Category Archives: bike trails

Check out my story in Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s magazine: the Raccoon River Valley Trail

Here it is!  Click here! (This is the photo taken by my friend Denise…that was used below. And yes, that’s me riding….)


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Captain Roy’s – a new spot to stop while biking on the Neal Smith Trail in Des Moines

Good thing Dirck remembered that there is a new place to stop, as we were riding our bikes on the Neal Smith Trail near Birdland Marina  on Des Moines’ East Side Sunday.  We rode right past Captain Roy’s, without noticing it, but backtracked and found a pleasant little clearing with outdoor tables and a deck overlooking the Des Moines River, as well as a food truck serving burgers and chicken and waffles and a small building with a takeout window  for beer and other drinks. We sat in the sunshine, watching the occasional boat go by on the Des Moines River, enjoying a late summer/early fall day.

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Biking the Thames Path from Mortlake to Kingston, London zoo nite, Namaaste kitchen/Camden – London

Beautiful weather (sunny but not as hot as yesterday) so once we got on bikes in Mortlake along the Thames Path, we didn’t want to get off. On a Friday, the trail along the river was largely empty until we got to major tourist areas like Richmond and towns like Kingston and it felt like we were very far from big city London. At times, we could have been in a small country village, with weeping willows draped over the quiet narrow winding river, dirt and stone trails under shady trees, little lanes leading to town. We passed     houseboats, kids learning to kayak in a river inlet, small tour boats heading to Hampton Court, riverside pubs and restaurants, tourists hanging out in Richmond.

We stopped at the Petersham Nurseries for lunch at the tearoom. Pricy but good food (sandwiches, salads including a chicken salad with lentils I must try to replicate) and we ate in the garden, watching staff in the neighboring greenhouse cutting flowers to make beautiful bouquets. We didn’t quite make it to Hampton Court (next time, we need to cross the Kingston bridge and ride inland on the other side of the river) but we stumbled upon the bustling square at Kingston which was very lively, with a big outdoor farmers market, a cool old town hall with a gold statue, a pretty old church and yard. S0uth of Kingston was not as nice. The bike trail and terrain became urban/suburban. NO thanks so we turned back and st teddimgton Lock, road to the Ham Gate of Richmond Park. With the exception of one challenging  uphill, we had a flat and pretty park ride. We did stop at a cafe because we were desperate for water and got gouged — 7 pounds for a water, small ice tea and flapjack. Next time we go on what turned out to be a 25 mike ride in London we need to remember our water bottle and day pack.

At night, we trekked to Richmond Park for an evening opening of the London Zoo, where we found better people watching than animal watching although there were cool monkeys and penguins.The zoo was packed with young people in particular. Dinner was Indian/Bangladeshi and excellent at Namaaste Kitchen (64 Parkway) in Camden, which was full of kids going to pubs and clubs. I fell asleep on the #24 bus ride back to Hammersmith station where we got a cab to Mortlake, arriving “home” at 1 a.m.

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Riding from Perry to Jamaica (Iowa) on the Raccoon River Valley Trail

We explored a new section (for us) of the Raccoon River Valley Trail in central Iowa yesterday — about  a 20-mile ride round trip between Perry and the tiny town of Jamaica (via another small town, Dawson) and really enjoyed. If only the temperature hadn’t been hovering around 95 degrees. This is the newer section of the trail so very smooth and in great shape. The stretch is very flat, leading through classic Iowa farm country and often tree-lined so shady in parts (which we appreciated on a very hot sunny day). 

We stopped in Dawson at the beautifully restored depot, which has a recreated freight area, nice bathrooms, an indoor water faucet and old historical photos and a mural of an old train.

In the town of Jamaica (must find out how an Iowa town ended up with this name), we stumbled upon the bar Just One More, that had much-appreciated AC in its dark back room. A woman was grilling brats and burgers outside so we had a late lunch —  two brats, a Fat Tire and lemonade – plus free popcorn – for $8 total. After chatting with some guys in the bar (one told us he was fixing his “first ex-wife’s” old farm), we ate in the screened-in porch at a high top table overlooking a small town rural scene (fields, an old ballpark etc.). The place seemed to cater to both kinds of bikers (motorcycles and bicycles.)

