RAGBRAI Route Inspection Pre-Ride Day 7 – Iowa City to Davenport
Well we Booked It to Iowa City but now it’s time to turn the page and head to West Liberty, Atalissa, Moscow, Wilton, Wild Cat Den State Park, Montpelier, Blue Grass, and our final destination, Davenport! It’s a slightly longer last day than usual so plan accordingly – it’s 68.9 miles with just 1,585 feet of climb (that’s just under half the feet of climb that we had on the last day in 2017!). Some torrential downpours and hailstorms curbed some of our riding but none of our spirits!
Saturday on RAGBRAI XLVI will be ridden in honor of LeRoy Crook – Tender Tom. We lost a true legend with the passing of “Tender Tom” LeRoy Crook of West Liberty, Iowa, which we will visit on Saturday of this year’s ride. For 30 years LeRoy and his family ran Tender Tom’s Turkey on RAGBRAI. Stop and enjoy a giant turkey leg in his honor!
Before we get into the nitty gritty, we would like to send out a big THANK YOU to Helen, Lyle, Jack, John, and Lynda, our amazing ride support (we would be lost without you… literally!!), to Rich Ketcham of GeoBike.com who wrote our mapping software, and to Kelsey Kremer and Zach “Juice” Boyden-Holmes of The Des Moines Register for taking photos along the way (without them you would be looking at a blurry photo gallery with thumbs in the corner of each pic).
Saturday’s ride is dedicated to the memory of LeRoy Crook, recognized as Tender Tom’s Turkey, a RAGBRAI staple. Tender Tom’s will be in West Liberty. Stop by and wish his family well as you travel through West Liberty.
The bike repair stands will be set up along 3rd Street as you first arrive to the downtown area. Food vendors will be lined up along the streets of downtown.
Historical / Interesting Facts: Heritage Park and The Rock Island Depot, a restored depot and park emphasizing education and agriculture. New Strand Theatre built in 1910 as an opera house, 1927 movie theatre and re modeled in 2001.
Famous Citizens: Leroy Crook—known to RAGBRAI and most West Liberty as “Tender Tom’s Turkey” supporting 30 years as well as known vendor to RAGBRAI. Leroy passed away in 2017 but his heritage carries on.
Interesting Buildings / Restaurants / Sites: On the main downtown stretch riders will find The Depot, Winks Bar and Grill, Maria’s Mango Landia, Puebla, West Liberty Foods and Pizza Restaurants and New Strand Theatre.
Landscapes / Lakes / Parks: As rider’s approach from the west they will find a very scenic view into town and a nice downhill roll from each direction.
Additional Info: We would like to provide you a great breakfast stop! We are the community of opportunity and we welcome RAGBRAI and its riders year-round.
For more information on West Liberty’s RAGBRAI plans, visit:
Atalissa is a close-knit community of 300 people. The sign says population 271, plus 2 grumps! We think that are all friendly and welcoming in Atalissa.
The Atalissa Fire Department will serving up delicious breakfast as a fundraiser to purchase a new search and rescue vehicle. The FD will be serving pancakes, sausage, eggs and biscuits and gravy for the riders in the bays of the fire station. So come hungry!
The town will also have a neat display of antique tractors and vintage bicycles courtesy of Harper’s Cycling and Fitness from Muscatine.
If you are thirsty, Kitty’s Long Branch Saloon (located on 119 Cherry Street) is your place for a Bloody Mary or a beer. They serve cold drinks and great food. Local brewer Contrary Brewing Company from Muscatine will be on hand passing out samples.
Moscow was laid out in 1836 by Henry Webster and Dr. Charles Drury. Moscow experienced rapid growth with the arrival of the railroad in 1855 (via Wikipedia).
Landscapes / Lakes / Parks: Jack Shuger Memorial Park
WILTON (Meeting Town)
In its 165 years of existence, Wilton has always embodied small town America at its best. Wilton has a population of just under 3,000 that has traditionally greeted RAGBRAI riders with open arms.
Perhaps the most notable place in Wilton for the riders is the historic Wilton Candy Kitchen, a combination ice cream parlor, soda fountain and confectionery store located in the downtown. It is a step back in time and the Candy Kitchen has been renovated without losing any of the historic charm for over 100 years.
