RAGBRAI Route Inspection Pre-Ride Day 1 – Council Bluffs to Atlantic

Thanks so much to Council Bluffs for unleashing us in your town! Sorry we were a little nutty but we were so excited to start riding today!   Over 50 riders gathered this beautiful June morning at our starting city of Council Bluffs to kick off the 15th annual RAGBRAI Route Inspection Pre-Ride.

Our 427-mile fact finding mission will take place this week, ending at the Mississippi River in Keokuk on Saturday, June 8.

Today’s ride was 59.9 miles with approximately 2,825 feet of climb. Those who took on the Gravel Loop through McClelland added about 21 miles of riding with another 1,207 feet of climb. If you rode the Gravel Loop last year, this is about 100 more feet of climb than that. So ride this clockwise loop if you welcome a hilly challenge! On our way from Council Bluffs to Atlantic, we visited the Historic 100 Block of Council Bluffs, Underwood, McClelland (Gravel Loop only), Neola, Minden, Avoca (Meeting Town), Walnut, and Marne. Click this text for a map of the first day of RAGBRAI XLVII.

During Sunday of RAGBRAI XLVII we will hold the Mile of Silence. The Mile of Silence is to remember riders we have lost. Please observe a moment of silence as you ride between Underwood and Neola on County Road G8L. There will be signs between Pinoak Road and Rosewood Road to mark the mile.

2019 RAGBRAI pre-ride: Day 1, Council Bluffs to Atlantic

2019 RAGBRAI pre-ride: Day 1, Council Bluffs to Atlantic

This is TJ’s perspective on today’s ride.

It was a great way to start the week!  The route was challenging, but not too difficult.  I had about 500 on-bike training miles, so I felt pretty good about the climbs and battling a head wind.  Since we are in the Loess Hills area, you can expect hills.  Being parallel to the railroad helped level the route up to Underwood.  Most of the roads were in pretty good shape and the ones that were in not the best shape are scheduled to be worked on.  With the severe flooding in western Iowa, some of the scheduled projects might not be completed.

We had about 60 riders of all abilities and most were able to finish the ride.  Some were pretty fatigued after the ride and sunburnt!

We had a total of 8 riders (6 males and 2 females)  that took on the gravel loop to McClelland.  They all really enjoyed the gravel and said the current road surface made for a nice ride over the gravel.

Click here for photos from today’s ride by Brian Powers of The Des Moines Register! 

Here are some facts and points of interest from each town:


The Historic 100 Block in Council Bluffs is the home of ten eating/drinking establishments. All independently owned and each with their own character.

Saturday they will have a bike valet and free shuttle bus running all evening back and forth from the Mid America Center.

Look for a number of Iowa breweries to be on the 100 Block that night.

After that they will have a quick turnaround and be open by 6AM Sunday morning. At least 5 establishments will be serving breakfast.

Their goal for this year is to try to get as many Council Bluffs residents to come out and watch and cheer for RAGBRAI riders. Their last RAGBRAI was in 2013 and that was the first time RAGBRAI came through Council Bluffs downtown/the Historic 100 Block. So stop by, grab a bite, and expect a warm welcome! We sure got one today and it was really nice to have some food in the tank before we climbed the big hill out of Council Bluffs.

For more info on Historic 100 Block of Council Bluffs visit:




Riders will be greeted by Jack Links Sasquatch as they travel down the main street (3rd) in Underwood.  Look for the Jack Links truck. Food vendors and the beverage area will be located all along 3rd Street.  There will be a DJ throughout the morning and early afternoon.

Some examples of the food options you’ll see:

  • Breakfast wraps, cinnamon apple French toast, frogurt, granola, mini-donuts, breakfast bowl, and coffee
  • Flippin Flapjacks Pancakes
  • Continue past the main street festivities and you will find Pancakes and Sausage at the Volunteer Fire Department. Look for the signs in town guiding you to the fire station.

Entertainment for the day will be provided by the Wine on Wheels DJ.

The gravel loop starts in Underwood.  Continue down 3rd Street East to get started on the loop.  Bianchi Bicycles will be at the start of the loop to provide demo bikes you can take on the gravel loop.  Visit Brent and Will to check out a Bianchi Bike for a test ride.  Those in our group who rode the gravel said it was in great condition, and the ride through the countryside was fantastic.

MCCLELLAND (Gravel Loop)

McClelland is ready to welcome you to take a break on the Gravel Loop!

Plans for RAGBRAI
McClelland will be hosting almost all of their activities in the city park. They will have extra rooms, sell snacks, and serve some alcohol. There will be music playing as well. The Dew Drop Inn will be open and will sell some food and alcohol.

