When former RAGBRAI director T.J. Juskiewicz announced the creation of Iowa’s Ride in October 2019, he described a week-long cycling event across Iowa that would rival the internationally famous Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. Juskiewicz now lives in Arizona, where he’s executive director of a different cycling event, and Iowa’s Ride has scaled back a ride across the state to cycling around Eldora.
On Tuesday, Iowa’s Ride posted the latest information for its inaugural ride on its Facebook page, saying “we will be modifying Iowa’s Ride to a weekend event that will take place in Eldora, Iowa on July 16-18, 2021.”
Iowa’s Ride had to cancel its first planned river-to-river ride—from the Mississippi to the Missouri, the opposite direction of RAGBRAI—in 2020 due to the pandemic. According to the Facebook post, COVID-19 was one of the reasons for reducing the route to the area around Eldora.
“We had several of our small community schools or city facilities that were still not comfortable opening their facilities needed for overnight camping throughout this upcoming summer,” organizers wrote. ”Since we were mainly in smaller communities there were not many suitable options to safely camp other than school grounds or city parks. Although we were able to secure some alternative locations, we ultimately decided to modify the event to a weekend event based out of Eldora, Iowa.”
Iowa’s Ride organizers said in the post they have a “designated 40-50 mile route on Saturday and several riding options to enjoy on Friday and Sunday.” Organizers also said there will be opportunities to “relax while floating in a tube down the Iowa River and cool off at the city pool located in the main camping area at the Eldora Municipal Park”
There is no entry fee for this year’s Iowa’s Ride, although organizers are asking people who sign up to consider making a donation to the Eldora Rotary Club. According to the event’s registration page, “ALL PROCEEDS from the event will be presented to IOWA CHARITIES!” The page does not name the charities.
Iowa’s Ride was first brought to public attention in an Oct. 15, 2019 Facebook post by Juskiewicz, in which he announced “the entire RAGBRAI staff [had] resigned.”
“I can no longer be an effective leader when my principles are compromised by the leadership of Gannett/Des Moines Register,” Juskiewicz wrote.
Juskiewicz said his conflict with the Register’s leadership was the result of the paper reporting on Carson King, the Iowan who became a viral sensation in 2019 after holding up sign asking viewers of ESPN’s College Game Day to send him beer money when the show was broadcasting from Ames.
After King received an unexpected and overwhelming response to his request, he donated the money to the University of Iowa’s Stead Family Children’s Hospital.
The Register published a story on King, noting some racist tweets the then 24-year-old King had posted when he was 16, which produced angry pushback from some readers, and was taken up by conservative political sites as an example of so-called “cancel culture.”
King, of course, was not canceled in any way. He was honored by Gov. Kim Reynolds, hailed around the country for his generosity and even had a bobblehead created in his image. He remains a celebrity in Iowa. The reporter who wrote the Register story, however, was fired after some racist tweets of his own were unearthed.
Thirteen days after King achieve viral fame with his sign and three days after the Register fired its reporter, Juskiewicz posted on social media that RAGBRAI would donate $50,000 to the children’s hospital in support of King’s fundraising efforts, which, since the Register is RAGBRAI’s parents, reportedly lead to many questions from the RAGBRAI community.
According to Juskiewicz, he wanted to issue a statement responding to the questions, but his superiors at the Register and Gannett wouldn’t give him permission to do so. Juskiewicz, who had been the cross-state cycling event’s director since 2003, said that was the last straw for himself and his two fellow RAGBRAI staffers. The three quit and announced they were launching Iowa’s Ride.
Between deciding to quit and quitting, the three had time to do some planning for Iowa’s Ride, whose website went live the same day the resignations were announced.
The original plans for Iowa’s Ride had it scheduled for the same week as RAGBRAI, but a month after that schedule was published, organizers changed the dates for its inaugural run in July 2020.
At the end of April 2020, Juskiewicz announced that Iowa’s Ride was canceled for 2020 due to COVID-19.
“We will remain hopeful that the health risks will eventually subside, and our country will get back to doing the things that we all enjoy like riding our bikes by ourselves or at large events,” he wrote in a statement on Iowa’s Ride’s site.
“It has been a great 17-year ride here in Iowa! I want to thank you for the great times and lifetime friendships that we have made here in the Midwest,” he wrote in a June 11 post on the Iowa’s Ride Facebook page.
“I will be back in Iowa next summer to ride with you across the state on Iowa’s Ride from Dubuque to Rock Rapids on July 18-24, 2021,” Juskiewicz said in the post.
In a phone interview the same day, he told Little Village that current plans call for Iowa’s Ride to continue beyond 2021 “in some form.”
“There are definitely enough people interested in seeing it continue. And the team is just starting to work on that,” he said.
Iowa’s Ride did not refer to any plans beyond the weekend even in Eldora in its Facebook post on Tuesday.