Divas ride to Jefferson, Iowa

by on September 8, 2012
in Iowa Rides

Had an absolutely fabulous Sunday this past week riding with the Chrome Divas of Des Moines on our first annual Anniversary Ride. I had helped found a local chapter of this national organization last Fall, and we’ve been working to slowly build membership since that time. What has really hit home for us is how difficult it is to get all of us together for a ride, with varying work schedules and family commitments. So, suffice to say I was ecstatic to have 100 percent participation for this ride!

Our destination was the Mahanay Bell Tower in Jefferson, Iowa (population: about 4,500), located about 70 miles northwest of Des Moines. I thought it might be fun to try something different than the usual meet-in-the-middle starting point, so instead we did kind of a progressive gathering – those of us to the south met at one location in Des Moines, then rode to a stop in West Des Moines where we picked up more members of the group, then rode to the third stop to complete the group. It was here – in the parking lot of American Furniture & Electronics in Johnston – that we were finally able to get our first full-group picture!

Weather was looking like it could go either way, sunny or rainy, even as we gathered at American. It had been cloudy while enroute, but once there the sun came out. Then once we took off to the west, the clouds returned and I was leading us west along Highway 44 all the while thinking it was surely going to rain. (I have a habit of trying to carefully check out cars coming at us from the opposite direction – if they aren’t covered with raindrops, I figure we’re good at least til the next car comes along. LOL)

Anyway, we traveled west along 44 and stopped at the lake town of Panora. The convenience store there is a busy place because of Lake Panorama, but since we found actual sit-down tables and chairs inside, we stopped for a 20-minute late-morning snack and chat.

From Panora, we headed north along Highway 4 and straight into Jefferson. Along the ride we could definitely tell that Fall is on its way, and like all the seasons so far this year it’s a little early – a lot of the corn is dried out and crispy already, but it was the soybean fields that really caught my attention. The tops of the plants are golden yellow, but often the lower portions are still lush dark green. So it gives the effect of a huge field of flowers. Throw in a rustic barn and a softly rolling landscape, and it’s really beautiful. It’s hard to get a photo that adequately captures the colors – this one, which I took a few days later from a moving car, is close.

We arrived in Jefferson and easily found the bell tower and another attraction we had come to see: a statue of Jefferson High School graduate Doreen Wilber, who in 1972 became the first woman to earn an Olympic Gold medal in archery.

A friend of Janet’s is related to Doreen, so we took some time to read the marker and enjoyed the clever design of the statue itself: Ms. Wilber is in “firing position” (I’m sure there’s a real phrase for this in archery), aiming to the northeast. And across the intersection is the other half of the statue: a bronze target, ready to take the arrow.

Next we walked over to the bell tower for our turn at the top. The tower was a gift to the citizens of Jefferson (and really, all of Iowa!) by residents William and Nora Mahanay, who provided funding for its construction. It stands just over 168 feet high and houses 14 cast bells imported from the Netherlands. On a beautiful day like we had for our visit, you can see across 30 miles and five counties from the observation deck at 128 feet.

Our tour guides were Sandy and Dennis, an older volunteer couple who shared lots of color commentary about the tower, the town of Jefferson, and the surrounding area.

We spent about 20 minutes or so checking out the view from all angles in the tower, and even managed to pick out our lunch spot while looking down at the surrounding Jefferson business district. Eventually we took the elevator back down, snapped a few pictures with Sandy and Dennis, and walked back to the bikes. Scooted over to the Uptown Cafe for a very good local lunch, and again took the opportunity to “snag a stranger” to snap some group pictures.

Finally we also walked around the square and took pictures of the courthouse and surrounding businesses – some neat old architecture in this quiet little town!

The Mahanay Bell Tower is open daily Memorial Day through Labor Day, and weekends through September. I highly recommend (oh, get it? highly recommend… because it’s 128 feet up in the air… highly… yeah.) a visit! Here’s more information.

At mid-afternoon we were ready to head home via Highway 30 and County Road E57, which eventually would take us down to Madrid. So – thinking that the road marked with the original “Lincoln Highway” markers was Highway 30, I led us west out of town on what turned out NOT to be Highway 30. (Hey, as long as we’re on pavement and going approximately the right direction, I figure it’s all good…) After a bit if easterly and southerly meandering we did finally connect up with E57 at Rippey, Iowa, rode east past Berkeley and Highway 169, then south on R26 down to 210 and east into Madrid. Took another gab-stop at Madrid, and finally back into the Des Moines area via the Mile Bridge over Saylorville Lake. Our final stop was at a Casey’s in Johnston where we bid our farewells and all headed home in individual directions.

In all we rode about 150 miles – seven great gals, beautiful landscape, lots of laughs (I think we all agreed that the commemorative Bell Tower lapel pins had an interesting shape – THANK YOU, girls, for the one I received as a gift! Don’t you think it looks like the space shuttle? Haha, yes, I did too, but some of the girls had other ideas.), and yet another enjoyable Iowa destination. It’s why I love to ride, even if the road I’m on is not always the one I think I’m on! (Click here for the full photo album!)



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2 Responses to “Divas ride to Jefferson, Iowa”
  1. Trobairitz says:

    Now that looks like a fun day.

    Beautiful weather, great friends out for a ride and you got to see neat old architecture and an awesome bronze statue….. thanks for sharing.

  2. Pam says:

    How fun! Looks like a great group of ladies!!

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