Spencer, IA: Clay County (Our 60th County)
RAGBRAI has an old friend hosting the bike battalions for Overnight #2 and we could tell that they just know how to RAGBRAI their town right up. Spencer is a veteran when it comes to hosting the Register’s-Annual-Great-Bike-Ride-Across-Iowa and other massive events. Not only will thousands of happy-happy joy-joy bike riders enjoy Spencer, so will over 320,000 people during the annual Clay County Fair, one of the largest county fair’s worldwide! So, I think Spencer knows how to pack’em in. And when welcoming The Iowa Gallivant it’s always a good idea to show us the local caffeine filling station first.
The Bear Coffeehouse & Wine Bar may have one of the best riverfront views you’ll get from a coffeehouse anywhere in Iowa. The river with its marsh winds pass as you hammer down a couple espressos, large ice coffee and side of espresso with an extra ice coffee and a refill. I like coffee a little bit. Guess what else I like…..
I like local legends! By legends I mean fully loaded sandwiches and wraps! One of Connie’s refreshing chicken salad wraps with a huge smile, a taco wrap with all that terrific Mexican flavor and Weasy’s delicious breaded pork tenderloin that was harpooned by our guide, Ryan. This wasn’t all that we ordered…Oh no not at all. You want to see legendary? You’ll just need to stay tuned to our Best Between Bread search and get a load of what made the list. How’s that for a teaser, RAGBRAI? Let’s get a cold one and talk about what else Spencer has up its sleeves.
Up the street and up the staircase is Sneakers Sports Lounge and all of their very cold beverages! This large sports bar also knows how to handle large crowds invading the town of Spencer. Just ask about the time a cowgirl and her horse decided to visit. If they can handle that, they can get the RAGBRAI nation served up just fine. And now we need to trot around more of the town.
Bikes, Boards & Shades will have the overtime hours going to assist with as many RAGBRAI’ers as they can during Overnight #2. Is there anything better than new tire smell? Well, they have them along with a talented crew ready to get everyone moving. Let’s move to the local tacos cuz new tires make me want tacos. So do zoos, belly rubs, watching antique roadshow, arm wrestling….
La Morenita serves up some of the best authentic tacos you can find in Clay County and we managed to chow down on them just fine. Chicken, chorizo (Mexican sausage), cabeza (cow head…YUM!) and lengua (cow tongue….Double YUM!!) were the four horseman we ordered up. All on soft and very hot corn tortillas and piled with fresh cilantro, diced white onion and plenty of lime wedges. All you need for perfect tacos. What’s that fork for anyway? I need a walk by the way. Let’s hit the streets again.
This is a RAGBRAI preview first for us. And just try to tell me adorable kittens don’t have a place on this article. I’ll have you know that many people in the kitty cat culture make special trips to see the Spencer library that inspired the “Dewey” craze. An abandoned cat that was found in the library drop box and the rest is cuddly history. Just down from this landmark is Arts on Grand with it’s rotating exhibits and locally made jewelry. The air conditioning will be on, they ship, and you can support some great artists while you cool down. And how about a little more local culture!
Spencer has many, many acres of public parks and land for anyone to enjoy. Top left is public art in what would be my preferred place to camp during RAGBRAI. River View Park is shaded, close to the beautiful Little Sioux River, home to the local aquatic center with all your showering needs, a helmet’s throw from Spencer’s main drag and right by the bridge with all its scenery. Upstream a short ways is Spencer’s getaway into the wilderness. Paved trails that take you into a wooded area and lead to the confluence of the Little Sioux and Ocheyedan Rivers. These are the places we always seek on The Iowa Gallivant and seem to remind us just how great our public areas are in our home state. Our discoveries didn’t stop here…
The natural wonders meets the man made wonders at the Clay County Fairgrounds! This giant slide will be zinging folks down its yellow path all day long. And why not partake!?! It’s right by the grandstands that will feature the Johnny Holm Band, presented by AARP! I’d rock your face off at the fairgrounds if I were you. They’ll have plenty of entertainment, food vendors and more of those ice cold bevs that we all love. What was that? Craft beer and big selection of wine? And pasta? Oh we know the place.
An old rural church brought to the Spencer riverbanks and now housing The Bear’s wine bar and some great crafty beers. I know I promised pasta and you won’t have to go far at all if you made it here. Just up the stairs you’ll find that dinner is served…
Gary’s on the River nailed it with our carb cravings. Gourmet Mac and Cheese with bacon, Pasta Primavera loaded with fresh veggies, and a giant meat lover’s burger. A juicy char broiled beef patty with bacon and tender beef brisket. Protein enough for you? Next top it off with Walleye BLT! I say we need to turn in for the night after this giant meal.
The Inn at Okoboji partners up with Clay County and we couldn’t have been happier about it. Our room overlooked the stunningly beautiful landscape of Lake Okoboji. Our suite was amazing and we can’t wait to get to work on our visit here. Another teaser! I’m getting pretty good at this. I needed the rest….There was a toad I needed to see in the morning.
Toad’s Coffee & Tea in downtown Spencer has a little steampunk touch to their house roasted coffee. We’ve been to a lot of coffee places in Iowa and I’m telling you right now, RAGBRAI, Toad’s is some of the best you’re going to have. Not only is the coffee great, but they’ll be staying open late and opening early. This place put the immediate charge in my morning and made me realize that we were very close to lunch. We discovered an establishment we were introduced to in a past RAGBRAI town.
If you’ve been following Team Goodvin through the years you may remember The Sports Page Bar & Grill from one of our Fort Dodge trips. We’re happy to say that the Spencer Sports Page is just as tasty! How about more Mac and Cheese! With a cheeseburger loaded with….Mac and Cheese! And how about a Club Sandwich the size of an actual golf club! After a lunch like this you gotta throw in the towel. And we did!
It was the hottest day of the year thus far, and we met up with the RAGBRAI pre-ride team with some ice water soaked towels and it seemed to go over pretty well for a 93 degree day. It was great to see everyone on the team from RAGBRAI and folks from Spencer and Orange City. It was another reminder to why we do this crazy travel blog. Meeting up with folks in the middle of O’Brien County that share our passion for Iowa. What a great ride we’re on. Well done, Spencer!
Be sure to read about our visits to Overnight #1 in Orange City, Overnight #2 in Spencer, Overnight #3 in Algona, Overnight #4 in Clear Lake, Overnight #5 in Charles City, Overnight #6 in Cresco, Overnight #7 in Waukon, Overnight #8 in Lansing and the bonus coverage of Allamakee County!
Now for some Clay County Fair sized thank yous….
8 thoughts on “Scouting RAGBRAI: Carb-Up/Coffee-Up in Spencer”