Persons, places and things: RAGBRAI companions

Members of the “Pedaling to the Peripheries” RAGBRAI team wait for Mass to begin at St. Paul Church, part of Divine Mercy Parish, in Burlington on July 26.

By Barb Arland-Fye

Last week I prayed for a RAGBRAI experience offering manageable hills, plenty of flat stretches of roadway, avoidance of rumble strips and an enjoyable bicycle ride where other riders would keep me on track. God demonstrated a sense of humor and responded to my prayers in unexpected ways!

My quadriceps burned on the “manageable” hills leading to Keokuk the last day of RAGBRAI. The flat stretches seemed to coincide with a breeze that provided enough resistance to make me wonder, at times, whether I’m too wimpy for even two days of the weeklong bicycle ride across Iowa! I avoided some rumble strips but felt “good vibrations” over the ones I failed to avoid. But God abundantly provided companions on the journey to keep me on track, and not all of them rode bicycles!

First, the parishes in our diocese on the RAGBRAI route: St. Mary in Centerville, St. Mary in Fairfield, Divine Mercy in Des Moines County and Church of All Saints in Keokuk. I am grateful to each for being companions on the journey for RAGBRAI riders, even though our “Pedaling to the Peripheries” team, which included Bishop Thomas Zinkula, couldn’t start until the day after the Centerville leg. Father Timothy Armbruster, C.PP.S., the Centerville parish’s new pastor, celebrated Mass and the KCs and Ladies served a meal.


St. Mary Parish in Fairfield welcomed our 12-member team with Mass, a lasagna dinner afterward in the parish hall, sleeping space and showers and continental breakfast the following morning. Father Nick Adam, the pastor, and staffer Roberta Danielson and her husband, Doug, were attentive hosts. Some of Fr. Adam’s family members joined us for dinner, a real treat since they recently lost their patriarch, Elmer “Bud” Adam.

“Meeting Fr. Nick, his mother and other relatives was super,” our Pedaling to the Peripheries team leader Jim Tiedje said. “I know more now about how that Adam family brought 13 fantastic kids into the world and three were called to be priests. Great time in Fairfield.”

We arrived sweaty and hot from our nearly 70-mile bike ride to the home of Larry and Darya Rheinschmidt in Burlington. We were greeted like old friends. Tables held platters of fresh fruit and veggies (my favorites!) and other snacks. Father Marty Goetz, the pastor, had presided at his father Jack’s funeral Mass the day before. He made arrangements with the Rheinschmidts and Bruce and Tiffini Brockway to host us. Assisting them were Dr. Richard and Francesca To, Steve and Lucia Francis, and Deacon Bob and LuAnn Glaser, all of Divine Mercy Parish.

Father Dan Dorau, the parish’s parochial vicar, presided at Mass. We returned to the Rheinschmidt home for dinner featuring lasagna, eggplant parmesan, salads and plenty of rich desserts. Our hosts served breakfast the following morning. “The hospitality experienced in Burlington was way more than any stranger would expect. By the end of our stay we felt like we were forever friends,” Jim remarked.

Bruce said the couples enjoyed hosting their RAGBRAI guests. “Here’s what impressed me more than anything. The bishop, who obviously had ridden just as many miles as everyone else, went the extra mile to make the kids feel special.” He even held the flashlight as the kids played games in the twilight and the other adults looked on.

At Church of All Saints in Keokuk, Father David Brownfield set out towels and toiletries so that we could take showers before heading home. I can’t tell you how much a hot shower means after a 6-1/2-hour hilly bicycle ride on a hot day.

“Like last year, one of the highlights of this year’s RAGBRAI was the hospitality of our hosts in the overnight towns,” Bishop Zinkula said.

“They went over the top in providing us wonderful welcomes, ac­co­m­modations, food and conversations.”

And I am also thanking God for another companion on the journey, Dr. Bill Benevento, a member of our team who rode with me from start to finish that final day. Prayers answered!

(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at

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