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Ragbrai 2015

Old 08-07-15, 03:40 PM
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Ragbrai 2015

I don't frequent the forums as much as I used to since going from a couch potato to an avid rider 4 years ago but thought I would post a quick summary of my latest bike ride in case others might be interested in riding RAGBRAI or something similar.

I had been invited to RAGBRAI (RAGBRAI | The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) a few times over the last couple of years and finally decided to do it this year when some riding buddies wanted to form a team.

So we signed up and got in. After all the planning and logistics we decided to pay extra with a charter group/shuttle that had campgrounds selected away from the main hustle/bustle. I drove all the way from the tip of south TX and back to do the ride....as it turned out that was probably the most difficult portion.

Next month I will be 62 and was not really looking forward to huge crowds...but what the heck.

Here is what I liked:
- The Iowa people, small towns and other riders were awesome for the most part. No complaints.
- The Iowa State Patrol did an excellent job in almost all cases keeping traffic at a minimum to non existent
- The roads were generally great compared to TX and I did not encounter one stray dog in over 500 miles! Although there were some dogs riding with their owners
- The food was plentiful, but sometimes difficult to get food in the overnight towns due to the volume of people
- Only twice did I feel like riders were being reckless in my riding area....remember this is a 500+ mile ride. Most riders were very cautious and courteous, really!
- The number of porta potties or KYBOS were plentiful...no real issues at all
- The weather was pretty good, just a little hot a couple days and some rain. Compared to south TX I will take it...guess I got lucky on the weather this year
- The campgrounds our charter group selected were pretty good, some days better than others but no complaints for camping. I enjoyed the camping for the most part but setting up and taking down each day gets a little tiring
- The hills were a lot more frequent and challenging than I expected, but in retrospect I feel good about doing the whole ride and I was able to do it
- The food, home made ice cream, pies, pancakes and all types of other stuff
- I saw parts of small town American I will probably never see again. Driving through those towns and riding a bike are totally different. My first time in Iowa

Here is what I did not like:
- In two cases out of 7 the overnight towns did not provide shuttle service into town like expected. Not a major problem but I really did not want to walk or ride my bike into town after a 70+ mile ride each day so had less choice for dinner. Will know better next time, not a major problem.
- Sometimes the lines for showers were long...had to wait 2+ hours one day, but you got to meet more people that way, just not fun standing in the sun

And this impressed me:
- The number of young and 'old' kids doing portions or all of the ride. All the way from training wheels up to a lady who was 88 and a man who was 89 (they were not together). Many grandparents riding with their grandchildren
- The number of riders who do RAGBRAI year after year (all of it or portions of the ride)
- The fellow riders and people of Iowa, everyone was so friendly
- The number of riders who overcame odds/challenges to ride...such as...numerous partially paralyzed recumbent riders using only their arms to do the 500 miles, kids on skateboards, men on roller blades, unicycles, a completely blind rider who rode/pedaled the entire ride on the back of a tandem, you name it Very inspirational

So for me, it was pretty awesome, I never felt overwhelmed with the number of people and riders even though some days there were over 23,000 riders on the route

So in summary, it ended up being another bucket list ride. Over 500 miles in seven days with camping with great people, great stuff.

Richard
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Old 08-07-15, 07:12 PM
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Wow. That sounds like a great experience! I hope to accomplish something like that at some point. Thank you so much for sharing.
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Old 08-07-15, 09:16 PM
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I did Biking Across Kanasa in early June this year. It was 504 miles west to east. The best part was that there were only 900 riders. Small towns hosted each night, like RAGBRAI, but lines were minimal. My likes were basically the same as yours. One big positive was having the option of indoor "camping" in high school gymns. It was also inspiring to meet so many people in their 60s and 70s who were having the time of their life. Many of them had ridden BAK 15-20 times. I am already planning on a week long tour for next summer. Not sure I want to deal with the crowds in Iowa, but there are so many options I am sure I'll find a great one.
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Old 08-08-15, 03:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Rwc5830 View Post
...thought I would post a quick summary of my latest bike ride in case others might be interested in riding RAGBRAI or something similar...

