RAGBRAI XLIV Countdown – July 24-30, 2016
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Route Inspection Pre-Ride

RAGBRAI Pre-Ride Day 3 – Emmetsburg to Forest City

Emmetsburg RAGBRAI Committee, thank you for having us! We all feel a little extra lucky after our visit. Looking forward to bringing everyone back next month to see you!

We had about 30 riders head out of Emmetsburg with us for our third day of the RAGBRAI XLII Route Inspection ride. For most of our ride today the weather was warm and we had almost no wind. Can’t complain about that! On our way into town we had a few showers but the temps were still warm and we sailed right into Forest City.

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 Three of our ride were Emmetsburg, Ringsted, Bancroft (meeting town), Burt (Karras Loop Town), Lone Rock (Karras Loop Town), (back to Bancroft), The Gruis Recreation Area, Crystal Lake and Forest City. We rode 79.7 miles (plus ~25 miles for the loop), and had 1,333 feet of climb. Those of us who rode on the Loop say the roads were “super smooth” and the communities of Burt and Lone Rock were extremely welcoming. In fact, all the towns we visited today went above and beyond to welcome us. We can’t wait to visit them all again in July!

The first town we visited today was the Danish town of Ringsted. In fact, there are only two Ringsteds in the world, the one we visited today and the one in Denmark. This heritage can be visible at Ringsted Railroad Park where you will find a replica of Copenhagen’s Little Mermaid, made famous by Hans Christian Anderson in his story of the Little Mermaid.  Each year, the community selects a Little Mermaid who represents the city in neighboring community events.

Ringsted is known for its Danish Lutheran heritage.  The Happy Dancing Danes put Ringsted on the map in the 1940s.  Two branches of the Lutheran church had split back in 1894 over whether righteous living allows such worldly pleasures as dancing.  A struggle a boy named Ren would understand.  The split lasted until the 40s when lightning struck one of the churches, and the Dancing Danes young people’s society was able to bring the churches together. 

Food will be served at the Lutheran Church.  We sampled plate sized cinnamon rolls, aebleskivers, biscuits and gravy, and several other breakfast treats.  Also look for Chris’s Cakes at the Fire Station.  More activities and vendors can be found at the park (look to the left just past downtown)

Next, we headed over to our meeting town for day three – Bancroft, the Garden Spot of Iowa. We think you’ll have a good time. After all, when we asked them to tell us about their planned RAGBRAI activities they told us “music, fun, ball park, fun, fabulous food, fun, beer, fun, local entertainment, fun, Twister, fun, games and… FUN!”

We would be amiss if we waited any longer to mention that Bancroft is home to Mr. Pork Chop and yes the infamous crew and giant porcine bus will be there serving their 1.5” thick Iowa Chops! If you’re ready for dessert or looking for other options, Wrangling Grace Café will have pies a plenty ready for us (apple, rhubarb, sour cream raisin, chocolate, pecan, the list goes on!), and there will also be lots of local non-profit vendors as well as the usual line up of travelling vendors.

Paul and Matt of the Pork Chop dynasty are not Bancroft’s only famous citizens. In fact, not one but two Major League Baseball players claimed Bancroft as their hometown. Joe “Lefty” Hatten was a pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs, his MLB career spanned from 1946-’52. The second was Denis Menke, who played for a variety of MLB teams (Milwaukee Braves, Atlanta Braves, Houston Astros, Cincinnati Reds) from 1962-’74. He then went to have a long and varied coaching career starting out in 1977 with the Burlington Bees and wrapping up in 2000 as a bench coach for the Cincinnati Reds. 

If you’re looking for a little history during your stop in Bancroft, be sure to check out the St. John the Baptist Church, built in 1915. It has some gorgeous stained glass windows. The Sister’s Inn is another historic attraction, it’s an old convent converted to a motel. If you’ve worked up a thirst, check out Main Street Pub which has been recently renovated but the original building has been around since the late 1800s. The Main Street Pub will also be connected to one of Bancroft’s two beer gardens the day of the ride, so you’ll have the option of enjoying your beer outdoors while listening to live music, or inside in the air conditioning.

Looking for something a little more peaceful? Try Bancroft’s Spa-De-Da, an upscale spa that will be featuring cycling-specific massages and skin care products. They’re right on the route so you can’t miss them! Very relaxing. 

As you walk or bike down Main Street, you may notice that there are a lot of businesses. This was not an accident, Bancroft’s residents have worked very hard to keep their downtown thriving. Main Street Bancroft currently hosts a wide variety of businesses from a hardware store to a chiropractor to a yoga studio. Very impressive for a town that counts just 732 official residents. Be sure to stop and check out a shop or two to support their efforts!

