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RAGBRAI marks 40th year with cross-state celebration

  • 15 July, 2012
  • Des Moines Register
Ragbrai tire dipping in Mississippi River in Davenport

Team Navy arrives to dip tires in the Mississippi River in Davenport at the finish of RAGBRAI XXXIX last summer. / Register File Photos

Pregame: July 21

The long ride for the 40th RAGBRAI starts Sunday morning, but the party starts Saturday in Sioux Center, a town that sits a dozen miles from the nearest tributary of the Missouri River. Saturday night, expect a beverage garden and live music — Highway 124 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and the Dirty Word Band 8:30 to 10 p.m. and 10:30 to 1 a.m. — on a stage near the Sioux County Fairgrounds. There’s also a fireworks show at 10 p.m. And when the sun sets, the 2011 Christian drama “Courageous” will be shown on an outdoor screen in the park.

Fans of baked goods will find a haven in Sioux Center. The city offers Casey’s Bakery, a more than 60- year-old Dutch bakery known for its cinnamon rolls and almond pastries, and Olivia’s Bakery, which offers a variety of traditional Mexican pastries said Ardith Lein, the executive director of the city’s chamber of commerce.

Another must-visit in Sioux Center, Lein says, is Tortilleria Saucedo, which makes its own tortillas and tortilla chips on site.

From Sioux Center, riders turn south, a move that gives the city its official theme: “It’s all downhill from here.”

Day 1: July 22, Cherokee

One of the first things riders will notice when they roll into Cherokee is the beauty of the Little Sioux River Valley, said Don Eickmeier, one of the city’s RAGBRAI stop organizers. Many of the downtown’s historic buildings have been restored to their original look, and merchants, including many antique stores, will remain open for the town’s many new visitors.

“When they come into town, they’ll catch a glimpse of that right away because they’ll be on top of the hill and they’ll come down right into it,” said RAGBRAI Cherokee organizer Dave Wilberding.

The Copper Cup coffee house, 425 W. Main St., and the Book Vine book store, 204 W. Main St., which also carries different wines, should be on riders’ lists of places to visit, Wilberding said.

Riders looking for a cold drink also should stop at the Main Street Pharmacy, 206 W. Main St., which features an old-time soda fountain.

As for entertainment, a beer garden opens at 4 p.m., the same time live music gets started, featuring groups like the Buffalo Ridge Band, Daylight Again (a Crosby, Stills & Nash cover band) and The Mighty Nish Band.

The town’s RAGBRAI theme, “Saddle Up and Ride,” comes from the Cherokee PRCA, one of the city’s longtime attractions and main rodeo events in the state.

Day 2: July 23, Lake View

Lake View, on the edge of Black Hawk Lake (“Break at the Lake” is the theme), is the smallest overnight town on the ride. “The whole town is within walking distance of everything,” said stop organizer Cora Lahr.

Coming into town, riders shouldn’t expect a lot of fancy decorations, Lahr said. Instead, the city is using the natural beauty of the lake, with its historic stone piers, as its backdrop.

The theme will continue throughout the day, with the beer garden situated on the lake shore and the city’s downtown just a few blocks away. The area is full of built-in entertainment options, from trails to public parks to swimming beaches, and there’s also a heavy music lineup featuring RAGBRAI fave The Johnny Holm Band. (The main stage is next to the beer garden near the lake.)

What will riders remember most about Lake View? The small-town hospitality, Lahr said.

“They’re going to come into this town knowing that it’s small,” she said. “I think they’re going to see that we are going to pull this off successfully.”

Day 3: July 24, Webster City

While the two rivers at each end of the state have their ceremonial places on the ride, riders will get another taste of life on the river with “Fun at the River’s Bend” in Webster City. The Boone River borders the town on its northern and eastern edges, so watch for canoes, fishing poles, bikes and other river-related items hanging from the city’s trees and light poles.

Riders looking to see the town’s history should visit the renovated Carnegie Library and Bonebright Museum Complex, a restored train depot, said Mayor Janet Adams.

The local swimming pool will be open, and classic rockers Three Dog Night, known for hits such as “Joy to the World” and “Mama Told Me Not to Come,” will headline the night’s festivities at a four-block party north of the city’s main street.

Day 4: July 25, Marshalltown

Toby Keith fans, welcome to Marshalltown. With an official theme of “Proceed to Party,” riders will be met by decorations of red Solo cups — inspired by Keith’s 2011 single of the same name — when they roll into town. To get the kids of Marshalltown involved, there will be red Solo cup pinwheels lining the streets.

