It was nice for Tuesday’s ride to be a shorter day allowing riders to recover from some longer hilly days. The ride checks in at 58 miles of beautiful southern Iowa with about 3,300 feet of climb. There are four towns to get off the bike throughout the day and well-spaced out as well. The towns include places that we haven’t visited in quite a while including Diagonal, Mount Ayr, Kellerton and Decatur City.
Again, the day is full of hills, but no monsters that should scare anyone… that has trained. The roads are a mix of concrete and asphalt roadways that are in pretty good shape. If the hills of day one were the steep Loess Hills variety, and day two’s hills were rollers, today’s were what we would call “the long haul.” There were lots of nice downhills and long sustained, gradual climbs.
The RAGBRAI Route Inspection Team was joined by a few riders from the Creston and Leon committees. All of the riders of varying shapes, sizes and abilities were able to complete the ride and felt it was a good recovery ride compared to the day before.
Here are the towns that we visited today:
Get Marooned in Diagonal! The town theme for RAGBRAI day plays off of their school mascot. The town is named based on the direction of the railroad tracks going through town – diagonally compared to the neighboring towns. Diagonal is home to the smallest school in the state of Iowa with an enrollment of 104 Diagonal Maroon students.
The RAGBRAI preride crew suggests that you plan to linger in Diagonal for a little while. There is a large climb waiting for you as you exit the town, and you may want to rest up a bit extra before tackling the hill.
- Look for several breakfast type items including breakfast burritos, biscuits and gravy, all-you-can-eat pancakes and sausage, and kolaches.
- Other food options include brat patties, pulled pork, steak tips, dessert bars, ice cream and pies.
- The food will be found at the new church just off the route, at the Iron Horse Park, and along main street.
- The Back 40 restaurant will have a beverage garden, DJ and karaoke
- Knox’s Corral will be set up as you come into town, and will have a variety of farm animals and hopefully an exotic animal or two.
- A pontoon boat with a real live pirate on board will be set up to welcome riders to town and to provide information. This will also be a great photo op!
- Visit the smallest K-12 public school in the state. Housed in a century-old brick building, the school still uses two of the original fire escape slides. These will be open for riders to take a trip down.
- A slide show will be on display at the new church highlighting the old churches of Diagonal, and the construction of the new church. The church youth group is planning several island themed activities, plus tug of war and balloon relays. We had breakfast in the church and it really is gorgeous.
- Several bag board games will be set up in the park under the water tower.
- ‘Shit or Swim’ cow chip or life preserver throwing contest will be held at the park as well.
- You’ll find the Diagonal Freedom Rock downtown at the Community Center. Local veterans will be in uniform to educate riders about the Freedom Rock and answer questions.
- All vendors in town will be local non-profit groups raising funds for the new church, 4H and other youth groups.
- All activities in town will have a free-will donation bucket where all funds raised will stay local
Other Items of Interest:
- Stop in at the Diagonal Printing Museum and see how the paper was created back in the day. Venture upstairs to see some of Diagonal’s history on display. We did and it really is an interesting look into the history of Iowa news, and the Diagonal area.
For more information on Diagonal’s RAGBRAI plans, visit:
“My love is like a red, red rose / That’s newly sprung in June” for the town of Mount Ayr, named in honor of poet Robert Burns’ birthplace in Ayr, Scotland. “Mount” was added to indicate its location as the highest point of land in the area (as you will be well aware). As you roll into town you’ll see a beautiful greeting display made of hay and prairie grass – photo op #1!
Maybe it was this elevation of Mount Ayr that got Dr. Peggy Whitson’s head in the clouds. This Mount Ayr High School graduate is now a famous NASA astronaut, and was the first female commander of the International Space Station. During her career, she has logged over a year’s worth of time in space, and is preparing for another launch as a part of Expedition 50/51 at the end of 2016. One of her space suits will be on display in the Princess Theater – photo op #2!
Historical or interesting things about the town: If you’re looking for interesting things in Mount Ayr that are a little more “down to earth,” you might want to check out the beautifully renovated Princess Theatre, the Mount Ayr Public Library (a Carnegie Library), Ringgold County Courthouse, Lucky Lanes, the Depot Museum, the restored Skelly Station, or the post office with a mural painted by Orr Fisher. Orr Fisher is beloved for his post office murals, and worked closely with JN “Ding” Darling, the famed cartoonist for The Des Moines Register.
Food and beverage options: Mount Ayr will have 10 in town vendors and 10 outside vendors, including pork on a stick, pork loins, homemade pies, breakfast burritos, lunch burritos, smoothies, turkey legs, cheese curds, french fries, corn dogs, home town pizza, hometown barbeque and more! The Lions Club will be serving pancakes. Local eating establishments include Still BBQ, Rumors Bar & Grill, Lefties Pub, Gold Mine Bar, and Jungle.
