RAGBRAI 2015

On July 22, 2018, 20,000+ cyclists will once again make the 450+ mile, week-long journey across Iowa known as RAGBRAI. The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), is an annual seven-day bicycle ride sponsored by the Des Moines Register newspaper. Starting in 1973, RAGBRAI is the oldest, largest, and longest recreational bicycle touring event in the world. It is held in the last week of July and has an average length of 468 total miles, with the average daily distance between host communities of 67 miles.

In July 2014, my friend Barb asked me if I would be interested in riding RAGBRAI 2015 with her cycling team. At first, I thought she was nuts. I had never been considered an athlete and had undergone back surgery in July 2013. My first reaction was that I could never physically do it. But then, I stopped myself… I had to ask, “But why can’t I?”

I didn’t own a bike, so I began riding 47-pound Nice Ride bike share cruisers around town to see if I could physically handle the training that would be required the following summer. When I was finally able to ride 20 miles on one of those tanks in October 2014, I decided that yes, I was going to do it.

Winter was coming, and I didn’t want to buy a bike until I really knew what I wanted. Another friend pulled a shitty hot pink hybrid bike that you might buy at a box store out of a trash pile and gave it to me. So naturally, I named her Trixy and placed her on an expensive cycle trainer for the winter months. And all that winter, I rode that heap and watched movies, terrified of RAGBRAI.

In February 2015, Barb told me with deep regret and apologies that her team had dissolved and that she was not going to be able to ride RAGBRAI after all. I was faced with a decision: don’t go after all the training I had already done or go alone. I refused to give up. I decided to go alone. In April 2015, I bought my bike Alexis, a steel Jamis touring bike and the rest is history.

In the end, I rode 490 miles in 7 days through summer heat and humidity, between the Iowa corn fields, small towns, and beer tents. I normally write a daily journal but writing during RAGBRAI proved impossible due to the level of exhaustion that I experienced. However, I did keep notes during my training. What follows is an excerpt of those journals by date and a count of the mileage I put on my bike Alexis. Enjoy! Continue reading “RAGBRAI 2015”

Usual Early Morning Stuff

It is 5am. I fight with the alarm. I fight with the cat. It is hard to leave the bed soft, fresh sheet, downy blanket hugging me back to slumber. He won’t let me sleep in and the 10-minute snooze won’t either. My choice. I set the alarm. I keep feeding him.

I sit up. I strap on the robe and sandals. I set about the usual early morning stuff. The cats weave around my legs as I pee. There are two cats, but she is much quieter, so I don’t complain about her in the morning. The gurgling coffee pot calls to me from the kitchen. I set about feeding us.

Shredded fish and gravy for them, OJ and coffee and ink for me. He eats, and naps curled in the chair next to me. She disappears again. The coffee has been poured into a weekday cup of average size. I put on a blanket against the chill from the degrading kitchen windows.

I begin to empty my mind of anger or poems or scene sketches for a novel I am months from completing. It is slow at first, unsure of my characters. What if I make bad choices for them? These are someone else’s kids in my care- no? They’re mine? Even worse. The white space fills with black ink, mostly legible, with circular patterns of character self-discovery and bad descriptions.

The paper and ink raw messy dirty dish reality of my kitchen conjures the best times of my life- food and wine and people I love. The space I write and create, the space of warm ovens and cold drinks, of turning spice into curry and flour into bread. It is fertile ground. It soothes my aching soul when the pen digs too deep into the flesh of all that is hidden.

Later the computer will sterilize this but not too much. Only enough to make it appear I am not completely uneducated though my reading list is long and impossible. Writing my flesh then clothing it in gauze. My living room editor life of electronic square blinking screen, cold and efficient, symbol of productivity and work.

The alarm on the stove beeps. The pen and paper are closed. Night clothes come off, day clothes come on, different. Hair different, hot and pasted into place. Breakfast, commuter bag, lunch bag, journal, calendar, coat, hat, boots, mittens… power off, locks on, out into the ally to the street to the bus to the bumper car traffic to the place I spend most of my days, not writing, in a cube farm.

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, February 2018

Soaked in Crimson

Hair dyeing college days
Little bit of money

Spent on a box of
Self-expression

Cigarette exciting
Someone would notice

They might kiss
My ashtray mouth

Late night
Literary discussions

Exposed to the world
Smoke in my lungs

Brown carpet
Basement apartments

Hot summer nights
Steaming river fish

12-pack on the dock
Light reflected water

Young new hope
Life determined

Unfettered and free of
Small-minded destiny

 

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, March 2018

Morning Light

I see it appear
Every morning
Early sunlight

Some have suggested
Cycle before dawn
But I write not ride

I don’t trust drivers
In the dark
I don’t trust listeners
With my words

I ride in the light
I hide in the light, too

If you read this
You have no one to blame
but yourself

I exist, I am
I wake early
To put pen to page

It helps to light
The way home

It helps to keep
Moving forward

It helps

 

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, September 2017

Magic

Magic in the moon
Early morning
Sub-zero walk
No one is about

Ground crunches
Snow
Sky is clear
Nothing blocks
View of space

People are home
Snuggle each other
Snuggle the cat
Snuggle in blankets

But I am out
Walk to breakfast
Hot coffee

A tramp outside
Between
One warm inside
To another

Winter in small doses
Reminder of childhood
Play, romance
Simpler times in my life

 

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, January 2018

Great American Road Trip- Part 4

Monday, July 24, 2017 ~ WY-UT-ID (455 miles)

Rock Springs, WY; Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, UT; Mountain View, WY; Salt Lake City, UT; Ogden, UT; Albion, ID

I wake up at 5:20am for no damn reason. Five hours of sleep is better than none. This is the hard grind of driving all these miles and trying to get sightseeing in too. I am filthy- road grit, sunscreen, bites and bug spray, gross. I am gross. No energy to shower last night. The free wine didn’t help.

I am in a hotel room next to the ice machine with a view of the HVAC rooftop system. The sun is rising and I hear the womp, womp, womp of the hotel laundry room below. Pre-pay late arrival gets you the ‘worst’ room in the hotel. It’s clean and well put together so what do I care? On the road in couple hours anyway. Continue reading “Great American Road Trip- Part 4”

Great American Road Trip- Part 3

July 23, 2017 ~ SD-WY (605 miles)

Wall, SD; Badlands National Park; Rapid City, SD; Black Hills National Forest; Hot Springs, SD; Casper, WY; Rawlins, WY; Rock Springs, WY

At 6:15am in Wall, SD, I sit outside my cabin on the patio drinking coffee and writing on the two-person bench. The sun rises quickly behind me and casts long shadows that stretch toward the nearly empty interstate. It’s going to be a hot one in the Badlands. Heat rash has become a normal part of venturing out in high summer for me. Heat exhaustion can creep up too. Sunscreen, bug spray, water, and my straw hat are a must today.

National parks, small towns, the highways and byways… the great outdoors… people think it’s flyover territory but I know better. There is so much life happening not on the internet- parks, museums, cafes, wilderness. This life is a little bit of heaven for me- a porch, a coffee, a sunrise, my journal. This is what vacation should feel like- adventure and exploration. Continue reading “Great American Road Trip- Part 3”