Sun, Jul 17, 2011 | by Des Moines RegisterShare
Yes, there will be pie. And live music, and water slides and heady beverages. But the 39th Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa — July 24-30 — will also offer the particular flavors of this year’s route towns. Riders and anyone else who wants to stop by can head to the rodeo in Glenwood, sample the local rye in Templeton, take a scenic train ride in Boone and get Oktoberfest going early in Walcott. Here’s a look at what else the ride has in store.
PRE-PARTY: July 23
Get off to a ‘wild’ start at the Missouri River in Glenwood
The ride starts in Glenwood, where the unruly Missouri River made the town’s “Wild Southwest” more accurate than locals predicted. The town’s perch on the edge of the Loess Hills spared it from the worst of the floods, but access to the river is still limited, so organizers have arranged to fill tubs with water (and live catfish) for the tire-dipping ceremony to start the ride. Mini-bike races and the World Tire Changing Championship (the record: just over a minute) are set for the annual RAGBRAI Expo, where vendors will peddle their gear and musicians will crank out everything from Southern gospel to golden oldies in an act called “Elvis and Marilyn, Together at Last.”
DAY 1: July 24
Enjoy a rodeo, postcard-worthy Main streets and pie en route to Atlantic
Taking a tip from Glenwood’s theme — “Save a horse … ride a bike!” — the spandexed hordes will pedal over to Silver City, where the local fire department and American Legion will dish out breakfast burritos and biscuits and gravy. Just remember: Mind your table manners or you’ll land in the historic 1911 jail behind the fire station.
The route coasts down to the Nishnabotna River at Carson, a first-time RAGBRAI host. It’s known for its rodeo, so expect to see a few thrills, including the (just-for-looks) Ferris wheel that a local welding company created out of six bicycles — one for each town on the day’s route.
Griswold turns into “Griswold Acres” to show off its farming roots, with various vendors lined up along its postcard-perfect Main Street. An assortment of pies will compete for the best-in-town prize. Among the contenders are: apple, peach, cherry, rhubarb, strawberry rhubarb and rhubarb custard.
Not to be outdone by the Ferris wheel, the town of Lewis will display a 15-foot-tall, 32-foot-long bike made out of pipes and scrap metal. Stop by for a photo, then wander over to the food booths for beef brisket and pies from the Methodist Church.
The last few flat miles into Atlantic are a breeze, and riders will find plenty to drink when they arrive. The home of the Atlantic Bottling Company promises “Cokes, Spokes and Wonderful Folks” for the big day. The Nadas will headline the night’s entertainment, but the real star might just be — you guessed it — the pies, this time at the Farmer’s Kitchen. Chef Charlene Johnson’s Sour Cream Raisin and Chocolate Peanut Butter Explosion pies have both won national honors.
DAY 2: July 25
Sample Danish, German and Prohibition-era goodies
The 163-year-old Danish windmill will greet riders in Elkhorn, where visitors can tour the Danish Immigrant Museum, listen to folk music and chow down on Danish crepes or abelskivers, a tasty little pancake-popover hybrid.
Pedal north three miles to Kimballton, Elkhorn’s Danish sister and the first town to host RAGBRAI seven times. Stop by the Little Mermaid fountain in Hans Christian Andersen Park and a pair of buildings on the National Register of Historic Places: the town hall and the Immanuel Lutheran Church.
The cultural heritage shifts in Manning, where a 1660 German “hausbarn” was reassembled on the east side of town in 1999. Sample homemade brats, German potato salad and, for the full experience, beer-sauerkraut-fudge cupcakes. Wash it all down with a swig of German beer, but go easy if you’re planning to navigate the maze locals cut into a 3-acre cornfield behind the barn. The Muhlbauer family, with help from LeRoy and Freda Dammann, double-planted corn rows just 15 inches apart, plotted the design with GPS, mowed paths and finished the details with bean hooks and corn knives. The result: the RAGBRAI XXXIX logo framed by a map of Iowa.
Templeton, of course, is home to the distillery that makes rye whiskey from a recipe that dates back to the days of Prohibition. Visitors can tour the facility, sip a small sample of the goods and head over to Templeton Park for a concert with a local band called — what else? — Aged Spirits.
