Thursday, July 29, 2010

RAGBRAI Day 5: A little dose of reality

An unwritten rule about RAGBRAI is that you don't mess with another person's bike.

Oh, indecencies occur from time to time. Some people aren't big on communicating with other riders on the road (seen plenty of near-crashes this week). Others might over-serve themselves and get a little too loud at campsites. But your bike is your transportation for the week, and everyone respects that.

I commented on this realization in an earlier blog entry, when I came to conclude that I wouldn't need a bike lock during RAGBRAI because theft is almost never an issue.

In a way, I've been living in a cycling utopia this week. It's a culture based on mutual respect and understanding of the difficulty of what lies ahead. Riders come in all shapes and sizes, but that doesn't matter because we're all striving for the same thing: Getting to the Mississippi. Everyone is equal on RAGRAI and nobody worries about theft or other misfortunes that may occur in the real world. This isn't the real world, this is RAGBRAI. Even casual bystanders in host communities have respect and admiration for people bold enough to take a week off from life to do something as crazy as biking across a state.

However, reality came back to bite last night when the unthinkable happened: Someone walked off with my bike in Charles City. I left it parked in front of the town's library to go read in a nearby park, and it was gone when I returned about 45 minutes later. Instead of biking the 82-mile section of RAGBRAI today, I had to pay $25 to catch a charter bus to Waterloo (Iowa's landscape is considerably more boring from the window of a bus).

In the normal world, an incident like this would be met with people wondering how I could be so careless as to leave my bike unlocked and unattended. But on RAGBRAI, news of my bike's disappearance was met with some sort of variation of "That is so ******* weak, man" from just about everyone I talked to about it. A 15-time RAGBRAI rider told me that this was the first time he'd ever heard of a bike getting stolen during the week.

Thankfully, my lucked turned earlier today, when the Charles City police found my bike on the other side of town and had it immediately shipped to Waterloo. Whoever stole my bike apparently tired of it quickly and realized that it was essentially worth nothing (the brand of bike doesn't even exist anymore and it weighs almost 30 pounds). The bike is currently in possession, parked 15 feet from the chair I'm currently sitting in, and should be good to go for the rest of the week.

However, even though my bike may be unscathed, the comfort and security I had in my surroundings has been noticeably damaged. I hid my bike in grouping of bushes in downtown Waterloo tonight rather than risking it again.

I guess I needed that bike lock after all.

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