What’s an Armadillo Egg?
It’s sometimes hard to tell local delicacies from RAGBRAI-specific food stunts. Brooklyn offers “armadillo eggs,” which no one will describe to me in advance. When I pedal into town, I learn it’s a sausage-wrapped chicken egg cooked in a smoker. (Known as a Scotch egg elsewhere.) The Oxford Fire Department sells ham-ball sundaes: cheesy hash browns covered in baked beans and topped with a ham ball and cherry tomato. I learned a few days earlier that a ham ball is a sweeter, more spherical version of meat loaf, only made with ham. Whether by itself or atop a sundae, it’s a debatable choice with 20 miles of riding to go.
But no matter how many clever inventions pop up, the very soul of RAGBRAI will forever be shaped like a slice of pie. Rhubarb, preferably. Pie is summer. It’s hometown. It’s every rider’s daily obsession. And best of all, it puts you in touch with nice church ladies, adorable kids and friendly farm wives who all look impossibly like someone Hollywood would cast in a film about Iowa. Plus, the pie bakers genuinely feel they’re providing a service to Iowa’s mob of guests. “I think it really helps them on the ride,” says Kelly Alfers, who sells Kelly’s Berry Best Pies in a tent next to Mr. Pork Chop’s pig bus. “You have fruit and carbs and, of course, real butter.”