Friday, May 28, 2010

My favorite bicycle memory

Today was a really exciting day at my house!  I won a $300 gift certificate to Bickel's (a bike shop nearby in Burlington) by winning a radio contest on 107.3 The New Mix!  Several weeks ago I heard about a  contest they were hosting asking for participants to send in their favorite biking memory to celebrate May as "National Bicycle Month".  I have tons of fond memories of bike rides, mostly on the back of my parents' old Schwinn racing tandem.  So, I decided to write in and try my luck!  I never expected I would actually win!  I'm so excited for my shopping spree ... although all you cycling enthusiasts out there know that three hundred bucks doesn't go very far in a biking specialty shop!  Either way, I'm not complaining!

Below is the story I sent in that won me the loot!!  Tim has already come up with a half a dozen ways he can spend the money.  Boy, is he gonna be disappointed! Just kidding, hon ... kinda ...

Some of my earliest, and certainly some of the fondest, memories of summers growing up in northeast Iowa center around RAGBRAI, the back seat of a 1964 Schwinn criterium-racing tandem, and time spent on the open road with my dad.
The tandem was canary yellow with bright blue handlebars, a 10 speed, and weighed in at more than 50 pounds.  And it was my favorite place to be on a humid July afternoon.  After many summers of begging to go along, my dad gave in and agreed to let me ride with him on RAGBRAI XVII.  I don’t remember a summer that he didn’t ride and I’ll never forget the first time he took me along.  I was nine years old and he had to rig blocks of wood on the pedals so my feet would reach. 
We left from our house in Waterloo early in the morning and set out for Dyersville – a mere 75 miles away.  But, it didn’t matter to me far we rode, I was happy just to be going along.  Turns out it was a good thing I didn’t have any concept of how far we went, because the ride ended up being 86 miles that day!
 I learned a lot of new things my first day on RAGBRAI.  Things, I never imagined I’d remember now 21 years later.  Like … if a hill has a name, its gonna hurt going up!  (But at the top of Iron Hill there was the best cherry pie I’d ever eaten … and a bathroom! I hadn’t yet mastered – or even attempted – going in a cornfield.)  I learned that everyone who sees a little kid on the back of a tandem will yell “She’s not pedaling”, and think they were the first person to come up with such a great line!  (I was pedaling … most of the time).  I learned that those Lutheran church-ladies can whip up a mean plate of spaghetti in their church basement, and that you have to eat more than you think so you don’t bonk.  (My dad already knew this, and would tease me by telling me not to eat my banana down to the bad spot and then hand it to him.  Knowing all the while I couldn’t resist such a trick!)  He dubbed it “the banana-pass” and to this day we both know what the other means when we say those words. 
We finally made it to Dyersville and I saw the basilica for the first time, where legend has it that my great-grandfather helped put the spire on the top … only he did so slightly inebriated … and left it a little bit cock-eyed as a result.  I wanted to go swimming when we got in, with the energy only a 9 year old can have after an 86-mile day.  And I was appalled that my dad was too tired to take me!   We slept in a full sized pick up truck that night and awoke to rain for day 2 – Dyersville to Bellvue.  I couldn’t wait to dip my tire in the mighty Mississippi.  That day I learned that a garbage bag makes a great poncho, and that I really could use a cornfield for a quick bathroom break if I really had to.  I giggled all day about a sign one farmer hung from his corn, “Please don’t pee on my corn, its wet enough already!”  I learned, much to my dad’s amusement, and much to my chagrin, that a buffalo burger is not just a big hamburger, but, in fact, made of buffalo meat!   We traced our hands on a quilt being made of all the riders’ handprints while passing through Andrew, IA.  He drew his big hand around the outside, and my little one just inside his.  That pretty much summed up how I felt about riding with my dad … part of a great adventure, but secure just being along for the ride with him.  We made up a little song as we rode, to the tune of “Under the Boardwalk” by The Drifters.  “Under the sunshine, down by the trees, on a bicycle with my daddy is where I’ll be.” 
Well, that was it … I was officially bit by the RAGBRAI bug, and my dad and I would ride parts of several other RAGBRAIs together in the coming years  … but nothing would ever quite compare to that first RAGBRAI together! 

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Next Prom ... May 2024

Tonight Tim and I took the girls to watch the promenade at the high school during prom festivities.  Ella liked seeing all of the girls in "fancy-dancy" dresses.  Although, I think I'm still the one who enjoys this more than anyone.  Brynn liked rocking out to the music playing in the background!
2 years ago, we did the same thing.  Ella was just 9 months old and Brynn was just a hope and a dream at that time (or an egg and a sperm if you want to be all technical about it...).  Anyway .... This is the blog post I wrote later that night after tucking her in.  Tonight my heart was in much the same place as that night  ... so I'll just re-post what I wrote then.  Only, now I'm thinking of two girls' first proms (and how I really better start saving for that now!  Holy cow ... the dresses were phenomenal, but surely couldn't be cheap!)  Anyway ...

A letter for my baby Ella with thoughts of your first prom ...

As I sat and watched all the teenage girls and their dates promenade through the gym tonight, with you sitting on my lap, my mind wandered into the future ... to your first prom.  I know it is almost 16 years away, but if what everyone says is true, that day will be here before we know it.

I imagine we’ll spend all day getting ready ... doing your hair and make up, maybe even going for pedicures or manicures.  You will put on your new dress (the one that I should start  saving for now!) and you’ll waltz down the stairs to show off for your dad and your younger brothers and sisters.  Daddy will twirl you around the living room, and we’ll take all kinds of pictures of our baby girl, now all grown up.  Maybe you’ll even wear a pink bow in your hair like you did tonight.

The bag I’ll help you pack that night will be entirely different than the one we took with us tonight. Then it will be make- up and hairspray; tonight it was a warm bottle and your favorite blankie.  

You’ll nervously await for your date to arrive.  Daddy and I will try not to let on that we’re even more nervous than you are.  And I’ll make sure Dad puts his shot-gun (which he thinks would be a really funny joke!) back in the safe.  This boy, who is not yet a beau, but more than just a friend, will show up at our door with your corsage in hand, and his car freshly washed.  Dad will probably tell a cheesy joke to try to break the ice, and you’ll be embarrassed and roll your eyes, but you’ll laugh at him anyway.  He always can make you laugh and smile.  You and your date pose for more pictures, and your cheeks start to hurt from smiling so much!
And before we know it, he’ll take your arm and lead you to the door.  I hope he’ll remember to open the car door for you.  And I hope he will treat with gentleness and respect. 
Daddy will wipe the tears from my eyes -- and try not to let anyone see them welling up in his own. We’ll pray that you’ll be safe ... that’ll you have fun ... that you’ll get lost in the moment and enjoy the freedom and carefree spirit of youth.  I hope you dance the night away with all of your friends close by!

We’ll  remind you to be strong and pure, and hope that you will be able to stand up to the peer pressure that often comes along with nights like this.  That you’ll be true to the values we’ve modeled and taught you over the past 16 years.  And we’ll swell with pride as we watch our little Ella Grace smile beautifully as they call your name during the promenade through the gym ...      

But, for tonight I’m going to hold you tight, all snuggled up on my lap.  I’ll rock you just a little longer than usual, and try to capture these moments in my mind’s eye --  your chubby little 9 month old face, rosy cheeks, the tiny pink bow in your soft blonde hair, those big blue eyes as they blink, heavily, off to sleep, and the funny way you pull my face close to yours for “Ella-kisses”.  And, tonight I am grateful, for many reasons, that I have another 16 years before your first prom.