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Dave's Ragbrai Recap

Just A Great Ride

In the mid 80’s


July 23-29 2017

403 miles 12,778 FT of climb

Orange City to Lansing

Saturday night at the American Reformed Church

The church is two blocks from downtown, where all of the activities of RAGBRAI are.  It is obvious that this town is proud of its Dutch heritage.  The buildings are in great condition, like the entire city.  I asked a worker wearing an orange t-shirt if they had a VFW in town.  He said he didn’t know, but if they did, the drinks would be cheap (with a smile).


Sunday July 23

Orange City to Spencer

Alton                                     3 miles

Granville                             7 miles

Paullina                               9.6 miles

Primghar (meeting)        10 miles

Gravel Loop option         19.2 miles

Hartley                                 14 miles

Spencer                               19 miles

Home – Grace United Methodist Church

We had the lower level of the church and it was cool.


Monday July 24

Spencer to Algona

71.7 miles – 1631 Climb

101 miles – 2087 climb with the Karras Loop

Ayrshire                               24 miles

Curlew                                 10.2 miles

Mallard                                5.6 miles

West Bend (meeting)    13.4 miles

Plover (optional Karras Loop)     29.6 miles

Whittemore                                      8.3 miles

Algona                                                  10.2 miles

Like Sunday, the weather was great.  Cool in the morning and mid 80’s later.  The towns were spread out and we had about 50 miles before we had a real town that could hold all the bikers.  As usual, all the towns were friendly, but no stand outs.

It seems that the vendors that travel along with the ride have displaced the churches to a great extent.  Less pies and ice cream for us all.

The showering has changed a lot over time.  My first year (not with HBA) it was a mass shower with hundreds of people lined up waiting in the sun.

Next we had black bags heated by laying them on cement.  Sometimes you get a hot shower bag and sometimes not so “hot”.  Also, changing bags mid shower was fun.

Then a few years ago we got propane heaters (no bags), but the flow and temp was a guess at times.

Now we have continuous hot water and people just sit around and talk while waiting.  If this isn’t the model T to the electric car, I don’t know how better to describe it.  The next thing will be personal washers and dryers.


Tuesday July 25th

Algona to Clear Lake

51.4 Miles – 934 climb

(add a few miles finding the church)

Our home will be Evangelical Free Church

Wesley                                                13.9 miles

Britt                                                       9.5 miles

Garner (meeting)                            15 miles

Ventura                                               7.4 miles

Clear Lake                                           5.6 miles

Tuesday was a get up late morning for most, because of the 51 miles and under 1000 FT of climb.

We had a south side wind most of the day.  In fact, this so far could best be called a side wind trip.

It was with great anticipation we headed for Clear Lake, having been there 3 years ago, and thinking it was the best!  This year it could show even better.

I know our group is getting older (except Craig and Mark), for thinking the ride was a little hard.

The real wonder is Clear Lake itself, a vacation town that makes you want to be there.  Also, it was the first time to visit the Surf Ballroom.  It was beautiful, a true reminder of the place where “The Music Died in 1959”!  After their performances there, Rickey Vallons, The Big Bopper and Buddy Holly were killed in a plane crash.  They were (especially Buddy Holly) at the time Rock and Roll God’s.

In 1971, Don McLean wrote and sang “The Day the Music Died”.

Between the deaths and the song, one can wonder if the Surf Ballroom would even be there.  It is there, and the Ballroom museum that looks just like it did.

We have now had 3 days of great weather, but rain is expected for Wednesday.  Weather forecasting is something else that has changed in the last 20 years.  The forecast was just that, but now every iPhone can tell you, and you can see it coming by the minute.

The Evangelical Church had plenty of room, but finding it was more difficult.

When we got to where we thought the church should be, there was not a church!  We saw a man walking across the street and asked him for information.  He had all already directed two other groups from HBA to the right location (Iowa Nice).


Wednesday July 26th

Clear Lake to Charles City

57.4 Miles – 1290 FT of Climb

Home at the Trinity Methodist

Thornton                             13.1 miles

Swaledale                           5.6 miles

Rockwell (meeting)        6 miles

Cartersville        6.7 miles

Rockford              10.7 miles

Charles City        15.4 miles

We were warned that rain was coming in the morning, from the west.  It proved true.  The forecast said rain by 11 AM, so we road along with weather radar in hand.  Some left early and didn’t get wet.  Some didn’t care and took shelter.  Some only half timed their ride and had to stop for bloody Marys, then had to take shelter and then stayed too long and got hit with rain just short of Charles City.

Charles City had a town square that was great, with no rain in the afternoon. Our church was the same one we stayed in seven years ago.  That year we had to stay in the church for two or three hours until the rain stopped around 9 or 10 AM.  The church then (and this year also) left food for us.  They were great in every way.  We will finally get some hills on Friday and Saturday.


