Divas ride to Maxwell, Colo and Prairie City

by on July 14, 2017
in Iowa Rides

Women who ride | Biker Chick News
It’s been a slow start to the actual riding season for my Chrome Divas Chapter. Our June ladies’ social was not really a ride for us (though it certainly was for the Omaha and Lincoln gals who rode in to surprise us!), and our April and May chapter rides had both been cancelled due to unfriendly weather. But finally – FINALLY! – at the end of June we got to take a ride together.

Janet / Seven Over had planned a wonderful route that included all my personal favorite attributes: great roads, a great place to eat, small town points of interest and of course great friends.

We met up at Sambetti’s (once again our official chapter headquarters – THANK YOU, Paul Strome, for your continued hospitality and support!) with four riders: Kristin, Janet, Susan and myself. We met up with Penney and Rhonda a little farther up the road at Big Barn Harley Davidson.

Janet’s route took us through the Berwick area just northeast of Des Moines and up some lovely roads into the town of Maxwell at the southern edge of Story County.

Women who ride | Biker Chick News

Here in Iowa we are blessed to be the home of the original Freedom Rock – a large boulder outside of Greenfield that is painted each year in a military theme by an artist, Ray Sorensen II, who lives in that area. It’s his labor of love (and respect) and his gift to his community, and he’s been painting the rock with a new mural every year for almost 20 years. A few years ago he embarked on a project to create a painted rock in each of Iowa’s 99 counties, so our stop in Maxwell was for the purpose of seeing the Story County Freedom Rock. Maxwell has done a very nice job of creating a viewing space for the rock – it sits a block or so off Main Street, at the edge of the city park, with quite a bit of thoughtful landscaping surrounding it.

Story County Freedom Rock | Biker Chick News

We also caught a glimpse of some of Sorensen’s characters going about their daily activities in the windows of the Morris building on Main Street.

Maxwell painted characters | Biker Chick News

After a brief visit we headed out of Maxwell and north to modern Highway 30, which we crossed so we could pick up old Highway 30 – the historic Lincoln Highway.  The Lincoln Highway was the first nationwide memorial to President Abraham Lincoln, as well as the first paved transcontinental highway in the US. It served as an important cross-country route in the early days of the automobile. (Iowa today is home to the last remaining original Lincoln Highway Bridge.)

We rode a very pretty section of Old 30 into the town of Colo, which boasts one of those timeless roadside stops where surely travelers of decades past would have paused in their dusty journey to fuel up, have a bite to eat, and maybe stay the night. Reed-Niland Corner consists of a restored gas station with Red Crown pumps…

Reed-Niland Corner Gas Station | Biker Chick News

Reed-Niland Corner Gas Station | Biker Chick News

Reed-Niland Corner Gas Station | Biker Chick News
Niland’s Cafe…

Niland's Cafe | Biker Chick News

Niland's Cafe | Biker Chick News

Niland's Cafe | Biker Chick News

Niland's Cafe | Biker Chick News
and the Colo Motel with its old Art Deco-style neon sign.

Colo Motel | Biker Chick News

Colo Motel | Biker Chick News

What a great little place, situated at the junction of the Lincoln and Jefferson highways – routes that were so much busier in the days before the Interstate system. You could almost picture the Burma-Shave signs that would have entertained travelers along this route.

Reed-Niland Corner | Biker Chick News

Reed-Niland Corner | Biker Chick News

Once done with our excellent lunch, we set out to the south along Highway 65, across Highway 330 onto 117, which is a very pretty stretch leading down into Colfax.  We continued on 117 south out of Colfax and into Prairie City, where we stopped at Goldie’s for some ice cream before heading back to Des Moines along Highway 163.

Women Who Ride | Biker Chick News

All along this route we were treated to the lush green views of Iowa in late June – beautiful rural roads with a blend of executive homes neighboring modest older farmhouses, deep green corn ranging from two to eight feet tall, textured fields of soybeans, and roadsides lined with waves of orange ditch lilies and other blooming wildflowers.

