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Report from the route: Hills

As we are riding right through my back yard this year, I thought I would give some hill info for the Friday and Saturday portion of the ride. From Cresco to Decorah, it’s mostly rolling with one nice downhill just before Decorah. I am unsure of the exact route through Decorah, but there is a possibility of a couple of horrifying uphills climbing out of there. Ossian to Postville is brand spanking new pavement, flat and smooth. There are shoulder rumbles all along that stretch. North out of Postville we really start to dig into the driftless landscape. A beautiful valley and stream boardered county W4B, and then a long climb back up to the ridge to Waukon. Saturday you will be happy you did your hill training. Beautiful ridge ride out of Waukon until the drop into Waterville. Unfortunately, we will probably be walking down the steepest portion as the typical bottleneck will start to form above town. Also a 90 degree turn at the bottom. Then we climb climb climb back up to the ridge on 76. We get a screamer down into Yellow River Forest and you owe it to yourself to spend some time there. You may have a hard time believing you are in Iowa. Amazing water and dense forest with beautiful camping. Besides, there is a hellacious climb out of there and another fine hill experience before we get to Harpers. You may think the stretch between Harpers and Lansing will be a nice flat ride along the Mississippi river. You would be wrong. Let’s just say they saved the best for last. Get your legs on folks. It’s going to be a great RAGBRAI!

36 Replies

RDaryl Daryl, April 11, 2017 at 10:40 pm

In review of 23 rides I have two days I cannot forget:

1995 Saggy Thursday XXIII (try “Saggy Thursday” internet search) Tama/Toledo to Sigourney. . . . . . had to pedal DOWNHILL to maintain 6 MPH speed

1999 Decorah to Ossain XXVII – I think I still have some melted tar on my bike from that stretch. . . . . Also, I will never forget the high school HOT HOT HOT shower the hot night before . . . . . . post shower sweat felt like I never took a shower that day . . . . .


jelly0317, April 12, 2017 at 7:44 pm

I think that Thursday in 1990 (Oelwein-Cedar Rapids) should have received that designation. The wind in ’95 lessened considerably after 5:00 or so. In ’90, it was just as strong as ’95, but only lessened when the thundershowers moved in around 7:00.


knees36, April 13, 2017 at 12:08 am

For me it was Soggy Monday, 1981, and my first RAGBRAI. Our Iowa weather had been hot and wet up to the first day of RAGBRAI when we had some nice showers, but it changed drastically on that nest day. The temperature for Monday was a high of 49 degrees, strong headwinds were out of the NE (and, of course we were heading east) and we had a cold rain in our face for most of the day. A clothing retail store in Schleswig sold out their stock of wool suits to riders. Of the 5,000 riders only about 500 of us rode our bikes on to Lake City, our overnight town. The other riders, about 4,500 of them, sagged it with any transport they could find. As a first time RAGBRAI’er I was determined to ride the entire day come “he.. or (literally) high water” Local farmers and other kind folk in the area gave bikers a ride into Lake City for the night. Cyclists felt lucky to be riding in pickups, cattle and hog trucks laden with “you can imagine what” on the bed of these vehicles as well as any other kind of transport. I was lucky enough to buy a plastic bag for 25 cents, tore openings for my head and arms, and kept on pedaling. The star of the day, in my humble opinion, was a young man about 10-12 years old who rode all the way to Lake City singing, laughing and, generally was impervious to the conditions. He seemed to delight in the weather for the day. Donald Kaul, co-originator of RAGBRAI and also was a RAGBRAI reporter for the DM Register, penned it perfectly. He wrote in his daily column that even his water bottle had white caps in it. I’ll take the heat any RAGBRAI dishes out as opposed to another Soggy Monday. Cheers.


KenH, April 13, 2017 at 11:13 am

My worst weather experience was in 2014, Friday morning’s rain. It started out raining and my group rode to Tripoli where we stopped for breakfast. We ate huddled under Easy-Ups even though we were all soaked through. When the lightning started they let us in the HS. I did not see this but evidently the floor of the gym was covered with people curled up and shivering from hypothermia. I was cold but once the lightning stopped I headed out anyway. On the road I had shivering fits so badly for the first three miles I could barely steer! After that I was fine and the rain stopped but then the wind picked up, big time and my left “cheek” was seriously sore from a saddle failure earlier in the week that had left me riding on it alone for a few days before I found the problem. When I got to Sumner I was tired, sore, hungry again, and simply did not have the heart to ride past the team support vehicle so I bagged it!

Not one of the legendary RAGBRAI days of misery, just my worst experience.

The 1981 ride on the other hand is one of the legends. I believe that was the only time, so far, that temperatures have been in the 40’s. You try not to think about that when you are packing for RAGBRAI. Clearly, having happened once already, it is possible. But you really can’t afford the space or weight to pack 40 degree gear….


Brian Wallenburg, April 13, 2017 at 9:19 pm

KenH, other than the morning showers and winds, that day ended pretty nice. Warm and sunny, we even picked up some tailwinds and rode through some interesting Iowa colony settlements. Good times!


jake d, April 14, 2017 at 9:15 pm

Sorry Jelly, I have to disagree. I rode both days in ’90’ & ’95’. The winds may have been similar, I don’t have the empirical data to support either argument. However, in addition to the wind, ’95’ also had heat and hills. I have never seen so many people stop and literally collapse from exhaustion.
In 27 years of doing this ride, the 22 miles from Victor to Keswick was the most brutal stretch of riding I have ever done.
That includes Decorah to Manchester in ’99’, and the ‘Death March’ into Audubon. Both tough days, but no comparison. IMPO.


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