Saturday, July 19, 2008


Tomorrow is the beginning of Iowa's 36th version of RAGBRAI. RAGBRAI stands for Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. Maybe you've ridden in it; maybe you've wanted to; maybe that many bikes on the road would drive you nuts. And we're talkin' about thousands of bikes! People come from all over the nation and beyond to participate in this event. Last year we were blessed with the presence of Lance Armstrong, John Edwards (who brought his young son along for the ride), and various members of other political hopefuls' families. This is what today's Des Moines Register printed about the first day of this year's ride:

SUNDAY'S ROUTE: Missouri Valley
Beebeetown, Underwood, Neola Minden Shelby Tennant Harlan
Mileage: 59 miles Climb: 3,797 feet
"You can thank the founding fathers for locating the town of Missouri Valley on the downhill side of the Loess Hills, nestled in the Boyer River valley. However, it is still a river valley and the riders will eventually have to climb out. Climbing is the operative word for most of the day as the route winds its way through Beebeetown, Underwood, Neola, Minden, Shelby and Tennant on the way to Harlan. The good news is that there are only 59 miles to our first overnight stop in Harlan. The other good news is that this will be the fifth time that Harlan has hosted RAGBRAI, so the folks there are old hands at meeting riders' needs."

Here's a map of this year's complete route.

Once the bikers arrive at LeClaire, they'll celebrate their completion of the ride by dipping their bike wheels in the Mississippi River. Some get so excited they also celebrate the romance they've found along the way.

The bikers plan months ahead for this event and decide on what their image will be for the ride.

Some ride unconventional bikes; some bring their dogs along; some wear decorated helmets.

Some entire families ride together, often with a toddler on a seat behind the rider.

But one thing is always certain; they have to sleep sometime. Here is a typical campsite.

Here's another certainty; when nature calls, there isn't always a convenient place to 'go'. This here is how we 'water' the corn in Iowa. That's why it's called sweet corn.

This here is how we eat the corn in Iowa.

Not much cogitating going on, but for sure, RAGBRAI can't be ignored if you live here! I'll update when I get pics from this year's ride. They're guaranteed to be just as interesting as these!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Summers of My Childhood

Memories of my childhood grow heavy as we enter the ‘Dog Days of Summer.’ My grandparents’ house was my favorite place in the entire world. Their yard was a child’s paradise; swings, teeter-totter, glider, and lots of places to hide when we played hide-’n’-seek. They often had visitors and after supper, (that’s what we used to call it instead of ‘dinner’), the adults would sit on metal lawn chairs in the front yard, talking and sipping lemonade. I can still remember the sounds of their conversation with a background of children’s’ laughter.

Often they’d stay out there until dark and watch us kids catch lightning bugs, (or fireflies as they’re now called.) My cousins would pinch off their tails to make ‘diamond’ rings for their fingers, but I couldn’t. Momma tried to assure me that it didn’t hurt the bugs, but for some reason I didn’t believe her. At my request, Grandma gave me a jar with holes punched in the lid so I could keep my lightning bug. A strange phenomenon took place; even though the bug lived after being trapped in the jar, it quit lighting up. After a couple hours, I set it free. Many years later, there was a period of time in my life when I felt trapped and no matter how hard I tried, my light was gone. Finally, I understood how that bug must have felt while trapped in the jar. Being able to breathe wasn't enough; it needed to be free.

Sometimes those summer days got so hot and humid it felt like you could cut the air with a knife. Often it didn’t even cool off at night and there was no breeze to be had. In the heavy stillness you couldn’t hear the sounds of nature; even Gramps’ coon hounds were silent. It was as if all God’s creatures were too hot and exhausted to exert their normal efforts to fill the air with their music. On those nights, the men were likely to sleep in the yard; some on the picnic tables, some on old army cots. But there was always a treat for us kids on those very hot days; Gramps would turn on the sprinkler for us to run through. What fun we had running through the cold water, getting warm in the sun........., and then doing it all over again!

If you live where the summers get hot and sticky, I hope you have some great memories of your own childhood to enjoy. I wouldn't trade mine for a million bucks! And by the way, are we ever too old to run through the sprinkler? I think not!