RAGBRAI – Day Three

We finished the day Monday with a group dinner. Jeff grilled pork steaks and everyone brought a side dish. We had a great time telling stories as we sat in the shade next to Jeff and Deb’s rig. We called it a day around 9pm, but Donna was still keyed up and watched an episode of House of Cards before hitting the sack.

Tuesday morning was another early riser day. The RV There Yet? riders were on their way around 6:40am and our three support RVs hit the road only a few minutes later.

Ready for day three

Once again Deb led the way out of Algona, Iowa followed by me and then Fred. We had an easy route – we hit US18 and went east. Fred needed to fuel up. We had a little over 50 miles to cover and figured we would stop when we saw a convenient gas station. About halfway along our route Deb spied a gas station and pulled to the side of the highway just before a four-way stop sign. I went across the intersection and stopped on the other side.

When I saw Fred pulling back onto the highway, I accelerated away from the side of the road with him right behind me. I thought Deb was a few cars behind him. The route I mapped had us turn south before we entered the destination town of Clear Lake, Iowa. We ran around the west end of the lake, then followed South Shore Drive to the Clear Lake State Park where Deb and I had reservations.

When I pulled into the park and stopped at the registration kiosk, Deb was right behind me and Fred was behind her. This was puzzling to me, but I didn’t ask how that happened as I was preoccupied with asking the park ranger what I needed to do to claim our site. The reservation website said check-in was at 4pm – we were there at 8am. A 4pm check-in doesn’t make any sense to me – who wants to check-in that late and then hit the road with a 3pm check-out? Anyway, he just told me to proceed to our reserved site.

Since we were there so early, Fred was able to snag a site – they keep about 1/3 of the sites open for drop-ins – not all of the sites are reservable. It turns out that Deb ran a different route – she came through town on the east side of the lake and our entry to the park coincided. Our first stop was at the dump station. It had only been four days for us, but my thinking is dump when convenient and be prepared to dry camp with empty holding tanks and full fresh water – you never know what might come up.

There were two dump stations – I took one and Deb occupied the other. She had a problem with the electric dump valve on their trailer. She knew how to access the problematic valve for the gray water, but didn’t know how to remedy the problem. I came over to help. She phoned Jeff and asked what needed to be done. I could see a manual screw to operate the valve – we just needed to find the correct Allen wrench to turn the mechanism. We got it to work. Meanwhile a couple of other rigs were lined up at the dump station. I did my best to finish up quickly and move to our site.

We had site 153 – this is not a level site. In fact, I don’t think there’s a level site to be found in this park. I jockeyed our coach back and forth through the 70′ pull-through site trying to find the best approximation of level and finally resigned myself to using blocks under the jacks to get us there.

Meanwhile our riders were on the course. It was a windy day with 15-20 mph wind from the southeast gusting higher at times. They were riding a mostly easterly course making for a headwind component. Donna was feeling pretty strong at the start and kept a good pace. They stopped at Wesley about 14 miles from Algona for breakfast.

Biscuits and gravy in Wesley

They continued on battling the wind and split up as Geoff and Tom wanted to hammer through the ride. Jeff and Donna took a break 24 miles in at Britt. Donna went to the Hobo Museum and paid $5  to check it out. She watched a documentary film there and became so engrossed in the story that she stayed for the entire 75-minute production!

Britt also had a Mayberry RFD theme going on – come on now, you remember Mayberry, right?

Aunt Bea and Donna

Jeff and Otis sample a little moonshine in the klink

By the time we’d dumped our tanks and set up, we weren’t too sure about heading back to the meet-up town of Garner. It turned out that Deb had to take care of some business that entailed several lengthy phone calls, so we bagged it. Fred and I took a walk to check out the campground. There is a beach area on the lake that looks nice – we saw some kids swimming but I have to wonder about the water temperature. Later I heard the lake depths are only around 10′, so maybe the water isn’t that cold.

Clear Lake Campground lake access

Deb gave Fred the keys to their GMC Denali truck and we drove into town to see what’s happening. We made a stop at the grocery store then found a bar and grill on the lake for lunch. We dined in the shade just inside the deck overlooking the lake.

View west from The Landing Bar and Grill patio

View north from the patio toward town

Clear Lake, Iowa is a town of about 7,500 residents. The lake is beautiful and the parks are nice. The one thing that probably put this place on the map for anyone over 60 is the Surf Ballroom. On February 2nd, 1959, Buddy Holly played a concert at the packed Surf Ballroom. It was his last.

The story goes that their tour was plagued with mechanical problems on the tour bus and an inadequate heating system in the cold winter weather. When they got to Clear Lake, Buddy Holly had enough. He hired a plane and pilot to fly to their next venue in North Dakota. The plane departed after midnight in the early hours of February 3rd. Fellow band members Tommy Allsup and Waylon Jennings were supposed to fly with him on the three available seats. Allsup lost his seat on a bet with Richie Valens and Waylon gave up his seat to an ailing Big Bopper. The plane crashed five miles north of US18 killing all aboard. That was the day the music died.

After a difficult day battling wind, Donna rode up to our motorhome around 3pm. Tomorrow’s forecast doesn’t have high winds, but it calls for thunderstorms. We’ll see how that pans out in the morning – will they ride or not?

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