The last day of the Route Inspection, and the last day of RAGBRAI, are always bittersweet. This past week we dodged the rain and conquered the hills and headwinds. We had lots of fun biking and meeting people from the towns we will visit in just a few weeks, and ate a shocking amount of delicious food. But we are sore and tired, and the Mississippi was a welcome sight. Can’t wait to do it all again in just a few short weeks.
On Friday night the Coralville RAGBRAI Committee gave us the Red Carpet treatment with an eating and drinking tour of the Iowa River Landing. We think riders are going to love this new development to Coralville. We left the Iowa River Landing Saturday morning with a larger group than usual, about 55 riders, adding on bikers from Coralville, Iowa City, and Quad Cities bike clubs. Iowa was kind to us for our last day of biking. We had smooth roads, and though there was some wind it was nice on a warm sunny day. There are some long shady stretches, especially in the Moscow area that will probably be welcome in July.
The cities we visited on the seventh and final day of our ride were Coralville, University Heights, Iowa City, West Liberty, Atalissa, Moscow, Wilton (meeting town), Durant, Walcott, and Davenport. We rode 65.2 miles, and had 1,920 feet of climb. The day started out mostly flat as we headed to West Liberty, then we rode shorter rolling hills until after Walcott. As with most river towns, in Davenport there are some big hills heading into town and then that glorious descent to the Mississippi.
The neighborhoods of University Heights will be lined with folks there to cheer you on as you make your way from the campgrounds in Coralville to Iowa City. The route winds its way through the University Heights area where you will get a chance to ride through part of the University of Iowa campus. This trip provides just a glimpse of what there is to see, you should come back and take some time for a more thorough visit.
Though Coralville, University Heights and Iowa City may appear to blend together on the map, each has its own unique culture and identity. Iowa City is unique in the fact that it has the college-town vibe, but also a rich history as it was the state of Iowa’s first capitol. As much of Iowa, Iowa City has long been involved in politics. With the election of Moses Bloom in 1873 they had the first Jewish mayor of any American city, and with the election of Emma J. Harvat as mayor in 1923, they also had the first woman elected mayor in a city with more than 10,00o inhabitants. And of course we would be remiss if we did not mention the Hamburg Inn #2, a famous stopping point for touring politicians including Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton (and they have a darn good pie shake too). In 2008 Iowa City was designated a UNESCO City of Literature, at the time it was the third city in the world to receive the designation, and it remains the only city in the U.S. to do so.
Other notable sights along the route include Kinnick Stadium (University of Iowa’s football field), Carver-Hawkeye Arena (used for the University’s basketball, wrestling, gymnastic and volleyball teams), and the Old Capitol Museum (it is a U.S. National Historic Landmark). We will also ride near Prairie Lights Bookstore, a long lived and long loved local book store, often recognized as one of the nation’s best book stores.
There are many other interesting locations off the route, if you come back to Iowa City we recommend checking out the Black Angel of Oakland Cemetary (legend has it if you touch her at midnight on Halloween you’ll die within seven years) and Plum Grove (home of Iowa’s first governor of the Territory of Iowa, Robert Lucas, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places).
Iowa City’s theme is Rise and Shine and stopping there for an early breakfast would be a great way to do that. Beyond the Hamburg Inn, there is also the Bluebird Diner, Pullman Barr & Diner and plenty of restaurants and bars downtown. They will have several vendors set up downtown along Dubuque St., most will be a partnership between local restaurants and Farmer’s Market vendors who will be selling locally grown food.
Famous people from Iowa City include: Grant Wood, Dan Gable, James Van Allen, Mauricio Lasansky, Nile Kinnick, Simon Estes, Ignacio Ponseti and numerous Writer’s Workshop professors and students (Paul Engle, John Irving, W.P Kinsella, Flannery O’Connor, Donald Justice, Jane Smiley, Tennessee Williams, Kurt Vonnegut and more).
This will be the sixth time hosting RAGBRAI for the City of West Liberty. The last time that they hosted was in 2006 on our way from Coralville to Muscatine. This diverse community of 3,736 people in Muscatine County are excited to be hosting again.
West Liberty will serve as a breakfast stop and have plenty of Latino entertainment that includes local bands and dancers throughout our visit.
West Liberty is the Home of RAGBRAI’s famous Tender Tom’s Turkey! They also have some great establishments including the Copper Penny (a European Bistro & Bar), Local Grounds Coffee (Coffee, Wine, Craft Beer, Smoothies & Food) and Wink’s Bar (A big RAGBRAIers favorite last time through)
The town is still excepting outside vendors and all proceeds will go to the non-profit chamber and other charitable efforts in the community.
The town’s theme is Books, Bytes & Beyond – Supporting our local Library Team & Renovations.
Named after an Indian Queen founder Captain William Lundy had met when mining in California, Atalissa is located in Muscatine County. The Fire Department will be there to provide food beverages for riders as they pass through this town of just over 300. Look for them along the route into town.
Though Moscow is an unincorporated town, we have visited five times, with the last being in 2011. They are also the Muscatine County Seat, and have a Post Office and zip code of 52760. We suggest stopping at Birkhofer Produce or taking a break under one of their many large shade trees.
