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2009 RAGBRAI overnight towns

  • 10 February, 2009

Clarence Pickard would have loved this year’s RAGBRAI route.

For the first time in its 37-year history, the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa stops overnight in the Indianola farmer’s hometown. He won’t be around to see it — he passed away in 1982 — but many Iowans still remember when the 83-year-old shocked the state by completing the first 412-mile ride in 1973.

RAGBRAI officials have often said that it was Pickard, in his silver pith helmet and long wool underwear, that made the ride what it is today. If he could ride across the state, surely others could, too.

More than 10,000 bikers will have another chance to do just that from July 19 to 25, when the ride cuts a 442-mile route through the southern half of the state, with overnight stops in Council Bluffs, Red Oak, Greenfield, Indianola, Chariton, Ottumwa, Mt. Pleasant and Burlington.

The route is the sixth-shortest in the ride’s history but ranks tenth in terms of overall climb, rising 22,806 from its start in the Missouri River to its finish in the Mississippi. Even so, riders won’t struggle any more than they did last year on the asphalt rollercoaster between Harlan and Jefferson.

“You go south and people just assume it’s going to be really hilly, but this year will be pretty close to last year,” said RAGBRAI director T.J. Juskiewicz. “It’ll be an extremely scenic adventure.”

Thursday’s announcement was good news to leaders in the overnight stops, where, on average, 9 years have passed since the towns last hosted the ride.

The benefits are obvious with 10,000 registered riders and at least as many support-bus drivers, vendors, visitors and hangers-on rolling into town. Juskiewicz said that community leaders in the past have reported an economic boost of as much as $2 million.

“We’re just grinning from ear to ear. We’re so excited,” said Denise Day, executive director of the chamber of commerce in Indianola, where a park is named in Pickard’s honor. “It’ll be a wonderful, wonderful thing for us, but it’s going to take the whole community. If people haven’t volunteered before, their phones will be ringing.”

Since Indianola is only 20 miles southeast of Des Moines, Day expects many people will drive over for the festivities.

“We’ll have a lot of company,” she said. “Our hospitality will be No. 1.”

Maybe, but Indianola will have some stiff competition.

Leaders from all the overnight stops crowed about what their towns had to offer, including:

• The new, half-mile Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge, which connects Omaha and Council Bluffs. The $22 million structure that rises 200 feet above the Missouri River opened in September. “It’s unlike anything else,” Council Bluffs Parks and Recreation Director Larry Foster said. “We think it’s going to be a real draw.”

• Red Oak’s ornate Victorian homes and the historic Montgomery County Courthouse. The town also boasts an $8 million performing arts center, scheduled to open in the next few weeks.

• Greenfield’s renovated town square, the Iowa Aviation Museum and the now-famous Patriot Rock, which a local artist paints every year to honor military veterans.

• Chariton’s historic location on an early railroad route, the Mormon Trail and the state’s first rails-to-trails bike path, which was built 35 years ago. Local leaders last year coined the slogan “Lucas County: Your Ticket to Ride” to play up the area’s role as a transportation hub, and “RAGBRAI is just the icing on the cake for that,” Chariton Chamber of Commerce Director Ruth Comer said.

• Ottumwa’s 2-year-old Bridge View Center and the Beach, an indoor-outdoor water park, a welcome sight for bikers looking to cool off.

• Mount Pleasant’s Old Threshers Museum and the Theatre Museum of Repertoire Americana.

• And finally, after one of RAGBRAI’s shortest and flattest days ever, Burlington’s famous Snake Alley, one of the steepest and most crooked streets in the world. Bikers can round out their trip with a trek across a suspension bridge similar to the one in Council Bluffs.

For more than a few riders, however, homemade food is RAGBRAI’s main attraction.

When pressed, Greenfield mayor Randy Standley said the town’s best pie maker was Bonnie Stalder, who recently sold Bon’s Bakehouse after 14 years behind the counter.

When asked the same question, Chariton’s Comer declined to comment.

“You must be crazy,” she said. “I’m not getting into that. I have to live here, you know.”


  1. Art Rothstein

    I think you misspelled Bob Kerrey’s name.

  2. Cara Wilkerson

    Is there a way to still register for 2009?

