Fun with flags: ride to Brooklyn, Iowa

by on July 29, 2012
in Iowa Rides

What a crazy summer! We had a very short break in the heat recently, then back up into the upper 90’s and low hundreds for a couple more weeks – yikes!! Now here we are at the end of July already – but, thankfully I have three days off from work and temps are only going to be low 90’s so I’m going riding! Hopefully I will have a few more adventures to share soon!

Did have one lovely ride back in early July, what a neat day this was! I’d heard about this small town called Brooklyn that has a large display of flags from all 50 states and several other nations. I thought it sounded like a perfect reason to ride, so off we went. Our group consisted of Steve and I, Garry, street-rodding-turned-biker-pal Dave R., and Howard and Jayka.

We took off in the afternoon heading east along one of my favorite roads – it starts out as Broadway Ave. in Des Moines, becomes 8th St. SE in Altoona, then morphs into County Road F48 and finally old Highway 6. This is just a beautiful road – pretty and curvaceous between Des Moines and Grinnell, then a straight bit east from Grinnell to Highway 63, where we made a right turn into Brooklyn.

Once in Brooklyn we stopped at a tiny convenience store that seemed to be the hub of Sunday activity in this town of just under 1,400 people. After a beverage I walked from the store up to the flag display, which was on the adjacent property. It includes 3×5 flags from every state, plus several special-interest (military service) flags and a 20 x 38-foot US flag at the center on an 80-foot pole, all installed along a pretty walkway next to the Brooklyn Historical Society Museum.

Gave me vertigo standing under the US flag, looking up… thought I was gonna fall over backwards!

Here are some of the state flags on display. This photo looks back toward the street.

Also thought this was neat, something I’d never seen before: the name of the street actually etched into the cement of the curb. Neat detail!

The international flags are displayed in smaller groups along the two main streets of town. You can barely glimpse a few of them on the left side of this streetscene.

Across from the convenience store stands this old Standard Oil station – looks to be about mid-1930’s to me. As I walked over to it to take a picture, a guy drove up in a ’50 Chevy. What a great photo opp! I flagged him down and asked him to pause for a picture – he told me he had just bought the car that day. I took a neat photo of his 50’s car in front of the 30’s gas station, then gave it a little ‘retro’ effect in my photo editing program to create a cool vintagey snapshot.

Here are a couple more pictures of the gas station – just because I know you love this stuff as much as I do!

Brooklyn also has several oldie-but-goodie buildings along its two main streets. This opera house…


… and my favorite, the First National Bank.

All of this exploration only took us about an hour, so it seemed in no time we were back on the bikes and headed home along the same route we’d come in. Along the route I noticed two bridges named for Civil War generals James Wilson & James Weaver, and in looking them up I learned that old Highway 6 (which runs coast-to-coast, by the way) is also known as Grand Army of the Republic Highway. I’ve long been aware that the GAR is/was the veterans organization serving Civil War Veterans, but I didn’t realize that Highway 6 was named for it. There are several commemorative markers and named bridges along the route.

Few things are better in my book – a perfect blue sky day for a ride along scenic Iowa roads, a stop in a pretty small town with a unique or interesting feature, and a little bit of history thrown in for good measure.

More adventures coming soon!

Holy crap, it’s been HOT!

by on July 8, 2012
in Iowa Rides

Well June was pretty much a bust for riding – the weather has really been an issue. As I finish up this post it’s July 8 and the record-setting heatwave finally broke last night. For the past few weeks we’ve had unseasonably high temperatures in the mid- to upper 90’s and humidity pushing it over 100 nearly every day. This is quite unusual for June – usually that’s the month where the riding season hits its stride here in Iowa. This year, it was mostly a month to stay indoors and try to keep cool.

We did have one really nice Saturday on the bikes mid-month (obviously I am a little behind in posting about it!).

I had wanted to take a day-ride that day, but we didn’t plan far enough in advance so we decided to hit the Big Barn Open House instead. We met up with Garry and Shirley, and turns out they had come up with Garry’s son Mike and his girlfriend Tina, and their friends Charlie and Rita.

We poked around Big Barn for awhile and enjoyed the free lunch, then decided to take an extended “up around the lake” ride including the Madrid loop.

This is an easy ride with a very nice route. It takes us up the backside of Saylorville Lake with its lovely homes, across the Mile Bridge (boy the lake is LOW this year!), and up to the small town of Madrid, where we made a potty-and-beverage stop. Everyone noted the killer shrub that we had encountered in the middle of the road a few miles back (what IS IT with stuff in the road this year??) – fortunately we all got around it without being attacked.

We left Madrid going east on Highway 210, then south through the tiny town of Sheldahl and back into Polk City north of Saylorville. Stopped at the Saylorville spillway where the dammed-up lake is control-fed out into the Des Moines river. From there we took a round-about route through Johnston and down into Des Moines where we stopped at Sambetti’s for a beverage before heading home.

Although it wasn’t the epic day-ride I’d been hoping to take, it turned out to be a great afternoon anyway because of the new riding friends and of course the Iowa scenery. The next couple of weekends would turn out to be occupied with an out-of-state funeral and then the Good Guys Heartland Nationals hot rod show, all in the middle of a record-setting heat-wave.

The heat, fortunately, has broken at least for the moment – but it has felt more like August than June, so my internal “calendar” is a little off. We took a neat ride today that I’ll post about soon!