Ditch Lilies | Biker Chick News

Photo saved from GenerousGardeners.com

 

This beautiful day could not have been a more perfect example of enjoying motorcycles in Iowa!

Maxwell Colo Route | Biker Chick News

 

Ride more, worry less

by on July 2, 2017
in Iowa Rides

Solo riding | Biker Chick News
I don’t know about you, but one of the things I wish I could change about myself is the degree to which I deny myself things or activities that make me happy in times when I feel I don’t deserve to be happy. (Are there such times? Oh let’s not go into that – I’m pretty sure everyone has times when they’ve created a shit-storm or been dealt a shit-storm or whatever, and they just feel too self-conscious about being seen being happy. How can you act so happy at a time like this? Don’t you understand how you should feel right now? So they hide, when doing the thing would make them at least feel better, if not actually happy.)

Well I’m trying to get past some of my more recent shit-storms, and although it’s not always easy, I’m kind of forcing myself out there.

One of the aspects of riding I’ve never been crazy about is the practice of riding by myself. I can never seem to calm my mind, and it just feels sort of pointless – out there hurtling around, putting myself in danger, and for no apparent good reason.

Except that I like being out there.

So this year while I’m still not planning any epic cross-country solo trips, I am making sure that if I feel like riding, I don’t let my dislike for riding alone stop me. I just get out there and do it.

In May I took two solo rides – one was a very nice easy trip along the “Madrid Loop,” about 90 miles with a stop at (where else) Casey’s General Store.

Madrid Gas Stop | Biker Chick News

Yes, that is a picture of my motorcycle at a gas stop. It is an exciting life, I tell ya!

Then on the 28th another little solo trip, this time in a beautiful loop through Madison County taking me through Winterset, St. Charles and Truro – 105 miles.

Madison County Loop map | Biker Chick News

On this trip I actually stopped to take a few pictures of some of the scenery – things were lush and green, and are even moreso now that another month has passed.

Truro Road | Biker Chick News

Truro Road | Biker Chick News
Another tactic I’m using is that I’m actually asking others if they want to join me. In the past I wouldn’t do this if I was planning something last-minute – I just assumed everyone would have plans already set, though I have no idea why I thought I was the only one who didn’t plan ahead. Anyway this year I’m just asking, and I have a wonderful ride to report on soon that came about as a result of this kind of effort.

Plus of course some Chrome Diva rides and gatherings, and so overall it’s shaping up to be a fine (and much more involved) riding season. Hope it’s that way where you are too!

 

PS – huge hugs to my wind sister RSW, and anyone else in the middle of a shit-storm. Ride more, worry less – wherever you are!

Civil War mules draw the Divas to Oskaloosa

by on June 9, 2016
in Iowa Rides

Over time this blog has become a bit of a “love letter” to my home state of Iowa. As I’ve said before, I believe that every town in this state has something to recommend it: some sort of attraction, historic marker, great diner, or even roadside oddity. I am always excited to discover something new, and when you add in a scenic route to get there and the company of wonderful people, it just makes for some really great days.

Last summer, a few of the Chrome Divas made a fun discovery of this type when we rode to Oskaloosa and visited the Nelson Pioneer Farm & Museum. Now Oskaloosa is a great destination for several reasons, but the Pioneer Farm is rather special because it gives visitors an up-close, hands-on look at the way life was in the 1800’s-early 1900’s on an Iowa farm.

This ride took place in late May of 2015. By all accounts our Saturday should have been a wonderful upper-70’s kind of day. Instead, we left Des Moines under clouds with temperatures in the mid-50’s. I don’t think it broke 60 all day. We did hit just a tiny spit of rain, but fortunately that didn’t turn into anything major.

