RAGBRAI XXXVIII: Confessions of a Food Snob Day 2

August 20, 2010 at 4:01 pm Leave a comment

Margaritaville Bus

Margaritaville bus with Chris and Chief

After all the fun I had on Day 1 one may think it was time for me to call it off, hop in the bus and SAG the entire week. Nope. Not me. Not once. Not ever. Despite my degraded state on Day 1, I was still psyched to ride my bike. Good thing too, there was about 400 remaining miles and over 10,000 feet of climbing to the Mississippi dipping spot in Dubuque. I met Day 2 geared up. About 3 miles down the road from Storm Lake there stood a little girl waving the most beautiful fruit kabob I’d ever seen. Kudos on your marketing, little girl. It was so early to stop, we had Farm Boys on our brains, but I insisted.

We slowed to see several of our team members 30 people deep in line for Farm Boys burritos. It did look and sound excellent but the line was just a little too intimidating for me. In addition, one of my teammates suggested breakfast at midnight in Storm Lake the night before and I was quick to say yes. I was still fueled up. We rolled on with only 5-6 miles left to go to Varina. As you can see by the lack of pictures to commemorate the morning of Day 2, I was in desperate need of a coffee to think straight. I took it up a notch and quickened my pace to Varina with hopes of a cup of coffee. Of course I was interested in a fair trade blend that would give me an added lift in my step, instead, I rode up to a little girl outside of her house selling coffee out of a giant urn. I bought a black coffee and a banana. Both were exquisite. I made a mental note about my morning purchases all being from little girls that couldn’t be older than 8. I punctuated the thought with more caffeine infused Clif Shot Bloks that I passed around to the team members present. (No disclosure necessary, but I do seem to have developed a little addiction to these gummy bringers of organic electrolyte goodness.)

More Iowa Redwoods

More Iowa Redwoods towering over the fields

With 16.5 miles of flat roads behind us and 17.1 to go with barely over 200 ft. of climbing we set off for Pocahontas. The views from these roads were miles of wind turbines. Bibs called them the Iowa Redwoods. I keep a pretty simple perspective on these energy fields. I see the movement of the blades and it’s graceful and soothing to me. I like the concept of energy sources that aren’t reliant on oil. What I don’t care for is a strong headwind while riding my bike. I was lucky and the ride to Pokey was smooth as butter.

Speaking of butter, I was getting pretty hungry as we rode into town. Searching for Chief and the inviting chairs courtesy of the Margaritaville bus, I found myself separated from my teammates by the crowds. Pocahontas did a fantastic job of organizing their celebration. Riders wanted to linger and enjoy the atmosphere they had created with DJs and bands on the side streets. I struggled to find food, despite the efforts and planning in Pocahontas. I know, I’m a food snob. Someone even called me picky. I couldn’t imagine riding an additional 50 miles with a belly full of cheesy pizza. I settled for another banana, a Clif Bar and a beer.

The next leg to Plover was only a 12 mile ride again with almost no climbing. I was anxious to get to Plover because I’d heard about these Ham Balls that were described as sweet balls of meat. I felt compelled to see them and meet the 5 grandmothers comprising the Plover Circle who cook up these pork-a-rific quarter-cup balls of meat. About a mile before reaching Plover, we rolled up on a scene that looked too fun to pass up.

Bikes and Beers outside of Plover

What is yonder? Could it be a beer slide?

Everywhere I looked I found delightful surprises. The beer slide was to the right, near the cornfield. Before I could get there to look onto some of the commotion, I wandered around the extensive grounds of this party. There were beer tents and a stage directly in front of me and several food vendors to my left. This group of well respected vendors included Mr. Porkchop, who was grilling up thousands of pounds of pork chops for the visiting riders. I found a small stand selling fruit and water then headed for the action.

Because I’d seen him from the road, I needed to meet the man in man panties. He was surrounded by people who both celebrated and reviled him. When I finally reached his inner sanctum of space, I asked why he was wearing man panties. His answer was simply “these are women’s panties.” Oh. I guess I was stunned, like a fish when you throw it back in the water. I had a teammate take a picture  of Jacque and I with this guy and walked away, unsure of why I wasn’t pressing him for more information.

The guy with Man Panties

Man Panties and Tan Lines

Fortunately I was in the right place because a beer seemed in order and also en route to the beer slide. I headed to the crowd near the beer tent. Most of my team had stopped at this party and were making a beeline to the beer slide. We all agreed that if this party was 10 miles from our ending point rather than almost 40, this could have been a very pleasant addition to the day. Alas, all of us old enough to know better, we looked on from the sidelines.

Beer Slide

Beer Slide

We didn’t stay very long and I was anxious to keep things moving toward Algona.

About 3 minutes of riding landed us in Plover. I needed to see the Ham Balls, so we made a quick stop. It was easy to find the Ham Balls because it was the biggest tent in town.

Grandma Vicki and Grandma Karen with Plover Ham Balls

Grandma Vicki and Grandma Karen with Plover Ham Balls

I only met 2 of the 5 notorious grandmothers. Grandma Vicki and Grandma Karen were sporting red t-shirts that read, “Plover is for (Ham Ball) lovers.” Grandma Vicki was cordial with me despite my unwillingness to indulge in pork. Grandma Karen was more like my great-grandmother Mennis. As you can see from this picture, she looked down right disgusted. I imagine she had slotted me in the category of “Do not trust” due to my pork free persuasion.

Just the Ham Balls

Plover Ham Balls

I got out of there pretty quickly, fearing that Grandma Karen could really have the wherewithal to crack me over the head.

Having spent time at several stops so far, I decided the optional century loop was not in my best interest. The century loop is offered to give riders the option of a 100 mile day. Instead, I continued to West Bend. The wind farms were becoming a bit more of a challenge and the wind felt like it was coming at me from every direction. The route was pretty flat so I pushed through and arrived in West Bend just a little tired.

West Bend offered my favorite smoothie from Smoothie Revolution, a banana and more Clif Shot Blocks. I took another round of Trace Minerals and passed them around. My teammates raved about the Plover Ham Balls from earlier, but of course I was still trying to shake off that memory. I had a beer in hopes I could set that memory free.

We left West Bend as a team. We passed the grotto and oohed and ahhed, but we were ready to get the last 18 miles behind us. We skipped Whittemore and rode into Algona feeling great. The wind had continued to beat us up a little, but our double-wide draft line offered some refuge.

Algona proved to be a treat. Our team had a host who was hospitable, on the route, next to downtown and had 2 showers. Life couldn’t have been better. We all rallied downtown. I found Hanni’s. They served fresh grilled steak and chicken and steamed vegetables. I was elated!

We settled into a table/corner at a local pub where Team Cowbell showed up and really got things going. We all agreed, Algona was a terrific place be at the end of a great day of riding.


Entry filed under: Cycling, Food, RAGBRAI. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

RAGBRAI XXXVIII: Confessions of a Food Snob Day 1 RAGBRAI XXXVIII: Confessions of a Food Snob Day 3

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Tia Martinson

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