Where RAGBRAI riders meet great people in Northeast Iowa
Imagine how many dedicated volunteers it takes to feed, accommodate and entertain the thousands of visitors that will make their way to our local communities during two of the seven days during RAGBRAI – July 23-29. This is our time to shine Northeast Iowa! It’s a huge undertaking of prep work, which began in February when the overnight towns were announced followed by the finalized route of the ride that was revealed in March. So many community members have volunteered to serve on committees to prepare our area for the oldest, largest and longest recreational bicycle event in the world.
Why is RAGBRAI such a thriving annual event? According to Pat Boyle, who is a frequent RAGBRAI rider from Lime Springs, “Riders from outside Iowa are amazed and overwhelmed at the hospitality and friendliness of rural Iowa communities. They remember the kindness and want to come back.”
Boyle says each community puts out a big welcome as you ride into town and a big thank you as riders leave town the next day. That makes a huge impression upon the riders.
“Having ridden RAGBRAI for a number of years, I have seen the economic engine it has created for the small rural communities in Iowa. It is estimated each rider will spend roughly $100 per day for a local community,” says Boyle.
Kudos to all the hard work and dedication that our local volunteers are contributing. Ride on. Ride up. Ride Right. Now travel with me to see how we have “powered” up our local communities for this huge bicycle extravaganza.
There is a special ‘detour’ along the route on Thursday, July 27 that I would like to note. The Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation is demonstrating local pride by offering tours of the boyhood home of Dr. Norman Borlaug near Protivin. Borlaug is known worldwide for his achievements in feeding billions. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (1970), the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1977), the Congressional Gold Medal (2007) and had his bronze statue dedicated in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C. (2014).
Laura Schmauss, President of the Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation, has been busy with her team of 16 foundation members to maximize exposure as thousands of people will venture past the road that leads to the home where Norman was born over 100 years ago. “We are thrilled to take part in this exciting Iowa tradition,” Schmauss explains. “And we are proud to showcase Borlaug’s northeast Iowa roots by honoring his life with ‘The Great Borlaug Road’ which will start near Lawler, run through Protivin, past the junction for the boyhood home of Norman Borlaug and finish twelve miles north in Cresco.”
PEDAL TO THE BEST SIDE STOPS
There are only two months until 15,000 people will occupy our local roads, communities, campgrounds, parks, streets and front yards. Let’s take a minute and thank all of the area groups, organizations, and leaders that are busy planning. Countless 4H, FFA, Girl and Boy Scout troops, churches, pork, beef and dairy associations and many, many more groups that are busy finalizing their menus to feed the hungry bicyclists.
“My husband, daughter and I have participated in RAGBRAI for quite a few years either for the full ride or a portion of it. You meet many wonderful people from not only all across our country but also overseas riders that fly in from other countries to participate. We are always thankful for the variety of food you can get at each of the different towns. Looking forward to sampling a ‘taste of northeast Iowa’ this year,” says Kaye Bernard from Rushford, Minn.
My mouth is just watering, thinking of all the slices of pie that will be sold. And the thirst-quenching fresh lemonade under July’s hot sun. Another chance for riders to satisfy their thirst is with a stop at Toppling Goliath in Decorah and PIVO Brewery & Blepta Studios under construction in Calmar. And the route will certainly have ample opportunities for sweetcorn drenched in butter! Another subtle reminder how important corn is to our farmer members will occur as the cyclists pedal by the Homeland Energy Solutions ethanol plant near Lawler. Care to bite into a grilled bratwurst topped with sauerkraut with a kolache to curb your sweet tooth in Protivin? How does indulging in gothic gyros and freaky fries at family-owned Reno’s Smokehouse sound as they artistically coordinate with Cresco’s ‘Pedal to the Paranormal’ theme? How about a round of lefse as the pack cycles through Decorah during their annual Nordic Fest celebration? Maybe a bowl of rommegrøt? Try a time-tested treat from the Whippy Dip Ice Cream Parlor that been an iconic feature of Decorah since 1954. How about slurping down a tasty malt or some squeaky cheese curds along the bike route to honor Iowa’s Dairy Center in Calmar?
Take note as we plan to catch the eye of RAGBRAI participants and not just let them pedal on to the next town. Hopefully the widely known “passing on your left” biking term will not be heard much as they travel down almost 100 miles of our roads. We hope they take the time to stop, visit and discover what great things Northeast Iowa has to offer!