Janet, Val & Janet Ride to Oskaloosa | Biker Chick News

Val had planned the ride for us with the intention of having lunch in Oskaloosa. This was also a great choice for Seven Over, because she was participating in not one but TWO summer-long Scavenger Hunts and needed a couple pictures of herself in this area – one of them being at a “mule cemetery” located at the historic Nelson Farm.

The route to Oskaloosa was (as always in Iowa) beautiful despite the clouds, taking us on a meandering path through southeastern Polk County, then over to the tiny town of Monroe on a very nice (new to me) county road marked F70. From here it was south on Highway 14 to Highway 92, and east into Oskaloosa.

We parked on the square and had lunch at Smokey Row, a local place which we learned was housed in an old movie theater – obvious and evidenced by the presence of the original marquee, which now hangs inside the restaurant and is fully lighted. It was quite the display, and we managed to have some fun with the large statue at the front of the room as well. (We did not similarly molest the proud and regal statue of Chief Mahaska out on the Square. I’m sure he appreciated our modesty.)

Smokey Row, Formerly the Rivola | Biker Chick News

Janet, Val & Janet Enjoy Lunch in Oskaloosa | Biker Chick News

He seems oblivious to her presence | Biker Chick News

After lunch we set off to find the mule cemetery, which was easy because it was kind of front-and-center at the Nelson Pioneer Farm & Museum property. Turns out, the original settlers of this farm had two white mules, Jennie and Becky, buried on-site in 1888 and 1897 – both animals served in the Civil War and were 34 and 42 years old at the time of their respective deaths.

Mule Cemetery | Biker Chick News

Mule Jennie Age 34 | Biker Chick News

Mule Becky Age 42 | Biker Chick News

As we were gathered in front of the little burial plot, a person we assumed to be a groundskeeper came up from one of the utility buildings and greeted us. This was “Joe,” whose last name I did not get but who – as it turned out – was a former mechanical engineer at Disneyland in California who had had enough of life as an Imagineer and retired to Iowa. Once here, and looking for something to keep him busy, he took the opportunity to do some odd jobs around this little historical farm/museum and ended up in charge of the property care-taking.

Joe was pretty keen on giving three goofy biker chicks the low-down on the mules Jennie & Becky, and invited us to also see the original log cabin that was first built on the property.

Original Nelson Pioneer Farm Cabin 1843 | Biker Chick News

Original Nelson Pioneer Farm Cabin 1843 | Biker Chick News

Original Nelson Pioneer Farm Cabin 1843 | Biker Chick News

Original Nelson Pioneer Farm Cabin 1843 | Biker Chick News

Original Nelson Pioneer Farm Cabin 1843 | Biker Chick News

From this point forward, as Joe told us more and more details about the farm, he would mention in passing some other building – and then invite us to see it. So as it turned out, we got a very detailed tour from a person who knew literally every nook and cranny of the place. We saw not just the original cabin but also the larger two-story brick house built in 1853…

Brick House, Nelson Pioneer Farm 1853 | Biker Chick News

Brick House, Nelson Pioneer Farm 1853 | Biker Chick News

Brick House, Nelson Pioneer Farm 1853 | Biker Chick News

Brick House, Nelson Pioneer Farm 1853 | Biker Chick News

Brick House, Nelson Pioneer Farm 1853 | Biker Chick News

Brick House, Nelson Pioneer Farm 1853 | Biker Chick News

 

… the summer kitchen and “meat house”…

Summer Kitchen & Meat House | Biker Chick News

Summer Kitchen | Biker Chick News

Meat House | Biker Chick News

 

…the occasional odd contraption such as this underground storage unit…

Underground refrigerator | Biker Chick News
… and the carriage and workshop barn.

Carriage Barn | Biker Chick News

Carriage Barn | Biker Chick News

Example woodworking shop | Biker Chick News
With these buildings we took about two hours of Joe’s time – and when we finally ended up at the actual museum building itself, he accompanied us through that and gave us the official museum Scavenger Hunt list to complete. At this point we also met the manager of the museum. She and Joe both work on behalf of the Mahaska County Historical Society.