Much of the day and night’s activity will be centered on the city’s historic downtown square. The entertainment is headlined by the Little River Band at 9 p.m., but starts at 1:45 p.m. with performances by Moon Chaplin and the Magic Men, a five-member local blues rock group. Also on the bill: Marshalltown rock trio CPR, Major Day, Route 66, Loose Neutral and more. A beer garden will be set up near the Marshall County Courthouse.

Before leaving, be sure to sign and take your picture with the almost 10-foot-tall red Solo cup that will be on display downtown.

Day 5: July 26, Cedar Rapids

Coming off the longest ride of this year’s route, bicyclists can head into Cedar Rapids expecting a large bash celebrating the 40th anniversary of RAGBRAI. The theme, appropriate for five days in: “Surviving the Ride, Party on the Island.”

The main event for the party is a 9 p.m. performance by the Counting Crows, who rose to fame with their hit 1993 single “Mr. Jones.” Tickets are $25 in advance, $35 day-of, and free for registered RAGBRAI riders. Gates open at 4:30, music starts at 5 p.m. Before the Crows’ 9 p.m. show, located downtown on First Street Southeast between Second and Third avenues, a brief program will feature special guests to celebrate the 40th anniversary.

Tiki torches will surround the event, and bandanas will be on sale to match the survivor theme.

For riders still hanging around the city in the morning, the historic neighborhoods of New Bohemia and the Czech Village are throwing a “breakfast on the bridge” to showcase the city’s Czech heritage. The breakfast will feature Czech specialties, including kolache, a traditional Czech pastry.

“They’ve got a short ride the next day to Anamosa so we want them to stay and enjoy that part of our culture and our heritage before they leave town,” said Cedar Rapids organizer Jennifer Pickar. “We think they’ll be happy that they’ve stayed.”

Day 6: July 27, Anamosa

Perhaps prison isn’t synonymous with good times, but there’s plenty to keep riders busy while they’re “doing time in Anamosa,” said Dusty Embree, a member of the city’s RAGBRAI committee.

In addition to all the typical RAGBRAI festivities, like live music (from 2 p.m. on) and a beverage garden, the Anamosa State Penitentiary Museum will be open, as well as the National Motorcycle Museum, 102 Chamber Drive.

The city is also the burial place of internationally known artist Grant Wood, painter of “American Gothic.” Just four miles west of Anamosa is Stone City, where the painter had an art colony in the 1930s.

With plenty of history surrounding the prison, the official theme of “Ride It Like You Stole It” will be on display as riders come in to town, Embree said. There also are some surprises left for riders, she said.

“Maybe you’ll see some prisoners, maybe you’ll see some guards,” she said. “They won’t shoot, they’ll be friendly guards.”

Day 7: July 28, Clinton

Just because it’s the final stop of the ride doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty to do in Clinton. In keeping with tradition and the city’s theme, “Where the Rubber Meets the River,” riders will have the opportunity to dip their tires in the Mississippi River at one of the city’s boat ramps.

Expect food, vendors, entertainment and live music (featuring Johnny Outlaw, Todd Striley and the Noise, Kindred Kama, Midnight Ramble and more), of course. Randy Meier, of the city’s RAGBRAI planning committee, said cyclists at the end of their long trip should also take advantage of the other sites Clinton has to offer, including views of the river from the city’s Riverfront Drive and Eagle Point Park.

“Go up to Eagle Point Park and take in another view of the river,” he said. “It’s one of the most dramatic vistas on the Mississippi River … the mistake would be just to put your bike in the dip site and try to pack it in for shipping and try to find your car without doing anything else.”


  1. Pat Graves

    I am so excited and nervous. This is my first RABRAI and I can hardly wait! Everyday looks like a new adventure and I want to experience it all. Thanks to all the Host cities for allowing us to ride into your towns. I live in a very small town and can’t imagine all this happening here. It would be so exciting.
    Let the good times roll!

  2. Bob Sobiech

    Speaking of 40, Kyle Munson of the Des Moines Register is celebrating his 40th birthday by riding this year’s RAGBRAI with a group that includes another 40th birthday, sister-in-law Betsy Sobiech, all members of Team Sauerkraut! Happy Birthday, Kyle and Betsy!

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