Author Topic: IOWA  (Read 3779 times)

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Offline henrik.nu

IOWA
« on: December 29, 2021, 03:31:56 pm »
Hi there!
I have never been bicycling in the USA, but I want to start planning to bicycling in the USA.
I want to bike thru the state of IOWA. East to west or, west to east.
So, I am interested in your experience from biking in IOWA ( and USA).
For exampel,, which kind of roads is prefferable? Where can you camp with your tents? Campinggrounds are they common?
Which is the best time of the year to bicycle in Iowa? (no need to bike during the peaking turist season. Less tourist= More pleasure!=)
Thanks in advance,
/
Henrik

Offline jamawani

Re: IOWA
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2021, 03:56:05 pm »
Henrik -

Not sure where you are from or your experience level.
".nu" indicates you are from Niue in Polynesia or, perhaps, New Zealand.

The usual cycling season for Iowa is about 6 months from mid-April to mid-October.
April & May can be cool and quite rainy - with big storms. Remember Dorothy in neighboring Kansas?
September & October can be delightful, getting chillier at night in October, but dry and crisp.
Mid-summer is usually pretty hot and humid, seriously sweaty cycling. But that's when most people ride.

Despite what people might think, Iowa is not flat.
The southern half of the state is hillier than the north.
The western third of the state has roller-coaster hills, one after another.
And there are steep bluffs along the Mississippi River.

Nearly every county has nice, county parks with not very many campers.
Type in the county name + "conservation". For ex. - "Poweshiek County Conservation".
You will be surprised how many options there are. Plus there are numerous state parks.

Winds are usually southerly in the summer, so either direction is fine.
I usually ride west to east, but I have gone both ways.
The Missouri River doesn't offer as many scenic points as the Mississippi.

There are a number of rail trails - mostly county operated - so they don't interconnect.
Also, most counties have lower traffic county roads - paved & unpaved.
I would avoid most state and US highways. Iowa highways generally do not have shoulders.

There is a state cycling map -

https://iowadot.gov/maps/msp/pdf/bikemap.pdf

I really like to end my trip across Iowa in Davenport/Rock Island
because of the Riverside Trail right along the Mississippi RIver.

But there are so many options. Have fun!

Pic - Riverside Trail with Centennial Bridge, Davenport, Iowa



Offline henrik.nu

Re: IOWA
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2021, 04:02:17 pm »
Hi jamawani!
Thanks for your text. I will gladely read it!
I am from Swede.
My bicycle trips has been in Europe, and offcourse Sweden. All trips has been during summertime.

(nu  = the swedish word for "now", " right now")

Offline ray b

Re: IOWA
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2021, 04:07:26 pm »
If I were new to cycling in the US and I wanted to start in Iowa, I would start with the 49th annual Register's (a newspaper) annual grea ride across Iowa (RAGBRAI), 23- 30 July 2022.
They cap the number of riders at 10,000, but there is no lottery this year, and I suspect if they already have reached their limit on applicants, you could ask them to make an exception as you are travelling from outside the country.

https://ragbrai.com/ragbrai-registration/

Great way to meet riders from around the US and collect ideas on what next to do on your tour. 
“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline John Nettles

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Re: IOWA
« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2021, 04:16:08 pm »
You don't say when you want to ride across Iowa but if you are in Iowa July 23-30, 2022, an annual cross-state bicycle ride called RAGBRAI ( https://ragbrai.com/ ) takes place. 

RAGBRAI officially has around 10,000 riders.  However, there are up to another 10,000 riders that tag along for around 20k people total.  It is crazy.  This ride has been going on since around the mid-1970s. This is a very unique ride.  A lot of the riders ride in costumes, have their gear carried for them, etc.  The ride basically takes over most towns they ride through as the number of riders typically greatly outnumber the population of the town. 

The best thing about this ride is that almost all the roads are closed to non-official vehicular traffic.  Another thing (both good and bad) is that due to the great number of riders, you can almost guarantee you will always see someone riding.  The bad thing is that sometimes the lines for services (food, restrooms, showers, etc.) can be long.  There are usually lots of opportunities for food and riders can always go "corn hunting" in the cornfields if they need to use the restroom. 

Note that you do NOT need to register to ride it.  A number of riders (say around 100) called "Baggers" ride fully loaded.  Some Baggers ride the route the day in advance of the official day, others the day of with everyone else, and still others do it the day after. The days before and after do not have closed roads.

I have ridden it twice, once in 1980 and again in 2010(?).  I enjoyed the earlier one better due to the smaller crowds (around 3500) but the 2010 was fun too because of the crowds (around 20k). 

A final note.  Iowa is NOT flat.  However, they do have a relatively large number of rail trails. The adjoining state of Wisconsin is another great state to ride in.  I personally think Wisconsin is better that Iowa.

Whatever you do, I wish you a wonderful tour of the USA!

Tailwinds, John
« Last Edit: December 29, 2021, 04:18:26 pm by John Nettles »

Offline jamawani

Re: IOWA
« Reply #5 on: December 29, 2021, 05:06:19 pm »
My guess is that you may not wish to ride with 10,000 other cyclists on Ragbrai.
I noted that you said in your original post - "Less tourist = More pleasure!"
Ragbrai is amazing, but it certainly is not "Less tourist".
They are planning to announce the 2022 route on January 28th.

