Tue, Jun 18, 2013 | by TJ JuskiewiczShare
DAN & BECKY MCKAY – RIDE RIGHT STATE CHAIRMAN (KNOXVILLE, IOWA)
Well, another great pre-ride. The towns are certainly excited for us to arrive in July. The pies are going to be spectacular if the pre-ride pies were any indication. The food should be great also. I know we all enjoyed some of the fine brisket prepared by Captain’s Barbeque in Knoxville and the breakfast at The Longest Yard in Dallas Center. Dave Dickey and the good people of Packwood are excited to have RAGBRAI back. They will be showing off the new sign that was purchased with the community funds raised last time RAGBRAI was in town. They are planning a whole community effort again this year (expect good eats here!) Becky was amazed at the 3 breakfast day and was not sure that that much food was needed. I assured her that as the stoker she needed to be well fed and rested to propel the tandem down the road and up those Iowa hills.
Oh, yes, the route. Spent a lot of time on the tandem in the rain the first part of the week. Becky and I enjoyed the scenery. I think this year there will be less corn and soy beans and more vistas with rivers, hill and trees. The hills will challenge you if you are not ready for them (Mocking Bird hill was a special challenge – we will ride up it on the tandem this time!) The roads are in great shape or will be by the time we get back. As usual the winter was hard on some locations. I am confident that the small problem spots will be taken care of. You still need to be vigilant and watch the road. Cracks and pot holes are an expected hazard in Iowa and the best way to avoid them is to slow down and enjoy the ride. It is not a race and you will be rewarded with great views and the friendliest people in the world.
Looking forward to a night in our hometown and activities that will highlight our community. Knoxville awaits. It is going to be another great RAGBRAI.
First off … thanks MUCH for allowing me to tag the WHOLE pre-ride this year…what an honour!!!!!! And thanks to Judy and Helen for teaching me the finer points of “support.”
As to the route…..When announced in January, we were WILD to see that RAGBRAI was coming to Knoxville! What a HIGH.
What was memorable about PRE for me..
* The home baked goods by the Mennonite ?? community in Dallas Center. WOW, what taste and what pride in their offerings. Rain or no!
* The homemade honey-butter in Minburn!! And I have the maker’s name and contact info!! This community is TRULY excited and looking forward to RAGBRAI!! Despite the rain we rode in on the warmth and good eats were heart & soul warming!!
* It was an experience to actually visit some of the towns I passed going back & forth to Omaha the year I worked at the University. Nice to put a “community face” with the name on the Interstate sign.
* As Dan indicated we did not complete the HILL in Springbrook State Park. Mockingbird Hill is now known to us as Mockingduck Hill….as we ducked out about 1/2 way up it! We’ll get it in July!
On June 1st we headed to Council Bluffs, IA in pursuit of the “perfect” Pre-Ride.
The core group was as anxious and enthusiastic as we were.
AND the trailer that we pulled (thanks to Joe Nydegger) pulled just like “a little red wagon” behind our Dodge Ram. We are always anxious about the two computers AND the operators! This year all went well with just one “shutdown” during the day which Scott and Rich handled for us as we cornered them before they left from their break out in the middle of rural Iowa. Our big thanks to Rich Ketcham who designed this program which worked so well.
Roads, for the most part, were in really good shape. Two of the bad stretches we were told are in the schedule to be fixed before RAGBRAI. We did encounter rain , but only one day it forced the riders to quit because of lightening. We are hoping that the actual RAGBRAI, 2013 doesn’t have as much rain as we did.
Ice Cream Alert!!!
A first – a Dairy Queen with two live horses at the walk-up window. Monroe ice cream is delicious.
Make sure to stop there… And don’t forget the Knoxville Dairy Quee
n with a little Peace Tree Root Beer!
It’s always fun to meet committees in the pass through and overnight towns. AND of course, we never turned down the samples of food they were planning to serve on the actual ride. Let us warn you….. Do not plan on losing weight on this ride. But all the homemade food was so delicious…even if we feel malnourished this week as we try to cut back on food consumption.
With the short days, it’s the perfect week to stop in these communities and enjoy their Iowa hospitality. We sure experienced it every day of the week! Scenery was beautiful and there were some very unique sights and stores. So don’t be in such a hurry that you miss any of these unique opportunities to see and experience Iowa!
