RAGBRAI Day 1: The journey begins

The RAGBRAI crows in Soldier.
The RAGBRAI crows in Soldier. "With only 40 miles to ride today (instead of the normal 60-70), nobody’s in a rush..." (B.A. Morelli/ The Gazette)

ONAWA — RAGBRAI 2018 kicked off Sunday morning in the shadow of the Loess Hills in Onawa, a town of 2,868, in west-central Iowa near the Nebraska border.

The route travels generally due east, clocking in at 43.5 miles and 1,558 feet of climb, or 62.3 miles and 2,627 feet of climb with the optional gravel loop.

Riders can expect a partly cloudy day with a high of 84.

Turin, population 65, is the first town on the route and a place many riders stopped for pancakes, breakfast sandwiches and other fuel to power them through the morning.

A “mile of silence” honoring cyclists who have died was observed on Highway 37 after leaving Turin and before reaching the next town, Soldier. Soldier, population 167, was named for a Civil War soldier who died on the banks of the Soldier River on his way home from war, according to a RAGBRAI staff report. The main route proceeds to Ute or an optional 19-mile gravel road loop travels to Moorhead, population 226, before returning to Soldier.

Ute, population 374, is the meeting town where cyclists can reconnect with their groups and support vehicles. The iconic vendor Mr. Pork Chop, along with the pink school bus, will be set up here along with more than a dozen other vendors.

Charter Oak, population 483, is the final stop before the end of the day, meaning riders can expect a party with music, food and drinks in the Limerick Beer Garden.

Denison is the Sunday’s final destination with evening entertainment including the RAGBRAI regular Johnny Holm Band.

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