Thursday July 27th

Charles City to Cresco

54.6 miles – 2257 climb

Home – Fist Lutheran Church

Ionia                                                      13 miles

New Hampton (meeting)             8.5 miles

Lawler                                                  8.3 miles

Protivin                                12.7 miles

Cresco                                                  12.1 miles

The ride, like most of the week, was great.  We got some hills, but I think the hills we had were to get us ready for the last two days.  My group felt it was a little hard for 55 miles.  The views while riding are so great.  We love hills and hate them as well.


Friday July 28th

Cresco to Waukon

60 Miles – 2483 Climb

Home – Frist Presbyterian Church

Decorah (meeting)         19.5 miles

Ossian                                  14.7 miles

Castalia                                5.1 miles

Postville                              6.1 miles

Waukon                               14.7 miles

Again, we could not ask for anything better.  Decorah was all dressed up for us, I thought.  Well, maybe a little, but it was also Nordic Fest that day.  It was a great celebration.

Today we had the longest downhill ride that I can remember.  It felt good, but all good things have to come to an end.  But this time only Ossian stopped it.

We got our first test of hills on the second half of the ride.  We had a view of the future, some long – long hills that will be a test.  The forecast for Saturday is starting with a temp of 57 and a high of 79.


Saturday July 29th

44.8 Miles – 2900 FT Climb

Waterville                                          15 miles

Yellow River St. Forest                  8.8 miles

Harpers Ferry                                    7.4 miles

Lansing                                                 13.6 miles

Well, here’s the day we have been waiting for!  I don’t know if it is to have the week over, or we can’t wait for the hills.  We were told that there were two big hills, and the last one was the hardest.  When I started up the first hill, it was steep and stayed that way.  At about ½ mile, there were people starting to walk.  A few hundred yards further, more had joined them.  As the top appeared, I said to myself, if it were to go a quarter mile longer I would be walking also.

My next thought, while rolling down the hill, was the next one is harder!!!  Well, it did come, and to my surprise the slope was less, and also one mile long, but not as daunting as the first.

Those views on the downside of the hill were great, but who could look at them when you are going 40 plus miles an hour.

Lansing is a small town, and in the past that has been a traffic problem.  As it turned out, except for the bus having trouble getting into town, we were out a little after two.


2017 was a great year, and the fact that the week before the temps were in the 90’s, our 80’s were great.

I want to thank all of the HBA for making living together for a week so easy!!

Also, thanks to my riding gang, including Craig, for making me want to come back every year.

Our usual thanks are in order.

Jim, you are great, may you take care of us forever.

John and Judy, please keep the churches coming.  My need to sleep in a tent is very low.

Mark, as our new leader you did great.  I did feel for you when you had to get off the ride because of the mix up about the church and our church stay in Clear lake.

And thanks to Clint for taking us to places we wanted to go.

As always, Jerry’s maps helped guide us to the churches, and Rick for our home for loading.

And here are some flashbacks of prior RAGBRAI’s:


Five Years ago, 2012, 471 miles

Sioux City to Clinton

Long/Hot/Dry Summer

Along the way to Sioux City we saw the dry conditions in the crops.  Orange City was the first stop.  It was a hit because of the Dutch Heritage.  Also, Alton and Granville (like this year) were along the route.

On Wednesday, the ride to Marshalltown was a real test.  The ride was 44 miles, had temps in the 104’s and 115’s heat index in the afternoon.  Anyone out after 1:00 PM had to be careful.

Then a big storm came in the evening.  I felt sorry for anyone camping.  HBA had to suffer in the air conditioned Methodist Church.  We rode to Cedar Rapids the next day.

On Friday, we had the slowest ride to Mt. Vernon, with a zillian day riders, and then on to Anamosa.  The last day was a scenic dream that Grant Wood painted.  From the hottest, to a great 3 day finish to Clinton.


Ten Years ago, 2007

Rock Rapids to Bellevue.  It was a ride with great weather, flat, no rain, and if you had any rain gear it was used very little.

The greatest town was Eagle Grove, with the eagle in the tree and Mayberry characters in full uniform. They had Elvis and lots of fun.

The best “Iowa Nice” story was a happy Iowa woman giving away wine that her father-in-law had made. She had no idea what kind of wine it was, but had the greatest smile and attitude I have ever seen.  Most churches had indoor showers and it never got hot.

While staying in Dyersville at Beckman High School, that was close to the Ertl Toy Museum, we had a good tour.

The size of Bellevue (2500) made for a mess, with all the cars/buses and bike traffic to end our journey.


Dave Evans