May the Wind Always Be at Your Back!
Hey fellow cyclists! If it’s June, it must time to load up the bike, bake up a pile of cookies, and head out with my second family and do the RAGBRAI Route Inspection Ride! Thanks T.J. for inviting me back for my third RIR. It’s always fun to roll with the team across Iowa, view the route first hand, and meet with all of the communities who will be hosting the ride. I think you’re going to enjoy RAGBRAI XLI!
When T.J. first shared the route with me earlier this year, I was initially intrigued by the shortness of most of the days. The bulk of the ride consists of 50 to 60 mile days. Only on day 2 from Harlan to Perry do you get to rack up some big miles, especially if you add in the optional Karras Loop. After running the elevation statistics, I realized that although most of the days were short, they still packed a lot of climb.
I think you’re going to really enjoy the host towns this year. Make sure you stop off and enjoy their offerings. This brings me to my second favorite thing about RAGBRAI, the FOOD!! I can’t eat everything in sight (many claimed that I’ve tried), so the following is a partial list. For those of you who enjoy tenderloins, be sure to check out Prime Time in Guthrie Center and have one of their hand-breaded tenderloins. Best ever and you’ll need it further down the road to help get up the little hill at Springbrook State Park. In Packwood, check out the garlic and cheese sausage at the Packwood Locker & Meats. For those of you who enjoy brewed refreshments, Peace Tree Brewing in Knoxville is a must stop. I hear the siren call of a Blond Fatale.
It was a three-way tie this year in the dessert category. The Jersey Freeze in Monroe has some of the best ice cream ever! Brain freeze factor is off the charts. Have two or three servings, find a nice shady spot and sleep it off. For those of you who enjoy a good pastry, Jaarsma Bakery in Pella is a required stop. I fell victim to a chocolate cream filled Bismarck. If you go there, go with a friend who will pull you out if you become too fixated with all the dessert options. When you get to Bussey, make sure you try and find their scratch made frosted angel food cake. I could tell I was enjoying the spoils of an expert baker!
So, how did the ride go? Well, Mother Nature still rules everything. It’s been a cool, windy and wet spring in Iowa and it’s been hard to get a lot of training in. One of the benefits to all of the rain though is that things are really green and lush! At least we didn’t have to deal with 100+ degree-days like we did the last two years. Hopefully the ride will be a tad bit cooler this year.
My favorite day was Harlan to Perry. The weather was near ideal and hopping the hills in western Iowa was a real treat. Perhaps my most difficult day was day three from Perry to Des Moines. When we launched, the temperature was around 48, the rain was coming down, and our friend the head winds came for an extended visit. Another memorable day was Knoxville to Oskaloosa. The hills coming south from Pella were plentiful and beautiful. This year I had a mink run across the road in front of me!
The bulk of the roads are in great shape and a dream to roll on. I heard rumors that the final few miles into Oskaloosa will be on resurfaced roads! Conditioning is going to be important this year. Even though the days are short, there is still a bit of climb on the route. The more time you spend conditioning will equate to a more enjoyable ride. Also, have your bike serviced prior to rolling and review the Ride Right rules. Take time to enjoy the ride each day. Find a road companion each day, enjoy a good conversation, and have fun checking out the sites.
Thank you T.J., Scott, the rest of the RAGBRAI staff, all of this year’s host communities and all of their volunteers for all that you do! I had a great RAGBRAI RIR. Hope to see everyone out on the road. Cheers!
RANDY “DARYL” HECHT (CHICAGO – TEAM DARRELL)
Our primary goal for the week was to inspect the road conditions to identify areas that could be repaired to improve rider safety. Although there are a few stretches of traditional Iowa cement roads with constant expansion seams, most of the roads are smooth asphalt and some sections will be freshly paved in time for RAGBRAI. Be aware of the center line rumbles in addition to those along the right shoulder in many areas of the route.
This year’s RAGBRAI will be challenging despite the short daily mileage. Don’t let this year’s mileage and weather reduce your training for the July ride. The shorter daily mileage does give each rider the opportunity to stop, eat, rest, and take in the local flavor of each pass through town. The pre-ride group got to taste some the food that will be available on this year’s ride.
