Today was so fun! It felt like the group really hit our rhythm and the roads were smooth for most of the route. If you have time in Waterloo, be sure to check out the town’s off-street bike trails! We rode them out of town to avoid stressful streets. The official RAGBRAI route will not follow these trails, but they provided a peaceful, quiet ride along the water.
We rode to Evansdale, a suburban town just five miles outside Waterloo on our way to Jesup. Jesup was another ten miles away, built along railroad lines with enormous grain elevators rising into the sky. We checked out a coworking space in town while some of the pre-ride crew stopped by Legacy’s Bar & Grill. We adjusted our route out of town to avoid a busier road in line with locals’ expertise. About halfway to Rowley, we stopped at a little farm house. This wasn’t an official RAGBRAI stop, but goes to show just how friendly and welcoming so many Iowans are!
Continuing on past cows, hay bales and rolling farmscapes, we arrived in Rowley for lunch. The Rowley RAGBRAI town organizers joked that it was all downhill from there, which was somewhat true considering that we were then descending to the Mississippi River, but there were definitely more hills to climb later in the day! We had lunch at Bottoms Up Bar and Grill. Pre-ride crew members offered Rowley locals advice on food and drinks to serve during the full event before we said goodbye and rode the next 10 miles to Walker. Walker is a tiny town home to two roasted chicken restaurants and a little main street. We drank sports drinks in the shade.
Center Point, Iowa was our next stop. The town’s theme for RAGBRAI is “Go Pig or Go Home,” and someone danced around in an inflatable pig costume. Locals were preparing for the town’s Pork Chop festival a few days later. It sprinkled rain on us as we rode into Center Point, a welcome relief from the heat.
Foxy’s Bar and Grill was the highlight of Central City for most of the pre-ride group. We regrouped outside a small church hosting a plant sale before embarking on the last stretch of the day’s route. We split up into two groups — one group was heading straight for Anamosa, the other group was going to diverge to complete the Karras Loop, an optional addition to the RAGBRAI route that will bring participants’ daily mileage to about 110 miles — more than a century!
The last 16 miles to Anamosa were gorgeous. There were some tough hills to climb, but rewarding and steep descents. We raced a storm building in the distance under green, grassy fields and a dramatic sky. This is Linn County, Iowa, but nicknamed “Grant Wood Country.” Grant Wood is most famous for “American Gothic.” His paintings feature Iowa landscapes and the American rural Midwest. We reached speeds of over 30 mph on the descent into Anamosa — have fun and be careful!
Anamosa had a lively main street. We had dinner at Tucker’s Tavern and checked out the 26-foot-tall “God Bless America” statue, a sculpture version of the characters in American Gothic. Town organizers are very proud of this year’s RAGBRAI theme — “Size Matters.” This sparked some controversy and misunderstanding in town, brought some smirks to our faces and will likely sell a lot of t-shirts to out-of-towners visiting Anamosa for RAGBRAI.