JayJay and Monie head to RAGBRAI’s (Register’s-Annual-Great-Bike-Ride-Across-Iowa) overnight town #3 and Fort Dodge was more than ready to welcome us! It’s our 4th scouting stop and The Iowa Gallivant is noticing the increased fever pitch as we get closer and closer to late July and annual invasion of the spoke’d cavalry swarming the state of Iowa. The days are getting warmer and the anticipation is, too. Apply some sunscreen and grab a koozie while we shop, sip, hike, eat, and gallivant our way through Fort Dodge, IA!
We met the awesome and amazing representative of the Fort Dodge Convention & Visitors Bureau, Kerrie Kuiper, and her wealth of information for the greater Fort Dodge area was on point all day long. She took us on a tour of the whole town and pointed out some great spots that the locals are very proud of. But, first we dive into a saucy throw-down among some of the areas heaviest smokers. We’re not talking nic-fits. Fort Dodge brings us a BBQ Battle!
For just $5 a head we Q’d our way through the battle and sampled the contestants hard work. BBQ requires calculated preparation, hours and hours of smoking, and an expert to know when it’s just right. And we were lucky enough to get a taste of this dedication.
We noticed a trend during our last scouting trip in Cedar Falls and we noticed one right away in Fort Dodge. Most of the BBQ venues had family members working side-by-side. This would be the pattern we would see during our entire trip to Fort Dodge. Family was the word of the day as it is in Fort Dodge everyday.
The BBQ Battle served up a mean start to our Fort Dodge experience. And just a few yards away was the The Fort Museum and Frontier Town. And guess who was ready for our arrival. A young lady named Kierra Kuiper. That’s right! The daughter of Kerrie from the Fort Dodge CVB. Two family members working for their proud community. Time to work off the meat-sweats as we walk through one of Iowa’s best time capsules.
We made our way through The Frontier Town and it was now time to visit The Fort. Along with it’s main attraction and the farce that duped thousands. In the early 20th century, a man had a plan to make people believe that he found a petrified body of a giant. Using a bible verse to validate his claim, he attracted flocks of onlookers to see Cardiff the Giant. For a fee of course. The rouse worked and Iowa had an official tourist trap.
The cast of a naked giant isn’t the only site to see at the Fort. There’s history all around you. Because you’re in a fort. Get it?
Kierra did a wonderful job of showing us around the grounds of this Fort Dodge icon. With the hard work from her and others with the same civic pride, The Fort Museum and Frontier Town will stay iconic. Time for a little Fort Dodge tour…..Shall we…
Downtown Fort Dodge was beckoning our sweet tooth. Or teeth I guess. The downtown area is in the middle of a major redevelopment project and will have some eager business owners awaiting the visiting crowds coming to Fort Dodge. As you probably guessed, we managed to find some characters you’ll need to introduce yourselves to.
Just across the street was a storefront that is sure to draw Monie in every time. What they sell is recycled, re-imagined, and remarkable! That happens to be their motto too. We head to Lily Grace on Central.
We found another set of folks that will be cracking away during the summer months and preparing for the RAGBRAI fixer-uppers. The father, mother and son trio of The Bike Shop. Located in the heart of downtown with a heavy arsenal of ratchet sets, WD-40 and wrenches ready to help RAGBRAI’ers make it to Eldora the following day. Take it away Bike Shop!
The Fort Dodge family meet and greet was only getting warmed up. Our next stop was a family owned business that brings a whole new story to reinventing yourself. It’s the classic story of going from raising hogs to growing grapes for award winning wine. Now tell me how you can get more Iowan than that. We journey to Soldier Creek Winery!
The day marked an Iowa Gallivant first. A trip to a local winery and Fort Dodge christened the experience for us. Soldier Creek Winery turned out to be a great host and kept us entertained in the late afternoon as we enjoyed a sampling of their wines. Tammi was pouring and dropping grape knowledge on us like a boss!
After the trip to the local winery I had a rumble’y in my tumbl’y and that meant that Monie and I needed an appetizer and a couple coldy’s and pronto! Plus the Preakness was about to start and I had a large sum of money on a pony for a client in Zurich. And by that I meant $10 between me and my dad on American Pharaoh. We needed a sports bar and some trusty locals directed us to Sneakers Eatery and Pub. Hey, the Cubs game is on too!
We let the beer and Idaho Nachos take their course and moved on with checking into our hotel room at the brand spank’n new Holiday Inn Express & Suites. Just a block away was another great dining experience awaiting us. A short walk down the street was Mineral City Mill & Grill.
Our toothpicks were accurately positioned as we moseyed back to the Holiday Inn Express. Our stomachs feeling full and our souls feeling fulfilled. Time to turn in with visions of another breakfast breakthrough. Commence shameless drool cycle in 5….4….3….
We called ahead to see if they were open and were instructed by the friendly Zakeer’s team member to get in there and have some breakfast. I figured that I should do what I was told. We packed up our suitcase and bundled our Fort Dodge keepsakes and said ado to the wonderful Holiday Inn Express staff and made our way back to downtown where another Fort Dodge family was ready to meet The Iowa Gallivant. And a special announcement awaits….
Fort Dodge marked the halfway point for our RAGBRAI scouting. We find something unique in every stop we make and Fort Dodge didn’t disappoint. Families working hard side-by-side to keep their businesses and community charging on. Two of us, from Team Goodvin, came to Fort Dodge that day and we were welcomed by this great city with some of the most genuine locals we’ve experienced on our adventures. Fort Dodge was geared up to showoff their town all weekend long to The Iowa Gallivant. Imagine the greeting 30,000 RAGBRAI’ers will receive.
Don’t forget to read parts 1 through 3 of our Scouting RAGBRAI series!