Today’s ride will be the longest of the week with over 75 miles of scenic riding with about 4,000 feet of climb.  There are plenty of towns to get off the bike throughout the day and well-spaced out throughout the journey.  The towns include veteran RAGBRAI towns including Essex, Bethesda, Villisca, Nodaway and Prescott.

The day is full of hills, but no particular ones that should scare anyone… that has trained.  The roads vary from brand new concrete roadways to older roads that are being patched to make the route as safe as possible.

The RAGBRAI Route Inspection Team was joined by a few riders from Shenandoah including the legendary Terry Castle and Bill Danforth.  All of the riders of varying shapes, sizes and abilities were able to complete the ride even faced with 20 mph headwinds on a good portion of the ride.

Here are the towns that we visited today:


RAGBRAI returns to Essex for the fourth time with the last visit taking place 13 years ago. Essex is a small (population 798), friendly town that thrives today because of the participation of volunteers and people who reside in Essex whom are very proud of their little piece of Southwest Iowa.

Essex intends to provide a wonderful nod to the First Veteran’s Appreciation Day of RAGBRAI, with the opportunity for riders to honor a veteran in their life (placing their name on a wall) – or themselves. The town plans to have local veterans on site, as well as embracing the patriotic/America color theme, and hopefully a gorgeous & moving display of flags.

After riding seven miles northeast of Shenandoah, pull into Essex to enjoy pancakes and locally made sausage at the Community Food stand.  You can also enjoy coffee, fresh fruit, monster cookies, baked goods and more.  Looking for a tasty treat, try the cinnamon apple french toast, breakfast bowl or yogurt parfait.

Main Street Essex is proud of their locally owned businesses that keep the town alive, to the beautiful Lied Library, the green space/veteran’s memorial…Essex is small town USA to the core! Essex’s most precious commodity is their residents, who will be out in force that day.

Some of the neat restaurants or pubs that riders should be sure to visit in Essex is LJ’s bar on Main Street (can’t miss it on the route!) as well as Casey’s Convenience Store located on Hwy 48.

The Community Food Stand will be giving local non-profits the opportunity to fundraise, whether it’s National Honor Society Scholarships, new surfacing and equipment for the daycare playground or uniforms and equipment for the school athletic department.

Essex’s theme will be the “Land that I Love” and town t-shirts will be available for purchase.

Historical or interesting things about the town:

The City of Essex was founded in 1870. The Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad was the first railroad built in Page County and is the only one still in operation today. In 1901, the 4-H Program Founded at Goldenrod School in Fremont Township under the leadership of Jessie Field Shambaugh, also known as “The Mother of 4-H”.  The first boys (Corn Clubs) and girls (Home Clubs) were organized under 4-H. Many Essex area youth & future leaders were among the first ever 4-H’ers.

Infamous Events/Strange Happenings:

One notable event in the area is the Annual Labor Day Celebration held over Labor Day weekend. From pedal tractor pulls, a demolition derby, carnival, Market in the Park, water fights, parade & much more – but the event that usually intrigues people the most are the Bathtub Races held that Sunday evening near Anderson Park. They are just what they sound like, a bathtub filled with water is driven down the street by a team (driver & pushers) where they do a u-turn & complete the course, “helped” along the way by onlookers who pelt the teams with water balloons. Fastest time & most water left in the tub are the criteria to winning!

Interesting Buildings/Restaurants/Sites:

Essex boosts a small but lovely main street – one of the newest additions is the Lied Public Library which was dedicated in 2001.  The Railroad Inn was built in 1902. This hotel used to host a lot of illicit events in the past. It has a window in the staircase used by previous guests as ways to check for law enforcement while cock fighting, gambling and drinking was going on during the prohibition. Also known as the Iowan’s Hotel, this building was put on the National Register Sites in 2009. Essex has 3 churches, a K-12 school, fire station, childcare center, 2 banks, and many other thriving local businesses.

Interesting Landscapes/Lakes/Parks, etc:

Essex is home to Anderson Park (centrally located) as well as Memorial Park on main street complete with a gazebo and memorial bricks in honor of local veterans.  Heritage Point Park is located along the north west corner of town along Highway 48 and is beautifully landscaped by the Study & Service Club. Just west of town is the Essex Golf Course. In between Shenandoah and Essex on Highway 48 you’ll find Porter’s Lake and Rapp Park, both very scenic areas with bodies of water for recreation. West of Essex you will find Pierce Creek, an ideal spot to fish, horseback ride or camp.


Stop for a visit at the top of the hill where you will find lots of shade.  The church is still working on plans for the day, but this will be a great stop on your way to Villisca.


Ghost hunters and paranormal investigators, time to bring out your proton packs! The next town on our route is Villisca, the home of Iowa’s largest unsolved murder. On a “dark and stormy” night in 1912, eight people were killed with the blunt side of an axe and no one was ever convicted. If you’re up for an investigation, the home has been carefully restored and is open to the public as a museum and for overnight stays. If you want to do some investigation ahead of time, Kelly and Tammy Rundle have produced an award winning documentary on the topic.

All that being said, Villisca is so much more than its morbid past. Their RAGBRAI motto is The Bull Stops Here, and you really should stop there. You’ll find lots of history including two WPA projects, a stone wall built around the cemetery and a swimming pool. The historic bank building has been remodeled into an upscale restaurant and lounge. The town square bandstand (built in the 1800s) was renovated by the FFA for the country’s bicentennial, and there is a Civil War memorial in the cemetery to honor civil war officer and veteran Col. William Ellis. And be sure not to miss the pig statue by Lover’s Lane.