Joe & The Divas, Nelson Pioneer Farm & Museum | Biker Chick News
This was a really wonderful place and I think our sincere interest in the antiques and stories, and of course our animated and silly antics/bad jokes, perhaps encouraged Joe to share his knowledge. We so appreciated it!

Steel horses on the farm | Biker Chick News

 

Because we had spent so much time at the museum, we took a fairly direct route home along Highway 163 which put us back into Des Moines on the city’s east side. It was a fantastic and memorable day, and the Nelson Pioneer Farm & Museum is one of Iowa’s true historic treasures.

Divas ride to Ogden and Boone

by on May 30, 2016
in Iowa Rides

Had a lovely ride on May 23 with a small contingent of the Chrome Divas, with plans to have lunch in Ogden and then a visit to a small museum in Boone.

Chrome Divas Ogden Ride | Biker Chick News

We left Sambetti’s around 10:30 in the morning and traveled north through the Saylorville Lake area, on to and through Madrid, and north toward the Iowa Arboretum along R26, but instead of turning east on E57 to the Arboretum, we turned west and then north again on R18. This took us to the junction of Highway 30, which we crossed, and then turned west to head into Ogden, Iowa along E41, part of the original Lincoln Highway.

This was a very pretty ride on a couple of roads I’ve never been on before – always so happy to discover a new path!

Ogden is a small town of about 2,000 people in Boone County, quiet but with a great little restaurant called The Lucky Pig – bigger inside than it looks outside, and excellent food… tenderloins, pulled pork, shoestring onion rings, and dessert… typical Iowa, too much great food at an affordable price!

Chrome Divas Ogden Ride | Biker Chick News

After lunch we headed east out of Ogden to the town of Boone along E41, which is a really beautiful and curvy little stretch that on this day was showing off large patches of purple blooming Dame’s Rocket all along the way. (Although at this point in the ride, I admit I was not able to focus much on the scenery… just outside of Ogden, I ran over a black plastic piece of something and heard a sort of “kitt-oonk” noise under my front tire… I was worried sick for a few miles that the tire was going to blow out or go down. Fortunately this did not materialize but I know I missed getting my full measure of appreciation for E41!)

Our destination in Boone was to be the Mamie Doud Eisenhower birthplace and museum.

Chrome Divas Ogden Ride | Biker Chick News

Chrome Divas Ogden Ride | Biker Chick News

Mrs. Eisenhower served as First Lady of the United States during her husband Dwight’s Presidency from 1953-61; she was born in Boone, spent some time as a small child in Cedar Rapids, and then was eventually raised in Colorado. She traveled extensively throughout her husband’s military career. In fact, it was not until they left the White House in 1961 that the Eisenhowers actually owned their first home – a farm near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Mamie Eisenhower 1953 | Biker Chick News

Mamie Eisenhower is said to have ushered in the widespread use of pastel pink throughout the 1950’s because of the pink gown she wore to her husband’s first inaugural ball in 1953.

The birthplace home in Boone is lovely: a small yellow frame house on a quiet residential street, located directly across the street from where it originally sat. (It was moved to make room for a larger church, and since we parked our bikes in a church parking lot across from the house’s present location, it’s likely we parked our bikes right in Mamie’s original living room!)

The house has been fully restored and furnished, and is now managed by the Boone County Historical Society. It features original Doud family furniture, a period “summer kitchen” and garage (apparently including Mamie’s 1962 Plymouth Valiant in the garage!), and is surrounded by neatly tended perennial plants and landscaping.

Alas, despite indications that it was to be open for visitors until 5 pm, the museum was closed when we arrived around 1 so we could not go in. We pouted on the front porch, took a couple photos through the windows, and enjoyed the landscaping to the extent that we could.

Chrome Divas Ogden Ride | Biker Chick News

Our trip home took us through Boone along Mamie Eisenhower Avenue and then South Story Street, which we took south out of town and became a park road through Ledges State Park. We continued through and exited the park, heading east and eventually junctioning with Highway 17 just north of Luther, Iowa.

