As you already know, we launch at Missouri Valley, overnight in Harlan, Jefferson, Ames, Tama, North Liberty, and Tipton, and greet the Mississippi at Le Claire. All total, the route clocks in at about 460 miles and we'll be doing a little over 21,000 feet of climb. As far as the ride is concerned, it doesn't make any of the all-time ride top-10 lists. Make no mistake though, we'll be doing about 8,000 more feet of climb this year than we did last year and proper training will be important. On a daily basis though, there are a couple of days that should get your attention.
We’ll begin our journey at the home of Kris Dyer Cochenour ’79 in Missouri Valley. The town is still recovering from devastating floods a year ago, which forced Dr. Jack Cochenour to evacuate the Willow Park Veterinary Clinic, which has since been relocated downtown. The Cochenours have space for tents on their well-shaded yard and a Quonset building with restroom facilities that could double as a storm shelter, if needed. They’re right across the street from the swimming pool and fairgrounds. They’re also near a rail line and trains run 24/7, so bring a good set of earplugs.
Day 1: Sunday – Missouri Valley to Harlan
Distance: 59 miles
Climb: 3,797 feet
You can thank the founding fathers for locating the town of Missouri Valley on the downhill side of the Loess Hills, nestled in the Boyer River valley. However, it is still a river valley and the riders will eventually have to climb out. Climbing is the operative word for most of the day as the route winds its way through Beebeetown, Underwood, Neola, Minden, Shelby and Tennant on the way to Harlan. The good news is that there are only 59 miles to our first overnight stop in Harlan. The other good news is that this will be the fifth time that Harlan has hosted RAGBRAI, so the folks there are old hands at meeting riders' needs.
In Harlan, we’ll be staying with Jim Bruck ’77, who is also hosting our good friends the Lizard Kings.
Day 2: Monday – Harlan to Jefferson
Distance: 83 miles
Climb: 5,239 feet
The ride into Jefferson will be a true test of cyclists' conditioning, with 5,600 feet to climb over 83 miles. The route resembles a pastrami sandwich: Imagine two pieces of bread, flat on either end, with mounds of meat in the middle. As riders approach Jefferson they'll see what looks like a grain silo on the horizon. It is not. It is a 162-foot bell tower. Anyone who's not too tired from the 14.5 mile Karras Century Loop can ascend the 18 flights of steps to the top. Me? I'll take the elevator.
This day rates as the eighth most climb and the seventh hardest day. For those of you new to RAGBRAI, on this day you'll learn a new word that you'll either love or hate: "Rollers." We'll do about 90 percent of this climb during the first 55 miles of the day after which things should settle down. Get going on those training miles! Also, the Karras Loop is this day. So for those of you gunning for a century, you'll be looking at about another 1,000 feet of climb. The best way to handle this kind of day is to strike up a great conversation with a fellow RAGBRAI rider, find a comfortable pace and click off the miles.
We’re still in need of hosts in Jefferson.
Day 3: Tuesday – Jefferson to Ames
Distance: 57 miles
Climb: 1,377 feet
With the second shortest mileage of the route, the ride to Ames is 57 miles. The road stays flat until it reaches Boone and the Des Moines River valley, where there a few hills will await riders. We can be thankful that none of the hills rivals Pilot Mound. A flat section and a few little hills later, riders will arrive in the heart of Cyclone country.
The route takes us through Grand Junction, Dana, Ogden, and Boone, and the words that you'll learn today are, "cream puff." In short, this will nice day to recover. A neat feature you'll experience on this day is traversing the Des Moines River valley between Ogden and Boone. The views are great and the climb isn't that bad. Take a little break on the bridge and check out the river turtles. I've heard rumors that Ames might be offering up some great entertainment.
We don’t yet have hosts in Ames, but I’m optimistic.
Day 4: Wednesday – Ames to Tama/Toledo
Distance: 78 miles
Climb: 2,869 feet
This day's 78-mile ride sets out on one of the longest of RAGBRAI's traverses of the Lincoln Highway, through Nevada, Colo and State Center, to name just a few of the towns. All along the way are remnants of businesses that sprang up along the old two-lane highway in the first half of the last century. The route will take riders along the fringes of the Meskwaki Indian Settlement on the way to the overnight in Iowa's twin cities of Tama and Toledo.
The first 25 miles are along the old Lincoln Highway and are relatively flat. Another favorite portion of this days ride is from Le Grand to Tama. We'll be hopping watersheds which means some hills but the views are great. Also, the last five miles into Tama cross the Iowa River valley and are flat miles.
We’ll actually be staying three miles east of Toledo at the home of Charlotte and Stan Upah, parents of Kristy Upah ’08, an intern in the Coe PR office this spring and the person most responsible for the college weight loss competition that has helped me lose 24 pounds – so far. Though there’s about 0.9 miles of gravel between the paved road and the Upah home – fear not, shuttle service will be arranged – this promises to be a fun stop with a play room, volleyball court, ping pong table, weight room and hot tub at our disposal. The Upahs have also offered to provide dinner for us.
Day 5: Thursday – Tama/Toledo to North Liberty
Distance: 76 miles
Climb: 3,123 feet
The ride from Tama-Toledo to North Liberty covers 76 miles and about 3,300 feet of climb. The route is a real mix of terrain, from hills in all their various forms to good stretches of flats, and plenty of towns along the way in which to rest and fuel up. One of the towns is Luzerne, as in Switzerland; fortunately there are no Alps, just one big hill near town. The route will also wind through three of the Amana Colonies: West Amana, South Amana and Homestead. Be sure and check out the historic gas station as we come into Belle Plaine.
An in-ground swimming pool greets us in North Liberty at the home of CJ Marcy ’93 and Jenn Wilson Marcy ’96. The home is also near Lake Macbride. Because of the close proximity to Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, we’re going to invite our family and friends in the area to join us for a pot luck dinner this evening.
Day 6: Friday – North Liberty to Tipton
Distance: 65 miles
Climb: 3,051 feet
The ride out of North Liberty brings the cyclists through the twists and turns that make up the area around Lake Macbride State Park and the Cedar River Valley. A highlight of the day will be the ride through the Cornell College campus in Mount Vernon. We’ll fly the Coe College colors prominently this day. Most of the major hills on this 65-mile-ride arise after Martelle, and with the any luck riders will have a tailwind to push them on to the overnight stop in Tipton.
In Tipton, we’ll be staying at the 124-year-old home of Bob Rickard ’58, which offers a putting green and an old barn equipped with a big-screen TV where Bob gathers with friends for Iowa Hawkeye football games. The home overlooks the park and is near the high school. This will be the spot for the annual gathering of Kohawks on RAGBRAI.
Day 7: Saturday – Tipton to Le Claire
Distance: 53 miles
Climb: 1,835 feet
Many RAGBRAI critics have claimed that hell would freeze over before RAGBRAI returned to the Quad Cities area. Well, if you have been paying attention to the weather this winter you know that Hades hit the ice age, and RAGBRAI will be ending in Le Claire, a hair north of the cities. The birthplace of Buffalo Bill Cody will be the site for the final tire dip of RAGBRAI XXXVI. Another interesting tidbit about this day's route is that every town the ride passes through is on the route for the first time. That has not happened since the earliest days of the ride.
For those of you who haven't been to Le Claire - the view of the Mississippi seems to go forever. Find a spot in the shade and watch the river drift by.