RAGBRAI XLII and my encounter with good Samaritans

Janet and me ...

Janet and me …

For me, RAGBRAI XLII ended Saturday in Guttenberg after I carried my bike the last mile or so to the Mississippi River.

I would have been happier if the bike had been carrying me. But I would have never made it to the finish without the help of some good Samaritans, including Dean “Bareback” Mathias, a member of the Quad-City Bike Club in Davenport, Iowa; and a South Carolinian, who, I think, said his name is Kelly Russell. I didn’t have anything on which to write down his name and now I can’t remember it for sure.

I’ll get to their story in just a minute. First, I have to say I will always remember the 2014 Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa for a long list of reasons that is topped by the fact I rode all of it with Janet Morrow, who is an amazing person and the best friend I have ever had. The fact that she puts up with me and willingly joined me on RAGBRAI shows how lucky I am to be a part of her life.

Janet joined me on the ride, along with 20 other bicyclists and four other volunteers to form Team MCSA, which had the goal of going on RAGBRAI to raise:

  • Awareness for the homeless in Iowa
  • Money for MCSA, the nonprofit organization that operates the homeless and domestic violence shelters in Muscatine, Iowa. I am the deputy director at MCSA, where my duties include raising money and promoting the organization.

RAGBRAI couldn’t have gone better for Team MCSA. I spoke about MCSA and homelessness with dozens of the estimated 20,000 cyclists who pedaled the 420 miles over seven days from Rock Valley to Guttenberg. We raised some money and, I think, the members of Team MCSA became pretty identifiable during the week-long ride in their purple and gold jerseys.

As we traveled back to Muscatine Saturday evening, more than one of the riders told me RAGBRAI had been the most-fun week of their lives or that the experience had been life changing. The riders included community leaders and high school students, teachers and four students from East Campus, which is the alternative high school program in Muscatine. They are a great bunch and I’ll always think of every one of them as a good friend.

Of the 26 people in the group, only seven had ever ridden even a part of RAGBRAI in the past. So I’m proud of all of them for finishing it this year. And most of them finished well before I did, which leads  back to the good Samaritans.

IMG_0327After riding about 60 miles Saturday, I reached the first of two big hills that had to be climbed to reach the finish some 12 miles away. Mid way up that first hill, I tried shifting into my bike’s little chain ring on the front cassette. But I threw the chain, which lodged tightly in between the cassette and the bike frame. It wasn’t going to come out and I was about ready to take the ride’s sag wagon to Guttenberg.

That’s when Russell and Mathias rode by, stopped and offered to help. Mathias took the chain apart, pulled the wedged section loose, threaded it back through the front derailleur and put it back together. In minutes, I was back on the road, unsure if I should thank him or curse him for making sure I would have to climb the ride’s last two big hills after all.

But I’m glad both riders stopped to help.Without them, I wouldn’t have made it to Guttenberg, where I broke a spoke on the back wheel and had to push my bike to the finish line.

Still, I made it. So did Janet and everyone else on Team MCSA. One of the best weeks of my life may not have ended exactly as I would have like it to. But everyone made it to the end of the ride. No one was seriously hurt during the week. I think everyone had fun while also learning about themselves and their teammates.

Taken all together, the experience is something I will always remember.