Chrome Divas Ogden Ride | Biker Chick News
A honk and a wave as we passed BFE Vintage Motorcycles in Luther – where they had all their vintage bikes parked out in the parking lot… a stop here would’ve been a great vintage bike show for sure! – and we continued on southward through Slater, Sheldahl and Polk City, again through the Saylorville area and then each of us “toward home.”

We will have to return to Boone to take the tour of Mamie’s house – and, maybe it’s time for another ride on the Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad.

 

Divas ride: a truck, a tree, a trail, and some cool vintage bikes

by on May 1, 2016
in Iowa Rides

Okay I promised to try to share some of last year’s rides, so here’s a wonderful trip that our Chrome Divas chapter took in April. This was our first ride of 2015, but as it turned out, the weather was really crappy so we ended up riding together in Seven Over’s truck instead. (Her plan for the day was irresistible, and we decided that having “social time” would be just as valuable as having “bike time.” Turmed out, we were right about that!)

sambetti

Our monthly chapter rides are always the fourth Saturday of the month, and in 2015 our date happened to coincide with Arbor Day. As it also happened, author Mark Hirsch was making an appearance at the Iowa Arboretum near Madrid to showcase his unique book, That Tree. Janet/Seven Over is a huge fan of this book, and in fact has met Mark several times.  Our first stop was therefore the Iowa Arboretum, where Mark was scheduled to participate in a tree planting.

arb4

An experience like this always fascinates me because it seems you just never can really know another person’s path unless you take time to talk with them. What I mean is – on the surface, isn’t it cool that a guy used his iPhone to post a picture-a-day of a particular favorite tree, and then published a book of the photos? Sure – but, there is so much more to the story. In Mark’s case, he was an active photojournalist who became the victim of an accident that left him with long roads of physical and emotional recovery. The photos he took and shared of “That Tree” actually became a huge part of his healing process.

hirsch2

We attended the tree planting at the Iowa Arboretum along with Mark and several other brave-the-weather Arboretum supporters, including a group of Cub Scouts. It was here that one of the folks on the Arboretum’s board of directors told a joke that made me giggle to the point of distraction. “Did you hear about the two silk worms who competed in a race? They ended up in a tie.” I’m serious, I almost peed my pants over that one.

hirsch4

But I digress. After meeting Mark and participating in the tree planting ceremony, we traveled just a couple miles up the road to Luther, Iowa where we took some time to discover BFE Vintage Motorcycles.

bfe8

BFE is a cool little bike shop filled with old bikes of various makes and models, in various stages of repair or restoration. They have a small showroom full of bikes, multiple projects going at once, apparel for sale, and of course friends and fans on hand to talk shop.

bfe1

bfe9

bfe2a

bfe3

Our final stop on the day’s journey was a fun little restaurant in Woodward called The Whistlin’ Donkey. This is a great example of a phenomenon in Iowa that I call trail bars. We have an extensive network in Iowa of bicycle/recreation trails, and there are bars and restaurants along many of them. Primarily they cater to bicyclists using the trails, but they’re often great stops for motorcyclists too and we have tried out several. The Donkey served up an excellent lunch and also invited us to record a message for their Facebook page.

Despite the mostly uncooperative weather, we had a wonderful day of fellowship and Iowa sight-seeing!

 

A new season underway

by on April 25, 2016
in Iowa Rides

Haha so here we are again, yes I’m still riding… last year was not without some wonderful days on the bike… it was just mostly without blog posts!

radioWhen last we left, I was just getting ready to go on the air with Iowa radio legend Keith Kirkpatrick, who had invited me on his “Sportsman’s Notebook” program to talk about being a woman rider, a motorcyclist in general, and my e-book, “Get On.”

