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  1. #1
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    Best Bike tours by state - Anybody done Iowa?

    I remember reading in a cycling magazine that the ride across Iowa is supposed to be fantastic. The scenery sounds boring, has anyone done it?
    I found this tour on a site that has great rides in every states:
    Cycling Tours by State

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    Iowa's cross-state ride, RAGBRAI, is the only cross-state ride I've ever done. Quite simply, it was the best week-long party I've ever attended. And I found the rolling hills (most of Iowa is NOT flat) quite pleasant.

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    I've driven across Iowa and I thought it was pretty boring. It depends where you are from and live now. Someone from northern texas might say there are rolling hills but I am from the northeast so its kinda flat to me.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Shemp's Avatar
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    It's certainly the largest you'll find. I'm native to the Illinois and Iowa areas and was surprised by the people who appreciate the ride from all over. I met one fellow along the way from San Diego who had ridden several times and kept coming back. I ran into an 81 year old from Indiana who was riding for like the 6th time. Characters abound. The towns go all out for the event. The atmosphere is like that of a rolling carnival, but yes, you do see a lot of corn. Will I do it again? Someday, but there are a lot of other things to do first. Was it worth doing at least once? Certainly.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcoine
    I've driven across Iowa and I thought it was pretty boring. It depends where you are from and live now. Someone from northern texas might say there are rolling hills but I am from the northeast so its kinda flat to me.
    All of us cyclists know that drivers' impressions of roads often don't match the view on a bike. And a region will look different from a country road compared to the view from a nearby interstate highway. For the record, I was raised in the piedmont area of the eastern US. Most of Iowa that I saw (all 500+ miles) was rolling hills. The NW quadrant of the state is the flattest part. RAGBRAI's route varies each year. My year, it began in the NW and ended in the SE. The first 2 days in the NW were pretty flat. I was surprised by how hilly the final day was, though it certainly wasn't difficult. Anyway, I happen to love climbing mountain passes. But I heard more than one midwestern cyclist *****ing and moaning about the hills on the final 2 days. I've been in other parts of the midwest which seemed dead flat to me by comparison. Perhaps due to coastal bias, I feared I would find the Iowa landscape boring, and I was pleasantly surprised. But it was the atmosphere, the people (both local folks as well as the 10,000 other cyclists), and the superb organization of the event which made it so special.

  6. #6
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    I do RAGBRAI every year... It's what I look forward to every year. It's better than christmas and halloween rolled into 1... I would recomend it to everyone

  7. #7
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    My biggest problem with Iowa (I did from north to south, solo) wasn't the terrain, which I found pretty especially the Loess Hills, but the lack of anything of interest. I rode the Lewis and Clark Trail along the Missouri and there isn't a whole lot to see or do out there. All of the little towns along the Interstate have dried up and blown away because of the "Walmart" effect:

    "Hey, Ma, how's about we drive over to Walmart in Council Bluffs to save $0.03 on our paper towels."
    "Sure, Pa, let me get my hat. It's only 60 miles down the road. We'll really stick it to Jack's Grocery! The thief! Chargin' us an extra 3 pennies! Oh, we'll need some gas."

    (My parents actually do this.)

    Getting food between Souix City and St. Joseph is really difficult. I had to carry enough food for 6 days when I made the trip, which I had to purchase at Walmart

    But because the towns are shut down, there aren't many museums or libraries or even many parks. Just corn and soybeans.
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  8. #8
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    Ya but when you do Ragbrai you have 15 thousand people to keep you entertained. Might be a good time to see if you can fit 2 people into you Hammock for some sweet loving by the campfire.

  9. #9
    Senior Member halfspeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute
    My biggest problem with Iowa (I did from north to south, solo) wasn't the terrain, which I found pretty especially the Loess Hills, but the lack of anything of interest. I rode the Lewis and Clark Trail along the Missouri and there isn't a whole lot to see or do out there. All of the little towns along the Interstate have dried up and blown away because of the "Walmart" effect:

    "Hey, Ma, how's about we drive over to Walmart in Council Bluffs to save $0.03 on our paper towels."
    "Sure, Pa, let me get my hat. It's only 60 miles down the road. We'll really stick it to Jack's Grocery! The thief! Chargin' us an extra 3 pennies! Oh, we'll need some gas."

    (My parents actually do this.)

