Revisiting the RAGBRAI Route Inspection Pre-Ride

029We had a great week on the RAGBRAI route visiting the towns along the RAGBRAI route and inspecting the roads and traffic patterns along the way.  Here are some thoughts from some of our pre-riders:

DAN & BECKY MCKAY – RIDE RIGHT STATE CHAIRMAN (KNOXVILLE, IOWA)

Dan’s part…

Well, another great pre-ride. The towns are certainly excited for us to arrive in July. The pies are going to be spectacular if the pre-ride pies were any indication. The food should be great also. I know we all enjoyed some of the fine brisket prepared by Captain’s Barbeque in Knoxville and the breakfast at The Longest Yard in Dallas Center. Dave Dickey and the good people of Packwood are excited to have RAGBRAI back. They will be showing off the new sign that was purchased with the community funds raised last time RAGBRAI was in town. They are planning a whole community effort again this year (expect good eats here!) Becky was amazed at the 3 breakfast day and was not sure that that much food was needed. I assured her that as the stoker she needed to be well fed and rested to propel the tandem down the road and up those Iowa hills.

ketch IMG_3257_cropOh, yes, the route. Spent a lot of time on the tandem in the rain the first part of the week. Becky and I enjoyed the scenery. I think this year there will be less corn and soy beans and more vistas with rivers, hill and trees. The hills will challenge you if you are not ready for them (Mocking Bird hill was a special challenge – we will ride up it on the tandem this time!) The roads are in great shape or will be by the time we get back. As usual the winter was hard on some locations. I am confident that the small problem spots will be taken care of. You still need to be vigilant and watch the road. Cracks and pot holes are an expected hazard in Iowa and the best way to avoid them is to slow down and enjoy the ride. It is not a race and you will be rewarded with great views and the friendliest people in the world.

Looking forward to a night in our hometown and activities that will highlight our community.  Knoxville awaits. It is going to be another great RAGBRAI.

Becky’s part…

First off … thanks MUCH for allowing me to tag the WHOLE pre-ride this year…what an honour!!!!!! And thanks to Judy and Helen for teaching me the finer points of “support.”

As to the route…..When announced in January, we were WILD to see that RAGBRAI was coming to Knoxville! What a HIGH.

What was memorable about PRE for me..

* The home baked goods by the Menonite ?? community in Dallas Center. WOW, what taste and what pride in their offerings. Rain or no!

063001* The charming walled brick garden space outside the bike shop in Perry. What a find! A refreshing and quaint reprieve. A sit, a beverage and great people to visit with.

* The homemade honey-butter in Minburn!! And I have the maker’s name and contact info!! This community is TRULY excited and looking forward to RAGBRAI!! Despite the rain we rode in on the warmth and good eats were heart & soul warming!!

* It was an experience to actually visit some of the towns I passed going back & forth to Omaha the year I worked at the University. Nice to put a “community face” with the name on the Interstate sign.

* As Dan indicated we did not complete the HILL in Springbrook State Park. Mockingbird Hill is now known to us as Mockingduck Hill….as we ducked out about 1/2 way up it!  :-) We’ll get it in July!

290JIM & JUDY GREEN (SUN VALLEY LAKE– RETIRED RAGBRAI DIRECTOR & RETIRED RAGBRAI CREW MEMBER)

On June 1st we headed to Council Bluffs, IA in pursuit of the “perfect” Pre-Ride.

The core group was as anxious and enthusiastic as we were.

AND the trailer that we pulled (thanks to Joe Nydegger) pulled just like “a little red wagon” behind our Dodge Ram.  We are always anxious about the two computers AND the operators!  This year all went well with just one “shutdown” during the day which Scott and Rich handled for us as we cornered them before they left from their break out in the middle of rural Iowa.  Our big thanks to Rich Ketcham who designed this program which worked so well.

935607_139115082951994_1842184501_nRoads, for the most part, were in really good shape.  Two of the bad stretches we were told are in the schedule to be fixed before RAGBRAI.  We did encounter rain , but only one day it forced the riders to quit because of lightening.  We are hoping that the actual RAGBRAI, 2013 doesn’t have as much rain as we did.

Ice Cream Alert!!!

A first – a Dairy Queen with two live horses at the walk-up window.  Monroe ice cream is delicious.

Make sure to stop there…  And don’t forget the Knoxville Dairy Queen with a little Peace Tree Root Beer!

It’s always fun to meet committees in the pass through and overnight towns.  AND of course, we never turned down the samples of food they were planning to serve on the actual ride.  Let us warn you….. Do not plan on losing weight on this ride.  But all the homemade food was so delicious…even if we feel malnourished this week as we try to cut back on food consumption.