As with any ride, the goal is to finish the daily mileage. However, an important part of any ride is to fully experience the ride and create memories. In preparing for this year’s ride, think about ways to make it memorable for years to come. Meet new people by talking to other riders and local townsfolk. Try a new food offering or select a flavor of pie different from your favorite. Spend time in a small town and tour a unique landmark. Breathe in the fresh rural Iowa air while capturing the scenic route. Based on the experience of the pre-ride team, this year’s RAGBRAI has the potential to be the most memorable RAGBRAI to date.
JOE & CINDY CONNOLLY (COUNCIL BLUFFS – VETERAN RAGBRAIERS SINCE 1996 & RAGBRAI CREW MEMBER)
View from the front (by Joe)
Riding a tandem (or any longer bike) takes extra care, especially on a crowded ride like RAGBRAI. Having an extra set of eyes (and legs) is a great upside and I got to spend a week riding very close to my best friend. For me the ride had several unexpected high points. The first was only 4 miles into the ride when we spent breakfast on Sunday in the Historic 100 Block of Council Bluffs for breakfast. Like most riders we like to put in a few miles before breakfast and this was perfect. Council Bluffs has created an urban breakfast stop similar to Leeds (Sioux City) and the Czech Village (Cedar Rapids) from past RAGBRAIs.
My favorite day was the ride from Knoxville to Oskaloosa – I felt it was the most scenic with a great halfway stop in Pella. Throughout the day we saw several well-manicured Century Farms and had plenty to see and talk about.
Many times the final day seems like a race to the finish for many riders, teams and charters. I worry with a long day people might not stop and enjoy the unique villages of Van Buren County.
My disappointment of the week was having to SAG into Des Moines on Tuesday because of the weather – I had been looking forward to riding into the city.
Riding a tandem on RAGBRAI sometimes feels like driving a semi-truck surrounded by sportscars. If you are close to a tandem remember that they need extra room to maneuver and stop and if you are riding a tandem be sure to plan ahead and create the space you need for a safe ride.
Some say the view from the back of a tandem never changes but the reality is you have more time and more flexibility to look around at the countryside as you ride by. On the pre-ride I was amazed at all of the various wildflowers I saw along the way. The colors were vibrant and framed the rural views of Iowa.
My best day was Friday – Oskaloosa to Fairfield. The terrain was a nice surprise for me – it was a great ride and a little more flat than I expected. It helped that the weather was nice and the pie in Packard was outstanding (Joe had 4 pieces).
I know some are disappointed in the short-ish days (several around 50 miles) but I think it will be a unique opportunity to spend some time in the pass-through and overnight towns. And even though some of the days are short – they are still challenging and should make for a great ride.
KAREN PARROTT (IOWA CITY – BICYCLISTS OF IOWA CITY)
I’ve lived in Iowa all my life, but I was awestruck again by the beauty of western Iowa. We went up, up, up on the hills, then rode along the crest of a hill with a panoramic view over the countryside, then came the swoop down to the valley. Repeat every few miles! Iowa is green and lush this year and I think the RAGBRAI riders are in for a real treat with this route. We’ll enjoy showing off the beauty of Iowa on RAGBRAI!
HELEN DEZEEUW (ROCK VALLEY – RAGBRAI CREW MEMBER /INFORMATION & MERCHANDISE TRAILERS)
This inspection route was the first opportunity I had to see the biker’s route. As the support driver for my family in the early 90’s I went straight from one overnight town to the next overnight town so I never experienced any pass through towns. The last few years I have been working in the merchandise trailer so again we go from one overnight town to the next. What a delight it was to experience some of the sights and tastes that the bikers talk about.
As I traveled the route in a slow moving vehicle (have you ever gone across Iowa in a vehicle at about 20 miles per hour?) I had the opportunity to enjoy very scenic landscapes. Southern Iowa has lots of hills and unique places to spend some time observing. Being of Dutc
h ancestry the town of Pella with their windmills and Delft pottery was a highlight for me. I also enjoyed getting out of the car at Fort Smith just a few miles east of Hedrick (near Martinsburg) and took a step back into time. Antique seekers check out this amazing spot. Also view on line at http://www.heartlandconnection.com/news/story.aspx?id=863275#.UbiDmvk3uxA
The scenic route of 2013 will be physically challenging and aesthetically pleasing. Take your time and enjoy.