    Getting food between Souix City and St. Joseph is really difficult. I had to carry enough food for 6 days when I made the trip, which I had to purchase at Walmart

    But because the towns are shut down, there aren't many museums or libraries or even many parks. Just corn and soybeans.

    I've done RAGBRAI twice and been through dozens of small towns, usually between ten and twenty miles apart. I've ridden around Minnesota and Wisconsin as well. I've never had trouble finding food or small communities with cafes, convenience stores, grain elevators, social clubs and bars. There are tiny unincorporated towns with little more than a feed store, but I suspect most of them have never had much more. So I don't know which Iowa you visited, but it's not where I've been.

    Quote Originally Posted by mcoine
    I've driven across Iowa and I thought it was pretty boring. It depends where you are from and live now. Someone from northern texas might say there are rolling hills but I am from the northeast so its kinda flat to me.
    Iowa on an interstate in a car is NOTHING like RAGBRAI.

  10. #10
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by halfspeed
    I've done RAGBRAI twice and been through dozens of small towns, usually between ten and twenty miles apart. I've ridden around Minnesota and Wisconsin as well. I've never had trouble finding food or small communities with cafes, convenience stores, grain elevators, social clubs and bars. There are tiny unincorporated towns with little more than a feed store, but I suspect most of them have never had much more. So I don't know which Iowa you visited, but it's not where I've been.



    Iowa on an interstate in a car is NOTHING like RAGBRAI.
    I think it's more of a problem along the western edge, along the interstate (I-89, I think). There were plenty of small towns that used to have grocery stores and services but they have all closed up because of the Walmarts at Souix City, Council Bluffs and St. Joes. As soon as you get a ways off the Interstate corridor, you start to find communities that still have some life. It might be because of the direction of travel too. I talked to a couple from Homer, Alaska who had the same trouble. We were both traveling from north to south. Considering that the railroads mainly travel east-west, there are fewer communities on a north-south line. Whatever the explaination, the cupboard was still pretty bare.
    Stuart Black
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    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
    Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
    An Good Ol' Fashion Appalachian Butt Whoopin'.

  11. #11
    Sensible shoes. CastIron's Avatar
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    I did the T.O.G.I.R. some years back. Nice place to visit...
    N.E. Iowa (Dubuque, Quad Cities, etc) is freakin' hilly. Quad busting (but not CO, mind you) delights abound.
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  12. #12
    Up on the Down Side CyLowe97's Avatar
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    I tagged along w/ my bro at the last minute and rode 1992 RAGBRAI w/o registering. That was one of the best weeks of my life. A rolling party. Always someone new to chat with on the road (all you need to do is say, "hey, how's it going... where you from?"). Always another hill to power up and another town pulling out the stops a few miles away.

    It's not about how fast you go. It's more about how much you can stretch it out so that you're on the road as long as possible before the overnight town beckons with night-time festivities.

    Go for it!

  13. #13
    cycles per second Gonzo Bob's Avatar
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    I toured in parts of Iowa in 1992. Basically the extreme NE corner. Very scenic. It was kind of a late season tour (some sub freezing temps a few nights) and I was very suprised to actually see a couple of other tourists!

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    It sounds like the best partying tour in the country. Is there one better?

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    The nice part is that most people have talked about doing it back in the 90's since then it has only gotten bigger... it's a blast...


    Cheers,

    Coconut

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    Here some registration info

    When does registration open?
    Registration begins on Nov. 15, 2005.

    When is the registration deadline?
    The registration postmark deadline is April 1, 2006. Your application, payment and waiver must be submitted prior to or on the deadline to be eligible for the lottery.

    Is there a limit on registrations?
    RAGBRAI is limited to 8,500 week-long riders and 1,500 daily riders. Applications can exceed the number of riders allowed, so a random computer lottery takes place after all of the applications are entered in the computer. Lottery results are available online on May 1, 2006.

  17. #17
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    I heartily recommend the Oklahoma FreeWheel. It's been going on for more than 25 years. Every year they choose a different route from south to north across the state. It has 800 to 1,000 riders and they sag up to two bags for every rider in a semi, i.e. no need for your own sag. It's inexpensive and family friendly but I never had any trouble finding drinking buddies at the local beer joint. The link is www.okfreewheel.com.
    It's a little hot the 2nd week of June and while there are no mountains, Oklahoma is far from flat.
    I did it in 2004 and 2005 and would do it again this year if I weren't doing a multi-month tour from Deadhorse, Alaska to Los Angeles this summer.

