RAGBRAI XLII Countdown – July 20-26, 2014
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RAGBRAI history – 2010s



RAGBRAI XXXVIII
July 25-31, 2010

It had been nine years since RAGBRAI started in Sioux City, so the river community pulled out all of the stops on the welcome that they gave the riders. Tens of thousands of people streamed into the historic downtown on a gorgeous summer day to check out the RAGBRAI Expo and then stayed for a night of great entertainment.  Sioux City’s Rockestra kicked off the night before national recording artists Smash Mouth took the stage in front of an estimated 25,000 people.

As the riders headed out of Sioux City they were treated to blue skies, comfortable temperatures and a favorable tailwind to enjoy 68 miles of scenic vistas through western Iowa.  The communities of Leeds, Kingsley, Washta and Quimby were nicely spread out to give the riders the break that needed before heading down the road.  Riders traveled through a landscape of wind farms before pulling into Storm Lake.

This was Storm Lake’s fifth time hosting RAGBRAI and they didn’t miss a trick.  The lake community spoiled riders with waterfront camping and great hospitality once the first day of riding was complete.  A great array of entertainment was spread out over town with the night culminating with RAGBRAI favs, the Johnny Holm Band.

The Storm Lake to Algona day was to be one of the tougher stretches that the riders would face all week.  With close to 1,145 feet of climb over 79 miles, this northeast trek proved to be very manageable for most as the weather was very cooperative.  The day would feature maiden visits to Pocahontas and Plover, with veteran towns of Varina, West Bend and Whittemore also on the agenda.  For those who felt the mileage was a bit lacking for their tastes, the optional Karras Loop to Rolfe provided some extra joy for several thousand riders. 

Although Plover and Pocahontas were rookie towns, they provided some great RAGBRAI memories.  The tiny town of Plover (population 95) sold hamballs to raise funds for a new church roof.  The town matriarchs cooked thousands of the skewered treats and raised a whopping $10,400 to replace the roof!  Pocahontas had a near miss from a tornado just days before, but still pulled off a wonderful visit complete with Indian Princesses and the Hokey Poky.  

Riders pulled into Algona for the fifth time in RAGBRAI history and were treated to a 70’s theme complete with leisure suits, Farrah Fawcett hairdos and SPAM treats.  Algona turned backed the clocks a few decades and the riders were ready for some fun.  The Vic Ferrari Band entertained the masses into the wee hours of the morning on a perfect summer night in Iowa.

On Tuesday, RAGBRAI rolled out of Algona for a short, flat day of riding in North Central Iowa.  The 59 miles were well distributed through the towns of Wesley, Hutchins, Britt and Garner.  The towns each had clever themes as Wesley recreated the “Dukes of Hazzard” complete with Daisy and Boss Hogg, Britt showed why they are the “Hobo Capital” with a bowlful of mulligan stew and Garner had a full salute of our troops. 

Since the temperatures were rising, Clear Lake was the perfect spot to host the sun-drenched riders.  “Surf’s Up” as the beaches of Clear Lake were packed with riders frolicking along the shore of Clear Lake as the tunes from the nearby beach party and a jet ski show kept the riders entertained.  The historic Surf Ballroom was open for trips down memory lane and Buddy Holly’s presence was in the house. 

The evening was just getting started with a performance by national recording act Spin Doctors, followed by a terrific fireworks show over Clear Lake.  Mother Nature took over from there and provided her own light show as bolts of lightning lit up the sky.  By morning, the storms had past and the skies were clear again. 

Wednesday was another short day, just 51 miles though Cerro Gordo and Floyd counties.  Swaledale started things off as riders marveled at the mechanical contraptions of Dale Caspers.  Rockwell was next up with a brand-new aquatic center and Cartersville followed with a homemade trapeze-swing that lured the masses to take a plunge into a farm pond.  The riders dug the fossils in Rockford before heading to the overnight town of Charles City.  It was the fourth time that “America’s Hometown” hosted the ride.

The theme for Charles City was “Chuck Rides Again”, a play on the town’s moniker.  The town committee honored the Iowa State Patrol that evening as the day marked the 75th anniversary of the Patrol.

The trek from Charles City to Waterloo was the longest of the week, clocking in at just over 80 miles.  On the morning ride to Clarksville, Stephen Briggs died from injuries suffered during a collision.  Briggs, from nearby Waverly, was a veteran of RAGBRAI who loved riding his bike.

