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Tuesday, July 27 — RAGBRAI 2021

Fort Dodge, Iowa , United States
56 mi




ft elev +


We’d been getting 7 a.m. starts every morning of the RAGBRAI pre-ride, although we learned that riders during RAGBRAI proper have very different preferences for their ride time. Some people riding like to get early morning starts to beat the summer Iowa heat while others start later after late nights staying up listening to live music and carousing with friends in the overnight towns like Fort Dodge. 

We were joined outside the hotel by a bike team from Iowa Falls. In addition to meeting with organizers in the towns along the RAGBRAI route, we also were riding with members of local teams who tagged along for a day. We took a group photo in front of Fort Dodge Middle School before taking off for Duncombe. 

Our legs were a little tired after so much riding the past two days, so we were happy Day 3’s route was only 54 or so miles and relatively flat. The ride out of town was smooth through classic eastern Iowa countryside (featuring a lot of corn!). There was a really beautiful rhythm to everyone’s pedals in synchrony and the morning sun as we flew past corn fields, tractors and small barns in the distance. 

Rolling into Duncombe, a big grain elevator rose up behind a tiny gas station across the street from Stumpy’s Bar. The owner of the gas station greeted us as we went in for some drinks. He and his wife have decorated the gas station with plants and live upstairs. We quickly learned that small towns in Iowa have a charming pattern to them — a gas station or convenience store, main drag, a public park or gathering space and quiet, gridded streets that often parallel the railroad lines. Many small towns have a slogan or motto. Duncombe’s is, “A great place to call home.” 

There was a gentle descent into Webster City, where RAGBRAI organizers welcomed us for lunch and refreshments at the American Legion building off Main Street. Across the street is a vacant lot that’s been converted to a beautiful public garden. We sat outside to eat after picking up some coconut water from La Perla Jarocha, a Mexican grocery store just down the street. The town organizers gave us a walking tour of Main Street, highlighting one of the historic buildings they’re restoring while also showing us where there will be live music, a beer garden, games for kids and sites for vendors during RAGBRAI in July.

Fluffy Butt Farm was an unexpected, fun stop on the ride between Webster City and Blairsburg. It was also a chance for a second lunch from Mr. Pork Chop and Sassy Lemonade Slushes. Sitting under the shade of an enormous tree with a cold lemonade slush was a welcome treat as the wind and heat started to pick up. The farm’s name can be attributed to the white, fluffy Great Pyrenees dogs the farm owners breed. We spent a lot of time petting the friendly farm cat before continuing on to Blairsburg. 

The wind picked up as we rested at Fluffy Butt Farm and we faced a strong headwind as we rode east. Temperatures were hot! Make sure to bring sunscreen and hydrate well during the event. On the way to Blairsburg, I talked to Diane, one of the local team members riding with us for the day from Iowa Falls. We talked about RAGBRAI and the health and community benefits of biking before the wind became too strong. 

Blairsburg is a tiny town of about 215 people. We were invited inside for snacks and refreshments before getting a tour of the town’s old opera house and riding the next 11 miles to Alden. 

Heading north out of Blairsburg, we heard the gentle whoosh of wind turbines off the side of the highway. Turning east toward Alden, we saw a dust devil blowing through the corn fields that just missed our group as it crossed the highway. 

Alden is beautiful. RAGBRAI helps spur some road and street improvements in the towns the route passes through, and Alden is redoing their main street in advance of RAGBRAI. Cute bicycle banners line light posts throughout the town. We rested next to the Iowa River in Memorial Park before the final five miles to Iowa Falls. 

This last segment of the route was our favorite of the day. We descended the road through a forested, leafy landscape next to the river, passing quarries, parks and river access points. 

Iowa Falls was a surprise! We flew into town over the Iowa River — a beautiful bridge over the river has views of the sand-colored bluffs that drop to the river. There’s a swinging bridge looking north and views of a waterfall. We biked north along the river to the Scenic Empress Boat Club, where we met the RAGBRAI organizers from Iowa Falls. Fittingly, the town’s theme for RAGBRAI this year is “Nautical by Nature.” 

The Scenic Empress Boat Club is a lodge and environmental education center that offers river cruises. During RAGBRAI this July, they will be offering river boat tours to RAGBRAI participants — make sure to go take a ride! We had no idea Iowa Falls was such a scenic, gorgeous place. We kicked back and relaxed on a boat tour, learning a bit about the history of the town, its wildlife and its landscapes, enjoying some local Timbukbrü beer, and celebrating another great day of riding across Iowa.