No outside vendors. There will be light food: Breakfast Burritos, fruit, and beef jerky.

Neat places rider should be sure to visit
The Heart Memorial in the park

Neat restaurants or pubs that riders should be sure to visit
The Dew Drop Inn

Any interesting stories should know about that is happening in town
McClelland will the putting the money that they raise during RAGBRAI towards their community building update.

Historical or interesting things about your town
McClelland was established in 1903 as a watering stop and railroad station for the Great Western Railroad. In 1876, W.H. McClelland arrived in the area and purchased 160 acres of land.  The town was later named in his honor. When the town was founded, it included a lumberyard, depot buildings, three general stores, a drugstore, hardware store, two saloons, livery stable, blacksmith shop, and a grain elevator. As of 2017, McClelland had a population of 152.

Interesting Landscapes/Lakes/Parks, etc.
Eagle of Honor



Neola will be the third town on Sunday’s route after the 100 block of Council Bluffs and Underwood.  The town in Pottawattamie County has 842 residents.  The town is probably best known for Hoo Doo Days that takes place on Labor Day Weekend featuring a parade, ball games, rides, bingo, beer garden. It is the biggest small-town parade in the area and a fun farewell to summer.

Neola is excited to be hosting RAGBRAI again as they have hosted riders several times over the years.  Some of the happenings in their downtown include a live band with Finding Dixie and a fun kid’s area near the fire hall.

One of the local food options will be breakfast burritos at the Fire Department.  The Lions will be serving pie, ice cream and breakfast pizza.  The Pancake Man will be flipping pancakes to support the Betterment Fund.

There is also an amazing renovated theatre in downtown that will be showing movies that you can just walk in and buy drinks and popcorn.  The original was built in 1913 and the theater was restored in 2011.  There are also several taverns in town including the Blue Moon, the Tipsy Cow (formerly Coon’s Corner) and the Buck Snort Inn just north of the downtown.

You will also notice a majestic bronze eagle in the downtown (as well as several other bronze eagles in other RAGBRAI communities) that was sculpted by local artist Russell Christensen. It is the focal point of the “Colors of Honor” Veterans’ Memorial. There are also several paintings in town by his wife Penny Christensen.  You can see some of her other paintings in Penny’s Visions Art Gallery as you enter Neola.

For more information on Neola’s RAGBRAI plans, visit:



Just a short hop down the road from Neola you will find Minden.  Check out the downtown triangle and the Minden Bowl.

Minden was originally part of Neola until 1877 when a petition requesting the separation of the two towns was granted.

AVOCA (Meeting Town)

Our Sunday meeting town will be Avoca, about 40 miles into the day.  Founded in 1869 between two branches of the West Nishnabotna River and along the former Rock Island Railroad.  You will notice the renovated historic downtown with charming shops, restaurants and museums including the Sweet Vale of Avoca Historical Museum on Elm Street which houses the area’s largest display of mounted wild game.  There is also the Farmall-Land USA Museum (just north of town on Highway 59) with more than 250 IH full-size tractors and loads of memorabilia.

Avoca will have over 30 local and out of town vendors that will line the cobblestone main street through the downtown.  In addition to the bars that will be open to serve the riders, there will be two beverage gardens in town.  One will be serving beers and infused liquors that will be raising funds for the community golf course.  The other garden will be “Wine on Wheels” serving popular Iowa craft beers (including Big Grove’s Tailwind Golden Ale) and wines.

Anything else you would like the participants of RAGBRAI to know about your town?

  • “Spider Car” southside of Avoca on corner of Chestnut and Washington
  • Farmall-Land at I80 and HWY. 59
  • East Pottawattamie County Fair (last day during RAGBRAI)

WALNUT – Iowa’s Antique City

In the early years there were two antique stores located in town.  Because of the proximity to the interstate, locals decided it would be good to fill the empty downtown store fronts with more antique stores.  As more stores opened, it became clear this was going be a thing. In 1987, Walnut received the Governor’s designation as ‘Iowa’s Antique City’.  Antique Capitol was already taken.

Today you’ll find several downtown buildings filled with antiques and specialty shops, a bakery, and other businesses each with their own unique character.  Rolling Hills Bank & Trust is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Walnut Opera, built in 1899, still stands on Antique Drive.

The theme for RAGBRAI 2019 in Walnut is “Go Nuts in Walnut”.  Activities incorporating the theme include:

  • Nut Pong: Grab a nut bucket & play pong! Similar to beer pong, minus the beer! Riders can see how many walnuts they can get into a bucket to win a prize.
  • Nut Dig: Find your nuts in Walnut!  A competition to see who can find their nuts first.
  • A scavenger hunt will be happening prior to the event. A volunteer from the Walnut RAGBRAI Committee will hide a pair of “nuts” at a location in town and will post various pictures of things on the Walnut RAGBRAI Facebook page that could potentially be hiding nuts.

Happenings and Photo Ops in Walnut

  • An oversized penny farthing (high wheel bicycle) built by local blacksmiths in 2001 will be a central attraction and great picture opportunity for riders.
  • A local citizen will be “Uncle Sam” on stilts!
  • WiFi stations set up along the route through Walnut will be supplied by the local telephone company, Marne Elkhorn.
  • Original cobblestone streets in downtown dating back to the 1800s.
  • Walnut Creek Historical Museum is a 1911 Masonic lodge. Plan a trip inside to view the unique Masonic Emblem tin ceiling and the ring of lights used during Masonic ceremonies.

Food and Entertainment

  • A variety of grilled meats by Walnut’s local Optimist Club, a wiener wagon with several different offerings and lemonade.
  • Homemade pies & ice cream will be sold by a local church.
  • The Walnut Community Center Foundation will be selling beverages to raise funds to renovate and convert the school to a community center. This much needed project is a result of school consolidation in 2015.
  • A beer garden along with a DJ, Jam Time DJ Productions, will be set up, along with various food & beverage vendors.
  • Ice cold lemonade by free will offering will be provided by the Walnut Creek Historical Museum.
  • Wine-On-Wheels, and smoothies will also be served.
  • Glenn’s Pub will be serving Vodka lemonades and bloody marys. This pub features a giant Clydesdale Horse mural on the wall.
  • Free wine tasting at B Restored & Mabel’s Old Fashioned Rose downtown.

For more information on Walnut’s RAGBRAI plans, visit:



Our last town on the route is Marne.  With 120 proud residents, Marne is excited to host RAGBRAI for the first official time since the 80’s.

Marne was founded in 1875 with 73 people. Population grew to 1153 by 1880. The city name came from a city in Germany called Marne. Early establishments included a church, four general stores, a school, a brick factory, a stock yard, and a dentist. Marne served as a home base for railroad workers building the railroad. Population decreased as workers moved on, and eventually the railroad left and the grain elevator burned down.

The Marne fire department is one of the most vital organizations in Marne. The fire department was established in the early years after the founding of the town and the members have faithfully continued their tradition of service to the community. The original hose cart of the fire department is still preserved and is shown in parades. The citizens of Marne are proud of the modern firefighting equipment and dedication to the department.  The Fire Department will host a beer garden as riders arrive into town and selling locally grown sweet corn.

Marne will have a local spinning tunes in DJ Chaos and Reklass!

The Masons of Grove Lodge #492 extend a gracious welcome to 2019 RAGBRAI. The Masons plan to serve walking tacos and ice cream to RAGBRAIers.  Grove Lodge #492 was granted a charter from the State of Iowa on June 5th of 1885. The first few years they held meetings at a building that no longer exists and was destroyed by fire. They purchased a building down on highway 83 in 1905. The building originally constructed by the late Thomas Meredith and was a hotel. The Meredith’s of course, left Marne in the early 1900’s and went to Des Moines. The most famous member of the family was the late Edwin T. Meredith who was also a Mason, Shriner, member of the Scottish Rite Bodies of Des Moines and the founder of the Meredith Corp which is the publisher Better Homes and Gardens and Successful Farming. The Masons moved into their present building in 2008. They currently have 51 members and are very active in the Marne community. The Masons of Grove Lodge #492 invite RAGBRAI participants to visit their building and learn more about them.

Baxter Cycle is a Triumph motorcycle dealer in Marne and is an important part of the community. It is a must see for anyone interested in motorcycles both new and old.

The Roadhouse bar is a great local stop for great food and cold drinks. It is a popular stop for RAGBRAI riders.

Marne city park is a small but loved and cared for park. The park is home for slow pitch softball games in the summer, Marne’s July 4th celebration, potluck, and fabulous fireworks display. The park also offers a basketball court, playground, and park shelter.

Marne is a small town with great caring people who are very proud of the small community they live in. It will always be home for them. The community is very excited to be included in the 2019 route! They are excited to meet new friends and welcome back old friends traveling with RAGBRAI. They welcome RAGBRAI riders to come and enjoy their community as much as they do!


