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.

On Sunday, July 20, RAGBRAI starts in Rock Valley (Sioux County) for the first time ever. It sounds like a pretty river town. Riders will travel 69 miles to the Okoboji area (Dickinson County). Iowa’s great lakes have been a pass-through but never an overnight town on RAGBRAI before.

Monday, July 21, riders travel 41 miles to Emmetsburg (Palo Alto County).

Tuesday, July 22, RAGBRAI will cover a 73-mile path to Forest City (Winnebago County), with an optional “Karras loop” for those who want to ride 100 miles in a single day. Forest City is Governor Terry Branstad’s home town, so I think we can count on him to be there. RAGBRAI was last there overnight twelve years ago, but he wasn’t governor.

Wednesday, July 23, riders have an easy day: just 36 miles to Mason City (Cerro Gordo County). I was surprised to hear that RAGBRAI will overnight in Mason City for only the second time ever and the first time in 29 years. This city has some amazing prairie school architecture and the world’s only surviving hotel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. I highly recommend visiting, whether or not you are on a bicycle. You don’t have to stay at the Historic Park Inn Hotel to take a docent tour. Fans of show tunes will want to hit various local sites associated with Meredith Wilson and “The Music Man.”

Thursday, July 24, the ride travels 63 miles to Waverly (Bremer County). This is both a county seat and the site of Wartburg College.

Friday, July 25, RAGBRAI takes riders 68 miles to Independence (Buchanan County). UPDATE: A Bleeding Heartland reader alerted me to the fact that Independence is only a short distance from Cedar Rock Park, where one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Usonian” homes is located. Click here for more details on the house, “one of Wright’s most complete designs.”

Finally, riders have a hilly 68 miles to Guttenburg (Clayton County) on the last day, reaching the Mississippi River after more than 3,000 feet of climb. I have long been interested in visiting this Mississippi River town, which has some pre-Civil War limestone architecture (extremely rare in Iowa). Guttenberg has been designated an Iowa Great Place.

UPDATE: I looked up all eight towns on the new federal government website that estimates the typical cost for housing and transportation in a given location. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any data for Rock Valley, Emmetsburg, Forest City, Independence, or Guttenberg (“outside of our coverage area” on the government website).

For the region including Okoboji, the typical household income is $50,174. A typical household could expect to spend about 27 percent of that amount on housing and 23 percent on transportation, yielding an “affordability index” of 50 percent–more expensive than many neighborhoods in the Des Moines area.

The typical household income for the region including Mason City is lower at $45,588. Housing costs are lower in absolute terms but only slightly lower in relative terms for a family taking in the average income. A typical Mason City household spends about 21 percent of income on housing and 24 percent on transportation, for an affordability index of 45 percent.

In the Waverly area, typical household income is $46,503, but the cost of living is higher than in Mason City. A typical household in this small college town would spend 27 percent of income on housing and 31 percent on transportation (perhaps driving to work or shop in larger cities), for an affordability index of 58 percent.

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