This was my first pre-ride other than last year Sioux Center to Cherokee. I enjoyed it very much. I think it was probably the most scenic ride I have ridden. I have ridden in 7 other RAGBRAI. Granted there are a few hills but that’s to be expected. Most of the hills are rolling type hills. The best part of this pre-ride though is the camaraderie that developed between those of us that rode all week. I looked forward to the ride because now when we do it in July, as a SAG-WAGON driver I will know the route better than going into it blindly. I know the riders will thoroughly enjoy the meeting towns as well as the pass through towns because they did a bang-up job of hosting us on the pre-ride. The overnight towns have a lot in store for the riders which everyone should enjoy very much.
WARREN “DARIL” HECHT (CHICAGO – TEAM DARRELL)
When the route was first announced in January, my initial thought was that this would be a very easy year since this is one of the shorter routes. During the pre-ride, I discovered that there are still some challenging stretches that riders will face. It is still very important to do some good training miles before the start of RAGBRAI.
The first things I look for in any route are long southbound stretches, especially late in a day. My toughest RAGBRAI days seem to be the days when the route goes directly south because it is inevitable that the Iowa winds will be blowing hot humid air directly at our faces. Although we have some southbound stretches this year, they are very manageable and some have been laid out early in the day when then wind is typically the lightest.
This is a great route for first-time riders and out of state riders. The shorter days will give all riders more time to absorb the fascinating history along the route. By talking to local residents, I heard some great stories about the lost town of Red Rock. There is also some interesting history about the settlements along the Mormon Trail. I suggest that other riders seek out the same.
The last four days of this route are similar to my first RAGBRAI route back in 1988. Over these years, I have learned that there are many different ways to enjoy RAGBRAI. I always encourage new riders to try to do something different every day. Take a mid-day nap. Hang out with a farm family for an hour or so. Taste something that you normally would not eat. Go picking for antiques at a farm rummage sale. Slow down your pace and arrive to the campground late one day. Take a chance and go off the beaten path. Try learning some Iowa history. You will have more fun and you won’t regret it.
Most importantly, remember that biking with a large group is much different than riding with a small group of friends. Always bike defensively, especially on the first morning when everyone is out learning the feel of the group.
This week I had the opportunity to ride three days with RAGBRAI and The Des Moines Register staff to inspect part of the route for this year’s RAGBRAI that will take place July 21-27. The following communities will be overnight hosts for this year’s RAGBRAI: Council Bluffs, Harlan, Perry, Des Moines, Knoxville, Oskaloosa, Fairfield, and Fort Madison.
This is the second year I have rode part of the route with the RAGBRAI crew. This is a great bunch of individuals led by RAGBRAI Director T.J. Juskiewicz, Assistant Director Scott Garner, former Director Jim Green, his wife Judy, and some of the staff that help organized the entire week.
Ever since I started riding RAGBRAI with my brother over 20 years ago, I have realized it is the best way of seeing all of Iowa, including the beautiful landscape that varies in each part of the state. I have been very fortunate the past several years to include my two sons and father-in-law. We have experienced many great things during RAGBRAI. Some of these include:
In Perry at the Hotel Pattee.
Riding briefly with Lance Armstrong and listening to him speak in front of 50,000 persons in downtown Newton promoting Livestrong and cancer awareness.
Riding into Dyersville and playing a pick up baseball game at the “Field of Dreams” with my family and many other RAGBRAI riders.
Visiting Spillville in northeast Iowa and seeing the Bily Clocks museum and the upstairs apartment where famous Czech composer Antonin Dvorak spent the summer of 1893 writing music. In addition we toured the St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church and its cemetery that features old iron crosses as monuments.
In Macksburg (located in Madison County) we watched an exhibition of the National Skillet Throw Festival (ask my father-in-law what it feels like to be hit in the shoulder with a 3 pound frying pan).
In Villisca we rode our bikes to the house where the famous axe murders occurred 100 years ago this summer.
Visiting Christmas in July in Algona. The town created a winter carnival setting that included snow.
In Eagle Grove they displayed hundreds of classic and antique vehicles along the street.
Riding to the house of long time NBC Tonight Show Host Johnny Carson in Corning.
Andy Williams’s boyhood home in Wall Lake.
Riding down a large hill into the beautiful Mississippi River town of Guttenberg on a tandem bicycle at 55 miles per hour.
