The RAGBRAI Inspection Route Pre-Ride 2017

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Follow our SCHEELS Associate Matt Phippen as he previews the RAGBRAI route. Click on each day to see more on that section of the RAGBRAI Route.

  • Day 1

    What a great day to be on a bicycle! After an awesome night last night at the Orange City Golf Course for our Welcoming Party, the majority of us got a good night sleep for the 62-mile ride to Spencer today.  We were very impressed with what Orange City will offer riders the day of the tour.  They are very prepared and super excited for RAGBRAI to come through their community.  

    Orange City

    My group (35 riders of 60+ riders) were up bright and early to start Day 1 of pre-ride.  Any last minute bike maintenance took place right outside the hotel.  It’s great having a mechanic on the ride just in case you have a bike issue.  

    At 6:45 am, we made our way to downtown Orange City.  Waiting for us was a huge group of riders ready to roll out.  After a few interviews with the local news channels, pictures and words from the Director of RAGBRAI and the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, we were on the road.

    Our first stop was Alton, only three miles from Orange City.  We rolled through Alton to make our way to Granville, which is seven miles from Alton.  For these first 10 miles, we had mostly great roads and good tailwinds.  A couple of sections were rough in spots but the majority of the roads we traveled on were great.  We had our first stop as a group in Granville at one of its parks.  A full spread of food was waiting for us to help keep up our energy.  We hung out there for a while and relaxed, but when we heard the cowbell, it meant it was time to leave. Ten miles later and on another set of great roads we arrived in Paullina. Between Granville and Paullina, we rode a mile in silence to remember all those we have lost riding their bicycles.  

    RAGBRAI is known for the famous pies you can find in each town along the way.  It was in Paullina that we found our first piece of pie for the tour.  Needless to say, it didn’t last long, as it is something all riders look forward to.

    Our first “meeting town” would be our next stop.  Each day, the entire group reconnects at one meeting town along the route. Our meeting town for today was Primghar, and it was about a 10 mile ride on good roads before we arrived.   

    Here had brunch at the local golf course.  They had a small staff for our large group but did an amazing job keeping up with over 60 hungry riders!  Two eggs, ham and toast really hit the spot for me.  

    After full stomachs and a little tired we got back on the road and made our way Hartley.  

    The mayor was waiting for us and had plenty of cookies and scotcharoo bars, another pre-ride favorite.  This day is also the day we have a gravel route option.  Five riders chose to give that a try on their way to Hartley.  We had a little extra time so we took advantage of waiting for them by squeezing in a little nap.  

    After a great experience in Hartley, we were ready for the last 19 miles into Spencer.  A tail wind carried our group very quickly to our final destination.

    What a great route to start the week.  The tailwinds and the flat roads helped, but if we can recreate the same conditions in July, there will be a lot of very happy RAGBRAI riders!

    Check out my entire route on video here: https://www.relive.cc/view/1021558788

    For all you RAGBRAI riders, feel free to follow me on Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1021558788

    See you all tomorrow for Day 2 updates!

  • Day 2

    Day 2 of RAGBRAI Pre-ride took us from Spencer into Algona.  The day’s ride is a total of 71.7 miles. There is the optional Karras Loop to add on, which is an additional 29.6 miles.  This extra stretch of route is named after John Karras, one of the co-founders of RAGBRAI. We chose not to ride this route due to the high winds.

    Our day began with a long stretch right out of the gate. We road 24 miles to our first major town of Ayrshire.  Between this stretch we passed Dickens and Gillett Grove. There are headwinds a lot of the way but good roads helped us.  We took a quick break to refuel along the way and got back on the road to finish the stretch to Ayrshire.

    Curlew would be our next stop with 10 miles to go.

    While on the way, I had a flat tire. The road was great, but still, watch out for the pinch flats.

    A great surprise was waiting for us in Curlew: Mr. Pork Chop Jr. and his crew! make sure to try these guys out on your own ride!

    You don’t see too many of these types of playgrounds anymore. Be sure to enjoy them while in Curlew!

    A quick five miles later into our day, and we were greeted in Mallard with cookies and water at the park.