Interesting Buildings / Restaurants / Sites:
- The Wilton Depot which is on the National Register of Historic Places was built in 1989 where 100 trains would pass through the town a daily basis. After use of the depot by the Rock Island Railroad ended in 1967, the depot was used as a storage building by various individuals. The Wilton Historical Society acquired the depot in 1987 and restored it and turned it into a museum of local history. It is open on weekends through the summer.
- In 1861, at the beginning of the Civil War, Wilton men hurried to enlist and the entire county of Muscatine sent more men to war than any other county in Iowa. Later, in April of 1962, the casualty list from the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee touched every neighborhood in the town. Muscatine County remembered these brave young men by putting up monuments and markers throughout the county. As a result, Wilton has its own Civil War Monument at Oak Dale Cemetery.
- The Wilton Candy Kitchen was built in 1856. It is also on the National Register of Historic Places and is the oldest working soda fountain in the Midwest. You can go there and enjoy a sweet treat while you sit at the old marble soda fountain and view the history around you.
- In 2016, the Wilton downtown business district was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition, just blocks off downtown district on the corner of 4th street and Oak is the 1894 historic home of Iowa Representative and local business and community leader Henry E. Nicolaus. Wilton also received a Community Development Block Grant to rehab and restore 11 historic buildings in the downtown and new businesses are setting up shop on a regular basis.
Famous Wilton Citizens:
- Perry Nelson, 1903 – 1929, Pioneer air mail pilot died in plane crash while flying mail from New York to Cleveland on December 2nd, 1929. He was known by his co-pilots as the “King of Airmail Pilots”.
- Charles H. Gabriel, 1856 – 1932, Was one of the country’s most influential and prolific gospel song writers of the twentieth century. Charles would write hymns along with his good friend, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain).
- Grace Noll Crowell, 1877 – 1969, is credited with more than thirty books of prose and poetry. In 1938, she received National recognition when she was given Mother of the Year by New York Poetry Center, One of the Ten most Outstanding Women of America by American Publications, and Honor Poet of the Year by the New York Poetry Center. She was a Poet Laureate of Texas.
- Songwriter – Bobby Fischer, 1935, is known for his songs that were recorded by famous artists such as: Eddy Arnold, George Jones, Conway Twitty, Charlie Pride, Faron Young and Reba McEntire.
- Walter Hilgenberg, 1942 – 2008, was a professional American football player. Hilgenberg was born in Marshalltown, Iowa. His family moved to Wilton where he grew up and graduated from Wilton High School. He attended the University of Iowa, where he starred on both sides of the line of scrimmage, as a linebacker and as a guard. He played 16 seasons in the National Football League, with the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings.
What do Bonnie & Clyde, Jesse James, Nancy Drew, John Wayne, Jack Kerouac, Gary Cooper, a meteorite strike, and the inventor of barbed wire all have in common? U.S. Highway Route 6 in Iowa. Built in one day by 10,000 farmers and businesses across the state, Iowa’s Route 6 is part of the second largest transcontinental highway in America.
A community fund drive is in progress to build a recreation center on the old elementary school site.
For more information on Wilton’s RAGBRAI plans, visit:
WILD CAT DEN STATE PARK (Yes we know it’s not a town!)
Before you reach the state park, the congregation at New Era Lutheran Church will be prepared to host riders. Take some time to tour the church which contains one of the more unique pipe organs you will see in Iowa. The gymnasium on the east side of the building was built in 1904. Daily basketball games no longer occur, but the New Era Dinner Theater still entertains folks with an annual play. Fidler on the Roof and Children of a Lessor God are just a couple of the plays they’ve put on in the past.
Food vendors will be found in front of the church. Lots of great shade will be found under the mature trees on the property.
A little further down the road you will find the state park and all it has to offer. Plan on another stop at the park to tour the grist mill and rest in the shade. Be cautious as there is a good sized down hill to the park with a stop sign at the bottom of the hill.
Historical / Interesting Facts: Wildcat Den State Park is one of the most unique in Iowa, combining natural beauty and solitude, preservation of historical structures, trails, camping and picnic areas for recreational use.
Interesting Buildings / Restaurants / Sites:
- Pine Creek Grist Mill: located in the eastern part of the park on Pine The mill was built in 1848 by Benjamin Nye, one of Muscatine County’s first settlers who also built the county’s first store and post office in 1838. The Pine Creek Grist Mill is one of the finest examples of mid nineteenth century mills left in the country and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Pine Creek Grist Mill is the oldest operating Grist mill west of the Mississippi River.
