WASHINGTON, Iowa — They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Washington, Iowa, resident Lucy Bonham has ridden tens of thousands of miles on her bike — a hobby she got serious about 27 years ago. Recently, Bonham decided to wind down her cycling career with one final journey: a 92-mile bike ride in honor of her 92nd birthday.
Bonham, who turned 92 on July 15, said she was riding her bike everywhere by age 20 and continued that habit all her life. But she never thought about long treks until RAGBRAI came through Washington in 1992. She promised herself she would give it a go the next year. She was 65.
“I was so excited about it,” she said. “I said, ‘I would really like to do that sometime,’ and he said, ‘Well, let’s get you a different bike,’ ” she recalled of the conversation she had with her husband, Jack Bonham.
She trained 700 miles that next year to make sure she could make it the entire route. After completing the route and dipping her tire in the Mississippi River, she had a revelation.
“I looked at him and I said, ‘Honey, I want to do it again,’ ” she said.
“She did that 25 more times,” Jack said.
From then on, Bonham was hooked. She went on every bike ride she could and trained at least three days a week, 20 miles at a time, to make sure she was in top shape. Bonham said everywhere she rode, people would ask her how they could be like her when they reached her age. Her advice is simple: Do what you’re capable of doing.
She does, however, have one secret weapon that keeps her going: the love and support of her husband. He encourages her every step of the way, she said, and pushes her to dream bigger.
“Not only are we deeply in love, but we like each other,” he said.
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“It’s the only thing that keeps me going,” she said. “I’m just riding because I enjoy it, and I have a fantastic husband that supports me in every way. There’s no way I could have done it at age 65 if I hadn’t had him.”
While she rides, he waits for her at the finish line. Seeing him, she said, is the ultimate prize.
“He’s my inspiration. He’s the reason I get to go because I have a husband that backs me up. Even though it’s crazy, he lets me do it,” she said.
“I don’t think it’s crazy,” he added.
She hasn’t participated in RAGBRAI the past two years because her husband has mobility challenges, and she does not want to leave him by himself. This has led to her decision to close out her competitive career and begin riding just for fun, but not before one final long ride.
In an interview earlier this month, Bonham said she plans to pick the first Friday or Saturday when temperatures are not expected to surpass 85 degrees. She will start at sunrise and travel 92 miles on her bike in one day.
“I don’t have any doubt that I can do it if I start at daybreak,” she said.
Jack, also, is confident she can make it and promised to turn on the headlights of the car to light the way if need be. He joked he would not bring her home until she completes her goal.
“She’s going to do it,” he said with a smile.
Bonham still plans to ride her bike often. She’ll be easy to spot on the bike trail, thanks to a custom sign made by Jack that reads: 92-still ahead of you!