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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Friends who survive cancer together, ride together

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Phil Christy and Doug "Digger" Cheevers have a friendship that "goes beyond biking and golf." The guys joined Christy's son and a group from Chicago to ride RAGBRAI this year, their third such trip, from beginning to end.
When biking up Highway 18 to Emmettsburg, Phil Christy uses his mirror to watch for cars. A runner while in high school, he tries to get out a couple nights a week for a short 30-mile ride, relishing in the quiet and beauty of northwest Iowa, which can't be experienced through a backseat window.

When Doug "Digger" Cheevers began riding in 2009, he listened to different things. Now he prefers the quiet, enjoying the smells of a ride, in addition to the sights.

Christy and Cheevers have been golf buddies for years, but they share more than their love of the green.

Each of the men are cancer survivors. Christy underwent surgery to remove both prostate and skin cancers, and Cheevers found a large lump on his leg after losing weight from bike riding.

"I was quite a lucky person," Cheevers said. "I was very fortunate to find it, and lots of people helped me along the way."

The friends have ridden in RAGBRAI together for the past three years, though this was Christy's first year riding the entire way.

"I hadn't camped outside in 30 years," Christy said. "It was fun. I enjoyed the whole experience."

This year's RAGBRAI ride included 471 miles, though Christy estimated they rode more than 500, between the ride itself and getting around after they were finished for the night.

Cheevers didn't ease his way into the ride. The first year he jumped on his bike, he rode the entire way. This year, his third, was the first time he skipped a day.

"My ride home was coming home," he said.

This summer boasted record temperatures throughout the state, and RAGBRAI was no exception.

"There was one day that I had to stop," Cheevers said. "I love the sun, but it got to be too much."

Riders from all around the world come together to ride across Iowa each year, and both Christy and Cheevers said the camaraderie was almost more fun than the ride itself.

"There's a 79-year-old man from Oregon who's been here for the last 14 years," Christy said. "Each year he brings a niece or a nephew or a grandkid with him."

Another story included a man from California who came with his brother and rode for the first time.

The RAGBRAI route is divided into lanes, intended for bikers of various speeds.

At one point, a couple veered into the speed lane just as a line of bikers were coming up fast. Everyone went down, and Cheevers and Christy stopped to help until the medic arrived.

"We were scared that someone was seriously injured," Cheevers said. "Phil immediately set us up doing traffic control. Someone was watching over them; they were all well and they all rode away."

Both Christy and Cheevers are looking forward to future years riding RAGBRAI.

To prepare, both men enjoy training rides on area highways and leisure rides on nearby trails.

"We know we're blessed," Christy said. "It's such a neat experience."

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