For 418 miles last week, Lacey Hameister biked RAGBRAI in a pair of tan Bates M-8 tactical boots. It was hard. They were heavy. They made her feet sweat and slipped off pedals while cycling uphill, causing the pedals to swing around and bang her in the shins.
But it was worth it, Hameister said: She got to tell her story.
When riders asked about the boots, Hameister told them about “Operation Pedal 4 Vets,” her campaign to raise money for veterans and their families through the nonprofit Boot Campaign.
Riders handed her cash from spandex pockets and small-town American Legions put up tip jars to help along the way. So far, Hameister’s raised more than $1,700 for the campaign, part of the Juice Charity Challenge.
We caught up with Hameister, herself the daughter of a Vietnam veteran, as she reflected on the ride:
Q. First thing’s first: How many people asked if you had clips on your boots?
I’m not exaggerating, over 100. It was constant. If it wasn’t the first question, it was usually the second or they would hesitate thinking if it was a silly question. And then when I told them I didn’t have clips, their eyes would go wide.
Q. You visited ten veterans memorials in towns along the route. What was that like?
Some of these are really small towns with very long lists of names on these memorials. You can tell their communities supported these people who served and who died serving their countries. You see these names and know: This probably was a large portion of the men and women involved.
Q. Did you interact with a lot of veterans?
A lot of individuals do wear military jerseys, but when you’re biking, everyone is in the same gear. But the more you talk to someone, you find a person is a veteran also. They may not have a crew cut or being wearing a uniform — they just look like an average, 50-year-old Iowan. You never know someone’s background.
Q.Who stuck out the most?
One guy was volunteering. He wasn’t riding. He informed me he was a Vietnam veteran. He reached into his pocket and handed me a crumpled $1. He said, “I know this isn’t enough to do what you’re doing. I’m just trying to survive myself on social security, but I know this is a good thing.” I didn’t know if I should hug him or kiss him on the cheek. I shook his hand, and thanked him for his service.
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