Riding through Parkersburg a year after the devastating tornado destroyed many houses and seeing how the community (led by Coach Ed Thomas) worked together.
The feeling of dipping your front tire into the Mississippi River after starting along the Missouri River and riding every single mile along the route.
Hanging out with Three Dog Night on stage last year in Webster City and introducing my family to them after the concert.
The people and the food are what we remember most on RAGBRAI. Each year we see old friends and make new friends as well. It confirms that most Iowans are honest, hard working persons who will let strangers into their house, use their showers, and maybe even wash a few loads of dirty clothes. I have camped and slept in many houses in which I never had met these persons before that day.
This year will be no exception. The first three days on the Inspection ride this week we were greeted by local organizers in both the overnight towns and pass through towns who welcomed us and were very proud of their communities. They made breakfast, lunch, and had refreshments for us along the route.
LISA MORMANN (DYERSVILLE – VETERAN RAGBRAIER)
RAGBRAI is my favorite week of the year. Where else can you spend time with 10,000+ of your favorite cycling buddies from around the world? RAGBRAI is a time where you can catch up with old friends and make new ones. I first got interested in RAGBRAI when it ended in my home town of Bellevue in 1989. From that point forward I was interested in cycling. This will be my 10th consecutive RAGBRAI. I am an Iowa native, and never realized all of the history to be found in our small towns, until it started riding still enjoying and learning every day.
I was really excited about this year’s route at the announcement party in January because I know I would have A LOT of time to stop in each town and chat with the locals or pull up to a farmer’s standing in his lane and talk crops, or maybe a power nap under a tree or maybe even a sag stop along the road.
This year I rode the last two days of the pre-ride. From my experience we should have great ride to the river. The roads were outstanding no rumble strips even to speak of. Don’t let the shorts days fool you, we are still riding in and out of a few hilly river valleys. Iowa is not flat and weather is very unpredictable from day to day, so training in all conditions an you will have a great ride.
This year again, like the past, will have OUTSTANDING pie and food for the riders, We had some samples on the pre ride: OMG it was good. We also stopped at multiple restaurants and bars. I plan on returning from RAGBRAI about 7-10lbs heavier that I left, don’t hold back enjoy the food it’s one week a year and you earned it. The locals are pumped for all the riders to come through. Let’s show these towns an outstanding time.
GREG ROECKER & DENISE REINIG (HARLAN – TEAM HUFF’N PUFFERS & HARLAN’S RIDE RIGHT COMMITTEE)
It was great to ride with our enthusiastic friends from RAGBRAI, RIDE RIGHT and the Iowa Bike Coalition on the 2013 Pre-Ride Inspection Trip!! Several of us members of the Harlan Huff’N’Puffers Bike Club rode most of the first 2 days from Council Bluffs to Perry. There are always 2 things you can’t help but notice : The Fantastic Iowa Hospitality such as displayed by Underwood and Shelby and Beautiful Rolling fields and hills which make Iowa small towns so Great! What a kick start to the week ahead! This will be Harlan’s 6th time hosting as an overnight town and this year promises to be the best yet! Our theme of ”Pit Stop in Harlan” is to recognize a Harlan native, Tiny Lund, for his winning the 1963 Daytona 500 NASCAR Race 50 years ago and the Shelby County Speedway . When you ride from Harlan make sure you spend some time in the Danish community of Kimballton and if you ride the John Karras Loop, Elk Horn will be ready. Springbrook Park north of Guthrie Center has a “Little Tester” of a hill you’ll enjoy!
Just 5 weeks to get ready to Ride. See Ya on the Road!
MARK & JEN WYATT (IOWA CITY – IOWA BICYCLE COALITION)
Each year, my wife Jennifer and I look forward to the RAGBRAI Route Inspection as much as the ride itself. It is a testament to how much Iowa and bicycling fit together. You don’t need a big event like RAGBRAI to tour Iowa and experience hospitality at its finest. It exists for bicyclists each and every day!
Council Bluffs knows how to kickoff RAGBRAI. Everything from the outstanding trail system to perfect event spaces, Council Bluffs has the experience to make this a great event. The route they choose to bring us out follows the railroad tracks and stays pretty level and even. While it removes the fun of the Loess Hills, it is still an outstanding ride.
