Calling on RAGBRAI riders to help plant milkweed for monarchs

Monarch butterfly enthusiasts have prepared more than 50,000 balls containing common milkweed seeds for riders participating in next week’s Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). As its name suggests, common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is the most prevalent among the 17 types of milkweed found in Iowa. However, the use of genetically-modified Roundup Ready corn and soybeans greatly diminished common milkweed on Iowa cropland. “Kelly Milkweed” Guilbeau and a friend scattered some milkweed seeds while doing RAGBRAI in 2014, then prepared about 2,000 balls of seed to hand out during last summer’s ride across Iowa.

Elizabeth Hill, who manages the Conard Environmental Research Area at Grinnell College, has collaborated with Guilbeau on the Milkweed Matters initiative, greatly expanded this year. I wish them every success; driving around Iowa last week, I saw huge stands of wild parsnip along too many roadsides.

I enclose below two pictures of common milkweed blooming, as well as a press release explaining where riders can pick up seed balls to toss in unmowed ditches along the RAGBRAI route, which runs across southern Iowa from July 24 through 30.

You can learn more at the Milkweed Matters website and receive regular updates on Twitter (@milkweedmatters) or Facebook. Butterfly fans can find more good links at the Monarchs in Eastern Iowa website. Although I’m not skilled at identifying butterflies, I enjoy the occasional “butterfly forecasts” by the Poweshiek Skipper Project.

P.S.- Hill will always have a special place in my heart as the accidental godmother of Bleeding Heartland’s Iowa wildflower Wednesday series.

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2016 RAGBRAI route announced: A short ride across southern Iowa

After two straight years of taking bicyclists across northern parts of the state, the Des Moines Register announced this evening that the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) will cross southern Iowa from July 24 to 30. The route starting in Glenwood and ending in Muscatine will take riders “419.9 miles (third-shortest in the event’s 44-year history), with a total climb of 18,488 feet (making it the 24th flattest).”

Full details on the 2016 route are on the official RAGBRAI website. After the jump I’ve listed the overnight stops, along with daily mileage totals and feet of climb and some political trivia about places riders will visit this summer.

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2015 RAGBRAI route announced: Another northern trip

A few minutes ago, the Des Moines Register announced the 2015 route for the Register’s Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). None of the ten most-guessed overnight towns are on this year’s ride; many people wrongly predicted a southerly route after last year’s northern passage. Instead, most of the route will traverse northern Iowa again this year, until the last two nights in Coralville and Davenport. Muscatine boosters, buoyed by unsubstantiated rumors, will have to hope for next year.

A 15-mile gravel loop will be an option for riders on July 20, added this year to honor the memory of Steve Hed. The legendary bike designer passed away last November.

Overnight stops are after the jump, along with daily mileage totals and feet of climb. Three overnight stops on this year’s route were part of the original RAGBRAI in 1973.

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Weekend open thread: Walking the talk edition

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread.

State Representative Chuck Isenhart, the ranking Democrat on the Iowa House Environmental Protection Committee, has installed solar panels on his Dubuque home as a personal step to address climate change. Details are after the jump. Solar power has a reputation for being expensive to install, but technological advances and policy changes have reduced the payback time for many home and business owners. Isenhart expects to save money in the long-term. A bill approved during this year’s legislative session improved Iowa’s tax incentives for solar in several ways.

The Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, begins its northern route in Rock Valley today. Good luck to everyone in the Bleeding Heartland community planning to do all or part of RAGBRAI. Last week’s weather would have been absolutely perfect; I hope the high temperatures will mostly stay below 90 this week. In its recent feature on “33 useful tips for newbies” to the experience, I found it strange that the Register focused so much on the drinking culture. Carl Voss, a Des Moines bicycling advocate and veteran of 36 RAGBRAIs, unloaded on what he called “sophomoric drivel” in an angry letter to the editor. Excerpt:

Granted, alcohol attracts some riders and non-riders among the more than 10,000 RAGBRAI participants. It happens. But trust me, that isn’t the way most participants enjoy RAGBRAI, Iowa and our communities.

Now, flip to the RAGBRAI website, where RAGBRAI (and therefore the Register) includes among the “Top 10 Recommendations for Rider Safety“: Do NOT drink alcohol and ride. […]

Publishing crap like this in your news columns will turn me off to RAGBRAI and the Register.

Another letter to the editor, which I’ve posted after the jump, focused on the large number of puppy mills near this year’s RAGBRAI route. The Iowa legislature passed a bill in 2010 that was designed to reduce abuses at puppy mills, but unfortunately Iowa still has some bad actors in the industry. Adopting a pet from a shelter such as the Animal Rescue League has so many advantages. If your heart is set on a purebred animal, at least visit the breeder’s facility before buying a pet.

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2014 RAGBRAI route announced: Northern passage, great architecture

On Saturday night the Des Moines Register announced the major stops on the 2014 Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). The rumor going around the Iowa Bike Expo today turned out to be true: the 418-mile ride takes a northern path through the state from July 20 to July 26. It is the third-shortest route in RAGBRAI history and the second-easiest in terms of feet of climb. I’ve seen some bicyclists complaining on social media already, but let’s face it: north-central Iowa is pretty flat.

Overnight stops are after the jump. This may be the best RAGBRAI ever for architecture buffs.

UPDATE: I’ve been playing around with the Location Affordability Portal this weekend, so just for fun I thought I’d see which of the RAGBRAI overnight stops are the most and least affordable for residents, in terms of housing and transportation costs. Scroll down for the available data.

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David Byrne feels the love for Des Moines

Iowans are easily offended when critics slam our way of life, but we love to be validated by outsiders. Countless Iowans shared David Byrne’s reflections on Des Moines on social media today. The former frontman for Talking Heads was in Des Moines over the July 4 weekend as a headliner for the 80/35 music festival. A huge bicycling advocate in New York City, Byrne loved the “gorgeous” and “well-maintained” network of bike trails in central Iowa. He also thought Des Moines compared favorably to other mid-sized cities he has visited on tour. In fact, he considers our community “maybe an ideal place to grow up or raise your kids,” to which I say, yes and yes.

I’ve posted a few excerpts from Byrne’s reflections after the jump. Ben Gran commented on the pieces at the Des Moines Is Not Boring blog.

P.S. – Talking Heads were the best of the new wave bands. Regardless of what you thought in high school, the group’s best album was Remain in Light. Those songs (especially the first four tracks) hold up incredibly well.

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