The final day’s ride encompasses 49.7 miles with just 1,314 feet of climb. It is by far the easiest day of the week and we all earned that easy day on the bike. It felt like the Tour de France’s ride into Paris, an easy spin after the climbing of the past several days. Riders will visit all first-time towns on their journey to the Mississippi River in Muscatine including Columbus Junction, Fredonia, Letts and a final stop at Ardon Creek Vineyard & Winery before dipping their tires in the Mighty Miss! The dipsite in Muscatine is one of the best dip-sites of RAGBRAI, scenic and wide access for many RAGBRAIers at once, so enjoy that feeling of accomplishment.
We would like to give a huge THANK YOU to our Pre Ride photographers for the week – Bryon Houlgrave and Brian Powers! Their work appeared in our Instagram, blog posts, and photo galleries all week. They rode as well as photographed so the images really are a look into RAGBRAI XLIV from a rider’s perspective. You can find the galleries at www.RAGBRAI.com and our Instagram @RAGBRAI.
Also deserving many thanks are our wonderful Pre Ride support team, Jack Stubbe, Helen De Zeeuw, John Dale, and Lynda Van Tomme! Thanks for keeping us well fed, mapping the route, and making sure we don’t get lost! And to Dr. Rich Ketcham from GeoBike for keeping us technologically sound.
Thank you SO much to all of the volunteer RAGBRAI Committees from overnight and pass-through towns who came out and welcomed us, we can’t wait to bring back 10,000+ of our friends in 40 days! Take it from us, they can make some excellent pie, ham balls, root beer floats, cinnamon rolls and more!!
And finally, a very happy birthday to first time week-long route inspection rider and RAGBRAI EMT team member Ben Miller-Todd!
COLUMBUS JUNCTION (Meeting Town)
Columbus Junction is at the confluence of the Iowa and Cedar Rivers. There’s a historic downtown full of active businesses with owners from Mexico, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Burma. Columbus Junction has both large Hispanic and Burmese population.
The route into town will take riders past the swinging bridge, originally constructed in 1886 and dubbed the Lovers Leap Bridge. Legend has it that a heartbroken Indian maiden jumped to her death in the ravine. No one knows for sure, and the trees aren’t telling. Take a moment and visit the bridge and take in its history.
- Cross under the Highway 92 to find several food vendors lining the streets of downtown.
- Local talent will be on stage to entertain riders as they pass through.
Fredonia is just outside of Columbus Junction, and lies along the Iowa River. This is the point in the route where you’ll first feel like you’re biking toward a river town. If you’d like to do a little impromptu fishing, head down the River Forks Access ramp and cast away. In the winter you can see bald eagles there too.
Letts is another of the first time Louisa County towns on this year’s route, but they have been busy planning for a great stop. This town of 384 people is just 17 miles from your final destination of the Mississippi River in Muscatine.
Be careful on the railroad tracks that lead into town and you might need to walk your bike over them.
Letts is proud of their new Community/Library building that was helped funded with a grant from I-Jobs. You’ll see many historical displays there.
Some of the famous citizens that once called Letts home include William H Reddick, the 6th person to receive Congressional Medal of Honor and Pilot Lawrence Herrick, who was killed over France in WWII. Corporal Reddick was one of the 19 of 22 men (including 2 civilians) who, by direction of General Mitchell (or Buell), penetrated nearly 200 miles south into enemy territory and captured a railroad train at Big Shanty, Goergia, in an attempt to destroy the bridges and tracks between Chattanooga and Atlanta. After his successful escape, Corporal Reddick arrived in Washington, DC where he and his fellow raiders were presented the first Medals of Honor in history. Mason was the sixth in the group to receive his Country’s highest honor. In the 1950s, Disney Studios released “The Great Locomotive Chase”, a movie starring Fess Parker to herald the accomplishments of the Andrews Raid.
Some of the interesting sites in town include Letts City Park, Letts Cemetery (Gravesite of William H Reddick) and a Dome House located at 180 E Vine Street.
Murphy’s Grub & Pub will be open for drinks and possibly maid-rites. There will be a large outdoor beverage garden with a DJ for entertainment as well as about a dozen food vendors for that last nourishment before you push off.
For more information on Letts’ RAGBRAI plans, visit:
ARDON CREEK VINEYARD AND WINERY
The slogan for Ardon Creek Vineyard and Winery is ‘it takes a village’. That philosophy can be found in the crew of local community members called upon to help pick and bottle and prune. Ardon Creek is a family owned and managed operation founded on a 160-year-old family farm with a rich Irish Heritage.
Over the last few years, Ardon Creek has received numerous accolades for its wines including a recent double-gold win at the Fingerlakes International Wine Competition in New York.
Riders will enter the grounds through the entrance of the historic Ardon Depot. The original depot was used to transport people, mail and livestock back in the day. It currently serves as the community hall for the surrounding townships.
