Bike alone, with a friend or with your whole crew. Then reward yourself for conquering those hills with homemade ice cream once you’ve looped back to Keosauqua. Photo: courtesy of the Keosauqua Chamber of Commerce.
By Michael Morain
Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs
If you missed RAGBRAI—or just want to try something a bit more laid-back—head to the rolling hills of Van Buren County in the southeast corner of the state.
The 36th annual Bike Van Buren covers about 110 miles over Aug. 20-21. The route is a secret until organizers hand out maps Saturday morning in Keosauqua, but you can expect to pedal a loose lap around the county, with leisurely stops in Bentonsport, Bonaparte, Cantril, Milton, Douds, Birmingham and Stockport.
You can rent bikes from Bickel’s Cycling and Fitness in Keosauqua, where longtime rider Chris Bonar can recommend a few highlights, including the Milton Creamery, the sprawling Dutchman’s Store in Cantril, the blacksmith and pottery shops in Bentonsport, and homemade ice cream at the old Lebanon United Methodist Church in Keosauqua. He also recommends several places to stay, including the beautifully preserved Hotel Manning and campsites at Lake Sugema and Lacey Keosauqua State Park.
The ride is organized by the Villages of Van Buren County, a designated Iowa Great Place, and usually attracts 150-some cyclists from across the Midwest. Be prepared for some hills!