RAGBRAI pre-ride Day 1 – Rock Valley to Okoboji
First of all, thanks again to everyone on the Rock Valley RAGBRAI Committee for your hospitality! You were generous hosts and dinner was delicious!
The first day of the RAGBRAI XLII Route Inspection is complete! We had about 50 people join us today from our start in Rock Valley. It was truly an Iowa Spring day as we started out in a downpour, then rode in the muggy heat with a headwind, then a tailwind, then back to headwind. The storms returned as we rode from May City to Okoboji, so we finished the day as we started it. Despite the manic weather we had a blast, and can’t wait to come back in July!
Follow the pre-ride team along the route all week with Twitter updates and pictures at DesMoinesRegister.com/trackRAGBRAI.
The cities we visited on Day One of our ride were Rock Valley, Hull, Boyden, Sheldon (meeting town), Melvin, May City and Okoboji. We rode 67.9 miles, and had 1,771 feet of very gradual climb. Here’s a little bit about what you can expect to see in each town on the first day of RAGBRAI next month!
As you may already know, our first day on the ride will be a groundbreaking day for RAGBRAI – we will stay overnight in Rock Valley and Okoboji for the first time ever. But it doesn’t end there. We will also have our maiden voyage through the cities of Hull and Boyden.
Our first stop of the day was in Hull, population 2200. Their claim to fame is that they are the home of the first Pizza Ranch Restaurant. This well-known eatery now has over 170 locations in 11 different states. Also originating from Hull is The Foreign Candy Company, selling a variety of candies from all over the world.
Rooted with a Dutch heritage, Hull is one of a few small Iowa towns that sees a yearly population growth. Hull has nine churches, and 3 high schools with a combined 32 Iowa state championships from track & field to basketball. During your visit to Hull, be sure to stop by the newly constructed aquatic center, sure to be a hit on a hot summer day in July!
After our stop in Hull, we headed on to Boyden. Their theme says it all – Boyden is Hog Wild for You! Boyden is located in Sioux County, the largest pork producing county in Iowa, so their food theme is also centered around pork. All food and entertainment will be in Centennial Park, so head straight there once you get into town. Their local community groups will be serving Pig in the Blankets for breakfast (a nod to saucijze broodjes, an authentic Dutch meat/pastry) and breakfast burritos. Or the local FFA chapter will also be serving brats and burgers if you’re in the mood for lunch.
Centennial Park is a large, shady park was created 25 years ago in honor of Boyden’s 100th year of incorporation (125 year celebrations will be held this June 27, 28 and 29!). It has a great playground, tennis courts, basketball courts, baseball field, horse shoe pits, a walking trail and picnic shelters. However you decide to enjoy the Centennial Park, be sure to pause at the Veteran’s Memorial there.
After eating our second breakfast of the day, we headed to Sheldon, the meeting town for today. Be sure to check out their RAGBRAI website at http://www.ragbraisheldon.com/ as well as their Facebook page and Twitter.
Sheldon has served as an overnight town in the past, but this visit they will be a meeting town. A huge effort is underway to ensure that all RAGBRAI riders are welcome to Sheldon in a BIG way! Cheerleaders, H.S. Marching Band, a “sign-in” project, music, games, much food, a beverage garden, “kiss a pig” (or a cow) & more!
The town’s theme is “That’s How We Roll.” Sheldon will have most of their activities in the shady City Park. The Sheldon RAGBRAI Committee has some great entertainment planned for all RAGBRAIers!
*DJ in the park Additional things that the entertainment committee is currently working to finalize:
*Adrenaline Run Obstacle Course (for adults & kids!)
*Dual Slip & Slide
In addition to all that, the Sheldon Outdoor Aquatic Center will be open on Sunday, July 20 for all visitors – $5 per person. If you would like to look up some restaurants ahead of time, check out Sheldon’s website.
On their way into town, riders will pass the campus of Village Northwest Unlimited. Village Northwest Unlimited is nationally recognized as one of the premier providers of services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injuries. Village Northwest Unlimited builds successful lives for 180 individuals by providing opportunities and choices in residential, vocational and social programs while fulfilling its mission of providing Purpose, Privacy and Dignity.
Sheldon is also home to the infamous Sheldon Community School mystery mascot the “ORAB.” What IS an ORAB? Come and find out! Sheldon is expanding our local sports facilities by adding new ball diamonds, a joint project between the City of Sheldon and the Sheldon Community School District. Riders will notice the work on the new ball fields as they ride past the school campus on Highway 18.
