RAGBRAI XLIII Countdown – July 19-25, 2015
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This year’s route: Glenwood to Davenport



By PERRY BEEMAN
pbeeman@dmreg.com

RAGBRAI XXXIX will offer one of the annual bike ride’s shorter but hillier routes, and promises one of the brassiest endings on record.

When participants in the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa pull into Davenport on the final day, it will be the same weekend as the festival honoring the late jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, a native of the city.

That means a famous Bix road race, plenty of beer and food, and the presence of a bunch of people who will have been partying hard long before the Lycra-wearing riders dismount their gel seats.

View an interactive map

Joe Taylor, president and chief executive officer of the Quad-Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau, said Davenport “has been patiently waiting 29 years for RAG­BRAI to return.”

RAGBRAI Director T.J. Juskiewicz said the city is ready.

“It will be one heck of a show down at the Mississippi River,” Juskiewicz said.

This year’s ride runs July 24-30. The event starts in Glenwood, with overnight stops in Atlantic, Carroll, Boone, Altoona, Grinnell and Coralville before the Mississippi River tire-dipping festivities in Davenport.

The 454-mile route is the 14th-shortest, and 18 miles short of average. Fifteen routes have been hillier, so the 10,000 riders will find the climb in the moderate range.

Combine the mileage and hills, and organizers consider this the 22nd-easiest ride, meaning 17 routes have been tougher.

There’s no telling if the weather will ease the way, or make things miserable at times. Headwind predictions weren’t available. Please train like you mean it.

Those who feel they need a break in the first few days will be glad to know that the Des Moines suburb of Altoona will host the riders overnight for the first time. That means a chance to chill in front of the slots at Prairie Meadows, ride a roller coaster at Adventureland, or take in the night life of Des Moines’ Court Avenue.

This year’s route — more details will be announced later — presents a couple of interesting challenges for riders.

Photos: Saturday’s celebration to announce the overnight towns

The hilliest day is Sunday’s opening 64-mile pedal from Glenwood to Atlantic. Legs will be fresh for the 4,946 feet of climb, at least.

But the longest trek comes on Day 6, when some legs may be rubbery — the 75 miles from Grinnell to Coralville.

Then again, anyone who has ever pedaled a century loop, 100 miles, won’t be intimidated by that measly total. And the RAGBRAI record for a single day was 114 miles from Webster City to Waverly in 1980, so 75 shouldn’t seem bad.

The 2011 ride will be 96 miles short of the record 550 miles in 1977.

Below is a day-to-day breakdown:

=====

GLENWOOD — Saturday, July 23

Population: 5,358

History: 1980, 1984, 1989, 1992, 2003

This town of 5,358 welcomes riders for the sixth time. The ride began there last in 2003. The Loess Hills make this area one of Iowa’s most picturesque and geologically important.

Glenwood is the county seat of Mills County and boasts attractions such as the American Indian Earth Lodge and the 45-acre Glenwood Lake Park with an independent historical museum and amphitheater.

The town is proud of its new high school.

=====

ATLANTIC — Sunday, July 24

Population: 7,257

History: 1974, 1980, 1989, 1991, 2001

The ride’s first overnight stop comes in this town of 7,257 which also welcomed riders in 1974, 1980, 1989, 1991, and 2001. The self-proclaimed “Coca-Cola Capital of Iowa” because of its bottling operations, Atlantic also has a new YMCA where people can work off their sodas. The historic downtown sports the restored Rock Island Depot.

Often, it’s easy to catch a car show or concert somewhere in town during summer. The T-Bone Trail runs 21 miles to Audubon.

Fans of the Iowa Hawkeyes may remember Atlantic is the hometown of former Hawkeye and Kansas City Chiefs star Ed Podolak, who later gained fame as a broadcaster.

=====

CARROLL — Monday, July 25

Population: 10,098

History: 1980, 1988, 1994

The 510-acre Swan Lake State Park and a new city aquatic center that opened in 2009 offer good recreation possibilities in this community of 10,098. Ditto for the 33-mile Sauk Rail Trail, which runs between Swan Lake State Park and  Black Hawk State Park to the north, at Lake View.

Much of downtown Carroll has been remodeled.