Wilton (meeting town)
The community of Wilton is also a RAGBRAI favorite as we have been through town our four previous occasions, the last coming in 2011 on our way to Davenport. Wilton is a
There are several restaurants in town including Godfather’s Pizza, the Wilton Café, Subway, the Sicilian Pizza, Casey’s, the Junction Bar & Grill and Froh’s,
The town is also home of the world famous Candy Kitchen. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Founded by R.A. McIntyre in 1860, The Candy Kitchen is the oldest ongoing Ice Cream Parlor / Soda Fountain in the world and has been serving visitors ice cream, lunches, and candy for over 150 years. Under the ownership of the Nopoulos family since 1910, it is currently run by George and Thelma Nopoulos.
The town’s festivities will be held in the downtown area and the grassy downtown parks. There will be some fun games to entertain the riders.
Other historical sites include the Wilton Depot, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, built in 1898 that used to see 100 trains daily. There are also many monuments through town to commemorate the Wilton men who served and lost lives in battle.
Wilton is the hometown of Hawkeye and Viking fan favorite Wally Hilgenberg.
Durant is known as the Heart of the Tri-Counties. You can ride through three Iowa counties and never leave town. Most of the activity when RAGBRAI rolls through will take place in Pythian Sisters Park located right on the main route through town. The park has lots of shade and room to spread out.
The food options in Durant include local and non-local food vendors, which will be spread out along the route. They will be serving pie, desserts, ice cream and frozen treats. There will be plenty of water, soda, chocolate milk, fruit, and grilled brats, burgers or ribeye steak sandwiches.
The Tri-County Heritage and Genealogy Museum opened just last year, and is located past the park on the North side of Durant. It is full of the wonderful history from the area including Durant, Wilton, Sunbury, Bennett and Stockton areas.
Funds raised from our visit to Durant will go toward two main causes. The Park Board is looking to supplement memorial money presented by the Leo Hein family in order to build a shelter for Feldhahn Park. And the well-used ball fields located in the park would be enhanced by the shelter, and would provide better viewing for spectators.
As the last pass-through town on our RAGBRAI XLIII route, Walcott will be the perfect place to eat, drink, and rest up before the big hills on the way into Davenport. Their theme will be Ride the Rails, which is appropriate because Walcott is named after Rock Island Railroad tycoon William Walcott. Walcott was the first stopping point on the first passenger train route west of the Mississippi. In 1911 the town was declared the Richest Town in the USA considering the number of bank deposits per capita (there were 300 living there at the time). Walcott was settled predominantly by Germans and their descendants, so in 1997 they joined with Bredenbek, Germany as sister cities.
And of course we must mention that Walcott is home to the World’s Largest Truckstop, though the truckstop is next to I-80 and majority of the town is actually a few miles south, so we will not pass by it. If you are heading east on I-80 on your way out of Davenport we suggest stopping there for a food/refuel break.
On the way into town riders will pass by Gino’s Ice Cream which could be a great refresher, and the main festivities will be just a little bit farther down the route in Victory Park. When we stopped by this shady park was filled with little league teams, but when you visit it will have lots of food and drinks, and a live band (Buddy Olson, a local musician). The local non-profit groups, including Walcott PTA, Walcott Athletics Association, the American Legion, and three local women’s service groups will be serving hamburgers, pork chop sandwiches, brats, sweet corn, and lots and lots of pie. There will also be a huge shaded beer garden, and a Smoothie Revolution stand.
Other entertainment in the Park will include human foosball, music, photo ops, and a corn hole tournament.
On our way out of town we will pass by the Castle on East Bryant St., which was originally built as a meeting place for the Knights of Pythias. It was modeled after the famous Balmoral Castle in Scotland and is currently a private residence. We will also pass by Lampliter Bar & Pizza on our way out of town, we parked here for a slice and a drink as our last stop before heading to the Mississippi.
Davenport is “Where the Road Meets the River”. Davenport was the ending point of the original RAGBRAI (known then as the Great Six Day Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) back in1973. Since then the community has hosted the climatic dip-site on two other occasions, the last coming in 2011.
Together with Bettendorf, Iowa; and Moline, East Moline and Rock Island, Illinois; the Quad Cities region is the largest metropolitan area on the Mississippi River between St. Louis, Missouri and Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. Their award-winning museums, scenic bike paths, modern city life and friendly neighbors will greet you as you arrive from your journey across Iowa.
This RAGBRAI will have some exciting twists to it. The dip-site will be in the Mississippi River at historic Credit Island on the southwest side of Davenport. The name was derived by the use of the island as an early Native American trading post. Credit was extended with the promise of hides and skins to be delivered in the future. Credit Island is listed on the Davenport Register of Historic Places.
After you dip your tire, swing by downtown Davenport’s 44th annual Street Fest on your way to the info center, bike shipping, support vehicle pickup and long-term parking! Enjoy lots of great festival food & drinks, great live music, arts & crafts vendors, family fun area, Video Games Etc. tournaments, and much more.
The 41st annual Quad-City Times Bix 7 will be run that morning in Davenport as well. One of the best known road races in the country, the race attracts runners from the Quad-Cities and around the country. The annual 7-mile race through the streets of downtown Davenport will boast an international field of elite runners from around the world competing. Be sure to mingle with the runners and celebrate your accomplishments together!
Maybe get a hotel room and make a weekend out of it. Whatever your inclination, the Quad Cities is a great place to celebrate your completion of RAGBRAI XLIII.
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