RAGBRAI XLIV Countdown – July 24-30, 2016
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RAGBRAI 2014 Route for Wednesday, July 23: Forest City to Mason City



Day 4: Forest City to Mason City

Wednesday’s trek is the second-shortest of the week at barely more than 41 miles. In the wake of Okoboji it will rate another amphibious day for riders with plenty of lake action.

Ventura is a resort suburb of sorts to Clear Lake with only about 700 residents at the water’s northwest edge. But its per-capita stock of beer and ice cream is impressive.

Try to get past this: Sugar & Slice dishes hard-pack ice cream while, just across the street, the Viking Drive-Inn dollops soft-serve.

Meanwhile, Sugar & Slice, Colony Inn, Kim’s Bar and the Muskie Lounge (with all-you-can-eat walleye and a beer garden) are likely to turn on the taps for RAGBRAI riders looking to enjoy a splash besides lake water.

Ventura city clerk Else Taylor added that the local firemen are contemplating creating a mud pit or some other quirky roadside attraction.

After Ventura, RAGBRAI will flock to the sandy beaches of the 13-square-mile Clear Lake that welcomed riders for a dip as recently as 2010.

The historic Surf Ballroom not far from shore, the site of Buddy Holly’s final concert in 1959 that endures as both a venue and museum, will open its doors even if all the music and entertainment is staged outdoors downtown.

Mason City has not played host to RAGBRAI since 1985. Regardless of whether a gauntlet of 76 trombones blares to greet riders in Meredith “Music Man” Willson’s birthplace, RAGBRAI Nation will find a transformed downtown. The heart of Cerro Gordo County boasts 10 bars and restaurants (including Mason City Brewing), an indoor shopping mall (for convenient escape into air conditioning), museums and the historic, renovated Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Park Inn Hotel (sorry, already booked). East Park along the Winnebago River offers green space and a historic locomotive for children to crawl on.

Jodee O’Brien, executive director of Main Street Mason City and the maestro of local RAGBRAI prep, envisions a “New Orleans-style” downtown celebration — not Mardis Gras in July, but a relaxed and varied summer celebration worthy of the long wait.

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