Writing and Riding #Ragbrai

BikesThis week, I’m riding Ragbrai for the 4th time. If you’ve never heard of it, the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa is celebrating it’s 42nd ride this year and can be found at www.ragbrai.com. The best description I can offer is to say it’s a rolling carnival across the state. Approximately 10,000 people ride the entire week, and on any given day, another 10,000 or so may join in for just that day. The route is different every year, so the actual length of the ride is different every year. For 2015, the start town was Sioux City, and the end town is Davenport. It runs about 482 miles this year, with a shortest day of 58.4 and a longest day of 76.5.

It’s perhaps not necessary to say so, but I can’t write during this week of endurance riding. Some might call it torture. I call it “vacation.” For one week, I do this crazy thing with a bunch of other crazy people in the middle of the country, and I meet all kinds of people, have uniquely Ragbrai conversations, see bizarre things, eat much pie and pork and corn, and laugh a great deal. Most importantly, I have almost zero energy for thoughts about work.

The awful things that happen make great stories. There was the time I got mild hypothermia–keep in mind, this ride always takes place at the end of July in Iowa. I had a tent pole snap once. For one whole day, I rode without realizing I’d accidentally throttled my brakes down enough to make the ride about twice as hard as it needed to be. Another time, my knee brace kerplucked, so I wound up applying athletic tape directly to my skin–if that doesn’t make you wince, pro tip: that stuff hurts to pull off the tender flesh on the back of your knee.

On the other hand, I’ve met dozens of really great people. We talk and laugh and joke, all knowing that we’ll probably never see each other again, except maybe on the next Ragbrai. It’s kind of like being on a really long airport ride in that respect.

Later, after I get home and have some time to reflect, the things that happen and people I meet worm their way into my work. I’ve never yet written about a lunatic cyclist, but it’s bound to happen eventually.


Lee French has published several fantasy and superhero novels, and is a member of the Edgewise Words Inn staff.

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Author: Lee French

Lee French lives in Olympia, WA with two kids, two bicycles, and too much stuff. She is an avid gamer and active member of the Myth-Weavers online RPG community, where she is known for her fondness for Angry Ninja Squirrels of Doom. In addition to spending much time there, she also trains year-round for the one-week of glorious madness that is RAGBRAI, has a nice flower garden with one dragon and absolutely no lawn gnomes, and tries in vain every year to grow vegetables that don't get devoured by neighborhood wildlife.

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