Editor's Note: Laura Sievert, executive director of Arts Quincy, participated in the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa or RAGBRAI. The 427-mile trip was Sunday through Saturday from Council Bluffs to Keokuk, Iowa. Laura blogged about her adventure and the home-baked pie along the way.
I'm quite sorry to have kept everyone waiting on my last RAGBRAI blog, but as it turns out, if you cycle some 430 odd miles in a week, your first order of business when you get home is to sleep for a whole day and eat junk food!
As those following along with my story will know, my ride across Iowa this year was a bit of a tribute to my late parents, Cheri and Tracy Atterberg. They, along with both sets of my grandparents, are buried in Keokuk's Oakland Cemetery.
Saturday's route to Keokuk was more than just a hot and hilly bike ride, it was a trip down memory lane. Donnelson, Iowa where my dad used to take me to races. Montrose, where my uncle took me on his pontoon boat. Sandusky, where my grandma and two aunts and uncles live.
Just outside the city limits of Keokuk stands what remains of my grandma's restaurant. It was once a hot-spot steak house that hosted weddings and parties aplenty, but flooded in 1994 and was not rebuilt. It was also the last official stop on RAGBRAI the last time the ride came to town in 1992.
People have asked me quite a few times why I would spend a vacation doing something so physically demanding. It was a really fun trip, of course, but it was a healing one too. With good friends by my side, I got to connect my future and my past. I know that I can get up any of life's big hills if I can pedal across a whole state in late July, that's for sure!
As for Keokuk, they did this ride really proud. There was an awesome crowd on top of the last big climb going into Rand Park. Since I was wearing a Hawkeye jersey, lots of them yelled out, “Go Hawks!” As we rode past! I even knew a few people at the top of the hill, which was as good a reason as any to stop and catch my breath.
The route then turned down the prettiest street in Keokuk, Grand Avenue. These old historic homes would remind you of Quincy's Maine or Jersey streets. In fact, if you've seen the stone arch home in Quincy, it has an identical sister home on Grand in Keokuk! One sad note is that the 1897 built Grande Anne, a former B&B there on the road, caught fire last year and is irreparable. It was sad to see that piece of history near gone.
The next little jog of the route lead under the Keokuk Bridge to the finish line! It's traditional to dip your back tire in the Missouri River when you leave the west side of the state and your front tire in the Mississippi when you reach the east, so that's what we did! Then you raise your bike over your head in victory, which is apropos in Keokuk's Victory Park!
That wasn't the end of the route for me though. My dear friend Ryan and I climbed the bluff one more time and rode the mile and a half out to the cemetery where my parents and grandparents are buried. I left a geode I had picked up on the route for them and had a nice quiet moment.
Last but not least, I picked up my gear and my car at the home of my cycling mentor, Jim Cate, in Warsaw and scooted home to my kids. It's been a whirlwind adventure and I'm so glad I had the opportunity. Iowa is a beautiful state, especially if you get off of I-80 and explore the scenic by-ways. Oh, and it's not flat at all! As a matter of fact, this year's route had 14,750 feet of climb, which is about as tall as the highest of the Rocky Mountains.
Oh, and I've decided to give the Best Pie in Iowa award to the Speech and Debate Team in Anita, Iowa for their killer Carmel Apple Cinnamon pie they so shrewdly sold to people in line for breakfast. Delicious!
Honorable mention for deserts goes to the pecan sticky rolls at Sacred Heart Perish in Chariton.
Best breakfast goes to Bloomfield Christian Church's Scotch Eggs, and best dinner goes to the ham balls from a church whose name I forgot to write down in Centerville, Iowa.
I hope that any of you following the blog this week who have been inspired to try out cycling get out there and do it. I didn't start with 90-mile days. I started just one mile at a time. You can do it too. Check out bike clubs where you live including Quincy Bike Club, Hannibal Bike Club, Keokuk Bike Club and Bike Burlington. Three amazing bike shops in the area will get you started right. My home shop of Madison Davis gets my highest recommendation. But also check Cool Byke in Hannibal and Bickel's in Burlington. They're great people all around.
And for motorists out there, please remember to give a little extra time and space to cyclists, runners and pedestrians. You taking that extra minute to be careful helps us all arrive alive.
From me to all of you: