Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 17, 2017

RAGBRAI riders on their way


The countdown to RAGBRAI ended early Sunday morning when the first riders left Council Bluffs and began the 54.8 mile trek to Harlan, passing through Underwood, Neola, Minden, Shelby and Tennant.

Today marked the second day of the seven-day ride, held every year during the last full week of July. RAGBRAI began in 1973 as a six-day ride across Iowa by two Des Moines Register columnists and a few of their friends.

The week-long tour averages 468 miles, beginning somewhere along Iowa’s western border on the Missouri River and ending along the eastern border on the Mississippi River. The route is changed each year, and eight Iowa communities are named each year to serve as host communities for overnight stays.

Today, cyclists endured the longest ride of this year’s trip, racking up 83 miles between Harlan and Perry. On the way, they passed through Kimballton, Hamlin, Guthrie Center, Springbrook State Park, Yale and Washington Township. Today’s ride included 4,239 feet of climb.

To celebrate the Danish heritage of Kimballton and Elk Horn, riders had the opportunity to visit Kimballton’s life-size replica of the Little Mermaid and Elk Horn’s 60-foot Danish windmill. In Hamlin, passersby could stop at Darrell’s Place, winner of the Iowa Pork Producer’s Best Breaded Pork Tenderloin Contest in 2003.

Some concern was raised last spring about the proposed route through Springbrook State Park. In May, a sinkhole that spanned 20 feet and was 5 feet deep occurred under the asphalt on Iowa Highway 384 at the entrance of the park, near the boat ramp at the base of Mockingbird Hill. Iowa Department of Natural Resources evacuated campers at the state park after authorities from the Iowa Department of Transportation deemed the sinkhole to be unsafe. The sinkhole was attributed to record winter and spring precipitation.

During the RAGBRAI XLI pre-ride on June 3, route inspectors assessed the sinkhole and considered changes to the route through Springbrook State Park and up Mockingbird Hill, which is the steepest hill to be on a RAGBRAI route. After the inspection, no changes to the route were made.

Forecasters predicted today would be the hottest day of the ride, with high temperatures in the mid-90s expected. Lows are expected to be near 60, and RAGBRAI festivalgoers are likely to get wet this afternoon or evening when chances of thunderstorms are at 50 percent and 40 percent, respectively. With any luck, storms will subside in time for Hairball to take the main stage in Perry this evening.

Tuesday, cyclists will pass through Minburn, Dallas Center, Van Meter and Historic Valley Junction in West Des Moines on their 49.9 mile trip. Wednesday, they will continue their sojourn, riding another 49.9 miles from Des Moines to Knoxville, passing through the Iowa State Fairgrounds, Runnells and Monroe.

Additional sinkhole concerns have been reported in Runnells. In June, a sinkhole measuring 10 feet wide and 10 feet deep opened in a residential neighborhood on a homeowner’s lawn. Officials determined the sinkhole was caused by an old septic tank, not by an abandoned mine as some officials originally suspected. Engineers noted many coal mines were in the area, and they have had sinkholes in the past.

If they aren’t swallowed up by sinkholes the previous day, riders will travel 52 miles on Thursday from Knoxville to Oskaloosa, passing through Pella, Bussey and Beacon. On Friday, they will leave Oskaloosa and ride through Cedar, Fremont, Hedrick, Martinsburg and Packwood, logging 52 more miles before they hit the Fairfield city limits.

More than 25,000 riders and support crew members are expected to flood Fairfield before noon on Friday. This will mark the fourth time the city has hosted the riders. Fairfield also hosted RAGBRAI in 1979, 1988 and 1997.

The RAGBRAI committee and employees of the Fairfield Iowa Convention and Visitors Bureau are planning many events to provide entertainment and fun for RAGBRAI participants, and city crew members have been working tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure Fairfield is ready for the influx of visitors.

Fairfield Park Superintendent Pam Craff said countless hours have gone into preparing for the return of RAGBRAI to Fairfield.

“It’s been a lot of phone calls, a lot of emails, a lot of planning and a lot of work, but I think we’re ready,” Craff said.

Craff said no matter how prepared the city is, people must brace themselves for problems that will undoubtedly crop up.

“Everybody has done everything that could possibly be done to be as prepared as possible, but it’s inevitable that at some point, there are going to be some problems. We will all need to remain patient, flexible and cooperative,” she said.

“They’re coming no matter what, so what will be, will be,” said Craff.

Note: In addition to road closings that appeared in the Ledger on July 19, Fairfield residents should note that all city parks, the dog park, Frisbee golf facilities at Chautauqua Park and all park restrooms will be closed Thursday evening and will not reopen until sometime on Saturday.

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