One of RAGBRAI’s time-honored traditions is the latest victim of the historic flooding taking place on the Missouri River.
On-going flooding along the banks of the Mighty Mo has put the river off limits to RAGBRAI bicyclists hoping to do the traditional back tire dip before starting their journey across the state of Iowa. RAGBRAI cyclists have been known to dip their back tire in the Missouri River at the start of the ride and their front tire in the Mississippi at the end. Both river and surface water flooding has forced mandatory evacuations in western Mills County between Interstate 29 and the Missouri River. Roads and farmland west of Interstate 29 are inundated with floodwater and closed to traffic.
Bicyclists who enter the evacuated area and attempt to go to the Missouri River are not only putting themselves at physical risk, but may find themselves subject to arrest or the following fines:
* $750 for entering an evacuated area of Mills County;
* $500 for being on a federal levee;
* $40,000 for entering the Missouri River for recreational purposes without permission of the U.S. Coast Guard.
“If we catch them being in the evacuated area, they’re going to be getting a $750 citation for the first offense,” Mills County Attorney Eric Hansen said. “It’s $1,000 for repeat offenders.”
The Mills County Board of Supervisors approved the $750 fine earlier this month. Hansen said keeping people off the flooded roads and out of evacuated areas is not only a safety precaution, but also a security issue for the homeowners who were forced to leave their property.
Mills County Sheriff Eugene Goos said Iowa National Guard soldiers responsible for patrolling the Missouri River levee in Mills County will be watching for bicyclists trying to make their way to the river.
Jeff Mitts, a veteran RAGBRAI rider from Glenwood, said some riders will be disappointed when they learn the tire dip is off limits.
“I’m sure some will still try to ride out there. It’s the symbolism of it,” Mitts said. “But, I think most riders will understand why they wouldn’t want people riding willy-nilly out there.”
Members of the Glenwood boys high school and middle school cross country teams are offering riders an alternative to the river dip. The runners will be manning a tank containing river water that riders will be allowed to dip their tires in. The tank will be located across the street from Glenwood Community High School at the entrance to the youth baseball and softball field complex at the east entrance to the city limits. Cross country team members will assist bicyclists with dipping their tires and taking photos. Free-will offerings/donations will be accepted. The tire dip tank will be open from noon - 9 p.m. Saturday and from 6 a.m. - noon Sunday.
The tire dip tank is being sponsored by the Glenwood Park Board, who maintains the nature trail system at Glenwood Lake Park utilized by the cross country team.