With the short days, it’s the perfect week to stop in these communities and enjoy their Iowa hospitality.  We sure experienced it every day of the week!  Scenery was beautiful and there were some very unique sights and stores.  So don’t be in such a hurry that you miss any of these unique opportunities to see and experience Iowa!

May the Wind Always Be at Your Back!

096RICH KETCHAM (AMES – THE GEOBIKE GUY)

Hey fellow cyclists!  If it’s June, it must time to load up the bike, bake up a pile of cookies, and head out with my second family and do the RAGBRAI Route Inspection Ride!  Thanks T.J. for inviting me back for my third RIR.  It’s always fun to roll with the team across Iowa, view the route first hand, and meet with all of the communities who will be hosting the ride.  I think you’re going to enjoy RAGBRAI XLI!

When T.J. first shared the route with me earlier this year, I was initially intrigued by the shortness of most of the days.  The bulk of the ride consists of 50 to 60 mile days.  Only on day 2 from Harlan to Perry do you get to rack up some big miles, especially if you add in the optional Karras Loop.  After running the elevation statistics, I realized that although most of the days were short, they still packed a lot of climb.

I think you’re going to really enjoy the host towns this year.  Make sure you stop off and enjoy their offerings.  This brings me to my second favorite thing about RAGBRAI, the FOOD!!  I can’t eat everything in sight (many claimed that I’ve tried), so the following is a partial list.  For those of you who enjoy tenderloins, be sure to check out Prime Time in Guthrie Center and have one of their hand-breaded tenderloins.  Best ever and you’ll need it further down the road to help get up the little hill at Springbrook State Park.  In Packwood, check out the garlic and cheese sausage at the Packwood Locker & Meats.  For those of you who enjoy brewed refreshments, Peace Tree Brewing in Knoxville is a must stop.  I hear the siren call of a Blond Fatale.

021It was a three-way tie this year in the dessert category.  The Jersey Freeze in Monroe has some of the best ice cream ever!  Brain freeze factor is off the charts.  Have two or three servings, find a nice shady spot and sleep it off.  For those of you who enjoy a good pastry, Jaarsma Bakery in Pella is a required stop.  I fell victim to a chocolate cream filled Bismarck.  If you go there, go with a friend who will pull you out if you become too fixated with all the dessert options.  When you get to Bussey, make sure you try and find their scratch made frosted angel food cake.   I could tell I was enjoying the spoils of an expert baker!

parrott photo[1]parrott pre rideSo, how did the ride go?  Well, Mother Nature still rules everything.  It’s been a cool, windy and wet spring in Iowa and it’s been hard to get a lot of training in.  One of the benefits to all of the rain though is that things are really green and lush!  At least we didn’t have to deal with 100+ degree-days like we did the last two years.  Hopefully the ride will be a tad bit cooler this year.

My favorite day was Harlan to Perry.  The weather was near ideal and hopping the hills in western Iowa was a real treat.  Perhaps my most difficult day was day three from Perry to Des Moines.  When we launched, the temperature was around 48, the rain was coming down, and our friend the head winds came for an extended visit.  Another memorable day was Knoxville to Oskaloosa.  The hills coming south from Pella were plentiful and beautiful.  This year I had a mink run across the road in front of me!

The bulk of the roads are in great shape and a dream to roll on.  I heard rumors that the final few miles into Oskaloosa will be on resurfaced roads!  Conditioning is going to be important this year.  Even though the days are short, there is still a bit of climb on the route.  The more time you spend conditioning will equate to a more enjoyable ride.  Also, have your bike serviced prior to rolling and review the Ride Right rules.  Take time to enjoy the ride each day.  Find a road companion each day, enjoy a good conversation, and have fun checking out the sites.

Thank you T.J., Scott, the rest of the RAGBRAI staff, all of this year’s host communities and all of their volunteers for all that you do!  I had a great RAGBRAI RIR.  Hope to see everyone out on the road.  Cheers!

RANDY “DARYL” HECHT (CHICAGO – TEAM DARRELL)

Our primary goal for the week was to inspect the road conditions to identify areas that could be repaired to improve rider safety.   Although there are a few stretches of traditional Iowa cement roads with constant expansion seams, most of the roads are smooth asphalt and some sections will be freshly paved in time for RAGBRAI.  Be aware of the center line rumbles in addition to those along the right shoulder in many areas of the route.

This year’s RAGBRAI will be challenging despite the short daily mileage.   Don’t let this year’s mileage and weather reduce your training for the July ride.  The shorter daily mileage does give each rider the opportunity to stop, eat, rest, and take in the local flavor of each pass through town.  The pre-ride group got to taste some the food that will be available on this year’s ride.

As with any ride, the goal is to finish the daily mileage.  However, an important part of any ride is to fully experience the ride and create memories.  In preparing for this year’s ride, think about ways to make it memorable for years to come.  Meet new people by talking to other riders and local townsfolk.  Try a new food offering or select a flavor of pie different from your favorite.  Spend time in a small town and tour a unique landmark.   Breathe in the fresh rural Iowa air while capturing the scenic route.  Based on the experience of the pre-ride team, this year’s RAGBRAI has the potential to be the most memorable RAGBRAI to date.

JOE & CINDY CONNOLLY (COUNCIL BLUFFS – VETERAN RAGBRAIERS SINCE 1996 & RAGBRAI CREW MEMBER)

038Joe & Cindy did the Pre-Ride on a Tandem

View from the front (by Joe)

Riding a tandem (or any longer bike) takes extra care, especially on a crowded ride like RAGBRAI. Having an extra set of eyes (and legs) is a great upside and I got to spend a week riding very close to my best friend. For me the ride had several unexpected high points. The first was only 4 miles into the ride when we spent breakfast on Sunday in the Historic 100 Block of Council Bluffs for breakfast. Like most riders we like to put in a few miles before breakfast and this was perfect.  Council Bluffs has created an urban breakfast stop similar to Leeds (Sioux City) and the Czech Village (Cedar Rapids) from past RAGBRAIs.

My favorite day was the ride from Knoxville to Oskaloosa – I felt it was the most scenic with a great halfway stop in Pella. Throughout the day we saw several well-manicured Century Farms and had plenty to see and talk about.

Many times the final day seems like a race to the finish for many riders, teams and charters. I worry with a long day people might not stop and enjoy the unique villages of Van Buren County.

My disappointment of the week was having to SAG into Des Moines on Tuesday because of the weather – I had been looking forward to riding into the city.

Riding a tandem on RAGBRAI sometimes feels like driving a semi-truck surrounded by sportscars. If you are close to a tandem remember that they need extra room to maneuver and stop and if you are riding a tandem be sure to plan ahead and create the space you need for a safe ride.

064058109061022013IMG_20130608_122134_406086063greens 023View from the back (Cindy)

Some say the view from the back of a tandem never changes but the reality is you have more time and more flexibility to 320143look around at the countryside as you ride by. On the pre-ride I was amazed at all of the various wildflowers I saw along the way. The colors were vibrant and framed the rural views of Iowa.

My best day was Friday – Oskaloosa to Fairfield. The terrain was a nice surprise for me – it was a great ride and a little more flat than I expected. It helped that the weather was nice and the pie in Packard was outstanding (Joe had 4 pieces).

I know some are disappointed in the short-ish days (several around 50 miles) but I think it will be a unique opportunity to spend some time in the pass-through and overnight towns. And even though some of the days are short – they are still challenging and should make for a great ride.

KAREN PARROTT (IOWA CITY – BICYCLISTS OF IOWA CITY)

I’ve lived in Iowa all my life, but I was awestruck again by the beauty of western Iowa. We went up, up, up on the hills, then rode along the crest of a hill with a panoramic view over the countryside, then came the swoop down to the valley. Repeat every few miles! Iowa is green and lush this year and I think the RAGBRAI riders are in for a real treat with this route. We’ll enjoy showing off the beauty of Iowa on RAGBRAI!

HELEN DEZEEUW (ROCK VALLEY – RAGBRAI CREW MEMBER /INFORMATION & MERCHANDISE TRAILERS)

RandyDaryl2This inspection route was the first opportunity I had to see the biker’s route.  As the support driver for my family in the early 90’s I went straight from one overnight town to the next overnight town so I never experienced any pass through towns.  The last few years I have been working in the merchandise trailer so again we go from one overnight town to the next.  What a delight it was to experience some of the sights and tastes that the bikers talk about.

As I traveled the route in a slow moving vehicle (have you ever gone across Iowa in a vehicle at about 20 miles per hour?) I had the opportunity to enjoy very scenic landscapes.  Southern Iowa has lots of hills and unique places to spend some time observing.  Being of Dutch ancestry the town of Pella with their windmills and Delft pottery was a highlight for me.  I also enjoyed getting out of the car at Fort Smith just a few miles east of Hedrick (near Martinsburg) and took a step back into time.  Antique seekers check out this amazing spot.  Also view on line at http://www.heartlandconnection.com/news/story.aspx?id=863275#.UbiDmvk3uxA

The scenic route of 2013 will be physically challenging and aesthetically pleasing.  Take your time and enjoy.

