We would like to start by sending a huge thank you to the Eldora RAGBRAI Committee, we can’t wait to come back in just a few short weeks. Your hospitality was a Wheely Big Deal to us and was a highlight of our day yesterday. This morning we started the fourth day of the Route Inspection by gathering a group of about 30 riders at Eldora’s South Hardin High School. We had a much appreciated tailwind as we rode North and we dodged rain clouds to stay dry all day. The cities we visited on the fourth day of our ride were Eldora, Steamboat Rock, Cleves, Ackley, Austinville, Aplington, Parkersburg (meeting town), New Hartford and Cedar Falls. We rode 56.3 miles, and had 1,845 feet of climb. There were a couple of hills climbing from New Hartford to Cedar Falls so when Cedar Falls says It’s All Downhill From Here we are inclined to believe them!
Today we said goodbye to Bryon Houlgrave, the Des Moines Register photographer assigned to the first half of the Route Inspection Ride. This was his second half-year with us and he rode every mile, including the Gravel Loop and the Karras Loop. Bryon, thanks for all the awesome photos of our ride and the towns we visited! This morning we welcomed Zach Boyden-Holmes who will be photographing the rest of our week. This is Zach’s second time assisting with the second half of the Route Inspection and we are looking forward to having him with us as we head to the Mississippi.
Steamboat Rock is dubbed “The Valley of Friendliness,” and we could see why. When we arrived we thought a storm front might be moving through so we savored the giant indoor breakfast. We sampled rolls from the Pine Lake Saddle Club, beef jerky snack sticks by Duck Commander, and a wide spread of breakfast burritos and fruit by local restaurant Mama’s Family Diner. If you want to check out Mama’s, be sure to head into the large brick building that also houses City Hall.
Steamboat Rock’s vendors will be serving the above mentioned foods and much, much more including pancakes, pie, muffins, granola bars, yogurt, muffins, french toast and a breakfast sandwich. There will also be a beer garden, and they plan to have lots of free water and other beverages available. Seriously this is the place to go for your first breakfast.
As far as things to do are concerned, the local Baptist church will have free concerts by local talent, there will be cutouts for photo ops, and like the Blarney Stone, people will be able to kiss the Steamboat Rock. The gym at City Hall will also be open for basketball, it is a really cool wooden court/bleachers. If you need wi-fi, City Hall, the Community Center and the Library will be open and ready to assist. The Historical Society will have their museum open, and the Sac and Fox Overlook just north of town is a possible stop worth making.
There will be two large raffles going on in town the day we visit – the library is raffling a painting by a local artist, and the Historical Society will be raffling off three quilts – proceeds from two of the three quilts will go to the local Shelter House, and from one of the quilts the proceeds will go to the Historical Society.
Of note – The Visionary Group’s food stand will be making money for the Washington Square Park project. Steamboat Rock has never had a city park and our community is working toward this goal. Last summer the community gathered to construct an $85,000 playground as phase 1 of the project. Phase 2 is to be completed this summer if funding can be acquired. This phase will be construction of a shelter house for the park (see the note about the quilt raffle above). Phase 3 will be the reconstruction of the basketball court.
Famous former citizens of Steamboat Rock include Herbert Quick, author, educator and lawyer – he also worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture under President Woodrow Wilson and served as Ambassador to Siberia.
Steamboat Rock’s RAGBRAI theme is Steamboat Rocks and Rolls! For more information about their RAGBRAI plans, visit http://ift.tt/1ALt0Bk.
Cleves is a small unincorporated town in North East Iowa with a bank, a repair shop, and a grain elevator. The hamlet is located between Steamboat Rock and Ackley. John Gruis Park, managed by Hardin County Conservation, is a great little park to relax under a tree and enjoy nature. Innovative Ag Services Co. is the main company in town – a full service farm cooperative offering a complete line of supplies and services.
It is not certain if any food or drink will be served yet in the tiny town, but the park will be open for shade!
A large Veterans Memorial “Honoring those who died – dedicated to all who served”, is located on Main Street. Look to your left as you first turn toward downtown. The Hardin County Freedom Rock is located next to the memorial. To help honor family or friends who served, riders can sign a rock in the name of their loved one and place it at the memorial.
A little further down the road, you will see a very large Bull Durham mural on the wall of a building. This ad was painted in 1912, and just recently discovered by the town when the building next to the mural was torn down. No one in town knew the mural was there.
Ackley is ready for us and will host several food vendors along Main Street. Or stop in at the American Legion for omelets and bloody Marys – proceeds will send local veterans to tour Des Moines museums.
Ackley’s theme is “I Like Pig Butts and I cannot Lie” – and yes t-shirts will be available for sale! A DJ will be set up at the band shell, part of the recently remodeled City Hall. Other entertainment options include Egg Jousting, hey tried to describe it to us but we think you will have to see it to believe it! There will also be a petting zoo – hopefully to include the Geese Guy! Or try your luck at the donuts on a string contest – contestants have to eat donuts off the string without using their hands
For more information on Ackley’s RAGBRAI plans, visit http://ift.tt/1FV7Y24
Austinville is a small unincorporated community along our route that our ride will be visiting for the first time ever. While they are not planning any RAGBRAI festivities, you may want to stop here and take a rest on your way to Ackley. If you want to explore the town a bit, we recommend taking a look at their Post Office, founded in 1892, or the Austinville Bank which is a historic building.
This will be RAGBRAI’s second visit to Aplington. The last time we stopped was back in 2007 on the way into Cedar Falls for RAGBRAI XXXV.
You will soon discover Northeast Iowa’s Best Kept Secret! The town is a beautiful community that really takes pride. The Butler County town has a population of 1,128 citizens. The community shares a high school now with Parkersburg and has placed four former players into the NFL including Aaron Kampman, Brad Meester, Jared DeVries and Casey Wiegmann.
For RAGBRAI this go round, Aplington’s theme is “The Secrets Out”. It is no secret that the community will have plenty of vendors serving great food throughout the downtown. There will also be a DJ & beer garden at Stinkys Bar & Grill. The Aplington REC (Golf Course) on the west end of town will have beer and bloody mary bar. The Peppercorn Pantry Restaurant will be serving in their courtyard.
The town will have local and outside vendors that will be serving sandwiches, fruit, pies, water, bacon wrapped in chocolate and much more
Be sure to check out the Aplington Historical Society while in town.
We look forward to unlocking the Secrets in Aplington!
In 2008, one of the worst tornadoes in US history hit Parkersburg. The EF-5 tornado hit the south side of town causing complete devastation to homes and trees. As you ride south on the way out of town, note the difference between the trees in the downtown area and the neighborhoods to the south. It looks like a brand new housing development, and it is, but only because the tornado knocked down homes and trees in that area. Thanks to the support of all of Iowa, Parkersburg has been able to recover from the devastation.
Aplington-Parkersburg High School has produced its share of NFL players including Casey Wiegmann, Brad Meester, Aaron Kampman, and Jared DeVries. The story of these players and their coach Ed Thomas can be found in the book ‘The Sacred Acre’, also the nickname of Ed Thomas Field. Coach Thomas was tragically killed by one of his former students, and his legacy lives on today.
We were hungry when we got to Parkerburg – if you are too, downtown Parkersburg and historic Main Street will host the food and beverage areas.
While you are biking around town, check out the Aplington-Parkersburg High School rebuilt after the tornado, it’s a really great facility and one of the positive results to come of the tornado’s destruction.
You may wonder why New Hartford is called the City of Gardens. Back in 2008, the city experienced a double disaster, first an EF-5 tornado (the same one as Parkersburg experienced) then exactly two weeks later, a record-breaking flood. The flood covered 90% of their town, and destroyed many homes and hundreds of years of progress. As of 2012 they were finally able to clean up the massive destruction, and the residents of New Hartford have chosen to make a positive out of a big negative. In six of the areas that experienced destruction so massive that all buildings had to be cleared, they built large beautiful gardens. These include the Veterans Memorial, dedicated on Memorial Day of 2012, the Four Season Perennial Garden, and the Town Square Gazebo, both dedicated in June of 2012. They have also planted a large fruit tree garden, a Heritage Garden playground, a Meditation Garden, and they are currently working on a Log Cabin Learning Center. It truly is a beautiful town and we recommend spending some time there before you head to Cedar Falls.
While you are browsing the gardens make sure you stop and get a bite to eat. There will be food vendors lining five blocks along Main Street. If you are looking for beverages, there will be a large beverage garden centered around the Beaver Creek Bar & Grill. They will have both a live band and a DJ, and they are ready to host RAGBRAI. They are bringing in tents to supplement the already shady beverage garden area, and have ordered a semi-load of beer.
If drinking isn’t your thing, there will be a live performance by a high-school age singing group, a “where are you from” board, and beaver photo ops (homage to Beaver Creek). If you want to pick up some convenience items before you enter town, there is a newly renovated Caseys gas station.
The town theme ‘It’s All Down Hill From Here’ references the route “down” (we are heading south) from Cedar Falls to Hiawatha to Coralville. Cedar Falls is home to the University of Northern Iowa Panthers. The main campground and entertainment will be located near the UNI Dome on the campus of UNI. Riders will enter the event area on 27th Street offering access to the main campground, stage and entertainment venue, food vendors, bike shops and other amenities.
Shuttles staffed with volunteers will circle Cedar Falls, providing easy access to the shopping mall, Hy-Vee, downtown, and the College Hill district adjacent to the UNI campus.
Main Street Cedar Falls is full of boutique shops, many bars and restaurants ready to serve riders. Several pieces of public art grace the brick sidewalks. The recently restored Post Office, originally built in 1918, is now home to Bike Tech, a local bicycle shop in town. You will find the new shop on Washington Street.
- Food vendors will be located in the beverage garden area, and will provide several unique offerings including lamb as well as favorites such as pizza and pasta.
- Entertainment will begin at 12:30 pm with music by Cedar Falls singer-songwriter Karla Ruth, Iowa Blues musician Joe Price, local favorites Dylan Sires and Neighbors, Iowa Blues Hall of Famers Bob Dorr and The Blue Band.
- Evening entertainment includes the Devon Worley Band, and New Black Seven.
- The headliner will be Hairball, a favorite among RAGBRAI riders.
- Access to the entertainment/beverage garden will be free to all registered riders, with an entrance fee charged to non-registered riders once the evening entertainment kicks off.
Things to do or see:
- The unique Ice House Museum, the only historic ice house in the country, is located in the downtown district. This museum contains a cohesive telling of the story of harvesting ice off the Cedar River.
- The Victorian Home and Carriage House Museum currently has an exhibit on Danish Immigration to Cedar Falls and is located across the street from the picturesque Overman Park and the band shell.
- College Hill features several bar and restaurant choices as well as University Book & Supply for those in need of some UNI Panther gear. College Square Mall area features many restaurant and beverage choices, a grocery store, and several retail shops for necessities.
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For more information on RAGBRAI XLIII Day 4 – Eldora to Cedar Falls:
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