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See Iowa, by Bike. No, really!
The average person gets about 2-3 weeks per year to leave work behind and pursue their own interests. For some it means tackling put-off projects, traveling to parts unknown, or even just sloth.
What a person does with this allotted time says a lot about themselves and where they are in life. Not just in terms of financial security but motivation. How a person spends their money is one thing. We all have regrettable purchases. (I'm looking at you Cuisinart Convection Bread Maker. Only used twice).
How NOT to spend your money.
This year, roughly 10,000 people, will spend a week's time riding bicycles from the western edge of the state of Iowa to dip a tire, (just the rear) into the mighty Mississippi River (That's on the eastern side of the state, for those who slept through geography). No offense to Iowa, or bicyclists or those easily offended but here's the thesis statement: Why would an otherwise in-shape person want to spend a week's vacation peddling across a fly-over state in the middle of the summer?
Going into it's 45th year is the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, or RAGBRAI, as everyone calls it. Every year, the route is different, as is the participants because entrance is based on a lottery system. Even the weather changes every year. Granted, there is no escaping the heat and humidity of a steamy July day in Iowa. Unless, of course, there is the potential for hail, lightning, and other ways water can punish you for being outside for a week.
The sleeping arrangements are typically camping out on some local's lawn in the town the ride stops at that night. The dining options are a combo of little restaurants working their hearts out and pop-up vendors in each town. The bathroom facilities are reminiscent of: (Choose your reference here) Over 40 - "M*A*S*H" ... Under 40 - "Outdoor Festival".
So why would anyone want to do this, right? In my life, I've spoken with a handful of people that have completed the ride. Members of my family have done it several times over the last 20 years. Friends and co-workers have done it. They all say the same thing, "It's a great time. You feel a great sense of community and accomplishment." A friend of mine went a few years back having almost no prior knowledge of the event and relatively little training logged. She was included as part of a group and had this to say:
"It was a big challenge laid out in front of you every morning, but you bit off little chunks into shorter rides throughout the day. Everyone stopped in these little towns for lunch and whatnot. Then, at night, everyone camped out and drank beers. It was great!"
Years ago, my step-father entered as a solo rider and was quickly adopted by a group of riders and drafted into their riding group. Every year that he has done the ride since, he finds that same group of guys and quickly falls into the role of old friends. RAGBRAI has taken what was a very solitary sport for many and given them a community. (Granted, this isn't the first or only big bike ride every year, but it is the largest of it's kind in the world).
Also, the money raised from the ride goes to local charities and non-profits. Reports estimate that roughly $3 Million in tourism dollars are generated every year during the week.
Spending a vacation week challenging yourself has been a running theme here at "Proozin' the News" and at Proozy.com in general.
While the ride is going on now (July 23-29) it's never too early to start training for next year. Make sure you register for the entrance lottery in time.