Persons, places and things: Biker up! It’s RAGBRAI


By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

My husband Steve’s verbal directions for a long-distance bike ride sounded ideal to prepare for this week’s RAGBRAI across Iowa: hills, flat stretches of road and safe riding conditions. Our “Pedaling to the Peripheries” team, which includes Bishop Thomas Zinkula, is riding the final two legs of RAGBRAI — Friday, from Fairfield to Burlington (69.3 miles); and Saturday, from Burlington to Keokuk (62.8 miles).


RAGBRAI is a bicycle tour, not a race, but I want to keep up with the rest of the team! We’re a smaller group than last year — four riders from the Diocese of Davenport and five from Owensboro, Ky., — plus three drivers. All of us have a connection to our fearless leader Jim Tiedje, a longtime “RAGBRAI rider from Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport.

Back to my training ride: taking Steve’s advice, I got on my bike and headed out of LeClaire toward the hills and valleys of Bettendorf to take advantage of the city’s ever-growing recreation trails. As I rode through Bettendorf and entered northeast Davenport, the trail ended. I took a right and headed north on Jersey Ridge Road toward the John Deere plant.


Still following Steve’s directions, I headed east and rode contently along a quiet, sparsely populated stretch of countryside. All of the sudden, a fork in the road emerged which I didn’t recall being included in Steve’s directions! Which way should I turn? Verses from Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” came to mind.

I opted to turn right, which eventually took me to traffic-congested Middle Road at the Interstate 80 interchange! Not a good choice for safety reasons. I pray while I ride, so I added another prayer petition: please help me, God, to avoid getting hit! God saw me safely through that gauntlet and I continued to ride toward home.

With several long-distance rides completed since that odyssey, I’m ready to join our “Pedaling to the Peripheries” team for this second RAGBRAI tour. Last year our team rode the entire RAGBRAI (428 miles in 2018), but our schedules prevented a weeklong ride this year.
Bishop Zinkula views RAGBRAI as an opportunity to go out to the peripheries, encountering people of faith, no faith or lapsed faith, and setting an example as a joy-filled Catholic. He introduced daily Mass to RAGBRAI participants last year, presiding at the liturgy each evening on the overnight stops.

RAGBRAI isn’t an event he participates in every year, but Mass should be a RAGBRAI tradition, he believes. This year, priests in parishes at overnight stops on the RAGBRAI route have been celebrating Mass for bicyclists and anyone who desires to attend. Please join us for Mass at the remaining stops:

Today (July 25): St. Mary Parish in Fairfield, 6 p.m. with Father Nick Adam, the pastor presiding.

Friday (July 26): Divine Mercy Parish of Burlington-West Burl­ington, St. Paul Church, 508 N. 4th St. Father Marty Goetz is the pastor and Father Dan Dorau is parochial vicar. We are keeping Fr. Goetz in our prayers as his father, Jack, died Sunday morning, July 21.

Today (July 25) our team will travel to Fairfield to begin our RAGBRAI journey. I’m praying for manageable hills, plenty of flat stretches of roadway, staying clear of rumble strips and enjoying a ride where other riders will keep me on track!

(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at

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