BONAPARTE – Looking for a RAGBRAI souvenir? How about the historic Bonaparte Inn?
The 13-room brick hotel went up for sale earlier this month, for an undisclosed price by the owner in Scottsdale, Ariz., who bought it in 2004. The three-story 1892 building started as a pants factory before it cranked out gloves for the greater part of the 20th century.
Rita Hayes, the clerk in the lobby, was a glove finisher – second from the end of the line – back in 1981. She explained the particulars of the job using a metal hand form (a handequin?) on the lobby’s old oak counter.
The boutique hotel’s chef, Diana Horsey, mentioned that she had catered for one of former Vice President Al Gore’s campaign back in 2000 in Fort Madison, when he was running for White House. Her two specialties: hash brown casserole and praline French toast.
(Fun fact: The word “restaurant” was coined to describe the stations that French military chefs set up to feed Napoleon Bonaparte’s armies across Europe. The meals “restored” their energy.)
In nearby Bentonsport, another historic town a few miles earlier on the route, riders sampled fudge at Forever Sweet Creations, a candy-colored shop that looks like the place where Hansel and Gretel ended up in that oven. The RAGBRAI riders fared better; the shopkeepers weren’t witchy at all.
On the main road by the town’s tiny museum, a 4-year-old boy in a 19th century costume shyly asked riders if they wanted Gatorade.
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