We had another fun day riding through beautiful southern Iowa today, leaving Leon with two of their committee members and heading out to Garden Grove, Humeston (meeting town), Cambria, Millerton, New York, Bethlehem, Confidence, Walnut City, (and for some of us) Honey Creek Resort on the Karras Loop, then to Mystic and Centerville. We had 65.1 miles of riding, plus 32.3 miles on the Karras Loop. With all that we had only 2,708 feet of climb on rolling hills.
The road quality was overall very good. The most challenging hill came just as we curved around Rathbun Lake into Mystic, it’s a long, gradual hill that Karras Loopers will have to climb twice.
Word to the wise, there are some very small communities on today’s route. You would do well to fill up in the larger towns like Humeston and Mystic so that you don’t run out of fuel before you get to Centerville.
Here are the towns that we visited today:
The first town of the day will be Garden Grove. It has been 35 years since this little town of 211 residents last hosted their only RAGBRAI visit in 1981.
Garden Grove was founded April 24, 1846 by Mormon settlers. It is believed to be the oldest Iowa settlement West of the Mississippi River. The first gas station in Decatur County was in Garden Grove.
There are 2 WWI/WWII era cannons on display at the city park. City Park displays a plaque given to the city by Mormons. It is mounted to a stone in the park.
You might visit the shady park named after one their famous citizens, the late Chris Street, the former Iowa Hawkeye basketball player.
The Stearns Mansion had been the subject of a paranormal show “A Haunting.” The current owners/inhabitants have not experienced any paranormal happenings. Stearns Mansion and the McClung House are both on the National Register of Historic Places.
Mormon Pioneer settlement and Cemetery Park is located approximately ½ mile West of town; it’s the location of some original settlements and where the original Mormon cemetery is located.
Lady Amber Inn- 19th century hotel undergoing restoration and remodeling by the same family that restored the Stearns Mansion. Located in downtown Garden Grove.
HUMESTON (meeting town)
The next stop on our ride was one of our favorites ever – it’s not every day you get to ride a rodeo bull! Of course their theme is Bullish in Humeston!
Historical or interesting things about Humeston:
Humeston is a thriving town in Southern Iowa. It is home to 40 businesses and is located 20 miles NE of Leon, and 45 miles from Centerville. Humeston has a City Park, two RV parks and 3 B&B’s. The Depot Park in Humeston has 13 full hookups, a restored train depot serving as City Hall, a Railroad Museum with an old wooden railroad water tower and an army tank. Lakeside Park has 30 camping sites, a new shelter house, shower house, picnic tables, a lake for fishing and boating and a 9-hole sand green golf course. The City Park features a shelter house, band stand, a 3-tier Miracle Mega-tower, basketball court, and public restrooms with plenty of benches and tables.
Chris Street- played University of Iowa basketball as #40. Chris grew up in the Humeston area and attended Mormon Trail Community Schools until his Sophomore year.
Jason Dent- Best known for Whistle-Nut, by rodeo crowds throughout the Midwest. However, Oley, his rodeo-bucking bull is also very famous. Oley performs maneuvers readily upon Whistle-Nuts cues. Very fun to watch and take pictures with.
The first brick building was built in 1885 to serve as a bank and telephone office. It is now apart of Snyders (a gift and variety store). The inventory is truly amazing and has been owned by the same family since 1949.
Across the street is Grass Roots, a unique Café that serves the visitors who come to Humeston as a destination town. On many days there are shoppers from surrounding counties and even other states who find their way to humeston.
Interesting Landscapes/Lakes/Parks, etc:
The old City Reservoir has been turned into Lakeside Park. Located 1 mile North of Humeston. The City Park in downtown Humestone has been renamed as Christ Street Memorial Park to honey Chris himself.
Humeston is a friendly town of 500 residents. Their slogan is “Where things get done.” Their accomplishments since 1994 are a new elementary school, new church, Front Street Market (Community owned grocery store), library, renovating Main Street, Mega Tower in City Park, Grass Roots Café, renovating the swimming pool and a new Casey’s. Behind all of these efforts is the Mormon Trail Chamber, which sponsors Watermelon Days in July and Hometown Holidays in December. Humeston is also home to a rare Sand Green golf course – there will be a three hole course for those who want to try their hand!
You can take free pictures with Whistle Nut (International Pro Rodeo Funny Man) and his bull, Ole – we all did!! There will also be a beer & bloody Mary tent featuring the Mudpuppies (live band that entertained a year ago in Ackley), local entertainment stage, antique tractor display and car show. They are also, almost exactly (like ¼ mile off) of being half-way between the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, so we will have our own little canal to dip tires in.
Food and Drink:
Local vendors will include corn, shrimp, meatballs on a stick. Famous cinnamon rolls. Pulled pork sandwiches. Ham balls. And lots and lots of pie!!
Notice the old school house that’s being repaired as you roll past the shady town of Cambria. Or stop and take a break under the large tree in front of the school – you may need it if you’ll be completing the Karras Loop!
Millerton is the smallest town on the RAGBRAI route this year. The town population is just 45 people according to the last census. The Wayne County town has hosted RAGBRAI 3 previous towns the last one in 2009.
It’s been said the traffic is horrible in New York, but the day the pre-ride crew rode through we had no delays at all!! Smooth sailing past this unincorporated town.
