By PERRY BEEMAN
RAGBRAI XXXVIII will treat riders to one of the shortest and flattest routes ever as it winds through northern Iowa from Sioux City to Dubuque.
That combination means the 10,000 riders will navigate a 442-mile route that ranks as third-easiest historically, at least as far as hills and mileage go. Weather remains a wild card. So train well.
Eliza and Shannon Neary of Pleasant Hill rode Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa for the first time last year. Leading up to the ride Eliza described her husband as an Olympic coach.
“I didn’t want to go anywhere close to a bicycle,” Eliza Neary said at the RAGBRAI route announcement party Saturday night at Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines. “But all the work made the ride a lot easier and more fun.”
The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa runs July 25-31 with overnight stops in Sioux City, Storm Lake, Algona, Clear Lake, Charles City, Waterloo, Manchester and Dubuque.
The moving montage of gooey treats, sore bottoms, camping, wide-open scenery, beer and hometown friendliness returns to northern Iowa after a foray into southern counties last year.
The ride will be the sixth-shortest. The 14,527 feet of climb is fifth-lowest total, so rejoice and save the hill complaints until at least Day 3.
The longest day: 83 miles from Charles City to Waterloo.
Among the highlights along the route will be the fledgling King’s Pointe Resort in Storm Lake, the newly dredged Clear Lake, art displays that include works by Picasso and Rembrandt.
The complete route will be announced later.
Here’s a day-by-day breakdown:
Sioux City, Saturday, July 24
The ride gets started with a Saturday gathering in Sioux City, where some of the 85,013 residents will watch riders dip the rear tires of their bikes in the Missouri River, the traditional way to mark the opening of the ride on Sunday morning. (Note: It’s not a race.)
This is RAGBRAI’s sixth visit to Sioux City and the first since 2001. Riders also rolled through the land of explorers Lewis and Clark in 1973, 1978, 1988 and 1993.
Aran Rush, executive director for the Sioux City Convention Center, said his bid committee started working on Sioux City’s bid over a year ago.
“It says to the city and business owners that they’re doing something right to get selected,” Rush said. “It’s a huge confidence booster.”
This is the hometown of Jerry Mathers, who played “Beaver” on the ’50s and ’60s TV show “Leave it to Beaver.” Fred Grandy, who served Congress after acting in the role of “Gopher” in “Love Boat,” is a native. So are the sisters who penned the “Dear Abby” and Ann Landers advice columns.
Sioux City’s revamped riverfront offers bike trails, an amphitheater and an Argosy casino. The restored Orpheum Theater and Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center also are draws.
A rejuvenated Historic Fourth Street offers restaurants and shops in early 20th Century buildings.
Storm Lake, Sunday, July 25
After a 69-mile jaunt, the RAGBRAI horde will wheel into Storm Lake for the sixth time, if you count a pass-through in 1975. This is the first stop since 2001; others were in 1973, 1978, and 1987.
This town of 10,076 has been known for meatpacking, a diverse population, Buena Vista University and a glacial lake.
King’s Pointe Waterpark Resort and Lodge anchors a lakefront revival that includes rehabbed marinas, a waterpark and trails.
Algona, Monday, July 26
Next stop: Algona, 79 miles further on.
Algona has a special place in the hearts of most Des Moines Register employees and fans. It is the birthplace of Gardner Cowles, who bought the newspapers that were predecessors to The Register.
But there are other reasons RAGBRAI would want to stop here for the fifth time, and the first since 2005. When riders came through here in 1977, 1990 and 1999, they discovered a town bordered on three sides by the Des Moines River and the wooded hills of Ambrose A. Call State Park.
They learned that a World War II prisoner of war camp here housed more than 8,000 Germans and Italians. They heard about the annual Founders’ Day and Band Day Festival celebrations.
Algona is home to 5,741.
Clear Lake, Tuesday, July 27
It’s been more than a decade since RAGBRAI pedaled into Clear Lake.
What a decade it’s been for this town of 8,161, a mere 51 miles from Algona.
The Surf Ballroom last year held a huge bash to mark the passing of 50 years since the deaths of music legends Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the “Big Bopper”; the early rockers died in a plane crash in a field near here after performing at the Surf.
The glacial lake at the center of activity here is hugely popular with boaters, fishing enthusiasts (especially those seeking walleye pike), wind surfers and others. The “Lady of the Lake” excursion boat offers views of a lakefront that includes a remodeled bandshell and a lively downtown district. Two state parks offer camping and other fun.
RAGBRAI stopped in 1977 and 1999, and passed through in 1985.
Charles City, Wednesday, July 28
This town of 7,812 is 52 miles from Clear Lake. This is the first time RAGBRAI wheels will be spotted here since 2002. Riders also camped here in 1982 and 1996 and rode through in 1977.
The attractions here include the world’s first gasoline-powered tractors on display at Floyd County Museum and 15 downtown buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. The Mooney Art Collection at the Charles City Public Library includes works by Rembrandt and Picasso.
Hometown heroes include Carrie Lane Chapman Catt, famous for her work to get women the right to vote. She lived in Charles City as a girl, and later founded the League of Women Voters.
Waterloo, Thursday, July 29
This town of 68,747 hasn’t seen the saddle-sore masses of RAGBRAI since 1985. This is just the third stop in Waterloo; the other was in 1974.
So many of the riders will want to put in the 83 miles from Charles City early so they can get a look around. (It will be hillier than most days, with 2,712 feet of climb.)
Lost Island Water Park, one of the largest in the state, and the Isle Casino Hotel are big draws.
The Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum in the Grout Museum District features a re-created bow of the USS Juneau, the U.S. Navy cruiser on which the town’s five Sullivan brothers fought and died during World War II.
Another famous combatant: Dan Gable, who wrestled at Waterloo West before a legendary run at Iowa State University in which he won all but his last match. He won an Olympic gold medal in 1972 at Munich.
Manchester, Friday, July 30
When riders roll into this town of 5,257, they will have pedaled another 62 miles and climbed 2,313 feet since the last stop.
That should give them plenty of reasons to relax at the city parks, two golf courses and aquatic center in this Maquoketa River town.
Also in the area: Iowa’s oldest state park, Backbone, and Lake Delhi.
Dubuque, Saturday, July 31
Riders will dip their bikes’ front tires in the Mississippi River in a town that completed a $400 million renovation of its main port.
The fourth RAGBRAI stop in Iowa’s oldest city will feature the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, the bluff-climbing Fenelon Place Elevator, and another casino.