- There will be a one man band playing downtown
- Or if you want to cross train, they will have sand volleyball and basketball games going just off of the main square.
- Other local attractions include Judge Lewis Park and swimming pool, Mabel Rice Park, Ringgold County walking and biking trail featuring a 1940’s caboose, Mount Ayr Golf and Country Club, Fife’s Grove Park, Poe Hollow Park, Ramsey Farm, and the Chamber Building which has local paintings and t-shirts.
For more information on Mount Ayr’s RAGBRAI plans, visit:
The town of Kellerton will be the third town on Tuesday route from Creston to Leon. This Ringgold County town of 315 residents has hosted RAGBRAI three previous times with the last coming 13 years ago in 2003.
Kellerton was established as a railroad town complete with a depot that was destroyed by a fire in 1934. It was replaced by a temporary depot, then no longer served as a depot. The town formerly had a hotel, newspaper, bank, grocery store and tile factory, to name some of the industry at one time.
In 1915, the first national horseshoe throwing championship was held in Kellerton.
The people of Kellerton will be ready to feed and entertain the riders of RAGBRAI. The will have some fun games in their shady park and a horseshoe pit to pay homage to their history.
The downtown will have a live band as well as a DJ and a beverage garden as part of J’s Pub in downtown Kellerton. There will be some water games and a dunk tank as well by the pub. There will also be a good 10 vendors in the downtown to feed the hungry riders with a combination of local and out of town vendors. There will also be kids with popsicles to cool riders off.
Kellerton will be a great stopping point to rest up from the hills.
The route through town will take riders past The Dinky Diner. Stop in and be one of the 35 patrons they can serve at one time. The diner plans to have walking tacos and drinks served out front of the diner.
Venture up a few blocks in town and you will find some nice shade in the city park. This will give you a nice rest after the hills from Kellerton, and get you ready for the final push into Leon.
- Poor Boys restaurant will be open and ready to serve riders.
You guys. The Leon Dairy Queen has an elephant! Well, a full size elephant statue that is. We love this place already. Leon was Born to Stand Out!
Leon may be the smallest overnight town on the RAGBRAI XLIV route population-wise, but that just means you’ll be able to see more of it during our stay. “A town is a town, no matter how small, Leon has heart, so come one, come all.”
Entertainment/Activities: Leon’s main stage entertainment for the night will be Rhino, a five member, high energy band out of the Twin Cities. They have been angling to play RAGBRAI for years so this should be a concert to remember. Rhino’s lineup includes an array of modern, alternative, 80’s, and classic rock music, with twists of country and other surprises splashed in. The headlining acts will be Vocal Trash and Stone Lizard so it shouatld be an awesome night of rock ‘n’ roll.
Historical or interesting things about the town: Leon was incorporated in the 1850s and grew once it became a shipping point on the CB&Q Railroad after the Civil War. So much of the city’s architecture goes back to this time period and throws back to the time when railroads ruled the prairie. Examples of this include: the Old Train Depot (Now serving as County Engineer’s office), Decatur County Courthouse, St. Brendan’s Catholic Church, Loving Chapel United Methodist Church, Slade-O’Donnell Funeral Home, Decatur County Museum, SCIT Theatre, and the Leon Public Library, a Carnegie Library.
Leon is also famous for the Leon Rodeo (named Rodeo of the Year many times) and the beautiful Little River Lake area. A portion of the Historic Jefferson Highway runs right through town (original highway down main street in Leon), and if you’re into murals stop by the Leon Post Office and Courthouse (both WPA works of art).
As with many old railroad towns, Leon has some fascinating lore from days gone by. For example, on April Fools Day in 1877, the entire two floors of the West side of the Decatur County Courthouse were blown out. Would be thieves W.W. Van Schaick and Howard Reed had attempted to blow the safe door open in the Treasurer’s office and recorder’s office. The Thieves miscalculated the amount of dynamite needed. Safes from the treasurer’s office and recorder’s office were blown out and buried beneath the rubble. Both remained intact. The men were later found and arrested.
Another strange happening in Leon dates back to 1940. After a gypsy queen died there, a wake was held. According to custom, thieving ceased until after burial.
Some of Leon’s famous former citizens include Steven V. Carter, a US Congressman and WWII vet who died in office; Captain J.D. Brown, a Union captain in the Civil War (his home still stands on South Main Street); Admiral James Lyle Hoffman, an Admiral in the Korean War; Don Brown who wrote an Iowa history book called Iowa; The Land Across the River, which was used as a text book in Iowa schools; and Arlen Dean Snyder, an actor who appeared in a M.A.S.H. episode, Heart Break Ridge with Clint Eastwood, and others.
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