By Barb Arland-Fye
Water several inches deep pooled on the Mississippi River Trail near Iowa American Water Company in Davenport on Sunday morning, making me wonder whether to continue an ambitious bicycle ride.
The bike seemed to have a mind of its own! It plodded through the “wetland” so that I could continue a 60-mile ride in preparation for the Register’s Great Annual Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) July 22-28. My brother Tim, who will participate on our diocesan Pedaling to the Peripheries RAGBRAI team, advised the longer ride to test my readiness for the 428-mile journey.
While I have been bicycling five times a week, many of the rides were in the 30-mile range with a few 40-milers for good measure. Being prepared for RAGBRAI is part of my journey dealing with cancer. After being diagnosed with follicular lymphoma almost a year ago, I visualized something to look forward to health-wise, and RAGBRAI beckoned me.
All three of my brothers are long-distance bicyclists. Bicycling has become a bonding experience for them. Two of them, Tim and Pat, are able to journey with me on RAGBRAI.
Coincidentally, I connected with RAGBRAI veteran Jim Tiedje at a Serra Club dinner for clergy, women religious and seminarians. Jim invited me to participate on his RAGBRAI team and suggested that I ask Bishop Thomas Zinkula to join us. The bishop enjoys bicycling for fitness and well-being and arranged his calendar to accommodate RAGBRAI.
We came up with the Pedaling to the Peripheries team name because he sees RAGBRAI as an opportunity to go out to the peripheries, like Pope Francis, to encounter people and to set an example as a joy-filled Catholic. The bishop will also celebrate Mass at a parish in each town that serves as an overnight stop. I’m looking forward to completing each day’s ride and making it in time for Mass!
During the 60-mile ride last Sunday morning, I focused on my daily prayers, pausing to call out “passing on your left, thank you” to runners, walkers and other bicyclists on the river trail. Not that I was burning up the trail; plenty of faster bicyclists passed me! I’ve discovered on my bicycle rides that the other exercisers appreciate hearing “thank you” and often reciprocate. Smiling also makes an impact, on me and the person on the receiving end. It’s so uplifting!
In Moline, Ill., a thick, slick mud patch appeared on the river trail. Earlier this summer, Bishop Zinkula slipped on a mud patch on the river trail, so I approached this patch with caution. No ride is perfect, but being outdoors to savor God’s creation is exhilarating. The Mississippi River, with its varying moods depending on sun, cloud and wind conditions, fascinates me.
With pleasure, I rode across the newly refurbished section of riverfront trail near the Isle Casino in Bettendorf. For months (it seems), we had to negotiate a detour through gravel and parking lots. Now it’s smooth going. Riding a loop around the Quad-Cities also provides a close-up view of the new piers that will support the future Interstate 74 Bridge. It’s an amazing sight.
On the last leg of my 60-mile ride, the bottoms of my feet burned and my back ached, just slightly. But I felt euphoric about this physical accomplishment. I’m ready for RAGBRAI and for the next leg of the journey with cancer, which God will help me ride through!
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)