So for me, it was pretty awesome, I never felt overwhelmed with the number of people and riders even though some days there were over 23,000 riders on the route

So in summary, it ended up being another bucket list ride. Over 500 miles in seven days with camping with great people, great stuff.

Richard
Well-written and nicely readable description @Richard. Very convincing to persuade me that I really don't want to ride RAGBRAI: it's just not my style, and way to spend a precious week+ vacation.
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Old 08-10-15, 07:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Frreed View Post
I did Biking Across Kanasa in early June this year. It was 504 miles west to east. The best part was that there were only 900 riders. Small towns hosted each night, like RAGBRAI, but lines were minimal. My likes were basically the same as yours. One big positive was having the option of indoor "camping" in high school gymns. It was also inspiring to meet so many people in their 60s and 70s who were having the time of their life. Many of them had ridden BAK 15-20 times. I am already planning on a week long tour for next summer. Not sure I want to deal with the crowds in Iowa, but there are so many options I am sure I'll find a great one.
Frreed, One of the rides I'm interested in for the future is Kansas. Also Oklahoma, Missouri, Georgia and others. I'll have to do some more research on Kansas.
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Old 08-10-15, 07:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
Well-written and nicely readable description @Richard. Very convincing to persuade me that I really don't want to ride RAGBRAI: it's just not my style, and way to spend a precious week+ vacation.
Understood... For me, I heard some negative things about RAGBRAI, mainly the crowds. I'm not a big crowd person but was surprised how well it went and how much I enjoyed it. I did a 500 mile tour with two other friends last year in West TX and enjoyed that also.

Next year who knows.
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Old 08-10-15, 07:41 AM
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RAGBRAI was a bucket ride for me, which I did in 2008. Once was more than enough. For some, the huge crowds are a selling point, but not to me. I found being hemmed in by throngs of people, in the heat and humidity, very wearing. By the end of the ride, virtually everything about it bugged me, from the burned casseroles in hot church gyms to the way they detoured us into towns just so we could walk through the extremely crowded 'downtown' block or two before getting back on our bikes to ride.
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Old 08-10-15, 07:45 AM
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Originally Posted by Rwc5830 View Post
I don't frequent the forums as much as I used to since going from a couch potato to an avid rider 4 years ago but thought I would post a quick summary of my latest bike ride in case others might be interested in riding RAGBRAI or something similar…

Next month I will be 62 and was not really looking forward to huge crowds...but what the heck.

Originally Posted by Rwc5830 View Post
Frreed, One of the rides I'm interested in for the future is Kansas. Also Oklahoma, Missouri, Georgia and others. I'll have to do some more research on Kansas.

Originally Posted by Rwc5830 View Post
Understood... For me, I heard some negative things about RAGBRAI, mainly the crowds. I'm not a big crowd person but was surprised how well it went and how much I enjoyed it. I did a 500 mile tour with two other friends last year in West TX and enjoyed that also.

Next year who knows.
I've heard good things about PALM (Pedal Across Lower Michigan) a cute name when you realize that the lower peninsula is shaped like an up-raised hand. There is also the DALMAC Ride (Dick Allen Mackinac) Ride. from Lansing north (along the middle finger) to the Mackinac Bridge spanning the strait between Lakes Huron and Michigan. (I never did them, but I’m originally from Michigan, and it's a nice bicycling state, and those are long-standing Rides.).

Then I have looked at GOBA, an Ohio en masse ride recommended by some veteran cyclists from Ohio. Finally, I'll mention a Cycle Massachusetts Ride sponsored by Mass Bike, just competed this past week.

BTW, my own touring experience dates back to the 70's and 80's, mainly with my then-girlfriend-now-wife, including a cross-country ride, and several week-long tours in Michigan, Ontario, New England, the Maritime Provinces, and the DelMarVa peninsula. FYA you may find this Fifty-Plus thread amusing that I cited on a Touring thread:

Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
I’m an inactive cycle tourist, with a cross country ride, and some week long tours previously, in the 70's and 80's. In a somewhat related thread on the Fifty-Plus Forum ”What do you find hardest about cycle touring now we aint spring chickens any more?” I posted:

Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
...Last year, I avidly read the posts on BF about a perimeter tour of Lake Ontario, and I experienced some surprising mental discomfort that struck me as a sign of getting older.

