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Route Inspection Ride: Day 1 – Council Bluffs to Red Oak

  • 31 May, 2009

Twenty riders gathered this morning at the trailhead to the Wabash Trace Natural Trail in Council Bluffs to begin the annual RAGBRAI Route Inspection Ride.  This 442-mile fact finding mission will take place this week, ending at the Mississippi River in Burlington on Saturday, June 6.  


Along the way, the ride swelled as others joined in towns of Mineola and Henderson. Riders from Council Bluffs and Omaha joined retired RAGBRAI Director Jim Green and RIDE RIGHT Chairman Dan McKay on a beautiful morning. 

cb-riders-may-31bBig thanks to Tricia, Greg and Lynn from the Council Bluffs RAGBRAI Committee and to the nice ladies from the Bellevue Bicycle Club for all the great support and encouragement.  Gatorade, breakfast burritos and jelly beans were plentiful throughout the day.


Encouragement was needed as stiff headwinds challenged the riders for the majority of the ride.  20-25 mile-per-hour winds nearly nullified the downhill pushes of the cyclists.


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

, Iowa

Mineola has been a township since 1880 and is currently home to approximately 180 people.  The township is in Mills County, along the Loess Hills Scenic Byway. The scenic Loess Hills run along the western edge of Iowa, were formed by windblown loess (rhymes with bus), a fine and fragile soil, which built up over the years to heights of 200-300 feet. 


Mineola was original named Lewis City. The Chicago, Baltimore and St. Louis Railroad Company purchased the right of way to build a railroad through this area. The Western Improvement Company of Iowa purchased land to lay out a town and the town name was changed to Mineola, supposedly because it was so small.  Businesses soon popped up including a hotel and saloon.may-31-2009-cb-to-ro-019


The Wabash Trace Nature Trail runs through Mineola and is a converted railroad right-of-way running over 60 miles through the scenic Southwest Iowa countryside from Council Bluffs to Blanchard on the Iowa/Missouri border. The railroad tracks and ballast have been removed, and the trail has been resurfaced with crushed limestone. State agencies, individuals, families, businesses, and service organizations have donated the funding and labor to surface the trail, renovate bridges, and place benches and shelters along the trail.


may-31-2009-cb-to-ro-024The name “Taco Ride” has become synonymous on Thursday nights with the Wabash Trace Nature Trail and the 10-mile stretch between the trail head in Council Bluffs and Mineola. For many, the Thursday night ride is a scenic trek through the Loess Hills ending with dinner at the Mineola Steakhouse. For others, the Taco Ride is a social event filled with cycling, scenery and a festive, party atmosphere. Everyone agrees that Thursday on the Wabash is something special.  

Mineola has hosted RAGBRAI one before during RAGBRAI XIV, also on the way from Council Bluffs to Red Oak.

Henderson, Iowa

The small town in the heart of Mills County is home to 171 good people.  This quaint town features a beautiful little city park with gazebo, a playground and community center.

Henderson has hosted RAGBRAI twice before, the last time was during RAGBRAI XXXI on the ride from Glenwood to Shenandoah.

cb-riders-may-31eEmerson, Iowa (Meeting Town)

Also located in Mills County, between the east and west branches of the Nishnabotna River, Emerson has a population of 480 people. 


In 1869 Judge Tubbs, acting as a land agent for the Burlington Railroad Company, purchased land for a new railroad to go through the area.  A.B. Smith, an official of the Railroad Co., named the new town after New England writer and philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson.  All new towns from Red Oak to Glenwood were named for noted writers or poets.


 RAGBRAI festivities will take place in the downtown park and on Main Street.  Main Street features two restaurants with Spanky’s Bar and Grill and Shirley’s Café.  Shirley’s will have a breakfast buffet for early riders before switching to lunch items. They will be serving gooseberry and rhubarb pie and root beer floats.   

“We will have 100 gooseberry pies and 100 rhubarb pies,” says Shirley Straight, the owner of Shirley’s Café.  “We hear the riders like the different types of pies and we will be ready!”  Spanky’s will feature a beverage garden.


Emerson has also hosted RAGBRAI twice before, the last time was also during RAGBRAI XXXI on the ride from Glenwood to Shenandoah.



Red Oak, Iowa

Named for the numerous oak trees that lined the banks of a small stream known as Red Oak Creek, Red Oak boasts 6,000 residents and is nestled along the Nishnabotna River.Most of the camping for RAGBRAI in Red Oak will take place near the Fairgrounds/High School area, Chautauqua Park and the Faith Community Church. 

Entertainment will be spread throughout the community during the daylight hours with entertainment in Fountain Square Park, the Chautauqua Park Pavilion, the Fairgrounds area, Wilson Performing Arts Center, the Church of Nazarene and Faith Community Church.


Some of the featured entertainment earlier in the day includes the United States Air Force Heartland of America Band, Skinny and the Bootleggers and Sheltered Reality, the nation’s first nonprofit group dedicated to helping the homeless and youth in need.


The Fishheads will headline Red Oak’s evening entertainment at the Fairgrounds.  This Omaha-based group of musicians, bill themselves as “The Island Party Alternative Band” with their unique blend of music, comedy and mayhem. “The focus is on the fun,” says guitarist Steve Eisenberg. “People naturally want to cut loose and have a good time, and that’s something we do better than anyone else out there.”  This is easy to see whenever the group starts playing their “Fishhead-ized” versions of reggae, ska, modern rock and oldies tunes.


Red Oak has also hosted RAGBRAI three previous years; the last time was in 1997 for RAGBRAI XXV. 


Day 2 – Monday, June 1

Hopefully the winds will be a litter kinder on the ride from Red Oak to Greenfield.  Tune in tomorrow for another report from the Route Inspection Ride!




  1. Kathleen

    No comments on the road conditions??? I thought that was the intent of the pre-ride.

  2. TJ Juskiewicz

    The Route Inspection Team will prepare a report for the local RIDE RIGHT committees to work with the countty engineers to work with. It takes about a week or so to compile the reports. These become suggestions to the engineers as we know their budgets are stretched. For potential hazards that they can’t repair, we will mark these dangers with signage to warn the cyclists.

  3. Tim Wirick

    1 slice of gooseberry and 1 of rhubarb pie please!!!! Thanks guys have a great week! see you in july

  4. Jim Wile

    Assuming the inspection team did the same thing last year, while riding I don’t remember seeing many (if any) signs about hazard areas; yet every single day I personally saw people go down because of very bad sections of road.

  5. Gia

    Upon arriving in Red Oak be sure to eat at the Casa De Oro Mexican Restaurant! Awesome food! You’ll be glad you did. On Hwy 34.

  6. GorillaDave

    There’s the first big hill a few miles out of Council Bluffs called “Green Hill”. 2.5 miles long. It won’t kill you, but it’s not any fun, that’s for sure. Look for the lammas on the right as you climb.

  7. Shari

    Please be sure and stop in at The Beer Barn in Henderson on July 19th – we have ice cold Miller Lite – music & lots of fun going on in our beer garden hope to see you there, Shari

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