=====

BOONE — Tuesday, July 26

Population: 12,803

History: 1975, 1988, 1998; also a pass-through town three times, last time in 2008

The ride rolls into Boone for an overnight stop for the fourth time; the last was in 1998, but the ride passed through in 2008.

Known as the birthplace of former first lady Mamie Eisenhower, the railroad-influenced town of 12,803 has staged nationally significant stock-car races, Pufferbilly Days and the Iowa Municipal Band Festival.

The Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad is one of the state’s most prominent passenger railroads.

Many Iowans have marveled at the Kate Shelley Memorial High Bridge west of town, considered the longest, highest double-track railroad bridge in the country. Another famous span, the nearby High Trestle Trail, offers spectacular scenery as bicyclists cross the Des Moines River.

=====

ALTOONA  — Wednesday, July 27

Population: 13,301

History: First time as overnight town; pass-through town in 1973, on inaugural ride

RAGBRAI makes its first stop at this home to horse racing, gambling and Adventureland Amusement Park.

Altoona, population 13,301, hasn’t seen RAGBRAI since the inaugural ride passed through in 1973.

The Des Moines suburb’s collection of attractions now features central Iowa’s only Bass Pro Shops.

Also, this is no fish tale: Altoona is the hometown of NFL quarterback Kyle Orton.

It may seem hard to imagine in the cold of winter, but it could be warm later this year. If so, Altoona’s new aquatic center and bike trails could come in handy.

=====

GRINNELL — Thursday, July 28

Population: 9,105

History: 1976, 1991, 2001

The home of Grinnell College — something of an Ivy League-style school in the flatlands — has 9,105 residents and a committee ready to welcome the ride back for its first stop since 2001 and fourth overall.

Grinnell has replaced many streets, trimmed sidewalks with brick and installed granite planters around downtown. The restaurant scene is lively with independent proprietors, and this is yet another town with a new swimming complex.

Architect Louis Sullivan’s well-regarded 1914 Merchants National Bank building is a National Historic Landmark, one of eight jewel-box banks he created in the Midwest. Sullivan spawned the skyscraper concept and mentored another architect whose work has graced Iowa and the nation: Frank Lloyd Wright.

=====

CORALVILLE — Friday, July 29

Population: 17,269

History: 1995, 2001, 2006

This neighbor to Iowa City is rejuvenating an industrial area along the Iowa River.

Its 17,269 residents welcomed RAGBRAI in 1995, 2001 and 2006.

The name comes from fossils found in the limestone along the river, which forms part of the boundary with Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa.

Coralville stages 4th Fest and Fry Fest, a celebration all about the Hawkeyes of the U of I. Former Hawkeye football coach Hayden Fry was among the school’s most successful.

Among Coralville’s native sons are NFL kicker Nate Kaeding and professional cyclist Jason McCartney.

=====

DAVENPORT — Saturday, July 30

Population: 98,359

History: 1973, 1982

Perhaps surprisingly, this is only RAGBRAI’s third stop in Davenport, and the most recent was 1982. (The other stop was on the first ride, in 1973.)

This Iowa anchor of the Quad Cities has 98,359 residents and a river history rich in jazz, minor-league baseball, flood fights, riverboats and a mixture of white-collar and blue-collar jobs.

The famously hilly Bix7 road race will be held this day, with the highly regarded jazz festival the following weekend in honor of Davenport native jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke, a legend in music circles.

Davenport also boasts Figge Art Museum and the Putnam Museum and IMAX Theater.

Reporter Tyler O’Neil contributed to this story.

=====

MILEAGE AND CLIMB

Day 1 — 64.2 miles    4,946 climb
Day 2 — 65.4 miles   4,798 climb
Day 3 — 70.9 miles  1,784 climb
Day 4 — 56.1 miles    1,246 climb
Day 5 — 57.5 miles   3,294 climb
Day 6 — 75.3 miles    2,800 climb
Day 7 — 64.8 miles    2,338 climb
Total — 454.2 miles   21,206 climb

=====

ON MONDAY

Join in a live chat about the towns at noon Monday on RAGBRAI.com with RAGBRAI Director T.J. Juskiewicz.


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