Bicycles have been steadily infiltrating my life for the last decade. It began innocently enough with friends who live in Bend, Oregon. Visit Sunnysidesports to learn more about their business and biking adventures. They lived far away and posed no immediate danger to my preference for motorized two-wheeled vehicles. Bicycling is interesting and environmentally safe, but far too much work, I thought to myself.
Next, my son began to ride nature trails hell-bent-for-leather on a mountain bike. He was born willful, wild and reckless. I tried not to imagine him wheeling like a maniac up and down and around those blind trails, flying through the air, likely yelling like a rebel. (There should be a patron saint for the mothers of such sons.)
Sadly, my own daughter purchased a bike designed to ride long distances. In her customary all-or-nothing fashion, it took a mere matter of weeks for her to persuade the entire family to participate in the famous RAGBRAI, the Registers Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. (You may refresh your memory here: The Vacation of Disappointment and Despair.)
RAGBRAI started in 1973 when two writers for the Des Moines Register newspaper decided to bicycle across Iowa then write about it. Though 300 brave souls started that first historic ride across the cornfields, a mere 114 finished. Noteworthy among those who finished the first RAGBRAI was 83-year-old Clarence Pikard. He went the distance on a ladies Schwinn, dressed in a long-sleeved shirt, trousers, woolen long underwear and a silver pith helmet. (Safety first!)
And now, this very month, a coworker, one Gary Hamm*, succumbed to the unfathomable torture of bicycling long distances. This affliction spreads in families with alarming speed. Mr. Hamm*, who lives in Kansas, infected two of his brothers long distance, one living in Colorado, and one living in Idaho. It will require serious science to unravel that disease vector!
May 31, 2014, the three Hamm* brothers rode in the Dirty Kanza, a 200 mile race on gravel roads in the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas. Educate yourself here: The Dirty Kanza, World's Premier Gravel Grinder! This race is designed in gradients of torture to satisfy everyone: 200 miles in one day, 100 miles in one day, and the DK Lite FUN Ride, 20 or 50 miles. How much fun can you endure?
The Hamm* brothers made it a respectable 60 miles, from Emporia to Cottonwood Falls. They had so much fun that they have already committed to 2015. In my considered opinion, if they want to go the distance, they must look to Mr. Clarence Pikard's magnificent achievement and don woolen underwear and silver pith helmets. A ladies Schwinn might be in order, too.
Post Script: The son and nephew of the Hamm* boys completed the Dirty Kanza 200, coming in 18th of 31 males 29 years or younger. There is video of him rolling across the finish line like Genghis Khan sacking Eurasia on two wheels. No pith helmet.
*Hamm is an entirely non-clever pseudonym because I have not asked permission to use his legal name.