WEST BEND - Safe travels are assured when the Almighty is along for the ride.
At least that's what many of the motorcyclists said who gathered Saturday afternoon at the 10th annual Blessing of the Bikes at the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend. A nondenominatinal event, the blessing by the Rev. Tom Hart drew more than 150 bikes from more than a dozen counties across Iowa and Minnesota.
"It just gives you a good feeling," said Colleen Deal. "When you believe in God, it makes you feel like he's protecting you. It makes you feel like somebody is watching over you."
Colleen and Ed Deal, of Fort Dodge, look down on the motorcycles gathered Saturday afternoon for the annual Blessing of the Bikes at the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend. More than 150 motorcycles were parked along the south side of the Grotto to be blessed.
Deal and her husband, Ed Deal, need that extra supervision since the two of them travel a lot on their trike motorcycle. They have ridden in all 50 states, she said, even driving up to Alaska and renting a motorcycle while on vacation in Hawaii. The couple has previously been to bike blessings while in Texas, but this was their first time attending the event at the Grotto.
It was also the first time for Steven Lynch, not just to be a part of the blessing but also to just visit the Grotto.
"My friends told me about it and I just thought it was a good excuse for a ride," he said, "and coming from Wall Lake, it was quite a ride."
Lynch rides a 2011 Heritage Classic Harley Davidson with chrome skull mirrors and accents. He said he will use any reason to start it up and go for a ride, typically averaging around 5,000 miles each riding season. He hits the road rain or shine.
"I don't mind some rain," Lynch said, "but no snow. I don't like snow."
Snow wasn't a problem for Doug Bruhns, of Lake Mills, but the wind did knock him around a bit on the ride over. Still, he said, he enjoyed the drive.
"I wanted to come over here for this for a couple of years now," he said, "but this was the first year everything worked out. Anything I can do to keep safe for riding season, you know."
Shelley Holm, of St. Ansgar, northeast of Mason City, agreed.
"Every little bit helps," she said.
The blessing included a recitation and reading of two prayers by Hart followed by sprinkling of holy water on the motorcycles by Deacon Gerry Streit. Wallet-sized prayer cards were also given to participants with the "Motorcyclists' Prayer" printed on them.
The event has drawn good-sized crowds each year it has been performed, said Mary Strab Lavelle, director of the Grotto. That by itself would be reason enough to continue it, but, she added, it is also a way for the Grotto to give back to the motorcyclists who visit the site and make donations during the annual ABATE rally held outside Algona each July.
"The bikers themselves really enjoy it," Strab Lavelle said, "and it reinforces their desire to ride safe out on the road. And that's really what this is, a reminder that we want them all to be safe."