It was a lot of fun, and last year gave me two other opportunities to share my love of riding in Iowa: In May I gave a talk at the senior community where I work, really just a slide show of some of my favorite rides and sharing some great stories… the residents loved it and as a result of that in August I was invited to give a similar talk at our sister senior community in Indianola. The residents – again mostly from Iowa and familiar with many of the towns I was featuring – seemed to enjoy the stories I shared as well as the photos, and they were excited to step outside with me and have photos taken with the bike. It was truly a highlight of the year!

Village1b

I’ll try to share a few more rides from the year as soon as I can – I’ve acquired a new computer since then and a lot of my photos are on the old machine. (blah blah excuses blah blah)

Anyway, THIS year we have had a weird Spring. I took two short rides back in February, then none in March, and here we are near the end of April and I just had my “next” pair of rides.

April 23 was the first ride of the Season for my Chrome Divas chapter, and it happened to coincide with the annual Blessing of the Bikes event at Big Barn Harley Davidson. So the Divas met up at Sambetti’s (our official gathering spot and Chapter sponsor!) and rode as a group up 2nd Avenue to Big Barn. We rolled in and were able to park as a group despite the crowd, which was… in the words of a current political candidate… HUUUUUUUGGEEE!!!

sambettis

barn1
In fact, the drone photo below by Found Photography beautifully captures the scope and size of this year’s Blessing. (A sincere thanks to FP owner Jack for allowing me to use his photo – please be sure to check out his website for some absolutely stunning photo work!)

barn_found

Photo courtesy of Found Photography, www.fpphotovideo.com/

Enjoyed the Blessing and lunch (as always) and the Divas then took a short ride up to Saylorville Lake where we rode to the water’s edge… a brief stop to assess the lake level (it’s low) and take some pictures, and we headed our separate ways for home since some of the gals had late-afternoon plans. In all it was a lovely day but I was wishing the ride could have been longer.

barn8b

barn9

barn7

 

The next day, Sunday, I was still wanting to ride but became ridiculously conflicted about whether to just go on a solo ride. You might remember I am not that big a fan of riding alone, (although I have certainly had some enjoyable solo rides)… but a number of factors convinced me to just do it. A look at my weather app suggested that we might get a thunderstorm late in the afternoon, and it was already about 2 pm. So I decided on just a short loop to the south along Highway 28, then east on Highway 92 to county road S23, and up S23 to the north through Palmyra – home of one of my favorite country churches.

Having discovered the Palmyra Church in 2012, I was a little saddened to see that its condition has deteriorated since that visit. Still on the National Historic Register, the exterior is showing some decay. I’m hopeful that there is still a group working on keeping this lovely little treasure intact.

church1

church2

church3

 

Fun weekend… still very early in the season here but starting to work on my biker tan!

church4

 

Main Street oddity in Milo

by on June 19, 2015
in Iowa Rides

Hard to believe it’s mid-June already and I’m still working to get caught up on blog posts, but that seems to be my life these days… A little behind and getting behinder! But no matter, its a beautiful summer so far and i have some fun rides to share with you!

In mid-April a friend and I took a nice scenic ride down to the town of Milo. We had heard that there was some kind of tower in the middle of town that you could get up into and look around which, it seemed to me, was a great reason to ride!

We took a semi-scenic route through Des Moines which included a run through the blooming crab apple grove in Water Works Park, then down Highway 5 to the Palmyra Road (aka S-23), down to Highway 92 and then jogged over to pick up S23 again to the south. I have been through the north end of Milo several times over the years, always on my way to somewhere else, but never actually rode down to Main Street.

