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Morris father and son to ride across Iowa

Published: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 8:24 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, July 16, 2014 9:31 p.m. CDT
(Heidi Litchfield –
Shawn and Seth Hornsby finish a 24-mile ride Thursday morning as they get ready for the more than 400 mile bike ride across Iowa.
(Heidi Litchfield –
Shawn and Seth Hornsby will spend a week traveling across Iowa bonding as they cross the northern part of the state on bicycle.

MORRIS – Shawn Hornsby and his son Seth have found a way to bond this summer, as they ride their bicycles for miles each morning preparing for their ride across Iowa in the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.

RAGBRAI is an annual seven-day bicycle ride across the state. This is the 42nd year of the race, making it the oldest, largest and longest bicycle touring ride in the world, according to the RAGBRAI website,

The ride will take the father and son between 38 to 105 miles each day as they travel across Iowa through small towns that will greet them along the way.

“I’m looking forward to the nice people and cool events in the towns,” Seth said.

This will be Seth’s first official journey at RAGBRAI, but Shawn has been participating since 2006 with his eldest son, Zack, who now has a full-time job that won’t allow him the time to participate, so now it’s Seth’s turn.

“I rode with them for maybe 15 miles on the last day three years ago to see what it would be like,” Seth said. “I thought it was cool.”

This year’s ride will take them at least 429 miles, an additional 26 miles if they choose to do the optional loop on day three.

“We won’t decide if we’re taking the loop ’til we get there that day,” Shawn said. “That’s how Zack and I decided each year.”

Shawn took last year off because he had a commitment to the Morris Hospital Ball. He said taking the year off was a mistake, and he vowed to never miss it again.

“I told myself it doesn’t matter what happens, I’m going to ride,” Shawn said.

Hornsby said preparing for the seven-day ride is the only exercise he does, and it gets him in shape.

“If you were trying to ride across Iowa without being in shape, you would be miserable,” he said.

When he and Seth set out to start practicing for the 2014 ride, he found he needed to lose 30 pounds just to fit in his riding clothes again.

“Imagine gaining 30 pounds just because you didn’t ride,” Shawn said.

To prepare for the ride, Seth and Shawn set out each day to ride one of three routes they have south of Morris on the country roads. The routes are 24, 30 and 47 miles, respectively, and the two get them done by riding 15 to 16 miles per hour the entire way.

Seth said the two of them decided to participate with an organized ride on the Fourth of July that took them 62 miles and gave him a taste of what the days along the RAGBRAI route would be like.

Seth said the first day riding was difficult, but it has gotten easier each day.

This year’s route takes them across the northern portion of Iowa much like Shawn’s first year riding.

“It’s not as hilly, and it’s a bit shorter this year,” Shawn said. “It’s a good route for Seth’s first year.”

Seth said his only concerns are going over train tracks when there is a chance of getting his wheel stuck, and the biggest challenge will be the hills and maybe the heat.

“The hardest part is the hills where you can’t see the top,” Shawn said. “I think it’s a lot like a metaphor for life, it’s harder when you can’t see the end.”

Shawn said the weather is the one thing they can’t plan for because you can’t control the heat or the headwinds.

Regardless of the challenges the two will face, it’s the time together completing a goal they’ve set that makes the difference in the end.

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