Mt Pleasant News
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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 19, 2017

RAGBRAI: The adult spring break

Aug 04, 2017
Photo by: Courtesy of Kelly Perry Who needs spring break when you have RAGBRAI? For this group of Mt. Pleasant residents, the 411 mile ride is a chance to unwind and just focus on themselves and the road.

By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News

 

For Kelly Perry and her friends, RAGBRAI is their spring break.

“It’s kind of like a break,” said Perry, of Mt. Pleasant. “When you’re on your bike, you’re just really thinking about nothing, but being safe. You go back to that basic hierarchy of needs — food, clothing, shelter and safety. It’s such a stress reliever because everything else is gone.”

“You love your people back home,” continued the seven-time RAGBRAI rider, “and you miss them, but when you’re on your bike it’s just you and your bike.”

Perry’s friend, Dorothy Thorne, also of Mt. Pleasant, agreed. “This is kind of an adult spring break,” she said. “You leave your worries behind because you have too much (going on) to think about what’s going on at home.”

Thorne attended her first RAGBRAI in 2008.

“Our kids wanted to do it so they dragged us along,” Thorne said with a chuckle. It didn’t take long for her and her husband to fall in love with the energy at RAGBRAI. “When you come up here and see and feel the energy of it, it sucks you in.” The next year, she wasn’t on the sidelines cheering, she had to ride it for herself.

Since catching the RAGBRAI bug, Thorne has become the group’s organizer. Once the route for RAGBRAI is announced, she is online booking campgrounds for the group to stay at. “On Jan. 24, this year I started making phone calls as soon as that announcement was done,” she said.

Thorne and Perry both agreed they wouldn’t be able to ride RAGBRAI if it wasn’t for their support team. Their group has 11 full-time riders and one partial rider and two support members that keep them going.

“They pull our truck and trailer for us and set up camp. We couldn’t do it without them,” Thorne said.

“Our youngest son, Matt Thorne, I call him our support coordinator. He maneuvers our truck and trailer across the state avoiding the bike route. He sends messages to the team about how to get to the campsite. He just kind of spoils us.”

Thorne is known to her group as a “she-beast”.

“One Wednesday when we had 20-30 mile-per-hour winds, rain running down our backs, she pulled us through,” said Perry. Thorne rides in front, breaking the wind, allowing Perry and those behind her to exert less energy.

For many RAGBRAI riders, training begins once the Iowa winter begins to clear. Perry and her group of 11 RAGBRAI riders begin taking longer and longer bike rides as the weather clears, riding 30-40 miles a day in the summer. “This year I didn’t train very well and I can tell. The hills were a killer this year,” she admitted.

Besides the getaway feeling of RAGBRAI, Perry said biking so much not only keeps her in shape but also allows her to eat whatever she wants. But it’s more than that, she admits. “It’s beautiful,” she says of the ride. “The rolling hills and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking,” she said.

“The community at RAGBRAI is so supportive. One time on RAGBRAI I dropped my bag with all of my money in it. The people behind me picked it up, flagged me down and handed it to me,” she said. “There’s just a sense of unity and community here. Everyone is looking out for each other.”

Perry said it’s not uncommon if you see a rider on the side of the road with a broken bike to stop and try to help them out.

One of the highlights for Perry this year was seeing the adaptive sports riders. “I saw a guy paralyzed from the waist down and he had (adapted) his bike and was pedaling with his hands,” she recalled. “It brings a tear to your eyes and keeps you motivated.”

It was all of these reasons and more that Dinah Binder chose to ride her first full RAGBRAI this year. “It was awesome,” she said after completing the ride last Sunday.

Binder, who had ridden a partial RAGBRAI before said it was Thorne who got her back on the bike for all 411 miles this year. “Dorothy and I are in a fitness class together at the REC Center and I had said in front of the class I’d love to do a full RAGBRAI. Dorothy graciously invited my husband, Fred, and I this year to be part of the team. It was a fantastic experience.”

Binder, who is in her upper 60s, said RAGBRAI this year was a life-changing experience.

“Once you do RAGBRAI and you go up those hills that you think there’s no way you’ll be able to do it,” said Perry. “And you bike 411 miles and you’re doing 60-70 miles in a day, when you’re faced with something else that you think is tough, you think, ‘Shoot, I did that hill. I can surely handle this.’”

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