  3. otis henkle

    Mt Pleasant Moose Lodge #1003 will be serving sandwiches along with refreshments and live music. Camping is available for either campers or tents. Electricity is available. Contact Sheila or Rodney at 319-385-3526 for more information and reservations.

  4. Amy R

    The Iowa River Valley Area of Narcotics Anonymous will be holding an open meeting at the Alcohol and Drug Dependecy building on July 24, 2007 at 7:30 PM. This is the night that ragbrai will be in Mt.Pleasant overnight. The address to this meeting is 122 North Main Street Mt.Pleasant, IA 52641. This building is located in the downtown area of Mt.Pleasant. We are doing this so that any addict who wants to go to a meeting has one available. We hope to see you there. If you have any questions please feel free to contact Amy R. at 319-537-2399.

  5. Floyd Muegge

    Would like to see all the going ons that day, might try to check it out donot live to far from there Quincy, IL. A friend did the ride last year. Sounded like it was quite a deal. Good luck to all.

  6. Angel Booker

    Red Oak Eagles will be having a spaghetti feed for $5.00 a plate starting at 5pm. Bar will be open starting at 2 pm. Eagles is located at 200 E. Washington. Come slurp a noodle and drink a beer! Stay safe!!

  7. Matt

    Thanks Geoff! I am looking forward to the concert!

  8. Barb

    Stop by Corning Winery ,Corning is being called the lunch stop in between Red Oak and Greenfield ,the winery is located on hwy 34 & 148 intersection. Jump on the shuttle bus from down town Corning and visit our Winery. sample our wines, buy a bottle and sit in the vineyard to enjoy , Also we will be in Corning on John street across from the race track where the support teams will be parked . we will also have cheese and meat tray ,homemade breads .See you july 20th

  9. Shari

    Fazolis in council bluffs is a great place to eat with pasta and a great lawn to lay and rest

  10. Jennifer Downe

    Don’t forget to check out the Martensdale Margaritaville just before you head towards Indianola on Tuesday, July 21. Large tent, margaritas, Miller Lite, energy drinks, water, food, bar, slip ‘n slides, pools for foot soaking and LOADS OF FUN!!! Look for the blimp!

  11. Will

    People should go to quaker steak and lube in council bluffs good place to eat.

  12. Billy

    I tell you what, as a rider myself, right after I’m done dipping my tire in the ol’mighty Mississpi, I’m looking forward to going over to Whitey’s Bar and Billiards in Burlington and seeing one of my life long friends Whitey Walker! Man that guy goes all out for everything and he assured me RAGBRAI wouldn’t be any different! He even booked a nationally know comedian who is a regular on The Bob and Tom Show and fellow rider, Collin Moulton to perform for us! When I let him know I would be stopping by, he wanted me to tell all my friends to stop by with me and everyone would be treated like life long friends as well. So here I am telling all of you now…lol All kidding aside everyone, Whitey is known for his award winning barbecue and his amazing ability to stir up craziness and fun! He also wanted me to tell all my friends that he would have food and drink specials all weekend! I hope to see you all there and I wish us all a safe and happy ride!
    Remember, rubber side down! :-)
    Billy Glendora

  13. Christy

    When you get to Mt. Pleasant on Friday, the “80’s cover band” Gimmick will be playing on the Main Events Stage at 5:30. After the concert, head to Keo’s Grill and Back Bar
    just north of the square at 121 N. Jefferson, (319)986-5946,

    See you there!

  14. Darcy Hall

    Your first sentence on this page says: “”For the first time in its 37-year history, the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa stops overnight in the Indianola farmer’s hometown.””
    Ragbrai has actually been thru Indianola twice before.

    Do your research folks!!

  15. Chris Snider

    @Darcy Hall – This is the first time Indianola will be an overnight town for RAGBRAI. I assume you are talking about times when Indianola has been a pass-through community, but not an overnight town.

  16. Tracy

    As some of you may have found, there are no accomodations avaiable in the Fairfield area for the weekend. If you need a place to stay and don’t mind getting off the beaten track a bit. I have a large house that could easily sleep 8 in the town of Keosauqua–South of Fairfield. I can transport from Fairfield to Keosauqua if necessary. Would love to meet some new friends. Call: Tracy 641-777-8258.

  17. Darren Beachy

    Indianola was my favorite overnight stop!

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