    We left Mallard and biked another 13 miles into a headwind until we arrived at West Bend.  Here, we stopped for lunch. When you arrive, check out the brick outside of the Double L Saloon.  You’ll find tons of names carved into its face. Leave your own mark by finding an empty brick to carve.


    You must check out the Grotto.  The heat and all the headwinds was worth seeing this amazing piece of art.  


    West Bend to Plover would have been the route to take for the optional, additional 30 miles and the Karras Century loop. Strong headwinds today prevented almost our entire group from riding it.  

    We had one last town before we end up in Algona.  Check out the cool sights in Whittemore during RAGBRAI and know you only have to finish 10 miles to your overnight town of Algona!

    It was a hot and very windy day, but we made it to Algona!

    Check out my entire Day 2 route here: https://www.relive.cc/view/1023084063

    For all you RAGBRAI riders, feel free to follow me on Strava: https://www.strava.com/athletes/2844018

    See you all tomorrow for Day 3 updates!

  • Day 3

    Ragbrai Day 3

    It was another beautiful morning as we left Algona and started our journey towards the final destination of Clear Lake. This was also the flattest day of the week and route!  Our first stop for the day was in Wesley for breakfast cooked by the town’s firemen. They cooked them using a SCHEELS’ favorite: Traeger Grills.

    RAGBRAI Traeger
    The roads between Wesley and the town of Britt were fantastic.  I could tell from the look of the road and feel of the ride that the county had done a lot of work on them.  We appreciated it!  

    When we arrived at Garner, we were all pretty hungry.  The city had Casey’s Pizza and Pie waiting for us.  


    As we headed into our next stop of Ventura, the wind picked up a bit, though it was nothing compared to yesterday. Once there, a local bbq establishment wanted us to stop by and check out their remodel.  We answered all the questions they had about what to expect for RAGBRAI and then got back on the road to finish the day in Clear Lake.  Part of what the pre-ride helps with is answer any question the communities may have about what to expect from RAGBRAI: the numbers, the people, etc.  The end goal is to help them be successful and provide an awesome experience for all RAGBRAI riders, so we were very excited to talk with the locals.

    Our final leg was enjoyable and once we made it to Clear Lake we had to stop by one of my favorite places – The Surf Ballroom.  According to their website, “The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (Cleveland, Ohio) dedicated the Surf ballroom as a historic rock and roll landmark as part of the Museum’s ongoing Landmark Series, which identifies locations in America that are significant to the origins and development of rock and roll.” They have hosted musicians such as Kansas, Alice Cooper, The Doobie Brothers, BB King, ZZ Top, Martina McBride, Lynryd Skynyrd and more. If you love music and history, this is the place for you, so make sure to check it out on your own RAGBRAI ride!

    Surf Ballroom Ragbrai
    Check out my entire Day 3 route on video here: https://www.relive.cc/view/1024172929

    For all you RAGBRAI riders, feel free to follow me on Strava: https://www.strava.com/athletes/2844018

    See you all tomorrow for Day 4 updates!

  • Day 4

    Day 4 of RAGBRAI pre-ride we were greeted with another perfect day.  Our first stop was 13 miles out in Thornton.  We had a delicious breakfast –plenty of fuel to get us another five miles down the road into Swaledale.  


    Once there, it was time for “second breakfast” in Swaledale.  A burrito is always a great choice for a day of riding.  We had another six miles to go until the meeting town of in Rockwell.  

    Here we technically consumed our third breakfast.  A nice change with a fruit tray in the meeting town Rockwell!

    We had an awesome surprise waiting for us just outside of Cartersville.  The great guys from The Iowa Beer Bus were waiting for us, ready to serve local craft beers from around our great state.



    Rockford into Charles City was smooth sailing.  Good roads and a little tailwind made the last 15 miles a piece of pie!

     

    For all you RAGBRAI riders, feel free to follow me on Strava: https://www.strava.com/athletes/2844018

    See you all tomorrow for Day 5 updates!

     

  • Day 5

    We left beautiful cabins and a warm fire to make our way to Ionia.  Today was the day the hills started to show up, but the beautiful scenery made the climb easy.