- Award winning wines by the glass and the bottle
- Beers from nearby breweries in Kalona and Amana
- Cranberry ‘Frappe Vinos’ wine slushies
- Wood-fired pizza from Maggies Farm Fresh Pizza
- A variety of live music as riders rest under the shade trees or tents set up on the lawn
Other Items of Interest:
- A booth for riders to sign up to be part of the Ardon Creek quarterly wine club, or to ship wine to their home.
- Unique wine accessories for sale and gourmet Harvest Vinegar and Oils to sample and purchase.
For more information on Ardon Creek Vineyard and Winery’s RAGBRAI plans, visit:
Muscatine welcomes RAGBRAI riders with open arms – they have been waiting 10 years for us! They had such a blast having you here in 2006 and have been working hard to make your 2016 visit even better.
After you leave Ardon Creek Vineyard & Winery, the last stop of the last day of RAGBRAI 2016, your ride will be almost totally downhill to the Muscatine City limits. There is only one roller hill, and we mean that!!
Muscatine will have just enjoyed their 4th of July celebrations with the theme of Honoring our Armed Forces. One of the first things you will see after crossing under the Highway 61 overpass is the proudly displayed recently restored American Legion parade locomotive truck. There will be many veterans there to welcome you into our city. Shortly after that, you will pass under a ginormous American Flag installed for your viewing pleasure by Muscatine Power & Water.
Look to your right and you will see the beautiful soccer complex humming with activity from the annual College Search Kickoff soccer tournament (CSK). “CSK is an invitational showcase for youth soccer players who want to play on the college level and are getting ready to enter their junior or senior year in high school in the fall. USA and Canadian U16, U17 and U18 club and league select teams registered for the 2015-2016 seasonal year are eligible. CollegeInfo and the Iowa Soccer Association sponsor CSK. Each year, 96 selected youth teams (48 boys and 48 girls) from clubs and leagues in the USA and Canada compete before 200-250 college coaches from the Midwest and beyond. Colleges from all academic and athletic levels—NCAA Division I, II and III plus NAIA, NJCAA and Independents are represented.”
A little farther along the route will bring you to what we refer to as “Carver Corner”. This is the intersection of Hershey Ave. and Main St. In the open grassy area on your right will be a 20’ tall “M” created from over 100 used bicycles welded together to make the 3D structure. You’ll want to stop and take a picture in front of this unique sculpture created and sponsored by Monsanto.
Within a block, you will pass by one of our original button companies for which we were named the Pearl Button Capital of the World, McKee Button Company. In 1895, James McKee and his partner W.E. Bliven were two of the first to jump into the emerging pearl button business in Muscatine. By 1900, McKee Button Company had become the largest manufacturer of pearl buttons in the world. In 1907, they moved operations to the stately red brick building at 1000 Hershey Avenue on the banks of the Mississippi River, which has been their home ever since. Pearl buttons ruled until 1945, when the introduction of plastic buttons changed the business. McKee weathered the change throughout the 1950s by revamping their production process to focus on the polyester product. Sales of their patented button feeders also fueled the business through the next few decades. Then, the company faced yet another hurdle in the 1990s when the trade bill with China permanently opened trade with that country. “Our business has changed a lot over the years,” stated Jay McKee, vice president and James McKee’s great grandson, who is joined in the business by his brothers, Jim and Mark; sisters, Madeleine Eagle and Margo Hamsher; and his father, Ted. McKee is now the exclusive manufacturer of decorative, acrylic tiles for use in Allsteel’s Abound® Workstations. After you finish your ride, you’ll want to learn more about our button history and other industry at the History & Industry Museum at 117 W 2nd St 2nd St.
Once you pass the historic McKee factory, the majestic Mississippi River will appear to your right. You’ll be rewarded with a beautiful panoramic of the river underlined by our open green spaces and trails lined with park benches and the “String of Pearls” lights.
A couple more spins of your bike wheels and you’ll be there! Turn right, cross the tracks and the dip site is waiting for you. Since the last time RAGBRAI ended in Muscatine, we have added lovely features to our riverfront: The Mississippi Harvest “Clammer” statue, another nod to their rich history as the Pearl Button Capital of the World and included in their theme and logo: Muscle Down to Mussel Town; and the Mississippi Mist water feature, symbolizing the many steam boats that once graced their shores bringing them many new residents and visitors including Mark Twain who resided here with his brother, Orion, during the summer of 1855.
Muscatine residents are looking forward to seeing you on the 30th! Their annual Great River Days carnival will be going on with a variety of entertainment options for the rest of the day and night.
You’ll definitely want to make plans to catch our sunset noted by Mark Twain and stick around to enjoy the only bridge on the Mississippi lighted with colored LED lights at night.
“And I remember Muscatine – still more pleasantly – for its summer sunsets. I have never seen any, on either side of the ocean, that equaled them.”
“The sunrises are also said to be exceedingly fine. I do not know.”
– Mark Twain
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