While I would still enjoy riding about 50 miles a day for an extended trip, the thought of the uncertainty of finding a place to stay for the night was unsettling. ...If I/we were to resume touring, it would at least be a credit card style, if not an organized tour....

I guess 30 years of a stable, predictable cycle-commuting lifestyle erodes that exhilaration of the uncertainty...
Probably the most common challenges reported on that thread were sleeping on the ground and finding a bathroom at night.

Last edited by Jim from Boston; 08-10-15 at 07:51 AM.
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Old 08-10-15, 01:14 PM
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I have ridden Ragbrai 6 times, and a few of the complaints I have read here are easily cured.

1- Long shower lines. Stay out on the road longer. Slow down and enjoy the pass thru towns. Have a piece of pie or a beer. The later you get into the overnight town, the shorter the shower line.

2- Avoid church or school food. Long lines and generally small portions. After a long ride, I want more than a small hunk of lasagna. There are usually quite a few local restaurants off the beaten path a ways from the crowds

3- Leave later in the morning. The road isn't nearly as crowded. I usually leave about 8am

4- Last, Slow down and enjoy yourself. You are on vacation.
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Old 08-10-15, 09:44 PM
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crazyb- I loved BAK as a vacation. I am not a racer. When all was said and done, I averaged about 15 mph rolling. That didn't include the hour plus spent in a small town eating lunch (at 9:00 a.m.) and just talking with fellow riders, or the day that my riding partner and I stopped half way through the 60 miles and had eggs, toast and coffee. Rest stops were great to break up the ride.

I am still not convinced that I have any desire to do Iowa. My friend wants to do it again, so maybe it will happen. What I do know is that next summer I will be riding 400-500 miles over a week and spending that time with a new group of friends who love to ride.
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Old 08-11-15, 06:29 AM
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I have wanted to do RAGRAI for years but can't talk any of my semi-fit (or above) friends into trying it. Any suggestions for someone who wants to do it but doesn't want to be self-supported and carrying everything for themselves?
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Old 08-11-15, 08:07 AM
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Originally Posted by redcon1 View Post
I have wanted to do RAGRAI for years but can't talk any of my semi-fit (or above) friends into trying it. Any suggestions for someone who wants to do it but doesn't want to be self-supported and carrying everything for themselves?
You could go with a bike club, A club I belong to welcomes riders. If you have an interest, it is Bike Burlington out of Burlington Iowa. Full support with transportation to and from Burlington. www.bikeburlington.org
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Old 08-11-15, 08:57 AM
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Interesting RAGBRAI reading above . I've ridden RAGBRAI 16 times (first time in '82). It was easy to get to Iowa when I lived in Missouri (St. Louis area)! Now that I live in CA I've only done RAGBRAI twice but both times I've enjoyed it; totally and completely.

Most of the "dislikes" above didn't happen to me (and our group) since we stayed in host homes most of the time. Unlike some above, I was a "get-up-early" type, quick breakfast at Chris's Cakes or Pancake Man, then hit the road just after daylight. I didn't mind the detours through the little towns, enjoyed them really, though I guess this could have changed since the last time I rode RAGBRAI.

All good fun in my opinion!

Rick / OCRR

PS: Also like Tender Tom's Turkey for lunch, Helen's Melons for mid-ride snacks, Veggie Man for great veggie sandwiches . . . are any of those still working at RAGBRAI? I know Pork Chop man is!
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Old 08-11-15, 09:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Rick@OCRR View Post
Interesting RAGBRAI reading above . I've ridden RAGBRAI 16 times (first time in '82). It was easy to get to Iowa when I lived in Missouri (St. Louis area)! Now that I live in CA I've only done RAGBRAI twice but both times I've enjoyed it; totally and completely.

