Monday, January 25, 2016

RAGBRAI 2016: Route heads to scenic southern Iowa

Don’t let perceptions fool you.
The XLIV RAGBRAI course will lead cyclists across the state’s scenic southern terrain, but it’s not as daunting as participants might expect.
“Any time we announce a southern route, people automatically assume it’s going to be extremely hilly and very difficult,” RAGBRAI director T.J. Juskiewicz said. “The interesting thing with this route is, the data says it’s not that difficult.”
This year’s ride/social gathering begins July 23 in Glenwood and ends July 30 in Muscatine.
The course covers 419.9 miles (third-shortest in the event’s 44-year history), with a total climb of 18,488 feet (making it the 24th flattest).
Add everything up and you have what should be the 15th easiest course.
“We’re definitely overdue to go south,” Juskiewicz said. “If you look at our state, most of the population is north of Interstate 80.
“So it’s hard to get to everyone who wants it.”
Ed Raber, director of Washington Economic Development Group, played the bagpipes 15 years ago as people last rode into Washington. When RAGBRAI riders roll into Washington this year, however, it will also be during the town’s fair.
“There have been so many changes and improvements that have really transformed Washington. I can’t even think of all of the amazing things, so many incredible things that have happened to Washington since the last time RAGBRAI came through,” Raber said. “We’ve totally transformed downtown. There is a new high school. I wouldn’t be surprised if people stayed in the high school. There is just a ton of stuff that wasn’t there last time. It will be the perfect example of what we’re all about.”
Assistant Director of the Washington Chamber of Commerce Jamie Carpenter said Washington residents have been waiting for this moment for 15 years.
“The whole town supports it, she said. “Washington wants to show everybody what Washington is about. This will bring such a sense of community togetherness.”
RAGBRAI officials typically receive around 200 applications to be a host city, with more than 10,000 riders expected.
And they’ll be pedaling through Leon and Centerville, which are both stopping points on the route for the first time since 1981.
“To do a true southern route, we had a lot of towns this year that were anxious to host,” Juskiewicz said. “It just worked out that towns were open to it. Pretty much construction-free. Looks like the route is going to be a good one.”
Estimates have shown RAGBRAI can bring in $3 million a day to local economies. That’s everything from gas to meals to sodas.
The exposure coming to smaller communities during overnight stops is priceless.
“What (other) event does that?” Juskiewicz asked. “They’ll be ready. These smaller towns just seem to step up to the plate.”
And Washington’s own Rider Sales, owned by Rodney Stogdill, is ready to step up to that plate.
“We are just ecstatic,” he said. “All I’ve been telling people ‘Let’s finally ride.’ ”
How the route compares
  • Total mileage of RAGBRAI: 419.9 (3rd shortest route in history)
  • Total feet of climb: 18,488 feet (24th flattest route in history)
  • Difficulty of ride: 15th easiest route in history of RAGBRAI (based on mileage and feet of climb)
A closer look at the towns on this year’s RAGBRAI XLIV course:
SATURDAY, JULY 23
Glenwood, located in a hollow of the Loess Hills, will have riders gathering east of the Missouri River for the start of their cross-state journey. This is the hometown of Alice Cooper, a nationally renowned sculptor in the early 1900s — not the original shock rocker.
  • Population: 5,358
  • Mileage (from last town): Starting Town
  • History (years RAGBRAI has been there before): 1980, 1984,1989,1992, 2003, 2011 (ties Sioux City with most starts — seven times)
SUNDAY, JULY 24
Shenandoah is a garden city priding itself on renewable fuels and an energizing spirit. It’s also home to the Everly Brothers. Community leaders will also welcome the Wabash Trace Marathon, held Sept. 10, which leads runners through a nature trail course.
  • Population: 5,150
  • Mileage and feet of climb (from last town): 49.7 miles with 2,614 feet of climb
  • History (years RAGBRAI has been there before):1984, 1992, 2003 — also a pass-through town in 1976 and 1989
MONDAY, JULY 25
Creston bills itself as the largest city west of Interstate 35 and south of Interstate 80. The town railroad depot was built in 1899 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, and the town gets its name from being the “crest” between the Missouri and Mississippi rivers. It houses an arts gallery, meal site and a model railroad club.
  • Population: 7,834
  • Mileage and feet of climb (from last town): 75.2 miles with 3,994 feet of climb
  • History (years RAGBRAI has been there before): 1984 and 1997 — also a pass-through town in 1981
TUESDAY, JULY 26
Leon will be the smallest host town along this year’s course, featuring rolling hills and lakes. Three different parks offer recreational equipment for families. It’s a chance to boat and swim, or just relax.
  • Population: 1,977
  • Mileage and feet of climb (from last town): 58.5 miles with 3,318 feet of climb
  • History (years RAGBRAI has been there before): 1981 — also a pass-through town in 1992 and 2003
WEDNESDAY, JULY 27
Centerville boasts the “world’s largest square.” Two movies have been at least partially shot there, 1921’s “The Wonderful Thing,” starring Norma Talmadge and 2005’s “Iowa” with Rosanna Arquette. It’s home to Simon Estes and Iowa Gov. Francis Drake (who founded Drake University).
  • Population: 5,448
  • Mileage and feet of climb (from last town): 65.1 miles with 2,708 feet of climb
  • History (years RAGBRAI has been there before): 1981 — also a pass-through town in 1992 and 2003
THURSDAY, JULY 28
Ottumwa was the hometown of Radar, a fictional character on the television series “M*A*S*H.” It’s also where Tom Arnold, an actor and comedian, grew up. The Beach Ottumwa is an indoor and outdoor waterpark, established in 1992.
  • Population: 25,023
  • Mileage and feet of climb (from last town): 53.2 miles with 1,999 feet of climb
  • History (years RAGBRAI has been there before): 1984, 2000 and 2003
FRIDAY, JULY 29
Washington was twice voted among the best 100 small towns in America in the 1990s, and again in the 2000s. Café Dodici has been described in online reviews as romantic and phenomenal.
  • Population: 7,370
  • Mileage and feet of climb (from last town): 68.5 miles 2,541 feet of climb
  • History (years RAGBRAI has been there before): 1986, 1990 and 2000 — also a pass-through town in 1975
SATURDAY, JULY 30
Muscatine is where ESPN anchor Chris Hassel spent his childhood. The town is billed as the “Pearl of the Mississippi,” and features a community garden where people can grow vegetables for a small seasonal fee.
  • Population: 22,886
  • Mileage and feet of climb (from last town): 49.7 miles with 1,314 feet of climb
  • History (years RAGBRAI has been there before): 1976, 1986, 1995, 2001 and 2006