On July 24, RAGBRAI riders will clip in at Glenwood, Iowa and cycle east through Atlantic, Carroll, Boone, Altoona, Grinnell and Coralville before cruising into Davenport -- and the Bix Beiderbecke jazz festival -- on July 30.
The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa is a seven-day journey across the Hawkeye State and the oldest, largest and longest touring bicycle ride in the world. More than 20,000 cyclists (many of them not officially registered) pedal and party from town to town, camping in designated host communities along the way. The rolling Mardi Gras-style ride attracts people of all backgrounds and abilities. "We've had two Tour de France champions and the worst cyclists in the world," says director T.J. Juskiewicz, referencing Lance Armstrong and Greg LeMond. "It's open for anyone."The route for the 39th annual RAGBRAI is among the shorter and hillier courses: 454 miles with 21,206 feet elevation gain. The course was publicized at the Route Announcement Party on January 29 in Des Moines. "It was kind of like a Christmas morning for a lot of people," Juskiewicz says of the event, which featured live music and hundreds of guests. "It happens in the middle of winter when you're thinking about sunshine and summer; it brightens your day."
More than 200 Iowa towns expressed interest in hosting the event; places were typically eliminated due to size (fewer than 1,500 people) or if they've hosted RAGBRAI in the past five years. Infrastructure, such as road construction was also considered. "It's a gigantic jigsaw puzzle of putting together a safe and enjoyable route," Juskiewicz says. "We want to make it fun and enjoyable, challenging but not too challenging, memorable and different than previous years.
Pocahontas, Iowa; RAGBRAI 2010
The hosting towns now have six months to prepare for an onslaught of cyclists -- a job they don't take lightly, which is exactly why RAGBRAI is so popular. "People in the towns open up their hearts," Juskiewicz says. "They roll out the red carpet to welcome cyclists; you feel like a king when you ride into town."
Boy scouts, church groups and community volunteers fill up cyclists with local barbecue, sweet corn and baked goods -- notably pie, pie and more pie. Every stop is a party with food, music and down-home entertainment. The 2011 ride will undoubtedly feature the usual mix of rock 'n roll cover bands, slip 'n slides, wacky bike sculptures and regional attractions, such as the Adventureland amusement park in Altoona or Mamie Eisenhauer birthplace in Boone.
"We don't have great scenery," Juskiewicz says of Iowa. "We don't have oceans or mountains; we've got cornfields and bean fields and barns." And good people with good pie.