Mountain Climbing Couple Always Ready for New Adventure

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SIGOURNEY — The saying goes that the couple who plays together, stays together. But does that including scaling Mount Everest and Mount Kilimanjaro?

For Cyrena and Phil Buschmann of Sigourney it does.

In 2011, they spent 10 days climbing to the Mount Everest base camp 17,500 feet above sea level and another four days to come down.

This year, an eight-day journey took them to the 19,341-foot peak of Mount Kilimanjaro.

"Did you ever think we’d do something like this?" Cyrena says.

Phil shakes his head. "No way."

But, fueled by common desire, determination and a love for each other in a second marriage for both, fun and adventure followed the exchange of vows 30 years ago (Feb. 10, 1982).

"I saw you walking down the street," Phil teases about how they met, even though it was actually through a mutual friend.

"The first gift you bought me was a bike," he says.

"A 10-speed," Cyrena replies. "I don’t think you were thrilled."

He laughs. "You were my soul mate."

One RAGBRAI across Iowa led to another, led to being among 300 bicycle riders in 1995 to ride 5,000 miles in the "Iowa 150 Bike Ride/A Sesquicentennial Expedition" from Long Beach, Calif., to Washington, D.C.

In all, they’ve done 27 RAGBRAIs and today own 18 bicycles, including several tandems and a vintage 1941 Schwinn.

Cyrena, 62, a Fairfield native and longtime kindergarten, elementary and middle schoolteacher (often of science), still substitutes in Sigourney.

Phil, 60, who grew up near Klemme in northwest Iowa, had a long retail career that included shoe repair and owning the dry cleaning operation in Sigourney. He now repairs shoes part-time in his shop at the edge of Wagler Ford’s used car lot.

When world adventurer Charlie Wittmack, who became their friend on the cross-country bike ride, wanted folks to join him on another trip to Everest (in 2003 he became the first Iowan to summit) at the end of his around-the-world triathlon, they did it.

They flew to Lukla at the base of Everest, then began the ascent in a group of 11 Iowans.

"The terrain is mostly rock and steps," Cyrena says.

"Big steps," Phil says.

"We all suffered altitude issues, except Phil," she adds.

But, they made it, not showering for 10 days. And, despite Cyrena being ill for a couple weeks afterward, they jumped on this summer’s chance to climb Kilimanjaro.

That adventure, with an African safari afterward, was just as grueling because Wittmack set up an adventurous route.

Even though each climb cost the couple about $12,000, the worthwhile adventures have only whetted their appetite for more.

"I don’t want to do Everest again," Cyrena says. "Or Kilimanjaro again. I want to experience something different."

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