Monday, July 7, 2008

Independence Day By Bike....

My Bellingham boyfriend taught me this trick about never leaving town on a major holiday weekend. It seemed a crazy proposition to me at first, but nonetheless it always fared well for us; some of our best weekends came from these stay at home adventures. It was also somewhat of a necessary evil around those parts; the tourists are always out in force in the summer regardless, plane ticket prices high, and July 4 and Labor Day are among the worst. So while this weekend in Iowa our original intent began elsewhere, and with our sights set on some adventure; we stole a chapter from the BikingViking's book and used our collective houses as base for our two wheeled Independence adventures.

The route from Ames to Polk City is fast, lovely and on this particular night, just the perfect combination of about everything: conversation, nonconversation, rollers, laughs. The bar on the corner's name escapes me at the moment, but it's been around forever, is full of characters, and the bartender/owner of the place has about the best looking Hawaiian shirt I've ever seen and the personality to perfectly match. It turns out the guy is a former professional hockey player and he was full of great stories from back in the day. So we sat in lovely Polk City for the start of our weekend and compared geography notes about the great Northwest, learned a thing or two about the Saylorville Lake area, and had a cold one.

And just when the stories were getting good, some of my Team Nad buddies rolled in on their bikes to boot. We had a beer with them and shortly thereafter, sped home to meet up with the remainder of the crew; cooked steaks, sat on the porch, listened to some tunes and chalked up another perfect night and around 45 miles.

The following morning after steak and eggs, our little crew grew by 4 and the six of us ventured south through the Des Moines river valley to Woodward. The day was picturesque, and the ride just as lovely. My legs were pretty well smoked on the way home and it was nice for the first time all year to enjoy the luxury of being able slide in the back of a line and be pulled along by some fairly exceptional riders. There might not be a sweeter sound than the hum of air whipping though a bunch of tires at a cool 28 mph while you do next to nothing.

While we were all quite disappointed to find Mr. C's was closed; we found a nice spot for an impromptu picnic in the shade, turned around and headed back to Ames. 55 miles later and we were on the mad hunt for some food, libations and tunes. We found all three fairly easily. The remainder of this day went from hilarious, to bad, to worse, to even more hilarious; I will spare details and the guilty shall remain as such.

We packed up and headed south the following day, riding the Great Western Trail again, although a slightly different section this time. While it was a great disappointment to find Bambinos closed (no pizza!), we did venture off the beaten path and find a new establishment to try. I enjoyed my first BLT of the year and while the tomatoes were not fresh, the bacon was...a true testament to this living in Iowa thing gone perfectly right.
While I prefer riding the road the bulk of the time, it was a nice way to escape the bulk of the wind and a bit of monotony; and we also found it an exceptional way to trick oneself into riding more miles than it might initially appear possible. We wound up riding by trail in to Des Moines to check out the 80/35 festival and got there in time to see an amazing set by The Envy Corps and to listen to some of The Roots. My new light was suddenly necessary and it did not disappoint as we snaked through Water Works Park and back to the trails after.

We wrapped up our weekend adventure in Indianola; which was exactly my second trip to this little gem of a town in about oh, 20 years. There are number of things that stick out about Indianola, namely that everyone there orients themselves and everything else with "The Square." If you do not know what/where "The Square" is, when you arrive in town and ask for directions, you'll be fairly screwed. And to my great delight, in Indianola they do not have speed bumps, they have speed HUMPS.

Unfortunately, we seemed to have hit ourselves a bike riding wall yesterday as the wind was blowing like crazy, the weather warnings were blaring and frankly, no matter what little story we told ourselves, there were not a lot of miles happening on the bikes. That said, we did stop watching baseball and tennis and the constant revolving door of entertainment for long enough to take a few naps AND pound out a few miles racing around the impromptu hot laps track. And as if we needed a perfect topper, we also had ourselves one of those fat, fresh from the garden Iowa meals that send you into a satisfied food coma from atop one of the loveliest views I've seen in years. My next Indianola trip will likely initiate me into one of the favorite stops for a fair portion of our crew; the Summerset Winery. We drove by there last night and if the wine is as nice as the view, it will not disappoint. That is, if the hill leading there doesn't kill me first.

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