In Perry, we dropped by the bike shop next to the Hotel Pattee, which was having a 40 percent off sale on bike clothes – and also at Stitches in Time, an antique/junk shop, where I found a very nice quilt for $40. We also stopped at the ice cream shop along the trail in Dallas County.


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More good things in Des Moines – Akebono (sushi), new Farmers Market vendors, spiffed up Graziano Mkt, new East Village places

New improved Graziano’s meat counter, DSM

Good stuff keeps coming to Des Moines and this longtime resident remains thankful. Even Graziano’s, the old Italian specialty store on the south side has spiffed up with some major remodeling – and is now surrounded by new apartment complexes.

I didn’t think we’d have many people to watch as we ate on the patio at Akebono, a Japanese restaurant with good sushi, in downtown Des Moines last Saturday night but the streets were hopping. Part of it had to do with a food truck event  nearby at the Des Moines Social Club, some Kentucky Derby partygoers, some Prom kids and a crowd at the restaurant Malo but it still amazes me to see so much happening in a once obscure corner of downtown. We enjoyed Akebono’s food and service too (although the poke didn’t resemble the kind I’ve enjoyed in places like Hawaii and LA.)

The farmers market opened to a huge crowd (the weather was gorgeous) and I was pleased to see new vendors such as 5 Borough Bagels from Clive and Scenic Route Bakery from the East Village. The new HyVee also  fit right in, which is a relief. People on the HyVee patio were eating what looked like good brunch entrees including French Toast.

We stopped at Zombie Burger during a bike ride and were a bit disappointed by their new recipe for fries and the cranberry-Gorgonzola salad. We preferred the less crunchy fries and the salad with a less sweet dressing and bacon (although Zombie kindly added bacon to our salad anyway). Sitting on the patio, we took note of all the new buildings surrounding us, which makes the place feel more urban and busy, including the AC Hotel which has what we’ve been told is a great rooftop bar.

On the Great Western Trail, we were relieved to see that the changes in the trail to accommodate the Microsoft server plant and a highway near Orilla have not messed up our favorite trail. Also pleased to see that the pub Outskirtz looked more open for passing bikers on a Sunday than I’ve seen in the past.

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Ames/Wheatsfield Co-op and DSM/new Bill Riley bike trail leg and acrobatic yoga

Victoria campaigning!

We drove to Ames last Saturday to help our friend Victoria Szopinski launch her campaign for mayor (Run Victoria Run!) and ended up taking a drive around downtown and campus since I haven’t been there in years. So long in fact that I last visited the Wheatsfield Co-op when in a little downtown brick shopfront (as I recall). It’s now in a bigger freestanding building on west edge of downtown – nice place, although not quite as amazing as Iowa City’s Co-op.

One Sunday, it was suddenly spring again (the last we saw spring was, oddly, in February) so we rode bikes through Water Works Park  along the Bill Riley and Great Western Trails toward Cumming. On the return at Park Ave. near Orlondo’s, we took a new spur of the Bill Riley Trail paralleling George Flagg Parkway that was handy (given there was construction on the regular trail and Flagg Pkway) through the woods along packed dirt (at least it wasn’t gravel) to meet up with the paved stretch of the trail leading to Gray’s Lake Park, where we picnicked and watched a group of very limber and fearless young people doing what we learned is called Acrobatic Yoga. (Imagine the old airplane rides you give little kids, where their tummy rest on your extended legs – and then imagine the kids, actually in this case, limber and fearless young person starts doing all kinds of twists and turns and what appeared to be handstands while atop your extended legs. Crazy)


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Jackson Street Bridge, Americana Restaurant – 70 degree temps in February in Des Moines!

1dirckbridgepixMeant to post this a week ago…

There were near traffic jams on the bike trails in Des Moines yesterday – and not surprising considering that this is the first time I can ever remember riding my bike here in 70 degree weather on Feb. 19th. Something weird is happening with our climate, no doubt, but it was great to get outside and hit the trails during what is usually one of winter’s worst months. Also pleased to see that the Jackson Street Bridge near Principal Park has reopened, better than ever.

Also need to mention that Americana Restaurant‘s hamburger was amazingly good on Friday night (when I was in emotional distress and in need of a serious burger and an outing with old friends). I’m always impressed when a burger actually arrives medium rare – when I’ve ordered it medium rare – and the extra fixings made it even better.

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Filed under bike trails, biking, Des Moines, Dining