Thursday, July 15, 2010
Writing prompt: Write a funny story involving socks.
I used to be part of a hooligan crowd that believed in riding bicycles on long journeys in various stages of undress and drunkenness.
Pretty soon, the hooligans will be at it again. During the last full week of July, about 5,000 people bicycle across the state of Iowa on a 7 day journey, beginning on the banks of the Missouri River and ending at the banks of the Mississippi River. Each day is usually between 70-90 miles of biking. This event is called RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa). If you’d like to learn more about it, click here. The bike team I rode with was Team Mosquito.
As if biking across Iowa in July weren’t crazy enough, the shenanigans that go on can be truly shocking. If you are there, the feeling in the air and the spirit and energy of the crowds encourages you to BELIEVE in the crazy and to push the boundaries of what is APPROPRIATE. You do because you CAN.
In other words, people are largely only operating on the lizard part of their brain.
Really, there is no thinking required. Only the pushing of pedals, the lifting of a cup to the mouth, the foraging for scraps of food here and there, never once caring what you look like or how much you have sweat, and pretty-much a constant smile on your face.
There is the sun on your back, silent 20 mile stretches of highway as you ride past fields of corn. Sometimes the air is cut by a distant radio strapped onto a fellow biker’s bike. There is the kindness of strangers to push your back up a long hill on your bike when they see you are struggling. There is the kindness of families opening their homes and showers and lawns for sleeping. There is the kindness of whole towns offering their streets for Mardi-Gras type celebrations.
I have sat outside of a gas station on a sunny early morning, eating a banana, sharing a cold beer, and looking at my bike to prepare to get on and ride for another 70 miles.
I have gotten myself lost in the dark, riding drunk down an obscure Iowa highway, only to be picked up by fellow riders and dropped at a nearby town bar.
I have demonstrated bad ass skills like the one below.
I have dropped to the ground and danced in the dirt to Violent Femmes, Blister in the Sun.
I have chased many a shot of vodka with a swallow of cold baked beans from the can (What? You've never heard of vodka bean shots? You just haven't been living!).
But there is one memory and picture that truly makes me chuckle more than others and is a great insight into what tickles my sense of humor. I fondly recall one of the hooligan bike team members wearing these cat puke socks when he would ride.
You see the cat on the sock? It is puking.
Now here is an example of a person operating on the lizard part of their brain. I am sure this person would not mind me posting this – in fact, he would be proud. And, my husband, his good friend, gave me permission. Here is another hooligan bike team member:
Obviously, he is imitating the cat on the cat puke socks.
People, it doesn’t get much better than this. I am only so grateful that I can own these memories as part of the great things I have done in my life.
God speed, RAGBRAI-types. You are getting ready for your journey, and I am not jealous, only nostalgic – like it is an era gone by for me. Carry on and bike hard.
Personal disclaimer: I will stop myself and clarify that I was never a die-hard biker. In fact, the first few times I tried it, really tried it, I hated it and declared the entire sport stupid. Why would someone push two wheels MANUALLY up a hill over and over again, WHY?! I wanted no part of it. I hated the way it made me feel inadequate and tested my strength. But, I did keep trying (because I married one of these hooligans, and I didn’t want to be left out of all the fun), and eventually I came to “get” what it was that was so appealing about being on your bike for a long time and accomplishing SOMETHING.
I will also be honest and clarify that I have never been able to bike the entire RAGBRAI route. The most consecutive days of biking I have ever done is TWO, and I don’t think I have ever biked more than about 70 miles in one day.
General disclaimer: There are, of course, family-types that partake in the event that is a genuine celebration of the great state of Iowa. There are family-focused activities, and I’ve heard there are some standards of conduct that are encouraged. This is an experience that exists and is obviously encouraged by the creators of RAGBRAI, however, this just wasn’t ever my experience and I am only writing to my experiences.