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

RAGBRAI Pre-Ride Day 4 – Forest City to Mason City

We would like to start by saying thank you to the Forest City RAGBRAI Committee for your generous hospitality! We had a really fun visit and can’t wait to say “RV There Yet?” once again in July. 

We had about 35 riders head out of Forest City with us for our fourth day of the RAGBRAI XLII Route Inspection ride. It was a short ride and a sunny day so we took our time and enjoyed the pass through towns on our way to Mason City. This was the first day that we had any significant headwind, but the mostly smooth roads made the trip easier. 

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 Four of our ride were Forest City, Ventura, Clear Lake (meeting town),  and Mason City. We rode 41.2 miles, and had just 695 feet of climb. 

Ventura is the first town of the day on Wednesday, or Hump Day!  A pleasant 16 mile ride from Forest City will be an ideal breakfast stop.  Ventura is located on the northeastern basin of Clear Lake making it a place with many lakeside areas. 

Ventura is A destination for those who enjoy fishing, hunting, boating, biking, snowmobiling in a quiet community. 

RAGBRAI has visited Ventura twice before, back on RAGBRAI V and RAGBRAI XXVII. 

They have a few establishments in Ventura including the Sugar and Slice (Ice Cream & Pizza) and the Sandy Clam Bar and Pizza Oven.  They also have a few bars in town including the Colony Inn and the Muskie Lounge.

Next, we’ll roll around Clear Lake to… you guessed it, Clear Lake! Clear Lake is a 3600 acre natural lake.  It is 7 miles by 2 miles at its widest point.  It was originally established in 1851, but soon became a tourist destination.

Clear Lake is where you will find the Surf Ballroom.  Many high profile acts have played the Surf, but none more well-known than Buddy Holly playing his final concert.  Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper were part of the Winter Dance Party tour.  After playing a concert on February 2, 1959, they boarded a plane just after midnight.  The plane crashed in a nearby cornfield just 6 miles from the airport.  All three performers died in the crash, along with the pilot.

The North Iowa Cultural Center and Museum is part of the Surf Ballroom, and contains many pieces of history, including the ‘Green Room’ where you will find signatures on the wall of the acts who have played at the ballroom.  Also on display is a guitar collection, and information about the careers of Buddy Holly, Valens and the Big Bopper. 

Some of the more interesting pieces of architecture include the Linden Home built in 1873, Knutson Home built in 1895, and the Thrifty White Pharmacy in the main business district.

The route to Clear Lake will run along North Shore Drive, providing stunning views of the lake, as well as many stylish homes along the way.

The activities will be held in the park near downtown.  Food vendors and other services will be available in the park.  If the weather is such that a swim in the lake is in order, a public beach is there for you.  There are only two towns on this day, so plan to spend lots of time in Clear Lake.

It’s been 29 years since we last stopped in Mason City, and they’re pulling out all the stops to be sure that our visit is the Best Hump Day Ever! If you love ‘80s music, you’ll love Mason City’s band lineup. It’s headlined by Poison’s Bret Michaels, with special guest Warrant (Cherry Pie anyone?).

Mason City is packed with history and notable landmarks. So put on your rock ‘n’ roll bandana and get out there to see some sights! There are so many architectural structures of note that there are three separate organizations in Mason City solely devoted to preserving this heritage. Perhaps the most notable are the Park Inn Hotel/City National Bank and the Stockman House, both designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The Park Inn Hotel is the only hotel designed by Wright remaining in the world. If you get the craving for more Prairie School style homes, cruise around the Rock Crest/Rock Glen neighborhood and you will not be disappointed. The Joshua Melson house, also referred to as “The Castle” is one of the most recognized private residences in the world. And finally on our list of must-see structures in Mason City is the Mason City Public Library. As a double bonus, the Library is both gorgeous AND air conditioned. It’s considered one of the most beautiful in the Midwest, as it overlooks Willow Creek.

Famous Mason City residents include: General Hanford MacNider, one of the most decorated soldiers in World Wars I and II. Bill Baird, who was one of the world’s foremost puppeteers. An extensive collection of his puppets is displayed in the MacNider Art Museum here in Mason City. John Pappajohn, prominent businessman and philanthropist is also from Mason City.

And lest we forget, Meredith Wilson was from Mason City. He based his world famous Broadway musical “The Music Man” partly on Mason City (aka River City). His boyhood home is still standing in the Downtown District, across from the Library, and Music Man Square commemorates the musical.

You may also want to check out Cannonball, and we don’t mean at the city pool. East Park (located where Willow Creek meets the Winnebago River) is home to Steam Locomotive No. 457, also known as Cannonball. Built in 1912, the Cannonball is the last remaining Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway steam locomotive and has been restored to look just as it did “back in the day.”

They say every rose has its thorn, but we sure didn’t see one here!

1 Response on “RAGBRAI Pre-Ride Day 4 – Forest City to Mason City


June 25, 2014 at 10:17 pm

All true and great things to see in Mason City BUT you cannot miss the Z- Garden Rancho deluxe just a 3/4 blocks from central Park where the bands are playing. You can WALK!

It is totally fantastic with all kinds of stuff to feast your eyes on and bike friendly! Can pop your tent up also for your nights sleep…he has room! He is Max. Cool guy with a thirst for art and bikes and people! Don’t miss this iconic hipster site in Mason City!!!!!

500 2nd st NE Ask anyone!

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