Dedham claims a handful of winning softball teams — it hosted the state tournament in the late 1960s — but it also has a history of competitive tug-of-war. Don’t be surprised if you’re recruited to pull for a team. Don’t be surprised, either, if the prize is a hot chunk of “Dedham Bologna,” a specialty locals have made since 1914.
The route climbs up to Willey, which claims the state’s only open-air post office, as well as St. Mary’s Church, which was built with lumber hauled up the hill from the railroad in Dedham. The town, like most second-to-last stops of the day, will have a beer garden for riders who want to toss a few back and then wobble into the overnight town down the road.
But wait, there’s more: The Santa Maria Vineyard and Winery welcomes riders along the old Lincoln Highway in Carroll. The town boasts a giant aquatic center, with an array of water slides, and a concert lineup that includes Pianopalooza, the Full Blown Woodies and the Johnny Holm Band, a RAGBRAI favorite.
DAY 3: July 26
Bulk up on pancakes, then check out the Karras Loop
It’ll take nearly all of Lidderdale’s 186 residents to serve breakfast croissants and fruit at the fire station, not too far from a display of tractors and a few farm animals.
Legendary pancake showman Chris Cakes plans to make an appearance in Lanesboro, but he’ll have some competition: A new bar called the Real McCoy plans to serve sausages skewered on a stick, dipped in pancake batter and deep-fried.
Down the road in Churdan (pronounced sure-DAN), locals promise a “Churdan-dy” time with all sorts of baked goods, live music, steam engine displays and at least one “redneck swimming pool” in the tarp-lined bed of a pickup truck.
Paton is the hometown not only of the fictional Private Ryan (played by Matt Damon in the movie) but the real-life astronaut Loren Shriver, 66, who plans to join this year’s ride. If locals don’t serve freeze-dried ice cream in his honor, they’ll have something better: a thin-cut rib eye sandwich known as a Wally Burger.
Riders will pass through Paton a second time if they opt for the Karras Loop (which bumps the day’s mileage to 100). Along the way, they’ll roll through Dana, which, with just 84 residents, is the smallest town on this year’s ride.
The so-called “Twister” Hill in Pilot Mound may be famous for ripping through a scene in the 1996 movie, but it’s just a speed bump compared to the climb out of the Des Moines River valley.
Fortunately, riders’ efforts will be rewarded in Boone, where the town’s railroad heritage will be on full display. A special train will collect passengers downtown and take them on a scenic (and easier) trip back down into the river valley. The band Hairball headlines the night’s entertainment, after an earlier RAGBRAI appearance in Chariton back in 2009.
DAY 4: July 27
Homemade ice cream will melt your heart
Wednesday is farmers market day in Slater, so riders will be able to see what vendors have to offer, said local ride chairwoman Jennifer Davies. Corn Crib Catering will be selling its highly regarded pie and cookies. Members of the Methodist Church in nearby Sheldahl are making homemade ice cream for RAGBRAI.
In Elkhart, riders will be able to take advantage of a feast provided by 19 food vendors, including St. Mary’s Catholic Church, which will offer pie. A local caterer will sell pulled pork, and two stands will sell fresh ice cream. Look for lawn games, such as ladder golf, made from old bicycle parts. Every thing will be on Main Street, local chairperson Jacki Ausman said.
It will be fun and games for anyone who stops in Bondurant. Equipment will be provided on First Street, S.E., between Grant and Main streets, for horseshoes, a tug-of-war, bag tossing and ladder ball. Horse and carriage rides will be available. Activities for riders 21 and older will take place at Cory’s Irish Pub, 110 First St. S.E.
Riders who don’t drift off to Prairie Meadows Casino or Adventureland in Altoona might take advantage of five hours of live music that will feature Grand Funk Railroad, Cowboy Mouth, the Mississippi Band and A Pirate Over 50, which is a Jimmy Buffett tribute band.
