Making Lifetime Memories with Dad: A Teen’s Essay on her RAGBRAI Adventures
A mom sent us this excellent essay from her teenage daughter’s adventures on RAGBRAI with her dad. Thanks for sharing with us and I’m glad that Hallie and her dad had a wonderful experience on RAGBRAI!
Glory of the Senses
By Hallie Kephart
I blink a few times and rub the sleep from my eyes with the palm of my hand, trying to adjust to the growing dawn. After a long night in a cramped tent, my body is stiff as I wheel my bike over to the murky water. I watch as the sun lazily creeps over the horizon, causing the Missouri River to glimmer. The river’s embankment is slick with dew, but I painstakingly begin my descent. I dip the back tire of my bike into the water and inhale the unmistakable scent of the outdoors. The crisp breeze smells woodsy and fresh. I sigh as I climb onto my bike for the first time today, knowing it will not be the last. My heartbeat quickens as I place my feet on the petals and push off. Today will be exhausting, but it will not begin to make a dent in my 418 mile journey across the state of Iowa with thousands of others.
The landscape shifts from densely wooded earth to rolling hills planted with golden corn growing so tall that their tassels appear to touch the sky. The chatter of fellow bikers fills my ears, and as I pedal, each rotation begins to match that of my Dad’s. I turn back towards him. His nearer and more distinct voice jokes at each mile as if he’s going to count them all down one by one from 418. The sun continues to climb up into the sky overhead, and soon it’s beating down. I glance ahead and watch heat waves rise from the black pavement as sweat beads roll down the back of my neck.
The miles begin to stack up as the day continues. I listen to the animated voice of my dad as he tells stories from his childhood and past experiences. I laugh through his recounts of former mistakes and careless decisions. He laughs too, his eyes sparkling as he reminisces about his younger days. Before we know it, we begin to pass through many small towns, each novel with small shops and glass store fronts welcoming us to stop in. Vendors crowd the streets at every town and lines of people wind down the cracked sidewalks. All who stand in these lines are waiting to try warm flapjacks stacked high with dollops of butter and drizzled in syrup or corn dogs by the foot. My dad and I stand in these lines also, among a sea of unfamiliar faces, waiting to sample the many varieties of food. The lines move quicker than expected, and soon we are devouring refreshing spoonfuls of sweet, creamy ice cream with chunks of fresh peach. The air is filled with more scents than merely the foods in front of me. I smell various meats smoking on open grills, the sweet, sticky fragrance of caramelized apples, and the musty aroma of freshly tapped beer. We stop occasionally throughout the day to savor the hometown foods, all wonderful in their tastes and simplicity.
After our lunch break, the sun is high overhead and is finally beginning its descent. As a few more hours go by, I begin to lose count of the small towns we pass through but feel my heart jump in my chest when I see the inviting glow of the sleepover town’s distant lights. The day has finally come to an end. Six more will follow with new experiences, and my determination to finish RAGBRAI will be put to the test. I will wonder if this experience will be worth the seven grueling days, but I will persevere nevertheless.
When I placed my front bike tire into the still water of the Mississippi River on the final day, I was certain the incredible journey had been worth the pain. From mile one, I believed I could finish the entire 418 miles. In the years following RAGBRAI, I have achieved many difficult goals; my strength, endurance and dedication to success have also propelled my high school cross country and track seasons. I cherished this time with my dad and was awed by the beauty I saw as I rode across the state of Iowa. RAGBRAI was a once in a lifetime adventure.