End of the RAGBRAI road -- for now

Heather Burns/ESPN

Heather Burns, center, celebrates at the RAGBRAI finish line after completing her 405-mile journey across Iowa.

This is the seventh and final blog in a series by espnW deputy editor and native Iowan Heather Burns, who completed the Des Moines Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa.

I sent a text to my significant other from the final town before the end of RAGBRAI XLI.

"Ten miles from the finish," I wrote.

"Woohoo, proud of you," was the answer back.

It brought a little tear to my eye. Every time I train for this ride -- spending virtually the entire summer riding my bike so I can ride my bike for a week more -- it takes time away from some of the most important people in my life. But they let me do it, because they know I love it.

And it also gives me a small feeling of pride that at 44, I can still ride 406 miles in seven days across the state of Iowa. I guess it isn't that impressive considering my father finished his 19th RAGBRAI Saturday at the age of 72. My sister Bridget also did every mile, and her friend Rebe, who did take a few miles off on Monday because of knee pain, toughed it out for the rest of the ride. (Ice packs helped with swelling and she learned a lot about using her gears.)

We did have one more night of rain along the way. But this time we were prepared. I put everything I didn't need back on the trucks that hauled our stuff from town to town. Bridget and I slept on the air mattress on the leaky side of the tent while Rebe stayed on a mat on the dry side.

The final two nights of the ride we went downtown for the party, watching bands in the town square. In Knoxville, we were able to meet up with some friends from high school I hadn't seen since our 20th reunion.

Heather Burns/ESPN

Heather Burns makes her RAGBRAI journey official by dipping her tires in the Mississippi River.

In Fairfield, there was an '80s cover band that played everything from Wham to Devo to Duran Duran. It was pretty fun dancing and singing to all the songs we grew up with and thinking back to a time when our biggest worry was who was going to drive to the dance.

The last day of the ride was challenging, 63 miles with hills and wind. I had my final piece of pie for the week -- cherry -- and drank a celebratory Bloody Mary with Bridget and Rebe in West Point, the final town before the finish in Fort Madison.

Bridget and Rebe waited for me in Fort Madison and we took our bikes down to the Mississippi River and dipped our tires. Another RAGBRAI in the books. As we drove home, we started planning for the next one.

It may not be next year, but we will be back.

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