Parkersburg did a spectacular job as first-time RAGBRAI host.  The town was devastated by a tornado in 2008 and proudly showed off the rebuilding efforts in their community.  Stout, Dike and Hudson finished up the route as riders streamed into Waterloo through a tunnel of tractors that lined the entrance roads to the main campground.  It had been 25 years since Waterloo last hosted RAGBRAI. 

Friday morning was a dreary one as a cold, persistent rain fell on riders as they pedaled out of the Cedar Valley.  Gilbertville had plenty of breakfast treats to warm the riders who took shelter from the storms.  The town’s church towers over the valley and singing nuns were on hand to entertain the damp riders.  By the time most riders reached Quasqueton, the sun was starting the shine again.  After 62 wet miles, riders pulled into the town of Manchester.

Just a week before, the town of Manchester was underwater as the Maquoketa River reached record levels and flooded the heart of the city.  Once the waters started to recede, the town worked on repairing the flood-damaged homes and businesses.  The town overcame this natural disaster and put on a quite memorable night of fun for visiting riders.  The town and riders were ready for a good time and The Nadas provided the tunes for the massive party that flooded the downtown with people.

The last day saw the riders heading towards their first visit to Dubuque since the early 90’s.  The route ran through Earlville before rolling into some of Iowa’s world famous attractions in Dyersville.  Riders had their cameras ready as they visited the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier and the Field of Dreams Movie Site.  Although these attractions were well-known, perhaps the most anticipated site of the ride was Potter’s Hill.  The mile and a half of winding, double-digit grade climbing became a badge of honor for some and a humbling experience for those that dismounted their bikes and walked. 

The ride never really did flatten out after Potter’s Hill as riders tackled the hilly terrain for a few more miles as they arrived in Iowa’s oldest city.  Dubuque had undergone an amazing revitalization of its riverfront and historic downtown since RAGBRAI last visited the historic river community back in 1993. The climatic tire-dip in the Mississippi River took place along the Mississippi Riverwalk at the American Trust River’s Edge Plaza, part of the nearly $400 million riverfront renovation that highlights Dubuque’s main attraction, the Mississippi River.  It was a great way to end RAGBRAI XXXVIII.

Check out the photos from the ride with the RAGBRAI Galleries

RAGBRAI XXXIX
July 24-30, 2011

This RAGBRAI will go down as one of the hottest RAGBRAIs ever!  The riders were treated to the 4Hs – Heat, Humidity, Hills… and more Heat!  It will technically go down as the second warmest RAGBRAI on record, with temps topping triple digits often.

RAGBRAI started in Glenwood for the sixth time.  It had been eight years since RAGBRAI last started in the Mills County town of 5,358 people.  The town had been struggling with flooding from the nearby over-flowing Missouri River, but was dry by the time RAGBRAI arrived.  The riders enjoyed the RAGBRAI Expo at the new Glenwood Community School until severe weather rolled in causing everyone to seek shelter.  Once the storm pushed through, the downtown Glenwood came alive with great food and entertainment.  One of the highlights of Glenwood was the fly over by a Stealth Bomber.  

Riders headed out of Glenwood and ran smack into the Loess Hills.  The day would feature nearly a mile of climb (4,946 feet of climb) over the 64 miles to the first overnight town of Atlantic.  The communities of Silver City, Carson, Griswold and Lewis were nicely spread out to give the riders the break that needed before heading down the road. 

Although Carson and Lewis were rookie towns, they provided some great RAGBRAI memories.  Both towns created welded marvels that the riders lined up to take pictures of.  Carson created a massive bicycle Ferris wheel and Lewis boasted the Largest Bicycle in America!

As riders entered Atlantic, the “Coca-Cola Capital of Iowa” treated riders to a Coke and smile at the town’s city limit.  This was Atlantic’s sixth time hosting RAGBRAI and they shined.  The community of 7,257 welcomed riders to their beautiful downtown and offered plenty of camping at the Cass County Fairgrounds and local schools.  The entertainment that evening featured Dale Blue and the Nadas.

The Atlantic to Carroll day was to be one of the tougher stretches that the riders would face all week.  With close to 4,800 feet of climb over 65 miles, this northeast trek proved to be a tough test for most riders.  The day would feature maiden visits to Templeton, with veteran towns of also Elk Horn, Kimballton, Manning, Dedham and Willey on the itinerary. 

The day would highlight many ethnic foods as riders rode past wooden windmills to the Danish towns of Elk  Horn and then Kimballtown and a stop for German fares in Manning.  Manning rolled out the barrel with a polka band and invited riders to enter the first ever RAGBRAI Corn Maze, that featured the state and the RAGBRAI route carved into many acres of corn/

The highlight of the day for many was the inaugural visit to Templeton and the home of Templeton Rye.  Riders took tours of the facility and even sampled some of the “good stuff”.