The National Guard Armory is on town square and on the National Registry of Historic Places. It’s in the process of being rehabilitated and will be holding a fundraiser for this work. Pick up Clif Bars and sparkling juice and donate to the cause. If you stop by you’ll be able to see a topographic map of the area and a Pulitzer Prize winning photo from Time Magazine of vets returning home from World War Two.

Entertainment will include: yard games, a petting zoo, and a water area for cooling off.

There will be lots of food available, including: ham balls, biscuits and gravy, pie, brats, stir fry, ice cream, tenderloins, cookies, fruit, cinnamon rolls and more! Or stop at TJ’s for a drink.

For more information on Villisca’s RAGBRAI plans, visit: and remember – don’t cross the streams!


This will be the second time that RAGBRAI travels to Nodaway, the last occurrence seven years ago.  The town of 114 people, may be small, but they will impress!

Nodaway takes great pride in their quaint town. With a population of about 100 residents, you will get a taste of real small town living. Residents of Nodaway love the peace and quiet that the town offers. Every 30-45 minutes, that peace and quiet is disrupted by the Burlington-Northern trains that pass through the town.

A few things that town is planning for RAGBRAI XLIV include a photo opportunity “Just a Nod-a-way” –with a hammock, sign-in map of state, tractor exhibit, a petting zoo by 4-H and a water station and maybe missing station.

Nodaway plans to serve home baked pies by the P.E.O., Villisca Chapter CH and bottled water, Gatorade, tea and lemonade.

The theme in town is “We’re just a “Nod-a-Way!”


Recharge in Corning!  You will find several phone charging stations located throughout town.  Corning serves as the Meeting Town for ride day 2 of RAGBRAI.  Plan to spend some extra time in Corning as you make your way to your overnight stay in Creston.


  • Beverage garden with lots of shade and seating next to the downtown park
  • Wine garden sponsored by the local winery, complete with live jazz
  • Lots of local non-profits will have ground pork burgers, chicken & noodles, walking tacos, ribeye sandwiches, grilled brats, pulled pork sandwiches, bbq ribs, wings and sloppy joes
  • Local bakery is having turnovers, donuts and Asian pork burgers
  • Several (and I mean Several!) non-local food vendors will line the streets


  • DJ in the beverage garden
  • Mechanical bull
  • Giant yard games
  • Local talent featuring music, gymnastics, dance teams
  • Melt Down game (you’ll have to be there to see what it’s all about)
  • Relaxation station with table massages
  • Photo ops with the Freedom Rock, farm equipment, and a large custom designed bicycle arch as you enter town

Fund raising:

Other Items of Interest:

  • French Icarian Colony – the Icarian Village is being rebuilt in Adams County. The Icarian Colony was a social experiment born in France in the mid-1800s.  Icaria was the longest-lived, non-religious utopian community in American History.
  • The Corning Opera House has been historically restored and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Birthplace home of Johnny Carson is restored as it would have appeared at his time of birth. Tours will be available the day RAGBRAI pays a visit. Sit beside a replica of Carson on The Tonight Show and have your picture taken.
  • Corning Winery and Vineyard – walk the plank and visit the Floating Vine tasting room.
  • Take a ride on your bike around the Adams County Speedway track

For more information on Corning’s RAGBRAI plans, visit:


After an infamous and a town with a famous resident, it’s time to slow down the pace a little. Our last stop before Creston is Prescott, the home of the Kline Museum!

The Kline Museum is a farm implement museum, and will be open to the public during the ride. They will have free entertainment there including Bubble Bounce balls and a DJ.

You might also want to stop at the Outpost Bar – this is where the beverage garden and main entertainment will be held.

Food options will include: pie, homemade ice cream, pork loin sandwiches, brats, hot dogs and more! Eat up, proceeds will go toward expanding the library and improving the town’s park equipment.

If you’re craving ham balls and root beer floats, stop by the Prescott School. The school building was closed, but has just been purchased and will be open during our visit in July. Proceeds will go toward keeping up the school. To get there, go just past main street and turn left.


The theme for Creston – Get Your Caboose to Creston – comes about because of the railroad heritage in Creston.  The “Crest”was the high point between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.


  • The beverage garden and main stage will be located in the parking lot of the Depot in downtown Creston.
  • Food vendors will line up in the street alongside the beverage garden.


  • Double Vision will perform from 9:30 p.m. until Midnight. They are the Midwest’s premier tribute band to the music of Foreigner from Kansas City, Mo.
  • Templeton Fade will perform on the Main Stage from 7 to 9 p.m. They are a high energy rock band which originated in Creston.
  • Oreo Meatwagon will perform from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on the main stage as well, and play a wide range of music.
  • Out at McKinley Park from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. the group Tripple J Express will be performing at the band shell from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Other Items of Interest:

  • Out in McKinley Park plan on visiting the Union County Historical Village open from 1 p.m. to dusk, no charge.  The Village is reminiscent of a prospering village in Iowa around the 1890’s.
  • In keeping with our railroad theme, our visitors can visit the Caboose in Uptown Creston along with our beautiful Restored Depot which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • The Creston Family Fun Center located at 301 North Cherry in Uptown Creston offers various games and bowling to the public.  You can also stop by Punky’s, 212 North Maple, for an indoor round or two of Miniature Golf.
  • Finally, since the ride day into Creston is Veterans Appreciation day, it should be pointed out that the Freedom Rock for Creston and Union County is located along Hwy 34 West next to the Frank Phillips Visitor’s Center. The Visitors Center is in a renovated Phillips 66 Gas Station that was built in 1931 and was one of the first operating Phillips stations in Iowa.

For more information on Creston’s RAGBRAI plans, visit:


Bethesda Essex

Nodaway VilliscaCorning PrescottCreston03 Creston Corning Double Vision Oreo Meatwagon