Back in the 1800s this town was home to three grocery stores, six doctors, three churches, two dentists and a post office. After the railroad and coal mining business dried up in the area, most people packed up and left. Today all you will see of Bethlehem is a tiny chapel and the Clark family home.
Bethlehem Chapel will be open to the public. If you are a couple interested in getting married on RAGBRAI this year, this would hands-down be the place to do it. Though the chapel itself is tiny, you can fit 10,000 of your best friends on the lawn outside.
For more information on Bethlehem from our last visit:
Confidence is about 45 miles into this 65 mile day into Centerville. The New Providence Baptism Church is planning to feed and hydrate hungry RAGBRAIers the day the ride rolled into their area. The last time RAGBRAI stopped, seven years ago in 2009, the church was able to re-carpet their basement with the RAGBRAI proceeds. They hope to re-carpet their upstairs this year!
The church will plan to serve tenderloins, fruit cups, hard boiled eggs, water and Gatorade in the park and at the gazebo.
Karras Loop riders will get two chances to pass through Walnut City. Everyone else will make the final turn here South as they head to Mystic and on into Centerville.
RATHBUN LAKE/HONEY CREEK RESORT
The split-off to take the optional Karras Loop will be relatively late in the ride this year, so you’ll have some extra time to decide if you want to go for the optional 32.3 mile loop. If you do, you’ll be able to pick up your Karras Loop Patch from RAGBRAI cofounder John Karras himself at Honey Creek Resort. Note: this is the only place that you’ll be able to do so, if you do the loop be sure to drop in to the resort before moving on.
Historic or interesting things about the town:
Rathbun Lake is one of the largest lakes in Iowa, and was completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1971, with Richard Nixon as the keynote speaker at the ribbon cutting ceremony. The lake is known for its diverse wildlife and many opportunities for outdoor activities such as fishing, hiking, and boating.
Honey Creek Resort State Park was developed as a part of Iowa’s Destination State Park Initiative. Honey Creek Resort itself was very recently declared financially stable and sold to a private operator.
Mystic will be the last town before riders head to Centerville. The last time RAGBRAI visited was 1981, a mere 35 years ago! Mystic is READY for a return visit.
Mystic was founded in 1887. Mystic was booming between 1910 and 1920 with a population of 2800. These were the coal mining days. Mystic had approximately 20 coal mines.
A fire in 1910 destroyed the East end (business district) of Main Street and a fist in 1911 destroyed the West end of Main Street. All the businesses were rebuilt.
The original brick main street in Mystic was laid in 1918 and still remains today. The bricks were made in Centerville, IA. The old water tower for the Milwaukee Railroad in Mystic is the only one remaining in the state, it is located south of Main Street (along the rail road tracks). Mystic has the only remaining steam engine water tower in the state of Iowa. Mystic will be having a 50/50 drawing to raise money to restore our historic steam engine water tower. Tickets are $1 and the drawing will take place at 5pm.
Mystic is planning to have a variety of food vendors, a big beer garden and live bands (Rick Zaputil and the Mud Cats, along with Skylar Larson and Doug Ducey) The town will serve pulled pork, brats, grilled tenderloins, pies, ham and boiled egg on a stick, fruit on a stick, cinnamon rolls, water, Gatorade and adult beverages (of course, lots of cold beers!).
The town runs goat races every 4th of July and will be have the goats ready for RAGBRAIers to compete in goat racing!
Be sure to sign the town wall before leaving Mystic!
RAGBRAI proceeds will be splits between the Mystic Volunteer Fire Department, Mystic Community Center and the Mystic Cemetery Association (excluding the 50/50)
For more information on Mystic’s RAGBRAI plans, visit:
The RAGBRAI theme for Centerville is ‘There’s No Place Like Centerville’. We’ve been told there will be flying monkeys. The Centerville RAGBRAI committee presented RAGBRAI with a proclamation and key to the city.
Appanoose County houses the largest downtown square in Iowa. The Historic Square District is a unique, large, two-block-long square full of buildings over 100 years old, as well as a 112-year-old courthouse. The municipal bandshell located on the square has survived for over 125 years.
Located near Rathbun Lake and Honey Creek Resort, you’ll find lots of outdoor activities in the area. Riders who didn’t ride the Karras Loop the day before will enjoy the ride across the dam the following morning.
- Beverage garden will be downtown surrounding the courthouse square
- Food vendors will also be found at the square
- RAGBRAI staple band Hairball will play center stage on the square downtown.
- Opening act will be Nashville country recording artist John Stone – past opening act for bands such as Aerosmith, Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Kid Rock, Alabama and more.
- There are several haunted houses located in Centerville. The Iowa Paranormal Group is based in Appanoose County.
Other Items of Interest:
- Appanoose County Historical & Coal Mining Museum: a 112-year-old federal building houses artifacts from Appanoose County’s heritage, including a vast amount of coal mining history.
- The Shoppes at Bradley Hall: A 1921 mansion built by banker D.C. Bradley. Its opulent construction now houses a shop full of unique items.
- Famous citizens of Centerville include Simon Estes, Governor Francis M. Drake, Morgan Cline, Major George Landers, Designer of the Tommy Gun, Oscar Payne, Norma Talmadge.
- Infamous events in town include the fact that the shooter of the Valentine’s Day Massacre was married in Centerville. Many mafia connections and lots of bootlegging came out of the county during Prohibition.
For more information on Centerville’s RAGBRAI plans, visit:
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