Next, we headed to Melvin, the moose town! In October, 1990, a moose wandered into Melvin Iowa. It stayed in the area for several days, and Melvin now remembers it with Moose Days every Summer. RAGBRAI last stopped in Melvin in 2007.
Pay attention as you stroll down Main Street Melvin to the bank building built in 1909, and murals painted on two of the buildings.
The original location of the town was actually 2 miles to the North. The town was moved to its current location by horses because of the railroad.
Singer and songwriter Shawn Mayer, third place finisher on the television show Nashville Star, hails from Melvin.
Melvin plans to entertain RAGBRAI riders with two beer gardens, complete with DJs. Proceeds from the city wide effort will go to raise money in support of the community building. You will find food stands with pie, ice cream, hot dogs, brats, grilled chicken sandwiches, burgers and subs. Among the vendors on Main Street will be Anna Pontini of Live the Ride LLC, USA distributor for Apres Velo. Anna is not able to be a part of the RAGBRAI Expo the previous day, so be sure to stop by and see her for the latest in after cycle wear. Also be sure to visit JRs and My Place before heading down the road to May City.
May City is an unincorporated town in scenic surroundings, it is located on the edge of the Swanson Wildlife Area and the May City Wildlife Management Area. Our advice is to stop for a moment and enjoy the landscape.
Or you could take a break in the shady shelter in downtown May City. There’s a pop machine across the street and a kybo down the road. What more could you ask for?? We suppose you could ask for a historic marker, and there’s one just behind the shelter. It’s a tree planted in commemoration off Iowa’s 150th anniversary of statehood by the Osceola County Sesquicentennial Commission.
Once you leave May City, it’s on to our final destination for the day, Okoboji! They welcome RAGBRAIers to “Ride the Chain” of the Iowa Great Lakes as they roll into town Sunday, July 20th! This is the first time that Okoboji will host RAGBRAI as an overnight community and we are excited to visit.
Okoboji is a lakeside community surrounding a chain of 5 connecting glacier lakes including endless hours of trails to tour you around the area. Once you ride into town you’ll be directed to the Historic Arnolds Park Amusement Park, home to the recently renovated Legend Roller Coaster. The Legend is the 13th oldest wooden roller coaster in the world and offers a ride sure to thrill! Registered riders will enjoy Amusement Park discounts. Be sure to take in the fun of their many rides including go-carts, log flume, bumper cars and more. We recommend taking in the views of West Lake Okoboji via the top of the Ferris Wheel.
The welcome and information centers will be located in the adjacent Majestic Pavilion where you’ll find us Okobojians ready to help riders find whatever it is they need be it food, camping, showers, shuttle information, or simply a cold beverage. Just keep an eye out for our bright yellow t-shirts!
Arnolds Park Amusement Park is also located next to Preservation Plaza, where you will find a large shaded beverage garden, regional vendors, bike repair, food vendors, games, beer dunk tank, and more. Many local coffee shops, restaurants, and bars also surround Preservation Plaza; there’s sure to be something for everyone. Of course nothing is as stunning as the views of West Lake Okoboji you’ll take in while hanging out on the Plaza. West Okoboji is one of three blue water lakes in the world. Don’t miss your chance to dip a tire in!
Don’t miss out on other area entertainment including LIVE music all day at the tiki-themed Barefoot Bar located on East Lake Okoboji, take a cruise on the world’s largest Fish House boarding out of Okoboji Boat Works located in Smith’s Bay West Lake Okoboji, BINGO being played at Boji Bay Fun House and Pavilion, and live music acts performing in Okoboji’s many restaurants and bars throughout the day.
Once you take in the amazing views of Preservation Plaza and the thrills of Arnolds Park Amusement Park, hop on one of our shuttles running all day. They will take you to your campground, house, or hotel and bring you back for all the evening’s entertainment. The headliner for the night is HAIRBALL playing the main stage on Preservation Plaza with opener FlashMob starting at 5pm. A RAGBRAI favorite, Hairball puts on an unforgettable Rock & Roll experience. They pay homage to Van Halen, KISS, Motley Crue, Queen, Journey, Prince, and Aerosmith. You’ll see these acts brought to life before your very eyes. Be sure to dress in your 80s best! We’ll be having a costume contest on stage!
No one throws a party like Okoboji and they can’t wait to show off their beautiful location, fantastic area businesses, and how much fun they have in the Iowa Great Lakes!