Keep track of Bancroft’s RAGBRAI plans on their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ragbrai-in-Bancroft/1415342492068791

Our first town on the Karras Loop, Burt, plans to promote their ‘Toilet Toss’ and ‘Tank Top Toss’ competition that is held annually at the Burt Summer Celebration.  For the men, the toilet base is tossed into sand to see who can throw it the farthest.  The Tank Top Toss was implemented for the female contestants.  There is a cost for 2 throws, and if you can toss it a minimum distance you will win a t-shirt.  RAGBRAI riders will be challenged to beat the local winners.  The record to date for the men is 28’, and the record for the ladies is 40’+. Theme for the town is ‘Entering the Toilet Zone’, and t-shirts will be available.

The primary food stand will be located at the Burt Activity Complex serving hot beef brisket, walking tacos, baked potatoes with toppings, fruit, desserts, water and Gatorade.  Music and karaoke will be provided by a local DJ.

For photo ops, look no further than the restored ‘old time’ gas station on the way out of town.  Included in the display are several antiques.

The beverage garden will be hosted by the Burt Fire Department, and proceeds will go toward the purchase of a new water truck for the department.

Check out their website at www.burtiowa.com.

You may want to take the Karras Loop option this year if for no other reason than to visit “The Neatest Little Town in Iowa,” Lone Rock. This is the town John and Ann Karras will be on site handing out our official Karras Loop Patches. After you get your patch, one of your first stops should probably be a visit to the eponymous rock, a 175 ton boulder that sits in the middle of town and once served as a landmark for the pioneers. In honor of RAGBRAI, riders will be able to sign the rock with a piece of chalk, leaving their (temporary) mark.

Commemorate your rock sighting by stopping to visit area author and Lone Rock native, Gene Miller who will be signing books. Mr. Miller has written over a half a dozen books about the town (it is believed that no town in Iowa the size of Lone Rock has had so many books written about it) including “Lone Rock Memoir,” “Lone Rock War Bride,” and “Murder at Lone Rock.”

Hungry? There will be all sorts of food options in Lone Rock to keep your motor running. Options include: pork loin sandwiches, sweet corn (if ready by July 22), homemade pies, ice cold drinks, FREE watermelon, cheese sticks, eggs, hazelnuts, Chex Mix, cookies and Candy Bars. Proceeds will benefit several charities including The Lone Rock Community Club, The Fenton Forwards 4-H Club, The North Union Music Department and the North Union Spanish Club. 

History buffs- you won’t want to miss the Railroad Depot and Museum. And be sure to stop by the Don Blanchard Field and get a taste of the rich local baseball history. Mr. Blanchard was an AA baseball player in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Just prior to Blanchard’s time, Lone Rock was home to a professional all-black baseball team, Chip’s All Stars, who were hugely popular and reportedly draw large crowds for their Sunday games.

A few last points of interest in Lone Rock – The post office will be having a specialized RAGBRAI themed cancellation stamp for the day of RAGBRAI. Also, the local, privately owned telephone office will have FREE wi-fi. The owner of the office has graciously postponed his vacation one day to help out on the 22nd of July! Finally, on your way out of town, be sure to look down! Lone Rock is sitting atop Okoboji loam soil which is only located in Kossuth County and a small area in Germany. This type of soil produces some of the best farmland in the world. Follow Lone Rock’s RAGBRAI plans here: lonerockiowa.com.

 Next, we rolled in to Titonka. Titonka is a Sioux word meaning “Big Black”, the name given by the Native Americans to the buffalo or tatanka. Legend has it that Buffalo Fork (just north of town) is the sight of the only buffalo shot by hunters in Kossuth County. You may recognize the word “tatanka” from the movie “Dances with Wolves”.  So the town of Titonka, of course, will have a buffalo theme for RAGBRAI!

Titonka is ready to entertain RAGBRAIers with live music from two bands.  There will also be two inflatable waterslides and the fire department will host water fights. Don’t miss the photo opportunities with the big buffalo and life-sized cut-outs.  Riders can enjoy the Furrow in Time sculpture and the Rainbow Bridge Wall.  Be sure to visit the city park, the city pool and the public library.

The town will also be ready with food including a city food stand in the EMS building. They are planning lots of great food including grilled chicken sandwiches, hamburgers with Titonka’s signature “buffalo” sauce, ice cold watermelon, root beer floats, cookies, pie & ice cream.  The Titonka Food Center will have fresh made to order subs and sandwiches.  All food proceeds from the city stand at the EMS Building will go towards the town swimming pool fund.  They will also have a few vendors from outside of Titonka. 