DAY 5: July 28
Colfax offers perfection — pie-a-palooza and AC
Musicians from Southeast Polk High School will be striking up the band in Mitchellville, where everything is scheduled to be up and running at 6 a.m. About a dozen food vendors, offering mostly breakfast items, will be scattered through the small community. Team 36 Bar & Grill, which is on the route, has been designated the official “Hair of the Dawg” Bloody Mary stop.
Anyone who can’t get enough Iowa pie is going to love Colfax. The five churches here will be joining forces to host a sort of pie-a-palooza in the air-conditioned gym at Howard Street Christian Church, which is right on the RAGBRAI route. In addition to pie, the church group will also offer another Iowa specialty — cinnamon rolls.
Inside the gym there will be a streaming video that will give visitors an idea of what this community went through with last summer’s flooding.
“We’re not doing this to say, ‘Woe is us,’” local event organizer Brenda Pierce said. “But we are proud that we’re a resilient community and we have fought back from the flood.”
Not far away, on the corner of Howard and Walnut streets, is Weirick’s Pharmacy, home to one of the few remaining antique soda fountains in Iowa. This is a great place for malts, shakes and ice cream sodas.
In Baxter, the last stop with food and entertainment before Grinnell, two local bars will offer music in their beer gardens. This city will showcase only local vendors who will feature fresh local foods.
The end of the road for day five is the picturesque college town of Grinnell, where the things-to-do list ranges from participating in a handprint mural creation project at Grinnell Area Arts Center to browsing through a used books sale at the Drake Community Library. A farmers market will be set up and the Strand Theater will play movies all day. At 6 p.m. in the downtown area, there will be a decorated bike parade, which will feature bicycles following behind a marching bagpipe band.
DAY 6: July 29
Scramble for armadillo eggs in Brooklyn
If you can’t find breakfast in Brooklyn, you can’t find it anywhere. A whopping 11 nonprofit groups have teamed up to provide everything from armadillo eggs to monkey bread.
To Victor, go the spoiled riders … for a fun little game called Rolle Bolle, the pride of Czech descendents in these parts. It’s kind of like a bowling game of horseshoes on dirt with a rubber disc.
Townsfolk don’t want riders to pass patriotically decked-out Ladora.
They’re looking to fund a new fire station, and in return for your 2 bucks to stop fires you land that first piece of daily pie.
Better complement that pie with some of the area’s most popular barbecue from Phat Daddies in Marengo, while jamming to a disc jockey.
On to Homestead, part of the tourist-ready Amana Colonies, where you can dance to two bands playing ’60s and ’70s music.
In Oxford, you might get the essence of Iowa by running into the citizens who were in Stephen Bloom and Peter Feldstein’s book “The Oxford Project,” which photographed most of the town’s residents in 1984 and then 21 years later.
Feldstein will be around signing books, if you can hear him over the polka music while people play an ominous-sounding game called corn holing, which is actually a bag toss.
Strap in, folks, for a big overnight party in Coralville. Its theme is “Tailgate Tested, Tailgate Approved,” an ode to the nearby University of Iowa’s football fanaticism. A huge complex of goodies on the strip are offered, as well as four bands on two stages, including .38 Special.
DAY 7 and FINISH: July 30
History in West Branch, Oktoberfest in Walcott
Rise to a bit of history in West Branch, home to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, and have your picture taken with Hoover himself, or at least what looks like him after a morning Bloody Mary.
Up the road in Wilton, most know of the famous Wilton Candy Kitchen and its homemade ice cream that will be available, but the town has an unusual theme: Beaverland. High school teams are the Wilton Beavers, after all .
If you haven’t had your fill of polka, hear it in Durant while participating in one of the more unusual contests — the Port-A-Potty contest. See John for contest rules.
They’ll be having a German Oktoberfest in the heat of July in Walcott. They’re calling it Walctoberfest, and if you can’t find a beer and brat here you’ve been riding too long. Dessert is a hog roast.
Finally, in Davenport a cluster of activities all converge at once to create the proper ride-ending delirium. While thousands of riders zip in to dip their tires in the Mississippi River, another 15,000 runners will be lingering from the Bix 7 Run. All those sweaty masses will be entertained and fed by the free Davenport Street Fest going on at the same time in the heart of downtown.
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