We had one of our largest group of riders join us on today’s RAGBRAI Route Inspection Pre-ride from Fairfield to Fort Madison on Saturday. The ride was more challenging than the day before with 62 miles and about 2,800 field of climb. Most of the climbs were departing the Villages of Van Buren communities that are along the Des Moines River as we climb out of the river valley.
The last few miles into Fort Madison are some of the most enjoyable as you see the Mississippi River (which is currently flooding out the dip site area) and then coast down a long descent into town. The dip site will be built just behind the Fort Madison Historic Site.
We had several area riders joining us including committee members from the Fairfield and Fort Madison Committees and Team Gnarley from Fort Madison.
Birmingham, home to former Iowa Governor William S. Beardsley, will be the first stop on our last day of RAGBRAI XLI.
Riders can look forward to a delicious breakfast from outside vendors, Chris Cakes and Dad’s Belgian Waffles. The local pub and short order grill will be open for service along with comfort stations and hand washing facilities.
While you are in the park downtown, you might want to visit the 1923 log cabin, which is currently undergoing restoration. Though the log cabin is not tied to Abraham Lincoln, his sweetheart Ann Rutledge’s family moved to Birmingham in 1837.
The park will also host a “Where are you from?” sign-in board, and a photo-op with a commemorative Birmingham sign. For more information on Birmingham and the ride, visit their website at http://showcase.netins.net/web/djnsweb/bham/.
Our second stop of the day is historic Keosauqua, pronounced Key’-oh-Sock-wa meaning “Big Bend”. It is located on the horse shoe bend of the Des Moines River, and is surrounded by beautiful woodland and rolling hills, with which you will become intimately acquainted. This village has previously hosted RAGBRAI in 1981.
One historic site in Keosauqua is the Pearson House, a stone and brick home built in 1847, which was a station on the Underground Railroad for runaway slaves. Another is Hotel Manning, which was built in the 1890s with Steamboat Gothic architecture. Van Buren County Courthouse will also stand out to visitors, it is the oldest courthouse in Iowa and is the second oldest in continuous use in the United States. Famous Keosauqua residents include Phil Strong, author of “State Fair,” and artist Wendell Mohr.
Just outside of Keosauqua, riders will find Lacey Keosauqua State Park, which hosts 1653 acres of trees, hills and bluffs, perfect for outdoor activity and sightseeing. For more details on Keosauqua and the RAGBRAI experience, visit their site at http://keosauqua.com/ragbrai-xli.html.
Our third stop of the day, Bentonsport, is also rich in history. Bentonsport is located on the Des Moines River, and was once a steamboat stop and is home to the first paper mill in Iowa. Guests can look forward to scenes of old mills, the century-old iron bridge, and the magnificent riverbank view.
Iron & Lace Pottery, Mason House Inn, Greef General Store, and the Indian Artifacts Museum are few of the specialty shops that will be open for business. To learn more about Bentonsport, visit their website at http://www.bentonsport.com/index.html.
Our next stop of the day is another town located on the Des Moines River. As you enter the city, you may feel as though you are stepping back into time, since there as been a recent resurgence of historic restoration.
While you visit Bonaparte, browse the National Historic Riverfront District for your entertainment, including an art gallery, antique shops and the infamous fudge factory. Or if you are hungry, stop by the Bonaparte Retreat Restaurant, formerly known as Meek Grist Mill, for the blue plate lunch special, great food, and the amazing historical atmosphere.
Bonaparte is an award-winning town, named a Main Street Community in 1990. The town holds the honor of being the United States’ smallest Main Street Community. It was also one of five towns to win the 1996 Great American Main Street Awards, an All-America City Award finalist in 1997, and designated as one of 12 “Distinctive Destinations” by the National Trust in 2001. Bonaparte strives to remain a thriving community. They welcome guests to experience a blend of yesterday’s ambience, today’s progress, and tomorrow’s success. For more information on Bonaparte, visit their site at http://www.bonaparte-iowa.com/index.htm.
This is the last of the Villages of Van Buren.
Our final stop of the day is West Point, which is in Lee County, home to the largest contiguous forest in Iowa. If you are hungry, you can look forward to walking tacos, lunch meat sandwiches, rib-eye sandwiches, corn dogs and ice cream provided by local vendors. Restaurants and pubs located on the square will be open for business. RAGBRAI festivities will include a DJ in the park, an obstacle course, antique tractors on display, and Mount RAGBRAI.
While you are eating your walking taco, take a stroll and check out West Point’s rich German heritage and 100 acres of parkland. Other attractions include the Presbyterian Church, St. Mary’s Catholic Church, a war memorial in City Park, Pollmiller Park, South Park and the five bars around city square, which we know will interest many RAGBRAI riders.
West Point’s RAGBRAI theme will be “Awe shucks, it’s all done,” which echoes our sentiments exactly. To learn more about West Point, visit their site at http://www.westpointiowa.com/.
The climatic ending RAGBRAI will take place at the Mississippi River in Fort Madison. Riverview Park will host all of the RAGBRAI festivities with a huge arch for riders to ride under before heading to the river and the sip site. The dip site will be constructed just behind the historic Fort Madison for a beautiful ending of the 406 mile journey across Iowa.
The town’s theme is “BIKES, BURGERS & PARADISE – The Florida of Iowa”. If you look at the location of Fort Madison, it is similar to Florida’s position in relation to the United States. This fun theme will spawn catfish and flamingos through the park. Tons of vendors will be waiting for hungry finishers just after dipping as will entertainment, last-minute souvenir shopping and a celebration beer garden. The Cherry Gun Band is the featured entertainment for the last day of RAGBRAI.
It has been a great journey across Iowa for the pre-riders. We will be doing a wrap-up blog and will gather some thoughts from some of the riders that made it all the way across in the coming weeks. We will also be highlighting some of the pass-through and overnight towns in the coming weeks as we learned more about their plans for hosting RAGBRAI.
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