By Barb Arland-Fye
“Biker down,” cyclists cried out after I took a tumble to the ground. I bumped into the back tire of my brother Tim’s bicycle and lost control of mine on Day 2 of the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). We, along with our brother, Pat, had completed more than 20 miles of that day’s 71.7-mile leg of the weeklong ride. We are part of the RAGBRAI team Pedaling to the Peripheries, representing the Diocese of Davenport.
I skinned my left knee and elbow and had some road rash, but no broken bones. I felt relieved even as the knee bled and the wounds stung. None of us had first-aid supplies, but a guardian angel, a cyclist wearing a patriotic jersey and biker shorts, pulled her bike to the side of the road to offer help. “I’m a mom with six kids,” she explained as she pulled Band-Aids and antiseptic ointment from a canvas pouch on the back of her bike.
We got back on our bikes and headed up the hill, alongside my guardian angel, whose name is Mel. She became like a friend, as we pedaled and chatted about our families. That’s one of the benefits of RAGBRAI, making instant friends who help make the miles appear to pass more quickly. “You pull up to someone and make another friend,” said Celeste Lawson, one of our Pedaling to the Peripheries teammates. “I’m hoping I’ll see them again, but if not, I’ll make new friends tomorrow. Everyone is real friendly. That makes it fun.”
About 60 miles into the hilly, winding ride, fatigue and aching quadriceps impacted me. I wondered whether I’d be able to make another day of the ride. My brothers, longtime long-distance bicyclists, were out of sight by this point (although they always popped up beside me about every five or six miles).
Despair turned to delight when a bicyclist named Jonnie pulled up next to me, spoke some encouraging words and started a conversation. Jonnie is a member of the Sioux City Diocese and we share a common acquaintance, Joanne Fox, editor of The Catholic Globe, the diocesan newspaper. Jonnie and I must have talked for about 10 miles before she took a detour to meet up with a friend.
About that time, my brothers seemed to appear out of nowhere and jokingly asked where I had been. They appeared at just the right moment, lifting my spirits and giving me incentive to keep on pedaling! I kept up with them for a while, but slowed down as the wind sapped a bit of my energy. The “boys” appeared a few miles later, speeding past me to announced “just four miles to go, Barb!”
Suddenly, I developed a second wind and began riding faster and with greater confidence that I’d finish this leg of the ride with energy to spare. A rider from New York City pulled up beside me and said, “My wife and I are really impressed by you.” I looked at him, and said, “Why?” “Because you’re going so fast,” he responded. I expressed my gratitude. Here was another companion on the journey, sent by God to provide encouragement. I completed Day 2 of Pedaling to the Peripheries. This biker is back up!
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)