Harlan is ready for the big ride. We rode most of the beginning of pre-ride with the Huff-N-Puffers from Harlan. This is a bike club that enjoys riding! Expect more climbs out of Harlan and if the winds are strong, this could be a very hard day. It is also the Karras Loop, through Elk Horn and Kimballton, so be prepared for Alp-like hills.
Perry is like a best friend for bicyclists. This is a friendly destination that is connected by the Raccoon River Valley Trail. But for those who think Perry is just a trail destination – stick to the route or you will miss out. The last seven miles into Perry just flew by on great roads.
The ride to Des Moines was a little damp, but that didn’t stop the hospitality of the towns along the way. Minburn will be a must-see town. Check out the skating rink!
Knoxville could be one of the top overnights. You get to ride in across the mile-long bridge, enjoy a Peace Tree brew, and take a lap on the raceway!
Oskaloosa has one of the prettiest town squares that you will ever see. This town is going to be a RAGBRAI favorite.
Fairfield has one of the liveliest downtown scenes of the whole route. If you want arts, culture, entertainment, and a lot of fun, Fairfield is ready!
The drop into the river valley before Fort Madison is breathtaking. This ride is a little longer than the other days, but just as pleasant. Don’t miss stopping at the antique place. It has the oldest church west of the Mississippi.
As many might say, the rumors of this ride being easy are not true. There are some fantastic climbs. If the winds are not favorable, this ride could be exhausting. RAGBRAI is a touring event and not a race. This means, get off your bike as much as you can. Enjoy the tour of Iowa and everything it has to offer.
VERN & VICKY WILLEY (ALTOONA – RAGBRAI CHAIR IN 2011)
Tuesday: I got up Tuesday morning at 4:45 with the intent of being dropped off in Perry to ride with you to Des Moines. After checking the weather channel and noting that it was thunder and lightning outside, I decided to do as I thought TJ might and go back to bed. It paid off as it continued to rain. I don’t mind riding in the rain, just hate to start that way.
Wednesday – I got up early and made sure everything was ready for a fun day of riding (in the rain based on the weather forecast) Our group(Altoona Road Riders) met at Rasmussen Bike Shop in Altoona and headed towards 4 mile school to intercept TJ. Upon arrival there our eyes on the street (Rose Farver who met with TJ for the photo op at grays lake) informed us that things were running behind because of some minor flooding areas and the rain. We decided to ride ahead to Runnells and meet there. Christmas in July was their theme and they had on their Santa gear and some tasty treats for us. Approx. 12 Altoona Road Riders went along for the ride. We then headed for Monroe. One thing you can count on with the route from Des Moines to Knoxville is plenty of hills, some rolling depending on your skills. We had a nice lunch in the Monroe park and then it was off to Knoxville on more of those hills. I prefer to ride hills as opposed to flats because you get to coast. Of course I prefer to ride those hills on a nice non rainy day. One thing for sure I wasn’t led astray by the weather forecast. It rained the majority of the day.
After arriving at the hotel several of us decided to go to the brewing company and help out with the owners retirement plan. We had about 4 hours to spend while waiting for the return ride. Just know that those Blondes can sneak up on you. Knoxville has plans for a music filled day and night during ragbrai and we got a little taste of it in the evening at the brewery.
Thursday – We woke up to something strange, that being the sun shining as we headed out of Knoxville. The route out of town was being reconstructed and so we had to jump the curb and head down and across a drainage way through some mud before we could get back on the road. I felt like a king being carried through a procession, bike and all as I couldn’t walk. . After that it was smooth sailing. Like the day before , there were plenty of hills and this time I really enjoyed them without the rain. We rolled into Pella for some famous letters. My wife needed a trip to the bike shop to get a screw that fell out of her clips on her shoe. Marty at Iowa Bike was not open yet , but obliged and told us we were the third person to need a screw in their clip that morning. He usually doesn’t sell 3 in a year. Since he wasn’t open we needed to pay in cash and we were a dollar short. Vicky bartered with Marty and offered him one of the crispies I bought at the bakery in payment. He of course said ok and we were on our way to Bussey. More of those hills and then lunch at the fire station in Bussey. After a break and an interview with Leslie who was going along with the ride to do photos and stories, it was back on my bike for more hills to Beacon where I broke into Greenie’s stash of licorice. Then a short ride into Oskaloosa.