Coming out from the Cornfields

I was standing at a clearing beside a cornfield. Then all of a sudden I saw people, dressed in their sports gear, coming out of the cornfield. Was I dreaming?

My name is not Kevin Costner, and the scene I was witnessing was not from the film “Fields of Dreams,” which by the way, was shot in Iowa.

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scene from the movie Field of Dreams

The people I saw emerging from the cornfields were not baseball players, but rather cyclists, with their biking shirts, shorts and helmets on.

Here’s my story.

Me and my friends took part in the recently concluded Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), which was a 7-day long event. The total length of this year’s route was 405 miles. Though we only rode a 1-day leg, from Perry to Des Moines (3rd day route), which was still a formidable 50 mile course.

We could have not picked a better day to participate. Besides that it was the shortest course, and probably the flattest (1308 feet of climb), but the weather was also perfect. The temperature was in the high 60’s to 70’s F (it was in the 90’s to 100’s the day before), and was overcast, so it was cool the whole day through.

My friends and I were not real cyclists and this was our first RAGBRAI ride. We rode slow that I don’t think we passed any cyclists, yet everybody seems to be overtaking us. Including a grandma who was celebrating her 90th birthday, riding a recumbent tandem bike with her daughter, who was also older than we were.

I learned many biker’s lingo during the ride. They shout “biker off” to alarm other riders, when they are stopping and exiting on the shoulder of the road. “Biker on,” when they are getting back on the road and rejoining the pack. (I wish I could shout “flame on,” like the superhero Human Torch, and my bike will be ablaze and zoom.) “Car up” when there’s an approaching car up ahead, or “car back” when there’s a vehicle behind. Then there’s “on your right” or “on your left,” to warn you when they were about to overtake you.

I also heard a chilling warning calling out “Biker down!” Aside from calling assistance to the biker who fell, it is also to alert other bikers to get ready to stop or slow down to avoid domino-like collision.

Unfortunately, that call for “biker down” was for my friend, after he collided with another friend. I told you we were novice bikers. Good thing we were going slow, so he was not seriously injured, and only had a scraped knee. He just don’t have photos to remind him of the RAGBRAI, but a physical memento as well. He wore that wound like a badge of honor.

We stopped a number of times to rest. And to eat too. The course was lined with food stalls and other specialty booths offering a variety of things, especially in towns we passed through.

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photo courtesy of RAGBRAI.com

Then in one lonely stretch of the road flanked by vast cornfields, as we stopped for ice cream (did we eat more than we burned?), was when I saw people coming out of the cornfields.

Why were they coming out of the cornfields? Was it a mirage?

No, it was not. And it has nothing to do with “build it, and they will come,” symbolic theme of the movie “Field of Dreams.” (Though you can say RAGBRAI draws both national and international participants to Iowa.) These people emerging out of the cornfields had a more plain and practical explanation.

There were more than 10,000 bike riders that took part on RAGBRAI. Even though there were several hundreds of portable toilets, mostly placed in the town stops, it may still not enough to provide “relief” for everybody in every place.

But who need toilets, when you have thousands of acres of cornfields spread all over the course, right?

So what did the riders do inside the cornfields? You don’t want to know.

Bike Lane

My tush hurts!

I rode my bike for 20 miles today. This is in preparation, for in 2 weeks, I will be joining the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) – an annual 7-day long bicycle ride across the state of Iowa. The total length of the course this year is 468 miles. I heard Lance Armstrong (disgraced or not) will be participating.

No, I’m not doing the whole 7 days, just a 1-day leg of the course. But that is still a 50 miles ride. And to ensure I finish the course without keeling over, I need to do some training.

I already ran a half-marathon (13 miles) race. Three times. Now I’m doing a 50-mile bike ride. I wonder what will be my next physical challenge. Perhaps the triathlon?

Triathlon includes: 1 mile swim, 25 miles bike ride, and 6 miles run. There’s one problem though, I really don’t know how to swim, or at least swim effectively. I don’t think dog-paddling for a mile, will be efficient.

However, my biggest concern with Triathlon is this: if you get tired running, you can stop and walk; if you get tired biking, you can stop pedaling and just cruise along; if you get tired swimming, you can stop, but you drown!

Back to my bike ride today, as I was pedaling my way through roads flanked by vast cornfields, while cars and trucks whizzed past me, images of my childhood and my old bike flashed in my mind. Am I riding down the bike lane or memory lane?

My father bought our “family” bicycle when I was 10 years old. It was a communal bike, but I used it the most. My father taught me how to ride it by holding on the back of the seat, while he ran along (he was a runner!) and I pedal. No training wheels.

Funny, that’s how I taught my son how to ride too. While my daughter learned how to ride on her own without any assistance from me.

I rode our bike through the narrow and busy streets of Manila. I rode it for fun. Though at times I was sent on an errand and rode it. Frequently I would go to my friends’ house in nearby Quezon City, and I would wield my way through bustling streets plied with jeepneys and tricycles, as well as crowded with people.

On rare occasions, while on the bike, I would hold on to the back of a slower moving jeepney to drift along. I realize now that, that was dangerous. What was I thinking? At least I never did stunt jumps with that bike. If it was a BMX bike, I probably would’ve.

When I was in high school, I got tired of its red color, and decided to change it. A friend of mine, whose father repair typewriters, had a compressor in their garage. So my two friends and I pick one hue and spray painted all our bikes with the same color.

What color? Purple! Don’t ask.

When I entered college, I rarely rode our bike again. Maybe because I find it kiddy-ish already. Or perhaps I wish it was more sporty like a racer or a mountain bike with gears. But it’s not. It was a “kid” bike.

But I had much fun with that bike. Lots of good memories too. And painful ones as well – skinned knee and elbow when I fell and crashed.

Now, I have my own grown-up “sporty” bike. It is a hybrid (a cross between a road and mountain bicycle) bike with plenty of gears. Yet I would have not be enjoying riding this bike – in the open road, with sun and wind on my face, if not for that red (or purple) “kid” bike.

As for the pain in my b*tt, I think I should get a fancy padded cycling shorts. For now, I’ll walk like a cowboy.

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my grown-up bike