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  • Posted Nov 22

Le Mars was supposed to be the starting host town for RAGBRAI XLVII in 2020, and well... the Covid-19 pandemic hit and RAGBRAI and about every other cycling event was postponed for a year. Le Mars is located on the Floyd River northeast of Sioux City and the county seat of Plymouth County. Population is around 10,000.

Why did we choose Le Mars?

We were on a socially distanced van trip around NW Iowa checking out state and country parks, bike trails and cool gravel roads. we had just come from Gitchie Manitou State Preserve, the Tri-state iron marker and Hawkeye Point (the most unimpressive) highest point in Iowa, and biking around Spirit Lake the day before. Our next stop was Five-Ridge Prairie State Reserve for a 4 mile hike and then Stone Park for biking, hiking and to spend the night.

We spent a day there last this Fall (mid-October) and this is what we did. Beer, tacos, trails, bike shop and ice-cream.

Hunger - n- Thirst

We arrived the night before. hungry and thirsty, we found a local drive-through Mexican restaurant, with great reviews, called La Juanitas. We picked up the order and headed for the local brewery Wise Brewing Co for some local craft beer. We were going to just pick up some beer there, but there were only 2 people at the bar and the bartender, so we masked up, took our food and feasted at a back table and enjoyed the local craft beer scene.

La Juanitas was awesome, cheap and tasty! Every beer we had brewed by Wise Brewing Co was outstanding. I like the Waco Kid IPA and Jess likes the Young Goodman Brown and a guest cider the best.

Wise Brewing Co is a fairly new brewery that is housed in the same building as Bike Central. It was part of Bike Central's warehouse and allowed Wise Brewing Co. to remain in downtown Le Mars. It's a beautiful thing! We asked Kevin, the owner of Bike Central if he has a secret door into the brewery. He said no with a sheepish grin.

Spending the Night

We had the van, so we were excited to use the Willow Creek Campground not too far from downtown and at the same park (Willow Creek) that the Frosty Cross Cyclocross race is held at. We were disappointed to see the campgrounds were all closed down with the gates locked. Let's just say we drove around and found a stealthy spot for the night.

Trail Day

We had brought our fat bikes and wanted to ride all the trails we could around Le Mars so we got up early, made coffer and oatmeal in the van. It was one of the coldest and windiest days of the Fall, so we bundled up in our gear and headed out. We parked at Le Mars Municipal Park Shelter House where we'd usually park for Frosty Cross.

From there we rode the Maser Greenbelt Trail which is a pretty cool city trail, but often uses the same paths as the Willow Creek Golf Course. We were fine on a brisk day in October, but wonder how busy warm weekend day would be with golf cart and bicycle traffic?

We stopped at the van quickly to grab some more water and then rode down the park hill to Floyd Valley Greenbelt Trail which takes you through the North and West sides of Le Mars on the outskirts of town. It's a nice curvy scenic trail that extends for about 6 miles one- way. This was a fun recreational trail. We saw some really cool chalk-art on the trail the bridge pillars. The trail ends at Key avenue and the Key Avenue Recreation Trail picks up from there. We did not ride the Key Avenue Recreation Trail as did not know did not know that it connected to the Floyd Valley Greenbelt Trail where we turned around. Maybe we missed some trail signage? We has a chilly headwind all the way to the end, so turning around for the tailwind was nice.

The Key Avenue Recreation Trail will eventually connect with the PlyWood Trail.The PlyWood Trail is in the midst of getting built and it in Phase 1 or 3 to connect Le Mars with Sioux City via Hinton and Merrill. This will be a well-used trail connector and has been in the works for years!

Trail Signage - One thing we always try to do when we ride new trails is determine how easily an out-of-towner could find their way around. What is the signage and maps like and how easy it is to find your way around. Signage was pretty good for the most part.. We lost our way around the ball diamonds and wanted to see the BMX park, but never found our way there. We also weren't sure how to get to the Maser Greenbelt Trail from the Park trailhead. There were signs at the trail, but not by the parking lot. We'll give the trail overall signage a B- (This include signage at the trails and online maps and details that we could find.

Since it was off-season, all the trail amenities were closed down. We brought plenty of water.

We had good internet access all day via Verizon.

Frosty Cross

We try to make it to Frosty Cross whenever we can. It is a great course hosted by Bike Central and they always do a great job getting the community involved. The cyclocross race is always in November and brings in racers from Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota. This year the race was cancelled due to Covid, but I took a lap around the old course and had to go over the flyover a few times.

We made our way back to the van, packed up and headed into downtown for bike shop talk and ice-cream.

Bike Central

We always have to stop by Bike Central in Le Mars every time we come through town. We got to know Kevin, the owner, from Frosty Cross and the shop has a cool vibe. We chatted about RAGBRAI, the Plywood Trail, the Wells Foundation and some other tidbits of Le Mars history.

Blue Bunny Ice Cream

Did you know that Le Mars is the Ice-Cream Capital of the World? Le Mars is home to Blue Bunny ice-cream! About 2 blocks from Bike Central and Wise Brewing Co is the holy grail of ice-cream. The Blue Bunny Visitor's Center with an old-fashioned looking ice-cream parlor where you can choose from several popular flavors or check out the one-of-a-kind flavors that you cannot get anywhere else. We stopped in at an off-time and pretty much had the place to ourselves.

We highly recommend taking the time to walk through the visitor's center on the second floor and take the time to watch the "history of Blue Bunny" video in the auditorium. We spent an hour and a half there reading about all the company history.

A little Blue Bunny history - More than 80 years ago, Blue Bunny® set out to create the most fun, playful, delicious ice cream. The rest, as they say, is history. In 1913 Fred H. Wells pays $250 to a local dairy farmer for a horse, delivery wagon, a few cans and jars, and the goodwill of the business. His investment covered the milk distribution route and guaranteed Wells a source of raw milk from a herd of just 15 milk cows. (A drop in the bucket compared to now!)

1935 - Blue Bunny is born when the Wells brothers hold a “Name that Ice Cream” contest looking for a brand for their ice cream. A Sioux City man submitted “Blue Bunny” and his rendition of the original logo (known as Blu®) and won a whopping $25. Read more WBB history here

How did LeMars get its name?

In 1869, Le Mars was was named when railroad builder John I. Blair arrived by special train with a company of officials and a group of ladies. When the train stopped the ladies were asked to suggest a name for the town, then know as Saint Paul Junction. The ladies' names were:
  • Lucy Underhill
  • Elizabeth Parson
  • Mary Weare
  • Anna Blair
  • Rebecca Smith
  • Sarah Reynolds
It is believed that the ladies wrote the 1st initials of their 1st names and arrived at an ingenious arrangement of them so as to produce the novel name "Le Mars."


Our Recommendation
That was our day, plus a few hours the night before. We've always been a fan of Le Mars from past RAGBRAIs and home to Frost Cross.

We'd definitely recommend everything we did to cyclists looking for a staycation for a day or two. The trails are nice enough to have a good ride and stop for photos and we cannot wait until the Plywood Trail connects to Sioux City. We would have liked to see the city campgrounds stay open later in the year. Our trip was during Covid, so we socially distanced all we could, else we might have ventured out to eat/drink more while in town.

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