This time we sought out the little business district and discovered there really is a tower… a sort of super-gazebo on stilts. Unfortunately, it must’ve been too early in the season for the tower to be open because the little ladder staircase was hitched up tight against the floor of the gazebo so we couldn’t climb up. (I think this “closed attractions” theme is getting a little out of hand – ahem, CRESTON.)

gazebo1

 

gazebo2

 

milo1

 

This structure is certainly the oddest thing I’ve seen in the middle of a Main Street intersection in all my years of riding… in fact, it might be the only thing I’ve seen in the middle of a Main Street intersection… but I do think it would be neat to re-visit on a day when one could climb up and get the bird’s-eye view, assuming one is a bird perched… say, 12 feet off the ground…

april11Anyway after puzzling about the gazebo for a brief time we headed south out of Milo on S23, then at Lacona we turned west and took G76 – another favorite road! – over to New Virginia. Came back up north on R45 at New Virginia, then up Highway 28 through Martensdale, Norwalk, and Lakewood into West Des Moines.

In all it was about 120 miles and part of a lovely start to the riding season!

 

 

Early-season rides have been fun!

by on May 29, 2015
in Iowa Rides

self6I didn’t really write up a “first ride of the season” post this year, but thought maybe instead I’d just recap some of the shorties I did earliest in the season. The first time I was on the bike was back in March, just a quick jaunt around town after juicing up the bike on a battery tender. Then maybe a week later I took a “real ride” a few miles west over to Van Meter – this one was about 40 minutes, but was just enough to get out on the highway for a bit and reassure myself that yes, I still remember how to do it!

On April 1 I took a very nice solo run up around Saylorville Lake that included a little shopping at Big Barn, some stops for “selfies,” and a short stop at the water’s edge for some overly-dramatic bike pictures (“bikies,” I’ve decided to call them).

I also stopped at an overlook by Camp Dodge, the Iowa National Guard training camp, to admire the retired military equipment. Do you remember a place from your childhood where you always wanted to stop every time you drove by with your parents, but they never would for some reason? Well, “the tank” at Camp Dodge was just such a place for me. So now that I am an adult, I do try to stop here whenever I can.

klakesun

 

sandbar

 

ktank

I wonder which place my daughter would name as The Place Mom Would Never Stop…?

 

 

Chrome Divas ride to Prairie City

by on May 20, 2014
in Iowa Rides

I am a little behind on my ride reports these days – what can I say… shiny objects distracted me! But I’ve had a few lovely rides and must share a bit about them!

A few years ago, Steve and I rode over to the Neil Smith National Wildlife Refuge with Garry, Shirley and Janet/Seven Over, but we didn’t have much time to wander around. I’ve always wanted to go back and study the learning center a little more carefully, and the Chrome Divas were amenable when I mentioned it as a potential ride destination in late April.

neilsmith7
Our little chapter is now up to 12 members, though not everyone was able to attend the ride. Our day started with lunch at the Sugar Shack, a 50’s-themed diner in the nearby community of Altoona. We tend to get a little silly whenever we gather, and it’s always a round-robin of road stories and general fun conversation (hot dogs – why does everyone make fun of me for frequently ordering hot dogs? I mean, a good weiner is really hard to find, right?! Oh… wait.)

neilsmith8After lunch we headed off to the east along 8th St. SE in Altoona, which becomes County Road F48 heading toward Colfax, Lambs Grove and Newton. It eventually becomes old Highway 6 (the Grand Army of the Republic Highway), a classic east/west highway with lots of history, running through small towns with cool roadside attractions. I love F48 – there’s a hillcrest before coming down into Colfax where the view opens up and you can see a patchwork of farmland for several miles laid out – the first time I saw this view, several years ago, it hit me: Iowa is a beautiful state! I’ve been an advocate for it ever since.

Anyway, into Colfax and south on Highway 117 to Prairie City – good thing it was a short hop (less than 10 miles) from here to our destination, because the wind was absolutely brutal along this stretch!

What I remembered most about our previous visit to the Wildlife Refuge (also a prairie restoration area) was the long and winding entrance road with prairie grasses waving gently on either side – it creates a beautiful and calming “whhhissshh – whhhissshh” sound as you ride through it.

