[Saturday July 20, 2013]
Saturday was the day of the “big move.” That is to say we checked out of our Omaha hotel, the Candlewood Suites Omaha Airport. I stayed here last time I was in Omaha for RAGBRAI and it’s a great place. The staff is friendly and helpful, the rooms are clean, laundry is free, and it’s near enough (by bike) to the good stuff in Omaha (and the airport) that you’d have to look hard to do better for this style of hotel.
[I don't have stock, I just want them to stay in business for my next RAGBRAI.]
Erich and I had scoped out the Pork Belly campsite the day before so after eating breakfast, packing up, and checking out we headed out. Our mission today was pretty simple:
- Drop off my stuff at the campsite
- Meet Mary Ann and visit the bike expo
- Check into our hotel
- Take Mary Ann out for dinner
- Get a good night’s rest
Getting to the campsite was pretty convoluted as their seemed to be a lot of highway construction going on. Erich remarked that all the topsoil they seemed to be removing should really be shipped to Colorado which has a deficit of the stuff.
In any case we made it to the camp, found my tent, found Mary Ann and began our RAGBRAI 2013 adventure.
The bike expo is a big part of the RAGBRAI on the first day. There are a lot of vendors who come out to sell products as well as agencies promoting causes, health agencies, charities, and one of my favorites, Team Archaeology, a partnership of Iowa archaeology and geological resources.
Most of these folks have give-aways and it is generally possible to get more swag than you can actually carry. I tried to stick to things you could eat; beef jerky, Clif Bar products, and whatnot. I also stocked up on lip balm, something I was immensely grateful for later in the ride.
I also ran into the Ergon folks and purchased a new set of Ergon grips for my Friday. The fellow manning the booth was truly helpful, giving me a great discount, installing the grips in place of my old ones, and even pointing out where I’d gone wrong in installing my original set (backwards of course – and they still worked!).
After lunch, pork tenderloin grilled on a stick – an Iowa favorite, Erich and I decamped for the hotel and rest out of the heat of the day.
Mary Ann wanted to attend Mass that afternoon before dinner so we picked her up in Erich’s rental and dropped her off at church and we went to check out restaurants. At first we’d thought about an Italian place, but they were overbooked and could only offer us outside seating, which would have been fine on a cooler day, but as they weren’t taking reservations we’d have to hurry back after getting Mary Ann.
Instead Erich, with me in tow, went exploring with his car and…lo and behold, we found the Italian section of Omaha. It’s really just a town where Italian immigrants had settled many years ago and were it not for the Italian names on some businesses you’d never know it from any other part of town, but we struck gold…Cascio’s Steakhouse.
This 65 year our Omaha institution is something, as Erich says, out of the Godfather. Assuming of course that the Corleone family had moved to Omaha instead of New York and had taken up restraurants instead of crime. It’s huge place with seating for hundreds no doubt, if you consider the banquet rooms and multiple dining rooms.
They serve steak.
I’m sure they have other things as well, but steak is what they do best. I had the owners favorite sirloin if I recall, Erich and Mary Ann went for filets. None of us left hungry or unhappy. Check the place out of you are in Omaha. I now have two favorite Omaha restaurants.
It was then time to rest up. We dropped Mary Ann off at the camp and departed for our hotel. We decided we’d go to a movie to pass the evening away and conveniently there was a theatre complex right next to our hotel, didn’t even have to cross a street. This was a great theatre. Each of the screening rooms had limited seating and all of those seats were recliners. Seriously. You could really get comfortable and we did.
After the movie we made it back to the hotel properly tired out and ready to catch some Zs. Soon enough we’d be on the road in what we expected would be the summer heat so we enjoyed our last hours of air conditioning.
The alarm rang and it was time to ride…