Titonka also has two bars, the Red Dog and Races Ole’ 3, and a local grocery store, the Titonka Food Center. All will be open during RAGBRAI.

We suggest you stop and have some fun at The Gruis Recreation Area, or as the locals call it, “The Barn”, is located between Titonka and Crystal Lake.  In 1969, Bert Gruis donated his farm to the county for recreational purposes. Seven years later the golf course was built. The original barn was renovated into a clubhouse/restaurant.

They will be serving burgers, grilled chicken, shrimp cocktail and possibly sweet corn.  For the thirsty riders beer, margaritas, vodka lemonades, Gatorade and water will be plentiful.

The barn will have a DJ to entertain guests and possibly Cow Chip Bingo! All cans will be donated to the local volunteer fire department.

Next, we’ll head to our final pass-through town of the day. Crystal Lake Iowa, not to be confused with camp Crystal Lake from the Jason movies. This Crystal Lake is a natural lake consisting of 268 acres.  Visitors to this town on previous RAGBRAIs will remember the world’s largest bullhead sitting on the south shore of the lake.  The bullhead was built in 1958 by Carl Frick.  ‘Bullhead Days’ is a yearly celebration.

Most of the activities will be centered around the lake and the town.  You will find a band and a DJ at the Crystal Lake Bar.  Food available includes corn on the cob, burgers, turkey, cookie ice cream sandwiches, ices, and more!

The local fire department is raising money for new trucks, and Steve Hanna is raising funds for a memorial gazebo for a tragic event that happened this winter that involved 2 local teenage girls losing their life in a traffic accident.

We’ll be staying in beautiful Forest City tonight, and with our Karras Loop-weary legs we were saying “RV There Yet??” long before we rolled into town. We had a delicious dinner at the Mount Valley Vineyards – keep an eye out for two of their wines that will be for sale in Forest City’s beverage garden.

RVs have long been one of RAGBRAI Teams’ favorite accessories. So if you know one thing about Forest City, know that it’s home to Winnebago and the world’s largest RV production plant. During the ride we’ll be greeted on our way into town by Forest City Elementary Students singing the “RV There Yet?” theme song. Riders are welcome to check out the RV plant, tours are at 1pm (if possible please make reservations for groups of six or more). And be sure to get your official RV There Yet t-shirt!

In addition to Winnebago founder John K. Hanson, Forest City is also the hometown of Lute Barnes, shortstop for the NY Mets (’72-’73) and Mike Stensrud, who played for five teams in his 11 seasons as a defensive lineman in the NFL. 

Forest City’s Waldorf College will be hosting our musical entertainment for the night. The headlining band will be the Hepperly Band, which bills itself as Northern Iowa’s Best Variety Band. The rest of the lineup is rounded out by Black Diet (garage/indy/soul), Less Nessman (rock ‘n’ roll cover band) and The Oddfathers (oldest new band in rock). Should be a great way to unwind after all those miles.

Notable alumni of Waldorf include the CEO of Best Buy, CEO of Cabela’s, Bob Backlund (a former professional wrestler who is considered a top 50 Pro Wrestler ever) and Henry Waechter (former defensive lineman for the Chicago Bears, the Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts, and the Washington Redskins).

If it’s hot on Tuesday, there will be several places to seek air conditioned comfort. Try The Forest Theatre, they’ll be adding additional movie showings to accommodate bikers. Or take the shuttle and bowl a few frames at The Super Bowl. Finally, the Public Library is always a good choice. They’ll be screening science-themed movies in their Science Center Theatre in the afternoon.

For you botanists – Pilot Knob State Park is located just a few miles East of the city and has some really scenic landscapes. These include Dead Man’s Lake, a four-acre floating sphagnum bog, the only one of its kind in Iowa.



4 Responses on “RAGBRAI Pre-Ride Day 3 – Emmetsburg to Forest City

Bill P

June 4, 2014 at 7:57 am

Sure, they can throw a toilet 28′, but how far can they throw a Kaibo?

Jeff hagen

June 4, 2014 at 9:18 pm

Mike Stensrud is from Lake Mills which is 15 miles north east of Forest City.

Jeff hagen

June 4, 2014 at 9:18 pm

Mike Stensrud is from Lake Mills which is 15 miles north east of Forest City.


July 10, 2014 at 9:42 pm

We have been a small grouping of volunteers and also commencing the latest scheme in this local community. Your web site provided us valuable details to your workplace upon. You must have done your powerful task plus the whole group shall be thankful back.

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