Riders arrived in Carroll for the fourth time and found the town transformed into Las Vegas.  The town’s theme of “Bet on Carroll, Let the Good Times Roll” was everywhere you turned in the town, especially the newly renovated downtown.  It had been 17 long years since the last visit to the home of 10,000 friendly people.  A great array of entertainment was held in the downtown at the depot with the night culminating with RAGBRAI favs, the Johnny Holm Band.

Tuesday’s ride would be a bit longer but much flatter than the first couple.  The Carroll to Boone day was a mere 1,784 feet of climb over 70.9 miles.  The challenge wasn’t the climb or distance, but the oppressive heat!  The day would include stops in Lidderdale, Lanesboro, Churdan, Paton and Pilot Mound.  Veteran riders were all too familiar with “Twister Hill” just outside of Pilot Mound.  The hill was used in the movie “Twister” with Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton.

For those who believed the mileage was a bit short for their tastes, the optional Karras Loop to Dana provided a bonus for several thousand riders.  The Loopians (not always a century!) received a free Karras Loop patch to mark their accomplishment.  

Seven-time Tour de France champ Lance Armstrong joined the ride again (his fourth time on RAGBRAI) flying directly from Paris to Iowa so he could ride. 

Riders chugged into Boone for the fourth time in RAGBRAI history and were treated to a train theme.  Although the temps were scorching, nothing was hotter than the band Hairball that evening as they entertained the masses into the wee hours of the morning on a sweltering summer night in Iowa.

Wednesday was the shortest and flattest day of week, just 56.1 miles and 1,246 feet of climbing though Boone, Story and Polk counties.  Two new towns were on the agenda as Alleman and White Oak had never hosted RAGBRAI in the 39 year history.  Luther, Slater, Sheldahl, Elkhart and Bondurant were also stops on the map before heading to the overnight town of Altoona.  It was the first time that “Entertainment Capital of Iowa” hosted the rider overnight, though they were a pass-through back in 1973.  It was an Epic Ride to the home of Adventureland Amusement Park, Prairie Meadows Racetrack and Casino and the recently opened Bass Pro Shop. 

The evening was just getting started with a performance by rock & roll legends Grand Funk Railroad.  The band pounded out hits like “American Band” with temps still hovering over 100! Grand Funk was followed by an energetic show by Cowboy Mouth from New Orleans.

Thursday morning was a dreary one as a cool, persistent rain fell on riders as they pedaled out of the Altoona.  Mitchellville had plenty of breakfast treats to warm the riders who took shelter from the early morning rain.  By the time most riders reached Colfax, the sun was starting the shine again.  Colfax treated riders to ice sculptures and ice cream treats at the old soda fountain at Weiricks Drug Store.  Stops in Baxter and Rock Creek State Park followed.  After 57.5 miles and 3,294 feet of climb, riders pedaled into the Jewel of the Prairie, Grinnell.

Grinnell welcomed riders onto the beautiful Grinnell College campus and into their downtown with new streets, brick-trimmed sidewalks and granite planters at every intersection in downtown that features some of Iowa’s hottest independent restaurants found nowhere else. Riders visited the Merchants National Bank building, recognized as a National Historic Landmark. Louis Sullivan’s 1914 Masterpiece is one of the eight jewel-box banks in the Midwest.  Downtown entertainment featured a bag pipe band, open mic Karaoke, a laser light show and a performance by Standing Hampton. 

Riders were treated to blue skies, more comfortable temperatures and little wind to enjoy 75.3 miles of scenic vistas through the Iowa River Valley.  First town up was Brooklyn, the “City of Flags”.  The town had hundred of flags on display including a gigantic American Flag that welcomed riders.  Victor was up next and invited riders to join in a favorite activity of theirs, rolle bolle.  Ladora and Marengo provided great stops before heading into the Amanas.  West Amana, South Amana and Homestead were the Amana stops that displayed some of their heritage.  Oxford was the last town on Friday’s voyage and the fire theme was a big hit with the riders.

After climbing 2,800 feet (most of them on the last stretch of the day) the riders pulled into Coralville. Coralville U showed that Hawkeye Spirit but also welcomed all colleges with hundreds of signs paying homage from Alabama to Yale (don’t think there are any Z colleges?).  The town hosted College Spirit Day and a mascot challenge won by Herky the Hawk.

The evening was rocking into the night with concert from .38 Special.  The band played their classic southern rocks hits from the 80’s.  It was a fun night for all!