Most of the "dislikes" above didn't happen to me (and our group) since we stayed in host homes most of the time. Unlike some above, I was a "get-up-early" type, quick breakfast at Chris's Cakes or Pancake Man, then hit the road just after daylight. I didn't mind the detours through the little towns, enjoyed them really, though I guess this could have changed since the last time I rode RAGBRAI.

All good fun in my opinion!

Rick / OCRR

PS: Also like Tender Tom's Turkey for lunch, Helen's Melons for mid-ride snacks, Veggie Man for great veggie sandwiches . . . are any of those still working at RAGBRAI? I know Pork Chop man is!
Anybody that does Ragbrai that doesn't stop at Toms tender turkey is doing themselves a great disservice. They are awesome. They also have a wonderful banana strawberry smoothie
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Old 08-11-15, 09:28 AM
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[QUOTE=crazyb;18065109]Anybody that does Ragbrai that doesn't stop at Toms tender turkey is doing themselves a great disservice. They are awesome. They also have a wonderful banana strawberry smoothie[/QUOTE

I totally agree! Back in 2002 when I rode RAGBRAI with my wife-to-be she loved stopping at Tender Tom's. After the excellent B-B-Q turkey we'd have a smoothie then finish it up with a Dove (ice cream) bar. Great stuff!

Rick / OCRR
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Old 08-11-15, 10:10 AM
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Originally Posted by crazyb View Post
You could go with a bike club, A club I belong to welcomes riders. If you have an interest, it is Bike Burlington out of Burlington Iowa. Full support with transportation to and from Burlington. www.bikeburlington.org
Very cool, thanks for the link. I will check it out and see if it can work out for next year!
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Old 08-11-15, 10:49 AM
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I'm wondering if most people on these group ride go with friends/relative/colleagues or by themselves? When I've gone by myself on some group rides the other people are not particularly friendly. I don't mean to imply they are "mean" but they come with their friends and don't invite others to ride with them.

Any thoughts?
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Old 08-11-15, 01:23 PM
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Originally Posted by roadie7 View Post
I'm wondering if most people on these group ride go with friends/relative/colleagues or by themselves? When I've gone by myself on some group rides the other people are not particularly friendly. I don't mean to imply they are "mean" but they come with their friends and don't invite others to ride with them.

Any thoughts?
I used to coordinate the Burlington group and a lot of people come in solo from all over the country. From what I saw, most would buddy up after the first day or so. Iowa folk are pretty friendly as a rule.
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Old 08-11-15, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by roadie7 View Post
I'm wondering if most people on these group ride go with friends/relative/colleagues or by themselves? When I've gone by myself on some group rides the other people are not particularly friendly. I don't mean to imply they are "mean" but they come with their friends and don't invite others to ride with them.

Any thoughts?
I went with a good friend to do BAK. We rode together for a while each morning, but he is faster than I am so he would take off after the first hour or so. My experience was that the whole group became this instant community. I don't think I ran into any real jerks. Lot's of great conversations in the evenings with people from all over country. There was always someone to ride with and I never encountered anyone with an attitude on the road. If is started telling all the positives about the people on the ride, I'd get kicked off the forum for taking up too much space.
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Old 08-13-15, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Rick@OCRR View Post
Interesting RAGBRAI reading above . I've ridden RAGBRAI 16 times (first time in '82). It was easy to get to Iowa when I lived in Missouri (St. Louis area)! Now that I live in CA I've only done RAGBRAI twice but both times I've enjoyed it; totally and completely.

Most of the "dislikes" above didn't happen to me (and our group) since we stayed in host homes most of the time. Unlike some above, I was a "get-up-early" type, quick breakfast at Chris's Cakes or Pancake Man, then hit the road just after daylight. I didn't mind the detours through the little towns, enjoyed them really, though I guess this could have changed since the last time I rode RAGBRAI.

All good fun in my opinion!

Rick / OCRR

PS: Also like Tender Tom's Turkey for lunch, Helen's Melons for mid-ride snacks, Veggie Man for great veggie sandwiches . . . are any of those still working at RAGBRAI? I know Pork Chop man is!
Rick the only one you mention that I do not remember seeing is Helen's Melons but I might have missed it. All the other ones were there and many more. I tried a couple of the church dinners and was very pleased with the portions and prices. Of course, that all depends on the towns on the particular route for any given year.

