“It’s what all divorced women do!” Penny smiled as she dared me to join her on the annual Ragbrai. The great bike ride across Iowa where over 15,000 people peddled the 500-600 miles from the Missouri river all the way to the Mississippi.
Sidenote: I’ve outed myself as a blogger, and now I’m outing my husband and best friend – the man you’ve never really officially met. This is one my favorite stories ever: How I met Leo.
I invited my mother to ride with me from Montreal to Green Bay and visit my sister. I would keep driving to Des Moines and peddle my broken and recently mended heart across the rolling hills of Iowa.
No. She is not a flat state whatsoever. She is rolly and her rolling’ness is relentless. Trust me. I’ve never lied to you, other than my name.
I drove out to meet with my American friends – Penny and her husband. A woman I knew through work, whom my employers considered an important international partner in our initiatives. She was in her 50s and I was rejoicing in the signatures on my divorce contract. I barely knew her at all to be honest, but her invitation was one I couldn’t refuse. Her husband followed with a Jeep and camper into which we piled all our stuff every morning including my small pop tent and met us in the evening.
They slept in their camper and me in my small tent. I barely saw them at all during the entire week. Even Penny who peddled. Our speeds were different and I always lost her in the first five minutes every morning. The first day was beyond magical. We started in heavy fog, which slowly lifted to reveal a beautiful sunny day. Too sunny actually, the thermometer climbed above 100 degrees in a scorching hot and humid haze. I believe we peddled 45 miles on day 1. An easy start the regulars reminded me constantly.
I was beyond dead at the end of the day. I found our campsite, unloaded my stuff, set my tent and got everything ready for sleep. Had my $5 plate of spaghetti, took a shower and dropped into my sleeping bag. This was my regimen until half way through the week. I was surrounded by people on hangovers in the morning and partyers in the night. This just couldn’t go on!
On Wednesday, we camped at Penny’s old friend from college. My little tent stood in her front yard, her camper in the driveway. Her friend’s daughter was in town for the Ragbrai’s festivities and invited me to join them. “I’m not peddling tomorrow, tonight is my first real party night so I’ll need to ride with you!” I announced Penny’s husband.
We started at the local Mexican joint. Arriba! The Margarita’s found their way to my belly! Then came the bar hopping. We danced until there was nobody left but us. As we started our way down the stairs to leave and head home, I heard music coming from the basement. Of course I followed the music, my new friends stayed close by. I walked down the stairs to find a bar in front of the stairs and a dance floor off to the left.
As if in a trance I walked towards the dancers and told the girls to not leave without me. The floor was jammed packed full of happy people waving their arms in the air singing, cheering, laughing and they drew me towards them. That is when he walked out from the crowd.
He walked out like he was materialized on the spot. It was like the baseball players walking out of the cornfields in that Costner movie. I walked straight towards him and he towards me. It was like we we’re expecting to find each other. It was like I knew he’d be there waiting for me.
“What is wrong with you if you’re here alone. Tell me, I need to know before I get too involved!” was the first thing he ever told me. I think the second thing was “I never believed in this kind of thing, but I am in love with you.” I’m telling you – it was a classic John Cusack sappy romance flick. I just stood there, with my mouth wide open because my jaw dropped and I felt faint. “Do you mind if I hold on to you? I’m going to fall!” so I grabbed his arms and we tried to tell each other as much about ourselves right there on the spot.
I can even tell you what he wore: a baggy pair of Lucky’s carpenter jeans, a light blue American Eagle t-shirt, Doc Marten’s sandals and black plastic geeky glasses. I begged him to never stop wearing the glasses.