The final day saw the riders heading towards their first visit to Davenport in 29 years!  The 64.8 mile route began by rolling through Iowa City and the campus of the University of Iowa. Riders had their cameras ready as they approached the Old Capitol.  The riders then proceeded toward West Branch, the home to President Herbert Hoover.  Tiny bergs of Springdale and Moscow followed before hitting Wilton and the famous Candy Kitchen.  Thelma and George were delighted to see the riders enjoying their tasty treats in the historic shop.

Durant and Walcott were the last two towns of the route and they did not disappoint!  Plenty of great food and entertainment fueled riders for the last stretch to the Mighty Miss.

Part of the Quad Cities, Davenport was the dip site of the inaugural bike ride that John Karras and Donald Kaul started in 1973.  RAGBRAI last visited the Quad Cities’ Davenport back in 1982. The biggest challenges were the running of the monster sized BIX 7 road race was taking place and the Mississippi River was quickly rising due to huge rainfalls up-river just days before.  Bringing together two colossal fitness events where tens of thousands of athletes participated in running and biking feats, plus a rising river, proved to be a challenge that the locals were ready for it! 

The Davenport RAGBRAI Committee had to tweak their final route but still did a great job welcoming RAGBRAIers for the climatic tire-dip in the Mississippi River.  Many RAGBRAIers and BIX participants celebrated their accomplishment together as the Street Fest was just blocks away in downtown Davenport.

It was a great way to end RAGBRAI XXXIX after 454.2 miles and climbing 21,206 feet!

Check out the photos from the ride with the RAGBRAI Galleries

xllogoRAGBRAI XL
July 22-28, 2012

In the summer of 2012, RAGBRAI celebrated 40 years of riding across Iowa for RAGBRAI XL!   RAGBRAI commemorated the anniversary with a 471 mile journey across the state starting in Sioux Center and finishing at the Mississippi River in Clinton.  Along the way, we celebrated the 40th ride.

Like the previous year, this RAGBRAI will go down as one of the hottest RAGBRAIs ever!  The riders were treated to the 4Hs – Heat, Humidity, Hills (a few!) and Headwinds making it a challenging ride for most riders.  It will go down as the warmest RAGBRAI on record, with temps topping triple digits often.

RAGBRAI started in Sioux Center for the fourth time.  It had been ten years since RAGBRAI last started in the Sioux County town of 7,048 people way up in the Northwest corner of our state.  The riders enjoyed the RAGBRAI Expo at the new All Seasons Center parking lots in Sioux Center as the temps were rising into the 90’s.   Over 20,000 guests poured through the expo that afternoon.

Riders headed out of Sioux Center that had the theme, “It’s All Downhill from Here!” towards Cherokee that Sunday morning.  The day would feature just 1,583 feet of climb over the 54 miles to the first overnight town of Cherokee.  The communities of Orange City, Alton, Granville and Marcus provided some great stops to give the riders the break that needed before heading down the road. 

Riders entered Cherokee with a screaming downhill into the downtown. “Saddle Up and Ride” was the town’s theme that paid homage to the large local rodeo.  This was Cherokee’s fifth time hosting RAGBRAI, the first since 2002.  The community of 5,253 welcomed riders to their beautiful downtown and offered plenty through the community.  The entertainment that evening featured the Mighty Nish Band, making their first RAGBRAI appearance to a main stage The Cherokee Symphony also entertained riders at the local high school auditorium.

The Cherokee to Lake View day proved to be a tougher stretch that the riders would face all week as the temp quickly rose to the high 90’s.  An easy day on paper, the 2,000-plus feet of climb over 62 miles tested many riders and medical staffs due to the intense heat.  The day would feature a maiden visit to Aurelia and returns stops to Hanover, Schaller, Nemeha and Sac City on the itinerary.   

The day would highlight many interesting and quirky stops including the Hanover Village, free popcorn in Schaller and the Largest Popcorn Ball was on display in Sac City.

Riders arrived in Lake View for the fourth time and found the tiny lake town perfect to cool off with plenty of shade and a dip in the Blackhawk Lake.  The town’s theme of “Take a Brake at the Lake” was exactly what riders had on their minds to cool off.  A great array of entertainment was held on the lakeshore culminating with RAGBRAI favs, the Johnny Holm Band.

Tuesday’s ride would be much longer than the first couple.  The Lake View to Webster City day was a mere 1,724 feet of climb over 81.2 miles.  The challenge became the long distance ride coupled with the oppressive heat that reached into the hundreds!  The day would include stops in Auburn, Lake City, Lohrville, Farmhamville, Gowrie, Harcourt, Dayton and Lehigh, featuring one of the best hills of the week.  It was the first time hosting for Lohrville, Harcourt and Dayton. 

