The unveiling of the route for this year’s RAGBRAI offered a twist: two stops along the Mississippi River in southeast Iowa. The head of the annual bicycle ride across the state said the idea is to keep things new and exciting.
“We don’t want to just roll out the same old RAGBRAI each and every year,” said Director T.J. Juskiewicz. “When we can do something that is just a little bit different, we are going to take the opportunity to do that. It keeps people on their toes and, you know, it’s probably the thing most people are talking about on the entire route.”
The 2019 RAGBRAI starts in Council Bluffs on July 21 and ends in Keokuk July 27. The overnight stops are Atlantic, Winterset, Indianola, Centerville, Fairfield, and Burlington.
“It’s fairly easy… for a southern route, it’s extremely easy,” said Juskiewicz. “It’s kind of surprising that when you go south, you just assume it’s going to be very hilly. So to find a route that’s fairly flat and really short, you are talking 427 miles across the state, it should be an enjoyable ride.”
Juskiewicz said when riders usually reach a river town such as Burlington, it marks the end of the ride and they dip their tires in the Mississippi River. But he said with this year’s twist, riders will simply spend the night in Burlington and ride to Keokuk the following morning.
The last time Keokuk participated in RAGBRAI was 1992.
“It’s been a long time coming and a lot of people have been asking for it,” said Juskiewicz said of including Keokuk in RAGBRAI. “We are real happy that we are able to bring it down there. Now we did throw a little twist in there with having another river town in Burlington. So what that’s going to do is give a little riding along the Mississippi River when we can.”
Juskiewicz said RAGBRAI will not use Highway 218 or Highway 61 to get riders from Burlington to Keokuk on July 27.
“There are other roads to get from Burlington to Keokuk. That’s why it’s not a 30-mile ride that day. It’s probably a 60-mile ride.”
Juskiewicz said each summer, RAGBRAI organizers send out a packet to cities across the state, asking if they want to participate in the ride the following year. He said they receive about 200 responses each year.
Juskiewicz said once the responses come in, the planning begins.
“There is nothing set in stone, no pattern, no ‘we were north last year so we are going to the central or south this year,” said Juskiewicz. “There is no pattern or anything like that. We are going to pick great towns, great cities to ride through. As long as it is safe and enjoyable, we are going to go there.”