What was evident the moment we arrived this time, however, was that this trip would not offer up the same experience. The area had recenly been subject to an apparent controlled/prescribed burn, so the entire landscape along the entrance road was charred and blackened.

neilsmith1

At first I was a bit disappointed and taken aback – but then I realized, in its own way this was beautiful too. And I knew, even before we learned more about the burn technique, that the burn had a purpose: to wipe out the invasive weed species and allow the native prairie plants to come back strengthened. Eventually we walked along a loop of the trail and could get a good look at the scope of the burn – several thousand acres, it turns out – and the Conservationist on duty in the learning center (along with a friendly volunteer named Larry) explained the process to us.

neilsmith2

We also spent some time browsing in the gift shop. (A cute animal-identification book for kids called “Whose Butt?” set the tone for our shopping experience, much to Volunteer Larry’s chagrin. He would be forced to endure our silliness for the next two hours.) We watched a short educational video about the history of the Iowa prairie and the development of the wildlife refuge, and spent some quality time looking at the various exhibits about the flora and fauna of the (restored) prairie.

neilsmith9

We also goaded poor Larry into posing with us for a group picture in front of the stuffed bison on display. I think (or at least I hope) he was happy to do so, especially considering that at least one of us made an actual purchase: Penney bought the cutest hat in the shop!

neilsmith5

neilsmith9a
Thoroughly enjoyed this visit despite the lack of tall waving prairie grass, and we headed home late in the afternoon to the west along Highway 163. Going this direction, we had the tailwind so it was actually a very enjoyable ride back into Des Moines. We split off in various directions for home once we reached the eastern edge of town with our first chapter ride of the year now behind us.

With the chilly wet Spring we’ve had, it sure seemed a long time coming!

 

 

 

2014 Bike Blessing and a special meet-up

by on April 22, 2014
in Iowa Rides

longview50We had a beautiful and delightful day on April 19 for the ABATE of Iowa Blessing of the Bikes – morning temps were in the upper 50’s and we hit mid-70’s by the afternoon.

My Chrome Divas group had made plans to meet at Sambetti’s at 9:30 and roll into the blessing together, so Steve and I headed over and we met up with several of the gals to ride in to Big Barn Harley Davidson here in Des Moines. We arrived at the Barn about 10 am for the 11 am blessing, and there were already quite a few bikes on hand.

janetglendaWe did a little bike browsing and – huge treat! – I finally got to meet a friend I’ve been emailing with for almost a year! Glenda had contact me last year and asked me to add a poker run to my event calendar that her family organizes each year. At the time, I also wrote up a little post about the run to help promote it, because the story behind it really resonated with me.

Through email letters, my new pen pal and I quickly discovered that we share the exact same birthday – month, day and year! – and, have a special love for a particular pattern of vintage dinnerware. Because of all this – plus more things in common AND our shared love of riding, we became fast friends online and now finally have been able to meet in person and ride together! It was very gratifying to get to meet Glenda and her husband Pat!

The bike blessing event was lovely as always – there was live music, a large-group blessing, and then the opportunity to wait by your bike and have a member of the Christian Motorcycle Association say a special individual blessing. We then enjoyed the chili feed put on by ABATE District 4, and finally decided to take off on a short ride.

At this point we were also joined by another new friend, Kelly, whom we had met on a previous visit to the Barn.

kittenrow50Our ride route was simple and the group consisted of myself, Steve, Garry, Shirley, Pat, Glenda and Kelly. We rode north away from the Barn on Highway 415 and turned with 415 to the west, along the north side of Saylorville Lake into Polk City.

We traveled north out of Polk City up to Highway 210, then jogged east into Slater, where we landed at the Night Hawk Bar & Grille – a little place adjacent to a bicycle trail that we had discovered last year while Road Pickling with Sash & Highway.

Spent about an hour just visiting and enjoying our beverages, then everyone headed home or on to their next Saturday activity.

I thoroughly enjoyed this day… although I didn’t take many photos, you can see the ones I did take in my Bike Blessing 2014 album on Facebook.

 

 

Next Page »