For 40 years, bike enthusiasts from around the world have baptized their tires in the Missouri and the Mississippi rivers to bookend a 450-mile plus trek across Iowa. This year, the 8 to 10,000 participants in the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, or RAGBRAI, will pedal into Clinton on July 28 after a weeklong July ride, and will find the banks of the Mississippi waiting for them.
Several area towns will serve as the backdrop to the final day of RAGBRAI. Near the beginning of the 70-mile journey from Anamosa to Clinton, riders will pass through Oxford Junction. Mayor Merle Tank said that the city has seen RAGBRAI riders come through a few times in the past, and that the “Junction for Opportunities” committee will be working on ways to accommodate the guests.
He said that riders tend to breeze through Oxford Junction on their way to the Mississippi, but he said if any chose to stick around and see the sites, they wouldn’t be disappointed. The old jail and museum are the town’s main attractions, Tank said.
Food services and T-shirts will also likely be available.
“It helps a little bit economically, but they’re going to be going through so fast,” Tank said. “I guess it’s a plus that we get our name on the map.” Riders also will travel to Delmar, a town known locally for its old train depot, which was recently converted into a museum.
The abandoned train depot was given new life after several area volunteers spent years remodeling the crumbling building. Now, the train depot provides a glimpse of life back to the golden age of railroads, and how they helped create the foundation of the town.
Riders will then pass through Charlotte and Goose Lake before arriving in Clinton. Marsha Smith, director of the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB), said that serving as the destination city for RAGBRAI will benefit a variety of area residents.
“We are ecstatic about having RAGBRAI ‘dip their tires’ here in Clinton,” Smith said after RAGBRAI overnight cities were announced. “This is just wonderful for our economy in that it will bring people here on the night before the start as well as on the last Saturday. Our hotels will be full, restaurants busy and money being spent in our retail stores.”
A CVB committee will explore ways to promote local attractions like the marina, campground and the LumberKings’ ballpark. She said that safety is also a priority when planning RAGBRAI activities.
This will be Mayor Mark Vulich’s first RAGBRAI as an elected official. He said he is looking forward to the arrival of the bicyclists, and hopes that many of them consider staying a few days.
“We’re hoping people take the time to see the sites and see what our little city has to offer,” Vulich said. “I’m hoping we snag a few for a short period of time.”
Vulich said Clinton will see an influx of visitors before the ride begins as well, as many riders opt to leave a vehicle in the destination city before it begins. By the time riders reach the Mississippi, Vulich said the grueling journey has taken its toll on many who may wish to immediately depart for home.
But if they choose to stay, Vulich said they would have access to city campgrounds, and could take advantage of Clinton restaurants and amenities. He said Clinton has several attractions that could appeal to enthusiasts of outdoor activities, including a disc golf course in Eagle Point Park and access to some of the widest areas of the Mississippi River.