM, there’s a heat warning: “Stay indoors!” And the heat index is still 109. Though they are predicting that later the “temperature will plummet into the 80s.”

I am not making any of this up.

I meet up with Sally, and after we hug, she tells me “oh my gosh, I’m sorry I’m so sweaty! We biked a mile to get here, and I was just dying!”

I just look at her. Seriously? Apologizing to ME, the original lumpen ball of sweat, that you may have an indiscernible drop of sweat on you somewhere? Because Sally looks fabulous, as always, while I’m sunburnt, with a white lip, bedraggled and droopy. It’s, umm, quite a look.

Sally is of course as delighted as I thought she would be with her “I heart Boobies” bracelet, as I know how she too supports cancer. Though I’m sad to report that I’m completely lame and soon head back to tent city, so I can get some fitful sleep before, yet again, waking up at 4:30 AM.

Are we having fun yet?

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