Want to know what’s great about bicycling or RAGBRAI?
A good place to start is the unlikely friendship that developed when the paths of a Justin Bieber and a Johnny Cash fan crossed last year prior to RAGBRAI XLII. This is a story about that bicycling Bieber fan and why a book never should be judged by its cover.
It would be too easy to look at Dereck Elliott and only see a 19-year-old covered in tattoos and wearing baggy pants and a baseball cap placed just so atop hair that can take him hours to style. Anyone who makes that mistake completely misses the important things about Dereck.
At this time last year, Dereck:
- Had just graduated from East Campus, the alternative high school program in the Muscatine Community School District. It was a big accomplishment for a young man who hadn’t been successful — for reasons that no longer matter — in the district’s traditional high school.
- Had just started a full-time job at a factory in Muscatine.
- Was preparing to ride for the first time on RAGBRAI with the team put together to raise money and awareness for MCSA, the nonprofit organization that runs Muscatine’s homeless and domestic violence shelters.
Now, Dereck has just passed his first anniversary at Raymond Corp., where he works full time. And he tells a great story about his first meeting with an executive from his employer’s Japanese parent company.
“What’s up,” is how Dereck says he greeted this VIP, extending his hand for a fist bump.
In addition to working, I think he has taken some classes at Muscatine Community College. He has been writing and recording music. And he recently bought a new bike to ride this year on RAGBRAI XLIII.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen of RAGBRAI, he’s coming back for seconds. He is one the 25 cyclists signed up to ride this year with Team MCSA. He and I got in a ride together Monday night. We need to get in a few more in the 40 days before RAGBRAI kicks off in Sioux City.
This will be my eighth RAGBRAI. The previous seven have been life changing in a long list of ways. Befriending Dereck Elliott ranks pretty high on that list. Now, if I could only teach him a greater appreciation for Johnny Cash.
End Notes: Like everyone else who will ride on RAGBRAI with Team MCSA, Dereck has a fundraising goal for MCSA. You may help him reach that goal by making a donation here.
Do it while giving a listen to his newest song: