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Fun to-dos on RAGBRAI XXXVIII

  • 18 July, 2010

This post was written by Michael Morain of the Des Moines Register, who will be riding RAGBRAI XXXVIII. You can reach him at mmorain@dmreg.com.

A week from today, 10,000 cyclists will set out from Sioux City and pedal their way to Dubuque during the Register’s 38th Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa.

It’s the oldest, largest and longest bicycle touring event in the world – and one of the state’s best excuses for a party. The cities and small towns along this year’s route are hosting big-name concerts (Smash Mouth, the Spin Doctors, the Nadas), dusting off old recipes (Mulligan stew, gargantuan ham balls) and sprucing up landmarks that visitors can see year-round, no matter how many wheels they ride to get there.

JULY 24 – Sioux City

Smash Mouth

During a sketch a few months ago on “Saturday Night Live,” three cast members posing as the band Smash Mouth crept out of a girl’s bedroom closet and started singing “All Star,” their catchy hit single from 1999. The girl was terrified, telling her mother (played by guest star Jennifer Lopez), “I don’t want to sing it or it will get stuck in your head and you won’t be able to get it out.” But Mom calmed her fears, explaining that the would-be monsters were “just some positive guys from San Jose who are trying to have some fun.”

They’ll get another try Saturday in Sioux City, where they’ll crank out a few more hits, like “Walkin’ on the Sun,” “Can’t Get Enough of You Baby” and their cover of the Monkees classic “I’m a Believer,” which was featured on the soundtrack for “Shrek.”

The Sioux City Rockestra, billed as the country’s only rock-and-roll orchestra, opens the show at 7 p.m. on downtown’s Historic Fourth Street. Free for RAGBRAI riders, $10 for everyone else. (800) 745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com.

JULY 25 – Storm Lake

Johnny Holm Band

On the first day of the ride, cyclists will roll through Leeds (home of Jolly Time Popcorn), Kingsley (home of an inexplicably high number of black squirrels) and Washta (where the temperature once plunged to a state record-breaking 47 degrees below zero, in 1912) on their way to Storm Lake.

Depending on when they coast into town, they can hear the local band Chrome Union, at 4 p.m.; the Twin Cities-based R&B funk band High & Mighty, at 7 p.m.; and the RAGBRAI-tested-and-approved Johnny Holm Band, at 9 p.m., for “covers of country, classic rock, Elvis, Deon and whatever the hell else they feel like playing,” according to the group’s Facebook page.

The entire concert, on a stage just off Seventh Street, is free.

JULY 26 – Algona

While the rest of the world heads back to work on Monday morning, RAGBRAI hits the road for Pocahontas (or simply “Poky,” among the locals). Plans are in the works for activities throughout the day on Main Street, including a dunk tank, a climbing wall, a waterslide on the courthouse lawn, a mass Hokey “Poky” dance and various photo opps with locals dressed up like the town’s namesake princess.

The route continues through Plover (rhymes with “lover,” not “clover”) where a notorious group of five grandmothers, known as the Plover Circle, are planning to sell nearly criminal amounts of quarter-cup ham balls they haven’t made since the famous Ham Ball Suppers more than a dozen years ago at the Methodist church.

“They’re a big deal. They’re like meat candybars. There’s almost as much brown sugar as meat,” Circle member, Candace Larson, said earlier this month. “Yesterday we made 2,380. We thought we’d made 2,000, but we’re bad mathematicians.”

While their lunch digests, riders can listen to Plover native and Register reporter L. Lars Hulsebus jam away on acoustic guitar, with an assist from bassist and fellow Plover native Toby Handy. (Hulsebus, by the way, has an inside scoop on the ham-ball situation. He happens to be Larson’s son.) The route continues through Rolfe (where a local family will play a calliope), through West Bend (site of the Grotto of the Redemption) and finally on to Algona, where organizers are planning a ’70s-style “cycle-delic” party. Expect to see a few leisure suits and feathered Farrah Fawcett wigs among the crowd for the Kossuth County Cycle Idol karaoke contest, at 5:30 p.m., and the Vic Ferrari Band, which borrowed its name from Latka’s smooth-talking alter ego on the sitcom “Taxi” and will cover songs from before, during and after the disco era at 8 p.m.

The concert, on a stage downtown, is free.

JULY 27 – Clear Lake

The route winds through Wesley, where the festivities center around a “Dukes of Hazzard” theme, and on to Britt, where locals will play up their claim to fame as the site of the Hobo Museum, the Hobo Memorial Cemetery and the annual National Hobo Convention. At least three hobos will wander around town regaling riders with stories and songs, and a local Boy Scouts troupe plans to scoop up Mulligan stew. (They’ll have bowls for cyclists, but everybody else should bring their own pan, in true hobo style.)

Down the road in Garner, the bands Impulse and Sheltered Reality will perform in Central Park before Operation Troop Aid takes the stage at 12:30 p.m. The group from Nashville, Tenn. – with Jonna Lee White, Cody McCarver of Confederate Railroad, and Tim McGraw- and Keith Urban-collaborator Sammy Sadler – will help raise money to send care packages for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Spin Doctors

The day ends with a beach party in Clear Lake, where the award-winning Typhoon Tommy’s Jet Ski Show will show off their stunts at 5:30 p.m. An hour later, a Jimmy Buffet tribute band with possibly the best name ever – the Parrots of the Caribbean – hits the City Park bandshell to open a free concert with the Spin Doctors, the New York-based rockers best known for their 1992 single “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.”

Fireworks cap off the night around 10 p.m., followed by a late-night concert with ’70s and ’80s tunes by Twin Cities-based Christy Love & You Know Who. (In this case, “You Know Who” refers to a few former members of a group called Boogie Wonderland.)

JULY 28 – Charles City

Riders heading into Swaledale will likely spot the Burma Shave-style signs that Dale and Orville Caspers have been busy re-painting during the last few weeks. The two brothers in their 80s posted their first signs more than 20 years ago, including the ever-popular sequence: Listen birds / these signs cost money / so roost awhile / but don’t get funny. “I just thought up a new one,” Dale Caspers said on the phone a few weeks ago. “Don’t pass / on a slope / unless you have / a periscope.”

He said he’ll also haul out the car-sized “whatchamacallit” he displayed for riders last time RAGBRAI rolled through, in 1999. It’s a mechanical contraption of salvaged parts – an air horn, a steam engine whistle and various bits of farm machinery – that he rigged to an old gas-powered engine. “It’s just a bunch of junk I put together,” he said. “It runs, but it don’t do nothing.”

Riders can stop for lunch in Rockwell and take a dip in the town’s new aquatic center before pedaling to Rockford (where they can dig for prehistoric souvenirs in the Fossil & Prairie Center and Park) and finally to Charles City. The day’s 52-mile route is the second shortest of the week (after the final 48-mile push into Dubuque) so the party may start early.

The local band Endless Summer will pump out oldies, starting at noon, followed by the country rockers Wild Card at 2 p.m., the classic rock- and oldies-cover band the Dweebs at 5 p.m., the rock group Left of Center at 8 p.m., and headliners Standing Hampton from 9 p.m. to midnight. The five-member classic rock group formed in Des Moines and is a RAGBRAI favorite, having performed during five of the last seven rides. Riders who want a break from all that rocking can see the new remake of “The Karate Kid” at 1, 4, and 7 p.m. at the local theater or tackle various challenges at the outdoor carnival, including bungee jumping, mechanical bull-riding and human bowling, in which the bowler climbs into a ball-shaped cage and rolls toward a dozen human-sized pins.

JULY 29 – Waterloo

The route continues through Clarksville (home of Pete & Shorty’s bar, which served as inspiration for the Hooters restaurant chain) and Parkersburg, where riders can break for lunch on Main Street and listen to Bob Dorr and the Blue Band or tour the new Aplington-Parkersburg High School, which was built after a tornado tore through the previous building two years ago. Slide shows about the twister that claimed eight lives and destroyed 282 homes will be shown throughout the day at Bethel Lutheran Church and the library. The town’s RAGBRAI theme, appropriately enough, is “Upward, Onward, Forward.”