- Wildcat Den State Park trail system — Trails wind through a variety of terrain and lead to such fascinating sites as “Steamboat Rock,” “Devil’s Punch Bowl,” and ” Fat Man’s Squeeze.” The beautiful bluffs and rock outcroppings provide spectacular views to hikers.
- The “turn of the century” Melpine Schoolhouse is located near the mill and offers park visitors another glimpse of Iowa’s past. To learn more about the mill, the Melpine Schoolhouse, and the work of the Friends of Pine Creek Grist Mill, visit their website at pinecreekgristmill.com
Description: Friends of Pine Creek Grist Mill will be giving tours of the Pine Creek Grist Mill, located at Wildcat Den State Park. They will be partnering with the New ERA Church.
Food / Vendors: Friends of the mill will have candy bars, other treats and water. No outside vendors will be allowed.
Entertainment / Activities: Interpretive programming on the mill, Melpine school house and state park.
- Wildcat Den State Park is a great place for a family to “get away from it all” for a weekend or a family vacation. The campground has several campsites and non-modern rest room facilities. Advance campsite reservations can be made online through the park reservation system. One fourth of the campsites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Camping is also available at Fairport Recreation Area.
- The Friends of the Pine Creek Grist Mill has been volunteering at this park for over 25 years. They were the ones who clean up this Grist Mill and partnered with the state to raise money for renovation and to get it back up and running. This small group of volunteers donates thousands of hours of labor each year for operations, maintenance, and interpretation. They will be selling water and candy bars for fundraising efforts. They will also be providing tours of the mill and the Melpine School House which is a one room historical school house next to the mill.
For more information on Wild Cat Den State Park, visit:
Blue Grass will host RAGBRAI for their very first time this summer. They are so excited! Most of the activities will be held at the Blue Grass Drive-In Theater as their donwtown is undergoing some major construction.
The Drive in will have plenty of food and drink for riders to be ready for the march to Mississippi River. From pulled pork, steak sandwiches, ribs, taffy and walking tacos to Ganzo’s Mexican Restaurant, Blue Grass will have lots to offer. They will be raising funds for the local kinds to attend the Kids YMCA Camp. They will also have a large beer garden and DJ playing fun tunes.
Interesting Buildings / Restaurants / Sites:
- Blue Grass Drive-In Theater (774 W Mayne Street)
- Casey’s General Store
- Corner Grill (corner of Mississippi St and Mayne St).
- Uncle Harley’s Bar & Grill (corner of Juniata St and Mayne St).
The 2018 RAGBRAI Route brings you from Blue Grass through scenic Davenport into busy downtown Davenport. You’ll dip your tires in the Mississippi River at the Marquette Street boat ramp before pedaling to the party by continuing to the expanded FREE Freight House Farmer’s Market and the FREE 47th annual Downtown Davenport Street Fest and RAGBRAI Village in LeClaire Park. Downtown Davenport has plenty of cool, air-conditioned restaurants, pubs, craft breweries, museums, and attractions if you want to cool off after your day’s ride.
At the expanded Freight House Farmer’s Market from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., you’ll find hundreds of food trucks and market vendors indoors and outdoors with every type of food imaginable, and since it’s your last day of riding, maybe a cool souvenir to take home. Local microbrewery Front Street will have expanded seating or relax on the shaded deck with a beer from the oldest microbrewery in Iowa. There will be local live music from 8-10 a.m.
Park your bike in the designated bike parking and stop by RAGBRAI Village in LeClaire Park with great views of the Mississippi River. The RAGBRAI vendors, bike shipping, and the baggage truck will all be at LeClaire Park. Enjoy live music from the Hot Rods from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The 47th annual Downtown Davenport Street Fest is just a block away from RAGBRAI Village in LeClaire Park, Freight House Farmers Market, and the Shuttle Hub at Union Station. You’ll find lots of great festival food & drinks, awesome live music all day from bands, shopping, a family fun area, and many downtown restaurants and businesses. The free Street Fest is from 8 a.m. to midnight and located on 2nd Street between Brady & Ripley in the heart of downtown Davenport.
For more information on Davenport’s RAGBRAI plans, visit: