Bribes are part of the ride
FAIRFIELD, Ia. — The running joke — rolling joke, more appropriately — is that the pie-fed horde on the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa must be crazy to perch on bike seats in the depths of July and sizzle across the state.
Turns out that some riders are sane and merely coerced.
Heather Boddicker of rural South Amana was content to let her husband, Lucas, pedal the route three years ago and even magnanimously joined him for the final day’s hilly stretch into Dubuque.
But this entire week she has reluctantly pedaled with him on the back of a red tandem Trek.
“It’s kind of a good couples’ therapy,” Lucas said Friday morning over roadside coffee. “We communicate what we need to and not what we don’t because I always lose.” Lucas, who hails from Vinton, met Heather in Florida when he was stationed there in the Navy. They married 13 years ago and moved to Iowa in 2005.
Their two sons are 11 and 9. Heather home-schools the boys, and Lucas repairs X-ray machines.
“We’ve really enjoyed being 2 feet from each other the whole time, surprisingly,” Lucas quipped.
In all honesty, the Boddickers seem like a fun, loving couple. But Heather is candid about the hard-nosed negotiations that lured her to RAGBRAI. She’s “making the same money that Julia Roberts was,” she grinned — a reference to how Roberts’ prostitute character in 1990’s “Pretty Woman” was offered $3,000 to spend the week with a businessman played by Richard Gere.
Lucas bribed his wife by agreeing to the purchase a dining set (hutch, table and chairs), bargained down from the starting point of a two-room addition to their house.
The furniture has been ordered but not yet delivered. After all, the couple has yet to reach the Mississippi River.
Lucas has the manufacturer’s “number on speed dial to cancel it just in case,” he said. Friday, Heather remained a wary (and weary) RAGBRAI rider, although the kooky culture intrigued her.
“This overnight thing is killing me,” she groaned. “I want a bed.” Rob Mann and Laurie Holm of Team Skunk, a couple from Minneapolis, no doubt can empathize with the Boddickers.
Holm has racked up nine RAGBRAIs. Mann has ridden 10. One tends to goad the other into riding in a given year. But they began their river-to-river tenure similarly to the Boddickers, with Mann imploring Holm to join him after his initial experience.
The twist is that these two during their first joint RAGBRAI in 2002 had been dating all of six months. They were two-wheeled romantics.
“It was at the point in the relationship where you like the person so much that everything they say is a fantastic idea,” Holm said.
That was her first time camping. The long week of thunderstorms, cold campground showers and a flimsy tent was arduous, but somehow they got hooked and have kept returning.
“We really do not recommend this,” Holm clarified about testing a relationship so early with such an odyssey.
In recent years Holm has done some prodding of her own — convincing Mann to give up cotton in favor of Spandex biking gear. “She likes to research her hobbies,” Mann said, although he’s still unconvinced that Spandex is superior.
“Am I on the right track with this?” he turned to her as he explained.
Good boy, Rob. I’m guessing that the two of you have many happy RAGBRAIs ahead of you.
Their relationship, Holm assured me, is “strong enough RAGBRAI can’t break it.” Friday, I also rolled up alongside a baby boomer couple, Jeff and Barb Boyer of Lancaster, Pa. Jeff struggled through last year’s tortuously hot route and convinced his wife, Barb, to return with him this year. His crucial promise: Iowa is flat.
Well, he oversold that one. But Jeff claimed that he was merely being honest, and I suppose that everything is relative. If every day of RAGBRAI was as blissfully smooth and stress-free as Friday, I would agree with him.
“You know, it hasn’t been flat,” Barb admitted as we cranked up one of Friday’s few hills, “but it’s been enjoyable.” Keep in mind that she broke an ankle during just her second training ride in April and so began cramming the training miles in June.
Speaking of broken bones: I wondered whether 12-year-old Billy Rouw of Chariton had been dragged to RAGBRAI by his father, Steve, who’s a rabid veteran of 14 rides.
Quite the opposite: Billy had been itching to bike the Iowa byways since 2011.
It’s just that he has broken his left arm three times in the last three years. Two years ago he jumped over a fence and fell. Last year, Billy took a spill while in-line skating. In May he jumped on a trampoline and broke his arm yet again. But this break didn’t force him to scrap RAGBRAI; he was healed with help from plates and screws.
Steve is passing on the tradition of RAGBRAI mania to his son. Perhaps the Boddickers from South Amana might want to bring their boys with them next year? Pedal a pair of tandems?
“I’ve kind of got ideas,” Lucas admitted.
“You could take one,” Heather countered.
Sounds like a new addition to the house may yet be in the cards if Lucas is intent on seeing the entire Boddicker foursome hit the RAGBRAI trail.