Down the road in Dike, riders can take a swing at a $10,000 prize at the Fox Ridge Golf Club. The first 300 participants can pay $2 for a chance to shoot a 165-yard hole in one. “I haven’t seen anybody win the big prize since we’ve done it out here, but you never know,” Fox Ridge golf pro Mike Menke said.

In Hudson, home of the Hudson High School Pirates, riders can expect to see a rowdy gang of the school’s cheerleaders urging riders to stop at a makeshift pirate ship, walk the plank and take a plunge in the dunk tank, while a ’70s cover band called the Ramblers and the jazz group Highway Heavies tag-team the entertainment. Riders who escape the dunk tank can cool down at the new 74-acre Lost Island Water Park in Waterloo or head straight to the main campgrounds for a trio of tribute bands. Arch Allies (Journey, Styx, REO Speedwagon) fires up at 5 p.m., followed by the internationally touring Fab Four (Beatles) at 8 p.m. and Kiss Mania (you know who) from 10 p.m. to midnight. Earlier in the day, head to downtown’s Lincoln Park to hear the Dennis Wayne Gang at 11 a.m. and Never the Less at 3 p.m.

JULY 30 – Manchester

Riders who need some inspiration for the second-to-last day can hear the so-called Singing Nuns in the heavily Catholic town of Gilbert, where locals have worshipped at the ornate Immaculate Conception Church since 1875. The musical “sisters” may not be real women of the cloth, but their kickline could give any choir of angels a run for its money.

For something completely different, head over to the frog races, leap-frog contests and other amphibious games designed to celebrate Gilbertville’s claim to fame as “Frog Town,” a nickname that stuck years ago when locals noticed all the frogs in the Cedar River that cuts through town.

The Nadas

The route winds through Quasqueton, where totem poles and other landmarks will highlight the legend of the lovers Wapsi and Pinicon, whose Native American tribes forbade them from being together. According to the story, the lovers flung themselves into the river that now bears their names: the Wapsipinicon.

The day finishes up with a party in Manchester, where the Nadas will perform a free concert at 9 p.m. near the Delaware County Courthouse. The Des Moines-based rockers, who have sold more than 125,000 albums, are RAGBRAI veterans, with performances during each of the last four rides.

Country singer and Manchester native Ali Beck returns from her home in Nashville to kick off the entertainment at 4 p.m., followed by the Iowa-based rock band the Large Midgets at 6:15 p.m.

JULY 31 – Dubuque

Port of Dubuque river pavillion

After riders conquer this year’s only Really Big Hill – the mile-long mountain on Potter Hill Road just east of Graf – they’ll coast into Dubuque to the sounds of the rock-blues-funk band the Lonely Goats, from 9 to 11:30 a.m.; the ’80s and ’90s dance-party tunes of the Buzz Berries, from noon to 3 p.m.; and a DJ from 3 to 6 p.m. But even the slowpokes can catch the oldies headliner Coupe DeVille, who takes the Alliant Energy Amphitheater stage from 6 to 10 p.m.

Most of the action, including the ceremonial tire-dip in the Mississippi River, centers around the historic Port of Dubuque, which has changed dramatically since RAGBRAI last rolled into town in 1993. The former industrial area now attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors year-round to the Grand Harbor Resort and Waterpark, the Diamond Jo Casino, the Dubuque Star Brewery and the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium, which recently opened a $40 million expansion, complete with a new 40,000 aquarium and a 4-D theater equipped with mists, moving seats and piped-in smells.

7 Comments

  1. cj

    Rock on! Looks like another awesome RAGBRAI week of entertainment!

  2. Peg

    No one told me there were so many concerts enroute from the Missouri to the Mississippi. I really need to seriously to partake next year!

  3. Jim

    No Sinatra or Dean Martin? What about the over 20’s?

    Jim

  4. Billy

    I went to some Miller Lite parties last year and they were the wildest, most fun I experienced. They have great venues and host locations – looking forward to IT!!! Free overnight parking and events at some of the overnight stops.

    Looking forward to the Algona stop in Whittemore and Manchester – both look to be AWESOME Locations!

    http://www.bikeiowa.com/asp/features/featuresdisplay.asp?ArticleID=1103

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