Cycling across Iowa: Coding lessons from a week in the corn

Aug. 12, 2019 / By Rebecca Caux-Harry

July was a weird month for me. I ended up taking vacation in July which I haven’t done since I was a student, oh so many years ago. I’m not overly fond of hot weather, so taking a summer vacation was not something I had ever considered until this year. My husband and I have a friend, a very physically fit friend, who loves cycling. She knows we also love cycling, that we used to live in Iowa and were familiar with RAGBRAI. RAGBRAI is an acronym for Register’s (Des Moines newspaper) Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, the history of which can be found here. After my friend’s animated sales pitch for this great “social” event, we decided to register and join her on the ride.

Each January, the RAGBRAI committee announces the route for the ride (it differs every year). This year it was a southern route and consisted of 427 miles. Yep, 427 miles in seven days during the last week of July, a stretch of time notorious for being brutally hot and humid (two of my least favorite weather conditions). We would be cycling with 10,000 to 38,000 of our closest friends, depending on the day. If I had known those numbers, I’m not sure I would have signed up. Thinking that I could cycle 60+ miles per day, every day, with that many people was F22*. 

Day 1: We started out in the rain at around 6:30 in the morning. We had hoped the rain would taper off during the day, but it didn’t. We cycled about 65 miles that day, with thunder and lightning and LOTS of hills. I rode like this was a single-day tour. I felt strong. I felt I belonged at this admittedly crazy event and I felt a great deal of pride having completed the 65 miles. Day 2: The rain had stopped and was replaced with wind—a lot of wind and more hills. (Iowa is NOT flat!) There were plenty of places to stop along the route with roadside vendors, entertainment and town residents cheering us on. We cycled about 75 miles this day and I was T73.3XXA, with M25.561 and L55.9 as a result of Y93.55. I think I fell asleep in the middle of a conversation that night. Day 3 was a short day with only about 40 miles to cycle. We met up with another friend on the route and finished our ride early. I never thought I would consider a 40-mile bike ride “short.”

By this time, I had developed a love/hate relationship with my bike and S64.02XA which was causing numbness in several fingers. We decided to take Day 4 off hoping to improve M25.561, L55.9, S64.02XA and T73.3XXD. Days 5 and 6, oddly were the same: wake up before dawn, start cycling between 6am and 7am, stop along the way to replenish calories with homemade pie and ice cream or other high-calorie offerings from the Amish farm, laze under a tree or in a community center to get away from the heat and replenish our fluids in order to avoid E86.0 and in hopes of avoiding V11.0XXA, Y92.413. By Day 7, we had made it across Iowa. I was ready to abandon the bike.

It’s been two weeks since RAGBRAI. I haven’t touched my bike, but I haven’t given it away either. Vacation is supposed to be a break from work, and this certainly was. I didn’t think about work a single time while stamping through those miles. I didn’t have enough mental capacity to think about anything other than those miles. I can cross this adventure off my list, as I don’t think I’ll need to do it again.

Rebecca Caux-Harry, CPC, is a professional fee coding specialist with 3M Health Information Systems.

*Code key

F22 Delusional disorders

T73.3XXA Exhaustion due to excessive exertion, initial encounter

M25.561 Pain in right knee

L55.9 Sunburn, unspecified

Y93.55 Activity, bike riding

S64.02XA Injury of ulnar nerve at wrist and hand level of left arm, initial encounter

E86.0 Dehydration

V11.0XXA Pedal cycle driver injured in collision with other pedal cycle in nontraffic accident, initial encounter

Y92.413 State road as the place of occurrence of the external cause