Once each year, I take a week off at the end of July and, with 10,000 other crazies, ride my bike across Iowa as part of RAGBRAI. For those of you who are not familiar with this Iowa tradition, RAGBRAI is the “Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa”. RAGBRAI follows a different route across the state each year. It starts on the western edge of the state and finishes on the east with the ceremonial dipping of the front bicycle tire in the Mississippi. RAGBRAI is a rolling folk festival with riders in costumes, bands in many towns, church ladies selling pie, and everything that makes Iowa a great place to live (including a growing number of beer gardens selling Iowa craft beer).
Every year, as we drive the 4 hours west on I-80 to the start of RAGBRAI, I think to myself “Wow – this is going to be a long way to pedal!” I remind myself that while the task may seem unsurmountable, it will be done one pedal stroke at a time. It will be broken up by fantastic vistas, stops for pie, breakfast burritos, an Iowa craft beer now and then, and an occasional nap under a tree (usually after the beer). I will not be riding alone. I have great teammates (our team has an anti-smoking/anti-cancer theme and is named “Kick Butts”) and will enjoy meeting other riders along the way and the wonderful people in the towns we pass through who open up their communities and homes for us. There will be moments when the “4Hs” of RAGBRAI (Hills, Heat, Humidity and Headwinds) lead me to question why I am doing this. However, the fun, adventure, challenge and comradery brings me back year after year.
Come to think of it, this also describes my job:
- An apparently insurmountable task of trying to reduce the burden of cancer.
- Recognizing the way to make progress is taking it one “pedal” at a time.
- Breaking up the hard work with moments of reflection, rejuvenation and relaxation.
- Spending time with fantastic colleagues that share my passion, and meeting wonderful people along the way, including the patients we serve.
- Moments when I question why I am following this path.
- The realization in the end of the satisfaction that comes from taking on a difficult journey.
The last day of RAGBRAI is special as we think about the journey we have been on, the short distance remaining before dipping our front tires in the Mississippi, the joy of being back home with family (even though my wife thinks the whole thing is crazy) and sleeping in our own beds in air conditioned houses.
Then… it will be back to work where we will keep pedaling so we can get that much closer to the cancer tire dip, celebrating the end of the difficult journey of reducing the burden of cancer for those we serve.
If you would like to follow me along the way, I will be posting an occasional update and picture on twitter (@weinerg).