By Dr. Tim Millea
For The Catholic Messenger
(Editor’s note: This is one in a series of articles about people in the Diocese of Davenport’s involvement in RAGBRAI.)
RAGBRAI involves thousands of people with one common goal — meeting the challenge to cycle across Iowa. However, no two cyclists have the same experience or priorities in doing the ride. In a broad sense, I believe there are two primary answers to the question, “Why do you do it?”
Some riders enjoy the social and interpersonal opportunities of RAGBRAI (The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa). They are able to deepen established friendships with fellow riders, as well as initiate new friendships. The camaraderie on the highways and in the towns along the way is obvious, from sunrise until well into each night. Meeting people from around the world is not only possible, but almost unavoidable. RAGBRAI is an opportunity to broaden your international horizons without leaving Iowa.
I include myself in the second category: those who “do RAGBRAI” more so as a retreat than recreation. The daily hours on the bike allow time for reflection, surrounded by the beautiful expanse of farmlands in the height of growing season. Describing it as a “rolling retreat” or a “corn-fed pilgrimage” is apt. Extended periods of solitude on the bike are interspersed with opportunities to meet others along the way. It has been my custom to visit a Catholic church in each town along the route, even if only for a few moments of rest and prayer.
RAGBRAI isn’t easy, but like any pilgrimage, I view it as a metaphor for life in general. The time, effort and challenges are unavoidable, but the rewards greatly outweigh them. Whether you can do only one day or the entire week, and whether you prefer the social or reflective approach, it is well worth your commitment.