Keeping the wheels turning

My wife, Julie, gave me a bicycle on my 50th birthday. I wasn’t as appreciative as I probably should have been. Now, seven years later, I own three bicycles. I ride most days to my office, about 30 miles round-trip. I’ve set a goal of riding 25,000 miles total by my 60th birthday. I will need 3,000 miles each of the next three years to get there. With 4,000 in 2012, the goal is in sight. And then…maybe 70,000 by my 70th!

We participated in our fifth RAGBRAI [The Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa] in July. It was a brute. One day, the heat index was over 120 with actual on-the-road temps at 110 or more. People were dropping out.

When you are riding on RAGBRAI and get tired and whine to yourself, reality soon rides by. The guy you just passed riding a unicycle. The whole 475 miles on one wheel. There are the many courageous riders who pedal bikes using only their arms because leg power is not available to them. There are the riders with one leg. There are bikers 20 years your senior who ride with the pride and joy of

being able. The contrasts force you to shift gears and give thanks for the gifts you have been given. And hope they are there in some form 20 years out.

The preparation and hospitality of the towns across Iowa are outstanding. The people are endlessly friendly, the food is plentiful and the activities they use to entertain the thousands of momentary guests are splendid. Imagine 15,000 or 20,000 bike riders and support vehicles rolling into a town of 800 people, all wanting to be fed. It takes every church, civic club, youth group, traveling food vendors and nearby town volunteers to make it happen.

RAGBRAI next year? Probably. Trying to keep exercising in some form at least five days a week? Hopefully. Enriched by the people we meet in the pursuit? Definitely!

Brian Hart is a member of the DMU Board of Trustees and the president of Hart Financial, LLC, a firm he founded in 2000 as a registered investment advisor that provides financial planning and investment advisory services to individuals. Prior to forming Hart Financial, he was vice president and chief financial officer of Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. RAGBRAI is The Des Moines Register’s annual week-long bike ride across Iowa, now in its 40th year, the oldest, largest and longest bicycle touring event in the world.

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