Five (woops – six!) more cool places in Iowa you must see

by on June 15, 2012
in Friday Fives

A few years ago I blogged about some cool places in Iowa that I thought were must-sees. While I’ve still only been to #3, 4 and 5 on that original list, we have been to some neat spots that I wanted to add to the must-see list for others who are interested in what the state has to offer. Here are a few of my favorites:

1. Lincoln Highway Bridge – the last remaining original Lincoln Highway Bridge in the United States, people! In Tama, Iowa, northeast of Des Moines.

2. Palmyra Church – just a neat little place to stop and appreciate some chippy Gothic goodness, in the tiny town of Palmyra, southeast of Des Moines.

3. Freedom Rock/Iowa Veterans Cemetery – A giant boulder near Greenfield, Iowa, painted annually by Ray Sorensen, celebrating the valor of the U.S. Military; and, a beautiful cemetery just for veterans and their spouses, set in the hillsides of Dallas County just outside Van Meter, Iowa, west of Des Moines.

4. Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge – A high-quality museum dedicated to the native flora and fauna of Iowa. Just outside Prairie City, east of Des Moines.

5. Pella Dutch Heritage Village and Cordova Observation Tower – a little history, a great view, and Dutch letters, plus if you time it right, a boatload of tulips southeast of Des Moines.

6. Iowa Arboretum – A beautiful natural area and “library of living plants” northwest of Des Moines

And, a few new places I’ve added to my own list of future rides:

1. Lineville, Iowa – simply because of the curvy road that gets you there! South of Des Moines, near the Missouri border. (Hence, “Lineville.”)

2. Allerton, Iowa – home of a hundred-year-old restored round barn, and pioneer-era restored church and school. Southeast of Des Moines, on the way to or from Lineville.

3. Jefferson, Iowa – five-story bell tower donated by William & Dora Mahanay, looking out over 30 miles and five counties, northwest of Des Moines.

4. Lake Panorama – Apparently it’s a bit of a curve-hugger’s dream riding around the perimeter of Lake Panorama near Stuart, Iowa (or at least the part you CAN ride around), so it seems like something I should check out.


Chrome Divas come to Des Moines

by on June 8, 2012
in Misc Updates

I’ve been keeping this under my helmet for awhile, but am so excited to finally be able to mention that the CHROME DIVAS have come to Des Moines – and that I am a founding member!

While poking around on the Web one night last summer I did some reading about this organization for women motorcycle enthusiasts, founded in 2002. I was surprised to learn that although there was a very large and active chapter in the Cedar Rapids area, there was not yet a chapter here in Des Moines.

So, together with my gal pals Shirley, Susan (Coyote) and Stephanie (Iowa Harley Girl), we launched the Chrome Divas of Des Moines in August 2011. We’ve added two additional members since then – Janet (“Seven Over”) and Penney (“One Cent”).

The Chrome Divas is simply an organization for women who share a passion for motorcycles – all brands, all levels of riding. We currently meet monthly, and we’ll be creating opportunities to ride together and work on behalf of some our favorite community organizations. Our primary mission is four-fold:

  • Promote a positive image of women who ride, and of motorcycling in general.
  • Provide a social atmosphere for women who ride or simply love motorcycles to gather and get to know each other.
  • Give back to our community by participating in local non-profit events and activities.
  • Ride and have fun!

We’re lucky and thankful to have Sambetti’s, a local bar and grill, as the “official home of the Chrome Divas of Des Moines.” A big THANK YOU to Paul Strome, owner of Sambetti’s, for his encouragement and support of our little group!  (I personally recommend the “10 oz top” special, the chicken strips, the house dressing on the crisp, cold salads, and – OMG – the ONION RINGS!! Lunch, dinner or drinks – Sambetti’s is one of my favorite spots in Des Moines!)

As for membership, right now we’re keeping growth slow and purposeful so as not to get too big too fast, but we are excited about being part of this great organization and are definitely planning to increase our numbers!




The ride with the ugly soul

by on June 6, 2012
in Iowa Rides

Just wanted to share my little solo ride from back on Memorial Day. Now I have to be honest, it wasn’t so much that I really wanted to go for a ride, it was just that it was a beautiful day and I wasn’t at work, so I felt kind of obligated to take advantage of it.

I thought I would ride down to Winterset again, and pick up the St. Charles/Truro loop that the girls and I had missed out on due to closed roads last Fall. So I set off along my usual route to points South – down R63 to G14, across G14 through Norwalk and Cumming and over to 169 South. (Yes, Iowa has a town called Cumming. Go ahead and snicker quietly to yourself, I’ll wait.)

Ready? Ok. So anyway, I was really close to Cumming when I had the big idea to stop at this small old gas station and take a picture or two. It’s a neat little place I’ve wanted to photograph for awhile, so being by myself I thought it would be the perfect opportunity.

I pulled off the highway onto a narrow concrete approach alongside Sweeney’s, put down my kickstand, and snapped a few photos. Getting back on the bike revealed the problem I had created for myself: because of the angle of the approach, which I had thought was flat and level, I couldn’t lean the bike over far enough to the right to get the stand back up, without tipping the bike all the way over. I tried a couple strategies to correct this, but they only served to inch me forward so that by the time I decided it really couldn’t be done, I had run out of approach and was left with very sketchy footing on the right-hand side. For the second time in as many weeks, my right foot was holding up the entire weight of the bike and I was in danger of going over, with no immediate “fix” and no companion around to help me out.

Fortunately for me, this is a well-trafficked highway and it was only a moment before another vehicle came along, so I managed to flag them down. A very nice guy named Troy pulled over and helped me steady the bike, get the kickstand up, and get on my way.

I beat myself up plenty over this little faux pas for the rest of the day – I admit it clouded my enjoyment of the remainder of the ride, but at least I did get to experience the Madison County loop I’d been studying all winter.

Make no mistake, it was a very scenic ride – though I did get the feeling I was seeing it from the backside, as though it would have been prettier going the other way. My route was to head south out of Winterset on P71, east on R50, south on R35, then back to the west on G60 to P71. The problem with this part of the ride wasn’t the view, though – it was the incredibly poor condition of the roads!

At one time I thought these bumps in the road were the result of badly engineered repairs. But it appears they are actually places where the road has buckled up to the point of needing repair. In any case, they are raised sections of the road (always at a seam in the asphalt) that lift you up out of your seat and re-arrange your innards by the time you land on your ass again. (No kidding – I actually felt like I was sitting on my liver by the time I stopped.)

I had hoped to be able to call this the prettiest route through Madison County – but, just like elsewhere in life, it’s not worth being pretty if you have an ugly soul. And the crappy roads and the lingering bad karma were definitely the “ugly soul” of this ride. I did make it home without any further stupid decisions, so I’m happy to say I’m tanned, rested and ready for the next opportunity not to waste a day off!