For me the small towns and people were some of the best parts, as I believe I mentioned. I will try my best to do at least one ride of this type next year, it might not be RAGBRAI because there are other choices....quite a few actually. Some of my friends are talking Colorado already....but we live on the gulf coast at 35 feet above sea level with no climbing places to train...it's very hot and windy where I live but climbing at elevation in Colorado would be a different story.

Richard
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Old 08-13-15, 01:50 PM
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There are many 'state' rides, of which RAGBRAI is only one. It's one of the biggest, and is in the group with the least amount of support included -- you have access to everything, but it's all pay-as-you-go, and usually at prices that are right up there with being in a movie theater or at a state fair. I guess that's why RAGBRAI really doesn't mind bandits: the real reason for the ride's existence is so the vendors can make money.
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Old 08-13-15, 05:14 PM
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Originally Posted by BlazingPedals View Post
There are many 'state' rides, of which RAGBRAI is only one. It's one of the biggest, and is in the group with the least amount of support included -- you have access to everything, but it's all pay-as-you-go, and usually at prices that are right up there with being in a movie theater or at a state fair. I guess that's why RAGBRAI really doesn't mind bandits: the real reason for the ride's existence is so the vendors can make money.
Hi BP (of the "middle of da mitten"),

You may recall we briefly met at the OHR (again), this year. Your post was an interesting take on RAGBRAI.

Did you see my preceding post?

Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
I've heard good things about PALM (Pedal Across Lower Michigan) a cute name when you realize that the lower peninsula is shaped like an up-raised hand. There is also the DALMAC Ride (Dick Allen Mackinac) Ride. from Lansing north (along the middle finger) to the Mackinac Bridge spanning the strait between Lakes Huron and Michigan. (I never did them, but Iím originally from Michigan, and it's a nice bicycling state, and those are long-standing Rides.).

Then I have looked at GOBA, an Ohio en masse ride recommended by some veteran cyclists from Ohio. Finally, I'll mention a Cycle Massachusetts Ride sponsored by Mass Bike, just competed this past week.
Have you done any of those Michigan Rides? I actually contacted Dick Allen back in 1972 when I was into touring, though have never made any of those rides.
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Old 08-13-15, 07:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
Hi BP (of the "middle of da mitten")
...
Have you done any of those Michigan Rides? I actually contacted Dick Allen back in 1972 when I was into touring, though have never made any of those rides.
It's said that a native Michiganian always carries a map on his/her right hand. Or their left hand if they have to depict the Upper Peninsula.

I think this year will be my 27th DALMAC. It's like an old friend. Four or five days of great riding while they carry your baggage and feed you morning and evening. The drawback for some people is that it's *tent* camping, no indoor stuff. I try to never do the same route 2 years in a row. This year I'm riding the 5-Day West with a group in my club. I've never done PALM or the Shoreline rides. Palm is a little too laid-back for me. Shoreline West is definitely on my bucket list; it's got the same format as DALMAC but in a slightly different part of the state. Unfortunately it seems to always fall on the week of my family reunion. So, someday...

DALMAC has a web page, DALMAC - Home Page
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Old 08-13-15, 07:11 PM
  #24  
Jim from Boston
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Originally Posted by BlazingPedals View Post
It's said that a native Michiganian always carries a map on his/her right hand. Or their left hand if they have to depict the Upper Peninsula. ...
Thanks for your reply. So true. I have posted to BF that Michiganians (and cyclists) always seem to find each other no matter where they are at.

Here in Boston I have encountered quite a few. For those I get to know well, I bring back bottles of Vernors when I visit Michigan. Native New Englanders and East Coast types just don't get it.
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Old 08-19-15, 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Rwc5830 View Post
Rick the only one you mention that I do not remember seeing is Helen's Melons.
The thing I remember about Helen's Melons is two girls in bikinis (late teens, early 20's) selling slices of different melons (cantaloupe, water melon, honey dew, etc.) which I remember as being very refreshing and at very reasonable prices. I think I stopped there nearly every day!

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