Tuesday, August 2, 2011

RAGBRAI notes 2: Bike Chow

The ham-ball sundae doesn’t sound as good as it tasted.

By the afternoon of day 6 of RAGBRAI, CR Biker was getting very hungry. I had failed to hook up with MMU riders for lunch, mostly because it had been so long since I was “on the grid” that I forgot what lunch plans were.

Anyway, for miles before the town of Oxford, there were signs for the “ham-ball sundae” at the fire station. When I got to town, the station was large, well ventilated, and the serving line was so well planned that there was zero wait, so I just had to ask.

It turns out a ham-ball sundae is “party potatoes” with baked beans ladled on top, with a ham ball and a cherry tomato.

It was, as Jon commented on the Facebook copy of the image with this blog, “pure biking energy.” And, served warm, it tasted darn good, too.

It’ wasn’t the only thing that tasted good on RAGBRAI. The vendor selling home-made ice cream was a bit pricey, but the ice cream still cooled you off on a hot Iowa afternoon. During the ride, I sampled pie, sweet corn, a pork chop sandwich—and most of it was good.

Here is what I liked the most, besides the ham ball:

Aebleskiver, Danish pancakes during day 2 in Elk Horn. Easily the best breakfast I had during RAGBRAI. They are fried balls of dough, very soft, and they were plentiful. I had both syrup and strawberry preserves on mine, and enjoyed them very much.

Raisin pie and ice cream in Dedham, also on day 2. The pie was sweet without being too sweet, and the ice cream was a free add-on that complimented the pie perfectly. I also sampled peach, rhubarb and strawberry rhubarb pie this year—all were good, but the raisin pie was the best.

Breakfast in Lidderdale, day 3. It was a breakfast sandwich of egg, sausage and cheese, which was OK, but I also got a bar—a huge bar whose name I don’t know, but that I recalled from my time working bingo at Sacred Heart in Early, Iowa. It’s yellow cake, topped by marshmallow, topped by some kind of peanut- peanut butter- corn syrup concoction. In Lidderdale they gave me a piece that looked as big as a roof shingle and left me feeling pleasantly bloated and with dilated pupils. I burned it off, as I did most food (as Jon notes, eating often was not only allowed on RAGBRAI, it was practically obligatory since your burn through so many calories), but the sugar high was appreciated.

Second breakfast in Victor, day 6. I had yogurt and a banana in Brooklyn, and enjoyed them, but needed more. In Victor, I stopped at a local stall where some high school boys were dishing up the scrambled eggs and sausage. They looked at me, and added an extra scoop of eggs. Usually, they put 2 sausages in a breakfast bowl, but they asked if I wanted three. Yes, I did. There was a self-service table where you could squirt on nacho-style cheese and pour on salsa—I chose “medium.” Let me tell you, mediocre eggs and sausage drowned in salsa and nacho cheese is heavenly for second breakfast on RAGBRAI.

I enjoyed many other foods, too, but not all culinary experiences were grand. What was not so good on RAGBRAI?

Granola bars. I brought along a box of trail mix flavor bars. It was a good idea—I ate several a day as a booster. But, let me tell you, about three days in, the taste of trail mix granola was pretty lame. By day 5, I was taking them like dreaded medicine. No, they were not bad, but next RABRAI, I’ll pack more variety. Ditto for the electrolyte drink. Brigid and Eldon offered me some new flavors in Des Moines before day 5, and I foolishly turned them down. Again, I continued to drink my electrolyte drink, I just didn’t enjoy it much.

Finally, there was the world’s worst Mexican restaurant in downtown Grinnell. I can’t say the food is bad there, in fact I can’t say anything about the food, because we didn’t’ get any during a three-hour wait. The margaritas were from a mix, the Dos Equis was warm and there was no food. That was bad.

Overall, though, RAGBRAI chow was good. A few places had run out of food before I got there, but I was never far from the next meal—or the next odd culinary discovery. Bring on the ham balls!

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