    Heading out of town, my friends back in Vinton were thinking about me. Thank you, it made my day. #RideVinton

    We road a tailwind all the way into New Hampton to this awesome breakfast spread at the middle school.  

    After five days of riding, today was also our first day with rain. It never rained on us, but we did ride on wet roads. The road coming into Lawler was fast, in great shape but very busy. It has a great shoulder to ride on but please be safe when you complete during RAGBRAI.  

    While in Lawler for RAGBRAI, make sure to check out the Starlite Ballroom.  

    We had a great lunch in Protivin feasting on brats, wieners, jaternice sausage and pino. We had interviews with Channel 2 News, and I gave them some good GoPro footage. Be sure to check out Channel 2 and 9:00 pm and 10:00 pm. We finished the day with a fast 12 miles into Cresco.  

     

    See my complete ride of Day 5 here: https://www.relive.cc/view/1027331261

    For all you RAGBRAI riders, feel free to follow me on Strava: https://www.strava.com/athletes/2844018

    See you all tomorrow for Day 6 updates!

  • Day 6

    This is the day I have been waiting for all week!  We had great stops on this route, and the hills were finally a part of the route.  It was a perfect day to be on a bike.

    Half way to Decorah, we pulled off to regroup and load up on some energy.  

    Decorah was the stop I was most excited about.  We had breakfast at my favorite Iowa Brewery:  Toppling Goliath.

     

    This place is going to be an absolute zoo on the day of.  You can’t go wrong with trying it out!

    Watch for major climbs out of Decorah.  Find that right gear and you will climb right out.  After the hills, the roads are very rough for about seven miles.  After that, you have great roads all the way into Ossian.

    From there, it was a short five mile ride into Castalia.  They had pie and ice cream waiting for us which was really tasty after all those hills.

    I want to give a shoutout to Lyle De Zeeuw has does a lot for RAGBRAI over the last 13 years.  During Pre-ride, he helps mark corners.

    After that, we rode a quick six miles into Postville.  The traffic coming into town was very busy, so be aware of your surroundings as you enter.  

    When in Postville, you have to find the John Deere tractor with the spinning couch and give it a try. It was totally worth the ride.  

    Today was very hot and had a ton of big climbs, but the desserts are so fun to try and make each ride worth it!  We finished our ride with some ice cream at Homestead Dairy.  


    See my complete ride of Day 6 here: https://www.relive.cc/view/1028746343

    For all you RAGBRAI riders, feel free to follow me on Strava: https://www.strava.com/athletes/2844018

    See you all tomorrow for Day 7 – the final day – of updates!

  • Day 7

    Last night, as I was riding into Waukon, I had a mishap. I had one hill left to go and was feeling good, so I decided to finish the day riding the hill hard.  I must have ridden a little too hard as I ended up breaking a chainring on my rear cassette.  With the biggest day left for hills, my 11 speed Trek Madone is currently a single speed bike.

    Our first stop for the day was in Waterville.  I had the best breakfast of the week here: pancakes, homemade donuts, sausage and pig wings (which I have never had before but will definitely eat again).  Everything was so good.  

    The views are amazing in Iowa.  No filter needed.

    You always need to find time to rest during RAGBRAI.  Craig Cooper has been very busy keeping our bikes running well all week.  He is our mechanic during Pre-ride and will be on the entire route in July.  Bikes to You is his bike shop.  

    Take time to enjoy the view as you enter and leave the Yellow River Forest.  A super fast and steep downhill and you enter and an grinding climb and your leave to make your way to Harpers Ferry.  

    A great lunch served to us that included catfish, pulled pork, beans, coleslaw and tons of pie.  

    After Harpers Ferry, get ready to climb!  There are two massive climbs, so find the easy gear and spin your way to the top.  At the top of the last hill, it’s truly all downhill from there – don’t forget to take in all the sights!  The pictures I took just don’t do it justice.  You will have to come and check it out in July, RAGBRAI riders!  

    For all you RAGBRAI riders, feel free to follow me on Strava: https://www.strava.com/athletes/2844018

    I hope you enjoyed reading the blogs as much as I enjoyed making them.  See you on the road!