Getting from Sweden to your Iowa starting point is nor easy.
(I do not think there are any direct flights from Stockholm to Sioux City.)
But from Chicago, you should be able to make connections to your starting point -
and then have an east connection back from your end point.

I prefer Sioux City to the much bigger Omaha.
Sioux City has a campground on the river, bike shops, and a nice, paved riverside bike trail.
Omaha does have a bike/pedestrian bridge across the Missouri River.

Soviet Premier Khrushchev loved Iowa and visited the Garst Farm near Coon Rapids.
The Whiterock Conservancy is one of the finest examples of natural and historic conservation.
You can camp in unbelievable quiet places and visit the historic farmhouse.
Did the Garst family prevent a nuclear war? Who knows?
But they welcomed the Khrushchevs and he loved the honest simplicity of Iowa.

https://www.whiterockconservancy.org/history





Offline henrik.nu

Re: IOWA
« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2021, 03:17:00 pm »
Thanks for good information about bicycling in Iowa!
I am reading it with great interest!
Yes, there is no special need for me to be bicyckling, in general, at the peak turist seasong/ summer peak time.
I rather fancy the bicyle tours with a little less people, so to say.

Ok, so the dream about Iowa being very flat can now be crashed =)=)=).

How is the weather in September and early october in comparison to april and may?
These campsite and park camps, do you know if they hade shower and toilet facilities, or are they more like "stealth camping"?

ohh....I better learn some russian language then, if I pass by that Kruschtnov -farm =)

Offline John Nettles

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Re: IOWA
« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2021, 03:51:19 pm »
How is the weather in September and early october in comparison to april and may?
Check out WeatherSpark.com as it has a huge database of climate data for a lot of the world.

Offline henrik.nu

Re: IOWA
« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2022, 05:05:48 pm »
How is the situation in Iowa regarding orginized camping places/camping grounds, where the tent can be set up and shower taken ?
Is the easy to be find or not so often existing?
Mabye there are also private houses with airBnB or likewise?

Offline henrik.nu

Re: IOWA
« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2022, 05:11:11 pm »
My guess is that you may not wish to ride with 10,000 other cyclists on Ragbrai.
I noted that you said in your original post - "Less tourist = More pleasure!"
Ragbrai is amazing, but it certainly is not "Less tourist".
They are planning to announce the 2022 route on January 28th.

Getting from Sweden to your Iowa starting point is nor easy.
(I do not think there are any direct flights from Stockholm to Sioux City.)
But from Chicago, you should be able to make connections to your starting point -
and then have an east connection back from your end point.

I prefer Sioux City to the much bigger Omaha.
Sioux City has a campground on the river, bike shops, and a nice, paved riverside bike trail.
Omaha does have a bike/pedestrian bridge across the Missouri River.

Soviet Premier Khrushchev loved Iowa and visited the Garst Farm near Coon Rapids.
The Whiterock Conservancy is one of the finest examples of natural and historic conservation.
You can camp in unbelievable quiet places and visit the historic farmhouse.
Did the Garst family prevent a nuclear war? Who knows?
But they welcomed the Khrushchevs and he loved the honest simplicity of Iowa.

https://www.whiterockconservancy.org/history




Hi!
Thanks again for interesting information, and the historical perspective!=)=)
Yes, from Sweden, (or Denmarks capital Copenhagen) it seems to be a bit tricky to get an easy and fast acces to Iowa. But with help of connection flights or mabye Amtrak, it should be manageable. That part is " a part of the journey", I try to view it that way. =)=)

Offline John Nettles

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Re: IOWA
« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2022, 05:17:22 pm »
Camping is not as common in the USA as in Europe and unfortunately there is no single website that has all the campgrounds. 

You can check out Google Maps, RV Life Campground Reviews, iOverlander (not as many showers), RV Parky, and Recreation.gov for campgrounds.  Additionally, you can always ask at a small town or rural church or fire station and they sometimes will help you.  Bigger cities tend to not help as I guess it has to do with insurance. 

Please note that camping on private or public lands without permission is illegal in the USA.  However, most Iowans are quite friendly and if you ask, they will almost surely let you camp, especially since you are from another country  :) .

Tailwinds, John

Offline John Nettles

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Re: IOWA
« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2022, 05:20:47 pm »
...I want to bike thru the state of IOWA.
Why did you pick Iowa?  While I am not putting Iowa down, a lot of international visitors go elsewhere so I am just curious.
Tailwinds, John

Offline jamawani

Re: IOWA
« Reply #12 on: March 22, 2022, 11:22:00 pm »
Henrik -

Iowa has excellent camping available -  and often quite natural.
(Counties are subdivisions like the Swedish län - but somewaht smaller.)
I believe every one of its 99 counties has a Conservation Commission.

Here is a website listing all facilities -
https://www.mycountyparks.com/default.aspx

Most of the county parks are away from towns.
Along rivers or by lakes.

Also, many smaller towns have town campsites.
Bigger towns tend to have only RV camping -  and fairly expensive.

I have stayed at many Iowa county parks.
They are pleasant and other campers are always welcoming.

Offline aggie

Re: IOWA
« Reply #13 on: March 23, 2022, 11:05:45 am »
Another good website for camping is:  thedyrt.com.