The joys of a summer bike ride

Serendipity

If everything goes as planned, the current edition of RAGBRAI is underway as you read this. Unless you live under a rock in Iowa, you know about this annual event that started as a simple bike ride across the state and has turned into a very real phenomenon that attracts bicycling enthusiasts from all over country and all over the world.

While I really enjoy riding my bike along bike trails and streets around here, it is a purely recreational endeavor. I generally don’t see the need to find out how long or how far I can ride. Or, in the case of RAGBRAI, how crazy is what I wear when I’m on my bike.

Sometimes I think it would be nice to live very close to a bike trail, so I wouldn’t have to always be putting my bike up on the carrier on my car and taking it down. But, when you consider it, our little towns are really quite perfect for a bicyclist of any age, if pavement and shade trees are your main requirements.

Learning to ride a bike is challenging in the best of circumstances, especially if it has to be done on a gravel driveway or a gravel road. I may still have the scars to prove it. But the skinned knees and bruises were abundantly worth it when I could finally balance and pedal the old, hand-me-down coaster bike at the same time as I bumped along on the gravel on the gravel driveway at the farm where I grew up.

When I got a little older, my best friend and I liked riding our bikes together. She was a town kid, and it was always a treat for me to ride on paved streets. In the summer, one of us would often call the other and say, “Come meet me,” and we would rendezvous with our bikes on the no-maintenance gravel road halfway between my farm and Stanhope. Sometimes we’d ride back into town to cruise around and see what and who we could see.

If we were together in town early on a summer evening when the streets and highway were quiet, one stop was often the corner Laundromat so we could check to see if anyone left anything in the change machine. If we got lucky and there were some forgotten coins in there, we’d pocket them and hurry a few doors down to the little cafe to spend it on penny candy that we could share.

Life was good. And all one needed was an old coaster bike, your best friend, and a pack of Chum Gum to share.

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