    If you want a truly challenging ride, try the Talimena Scenic Parkway with 41 miles of up to 13% grades with a total climbing gain of almost 7,000 feet.

  18. #18
    Bag it baby
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    Quote Originally Posted by dowab
    Here some registration info

    When does registration open?
    Registration begins on Nov. 15, 2005.

    When is the registration deadline?
    The registration postmark deadline is April 1, 2006. Your application, payment and waiver must be submitted prior to or on the deadline to be eligible for the lottery.

    Is there a limit on registrations?
    RAGBRAI is limited to 8,500 week-long riders and 1,500 daily riders. Applications can exceed the number of riders allowed, so a random computer lottery takes place after all of the applications are entered in the computer. Lottery results are available online on May 1, 2006.

    RAGBRAI wants people to register but you do not need to. If you go Self Contained there is no need for it. Registering has always been a thorn in my side for what they offer. But if you don't register, don't let it discourage you from doing this ride. It is a BLAST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Cheers,

    Coconut

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    Thought I would add my .03 cents....I grew up (debateable) in Iowa from 4th grade-college and lived in the small town of Hawarden, hard on the n/w corner, right next to S.Dakota. Hawarden (pop. 1600+-) has been the start of RAGBRAI a number of times. I rode for 2 days in the late 80's....absolute blast. People were riding everything from high end Itialian racers to Schwinn cruisers. It's not about speed, more of the meeting of riders from all over the US and some out of the country. The people in these small towns are fantastic, eager to help, and on occasion, invite you in for a meal and an offer to sleep in an extra bedroom, camp in the yard, etc. The recent RagB's have brought in a few small problems with too much drinking, a few fights and vandalism. The people on the most popular routes (changes every year to some extent) really roll out the red carpet for riders too: parades, some offer camping in the school gym and use of showers/bathrooms, lots of local baked goods, and most have free bike tunes from some of the local bike mechanics. If you are into a mass, moving, circus party show...RagB is it. Myself, I would pass and travel solo or small group anytime from late May to Oct. 1...riding from west to east. It's a safe State to ride and camp, with lots of rural America to see, especially off the usual route of RagB. Typical little town residents will be very curteous, gracious, always offering to help in any way, and eager to show you around. Food: it's meat/potatoes fare for the most part...eating at the local coffee shop should run you about $3-4.00 tops for egg breakfast with coffee....can't beat it. Unlike California (where I live), Iowa'ns take great pride in keeping their State CLEAN and it's so green from frequent rain fall. If anyone is into antiques, the stuff in the small town shops are absolute buys according to friends.
    If anyone needs help, please let me know as I can steer you to friends for camping, and my sister's farm place a mile out of town. Happy riding!
    jimmc100@yahoo.com

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    Thanks jimx for the great write. Now, all I will have to do is convince my wife to go

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    Just to add one more perspective -- I've ridden Iowa East to West, twice, solo touring and I think it's a great state. People are very friendly, and there are many low-traffic roads. One person's boredom is another person's tranquility. I personally remember Iowa with great fondness and would recommend it.

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    Going solo sounds great, I did a solo motorcycle trip across the US for 5 months when I was in college. Today, Getting away from a wife, 3 kids, 3 dogs, cat, and a bearded dragon sounds great.

  23. #23
    Senior Member halfspeed's Avatar
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    Speaking of RAGBRAI...

    The route is up! http://www.ragbrai.org/

    It's a mostly central route this year starting North and going South.

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    Halfspeed, thanks for the post, however, it looks more West to East to me. I prefer the West to East riding as the winds (most of the time) follow that pattern. I am really tempted to ride it this year, but I am looking hard at Europe (Spain/Portugal, maybe France). Too much work...not enough time!
    Halfspeed, ride safe and watch out for those tractors!

  25. #25
    Senior Member halfspeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimx200
    Halfspeed, thanks for the post, however, it looks more West to East to me. I prefer the West to East riding as the winds (most of the time) follow that pattern. I am really tempted to ride it this year, but I am looking hard at Europe (Spain/Portugal, maybe France). Too much work...not enough time!
    Halfspeed, ride safe and watch out for those tractors!
    It's =always= West to East. The big question is usually Southern, Northern, or Central. This year it's a bit of all three.

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