The Karras Loop gave riders an extra challenge by adding 23 more miles with a stop in Stratford.  Riders were surprised that RAGBRAI co-founder John Karras and his wife Ann were on hand to award Karras Loop patches in the tiny town of Stratford.  John graciously signed autographs and posed for pictures all day long!

Riders finally arrived into Webster City for the first time in 32 years! Although the temps were still scorching, thousands came downtown to watch the Three Dog Night on a sweltering summer night in north central Iowa.

Wednesday was another long and challenging ride, with 77.1 miles and 2,018 feet of climbing though Hamilton, Story and Marshall Counties.  Two new towns were on the agenda as Saint Anthony and Clemons had never hosted RAGBRAI in the 40 year history.  Kamrar, Jewell, Ellsworth, Story City, Roland, McCallsburg and Zearing were also stops on the map before heading to the overnight town of Marshalltown. The temps hovered near 100 degrees for most of the afternoon, making it a tough day for most riders. 

The evening was just getting started with a performance by the Little River Band before a massive storm hit the area.  The entertainment was rained out and RAGBRAIers were seeking shelter from the lightening and high winds that pounded Marshalltown. Riders commented what a great job local leaders did with keeping everyone safe.

The sun did rise the next morning as soggy riders pedaled out of the Marshalltown.  Garwin, Clutier and Garrison were the first few towns on the trek towards Cedar Rapids.  Stops in Vinton, Shellsburg and Palo followed.  After a long 84.8.5 miles and 3,576 feet of climb, riders pedaled into Cedar Rapids to complete another tough ride. 

The temps started to drop and the weather was beautiful in downtown Cedar Rapids as RAGBRAI would host a large celebration on the Cedar River bridges that was a focal point of the historic flooding just a few years before.  RAGBRAI recognized the eight riders and support personnel that came to Iowa each summer to join RAGBRAI. Each was recognized for the stage and rewarded with a lifetime complimentary RAGBRAI membership as a thank you!

40 Year Participants of RAGBRAI

  • Rick Paulos of Cedar Rapids, IA—Rick rides with Hawkeye Bicycle Association
  • Margaret Paulos of Davenport, IA—Margaret rides with Hawkeye Bicycle Association
  • Scott Dickson of Newark, DE—Scott rides with Team Skunk
  • Randy Dickson of Sturgeon Bay, WI—Randy rides with Team Skunk
  • Carter LeBeau of Davenport, IA—Carter rides with Quad Cities Bicycle Club
  • Greg Harper of Muscatine, IA—Greg’s family owns Harper’s Cycling & Fitness
  • Dr. James & Nancy Jo Hopkins of Windsor Heights, IA —The couple rides with their family.

The Counting Crows were the featured entertainers and they did not disappoint!  The band played in front of an estimated 25,000 happy RAGBRAIers and area friends.

Riders were treated to the best weather day of the week as blue skies and comfortable temperatures were enjoyed on a short 42 mile ride from Cedar Rapids to Anamosa. Riders were routed through the historic Czech Village of Cedar Rapids as they departed with a  party on the bridges that divided the Czech Village and New Bo.  Kolaches and other great Czech treats were plentiful for the RAGBRAI faithful.

The town up was Mount Vernon, home to Cornell College, that was the annual host of College Spirit Day.  Many of the Iowa colleges had booth set up to welcome alumni and friends.  Springville and the hamlets of Viola and Fairview provided some scenic riding and great stops before heading into the Anamosa, the hometown of the famous painter, Grant Wood. 

Riders entered Anamosa under a giant replica of the state penitentiary as the town’s theme was “Ride it Like You Stole It!”.  Many of the local committee members wore prison stripes or dressed like guards.  The entire town carried out the theme.  The downtown was packed from early afternoon until the wee hours of the night as the great weather continued.

The final day saw the riders heading towards Clinton by rolling through the scenic Iowa countryside for a 69.4 mile day with 2,890 feet of climb. The riders proceeded toward the river through the towns of Oxford Junction, Lost Nation, Elwood, Delmar, Charlotte (pronounced Shar-Lot) and Goose Lake before entering Clinton. Plenty of great food and entertainment were on-hand for riders for the last stretch to the Mighty Miss.

Clinton was ready to show off their renovated riverfront along the Mississippi River and provided a most memorable dipsite for RAGBRAIers. Clinton’s theme was “Where the Rubber Meets the River” and it was a great way to end RAGBRAI XL after 471 miles!

Check out the photos from the ride with the RAGBRAI Galleries

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