For more information on Marne’s RAGBRAI plans, visit:



It’ll be Sunday Funday when we stop in Atlantic! There’s a lot to enjoy here, but for starters they’re going to light up the entire downtown with holiday lights. Scoop the “loop” and then head over to the main stage for some Hairball! That’s right, RAGBRAI’s favorite rockers will be playing for us in Atlantic. If you joined us in 2011 they have moved the stage and vendors up to the city park where we have more trees and shade. Camping will be in the same locations as 2011.

After cleaning up we had a real treat for dinner at First Church of Christ and we mean treats. We had samples of roast beef and mashed potatoes, pasta alfredo, breakfast burritos, scones, and lemon muffins. For the main course we had spaghetti and … oh wait how could we forget… the first pie of the pre ride! And this wasn’t just any pie. It was Pie Lady pie. From apple to sour cream and raisin to watermelon (yes you read that right) they had every kind of pie you could ask for, and ice cream. You can try some yourself on the ride at the Church – it’s a block or two off the route into town (they will have signs). They’re doing this so that they can serve you those elusive refrigerated pies like banana cream. And most importantly, all proceeds from their pie sales will go to Night to Shine (Tim Tebow’s charity). This awesome charity provides young adults with special needs a prom night – including crowning a king and queen! We couldn’t recommend more that you stop in and grab a couple of pieces on the ride.

Be sure to keep an eye on Atlantic’s Facebook and their website (links below) for updates on their RAGBRAI plans!

Historical or interesting things about your town:
Atlantic got its name after a coin toss determined whether it should be named after the Atlantic Ocean or the Pacific Ocean.

Coca-Cola Days: Atlantic is the Coca-Cola capital of Iowa. Every September, the Atlantic Bottling Company presents Coca-Cola Days. It is the second largest Coca-Cola collectors’ mini convention in the United States—second only to the convention in Atlanta, Georgia.

Famous Citizens:

  • Ed Podolak, Kansas City Chiefs NFL running back (1969-1977) and color commentator for Iowa Hawkeyes football games
  • William G. Cambridge, United States federal court judge
  • Ethel T. Wead Mick, founder of Masonic girl’s organization now known as Job’s Daughters
  • Shannon McCormick, actor and voice actor
  • P. Chase, editor of the Atlantic News Telegraph and recipient of the 1934 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing


Interesting Buildings/Restaurants/Sites:
Atlantic’s passenger depot has been preserved and is now used by the Chamber of Commerce.

Interesting Landscapes/Lakes/Parks, etc.
Atlantic promotes healthy living through their local farmers market, swimming pools, multiple parks, Schildberg Recreation Area, and trails.


For more information on Atlantic’s RAGBRAI plans, visit:



We recorded a preview of our journey from Council Bluffs to Atlantic on the JustGoBike Podcast! Listen here: https://soundcloud.com/justgobike/ragbrai-pre-ride-day-1-justgo-gravel-loop

Be sure to tune in each day for the daily updates and photos from the route inspection ride here on the RAGBRAI  site www.ragbrai.com. You can also follow the pre-ride adventure and learn interesting tidbits about the route by following on FACEBOOK  Facebook.com/RAGBRAI or on TWITTER by following @RAGBRAI_IOWA@TJRAGBRAI, or @RAGBRAI_Andrea


WBruce2, Jun 3, 2019 at 11:16 am

I love riding on gravel and have done the gravel loop each time since the first in 2015. But, for the love of God, PLEASE don’t have the graders come down the route so close to the actual ride! Each year the thickness of the gravel has become worse to the point where last year you almost needed a fat tire to not have to get off the bike…and I was riding a cyclocross with 700x35c tires for crying out loud! Those of us who ride gravel don’t mind chatter bumps as much as we mind riding in slurry that has more in common with beach sand than gravel!

88domer, Jun 3, 2019 at 7:05 pm

I second WBruce2’s comments. Last year was like riding in silt. If it’s in as good shape now as you say, they should just leave well enough alone.

Looking forward to coming home for another great ride!

Mark Johnson, Jun 3, 2019 at 10:55 pm

The Atlantic Pie Lady (my mom) and all the other volunteers thoroughly enjoyed serving all of you great RAGBRAI riders. Thanks to the Heritage House for providing the Alfredo, the Downtowner dishing up the Hot Beef cups and the Sweet Joy Shoppe for the pastries and burritos. Your donation to the Night to Shine was a Godsend! Looking forward to seeing you and all the other great RAGBRAI participants July 21st!

Uncle Kraig, Jun 9, 2019 at 10:52 am

The article above says camping will be at the same place as it was in 2011. For those of us who were not there in 2011, can you please share where that will be? Thanks.

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