HuffNpuffers Ragbrai Route Inspection Ride _2013LYLE DEZEEUW (ROCK VALLEY – RAGBRAI CREW MEMBER/SAG DRIVER)

This was my first pre-ride other than last year Sioux Center to Cherokee.  I enjoyed it very much.  I

think it was probably the most scenic ride I have ridden. I have ridden in 7 other RAGBRAI.  Granted there are a few hills but that’s to be expected.  Most of the hills are rolling type hills.  The best part of this pre-ride though is the camaraderie that developed between those of us that rode all week.  I looked forward to the ride because now when we do it in July, as a SAG-WAGON driver I will know the route better than going into it blindly. I know the riders will thoroughly enjoy the meeting towns as well as the pass through towns because they did a bang-up job of hosting us on the pre-ride. The overnight towns have a lot in store for the riders which everyone should enjoy very much.

WARREN “DARIL” HECHT (CHICAGO – TEAM DARRELL)

Our primary goal for the week was to inspect the road conditions to identify areas that could be repaired to improve rider safety.   Although there are a few stretches of traditional Iowa cement roads with

003KENT HARFST (WEBSTER CITY – ASSISTANT CITY MANGER / RAGBRAI CO-CHAIR in 2012)

Our primary goal for the week was to inspect the road conditions to identify areas that could be repaired to improve rider safety.   Although there are a few stretches of traditional Iowa cement roads with

LISA MORMANN (DYERSVILLE – VETERAN RAGBRAIER)

RAGBRAI is my favorite week of the year. Where else can you spend time with 10,000+ of your favorite cycling buddies from around the world? RAGBRAI is a time where you can catch up with old friends and make new ones. I first got interested in RAGBRAI when it ended in my home town of Bellevue in 1989. From that point forward I was interested in cycling. This will be my 10th consecutive RAGBRAI. I am an Iowa native, and never realized all of the history to be found in our small towns, until it started riding still enjoying and learning every day.

048I was really excited about this year’s route at the announcement party in January because I know I would have A LOT of time to stop in each town and chat with the locals or pull up to a farmer’s standing in his lane and talk crops, or maybe a power nap under a tree or maybe even a sag stop along the road.

This year I road the last two days of the pre-ride. From my experience we should have great ride to the river. The roads were outstanding no rumble strips even to speak of. Don’t let the shorts days fool you, we are still riding in and out of a few hilly river valleys. Iowa is not flat and weather is very unpredictable from day to day, so training in all conditions an you will have a great ride.

006aThis year again,like the past, will have OUTSTANDING pie and food for the riders, We had some samples on the pre ride: OMG it was good. We also stopped at multiple restaurants and bars. I plan on returning from RAGBRAI about 7-10lbs heavier that I left, don’t hold back enjoy the food it’s one week a year and you eamed it. The locals are pumped for all the riders to come through. Let’s show these towns an outstanding time.

011Let’s make more RAGBRAI memories. Ride Smart and See you in July!!!

GREG ROECKER & DENISE REINIG (HARLAN – TEAM HUFF’N PUFFERS & HARLAN’S RIDE RIGHT COMMITTEE)

324It was great to ride with our enthusiastic friends from RAGBRAI, RIDE RIGHT and the Iowa Bike Coalition on the 2013 Pre-Ride Inspection Trip!! Several of us members of the Harlan Huff’N’Puffers Bike Club rode most of the first 2 days from Council Bluffs to Perry. There are always 2 things you can’t help but notice : The Fantastic Iowa Hospitality such as displayed by Underwood and Shelby and Beautiful Rolling fields and hills which make Iowa small towns so Great! What a kick start to the week ahead!  This will be Harlan’s 6th time hosting as an overnight town and this year promises to be the best yet!  Our theme of ”Pit Stop in Harlan” is to recognize a Harlan native, Tiny Lund, for his winning  the 1963 Daytona 500 NASCAR Race 50 years ago and the Shelby County Speedway . When you ride from Harlan make sure you spend some time in the Danish community of Kimballton and if you ride the John Karras Loop, Elk Horn will be ready. Springbrook Park north of Guthrie Center has a “Little Tester” of a hill you’ll enjoy!

Just 5 weeks to get ready to Ride. See Ya on the Road!037

 

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