#Bookstrong: Eight Hours in Des Moines

Another Midwest Indie Bookstore from the Roadmap!

If you add up all the hours I spent in West Des Moines and Des Moines it totaled about eight hours (minus sleeping). Of that time, half was spent eating well. My son Tevis and I dined at Barn Town Brewing for dinner one evening. We enjoyed our food and smiled at the popcorn brought out to every table instead of bread (see below). With our cousins David and Diana (and friends) we also enjoyed an Italian meal at Billy Vee’s.

On my last day in Iowa, I had a later flight so I met up with my cousin John at a local coffee place (while a chain, still very much an Iowa place). The Smokey Row is a great place for coffee, ice cream and breakfast and lunch items.

I made a quick trip to Beaverdale Books to check out my last Midwest Indie Bookstore from the Roadmap. Then I went to the Des Moines Art Center. Admission is free, so it easy to spend as little or as much time as you like. I lingered over a special exhibit, “Lea Grundig’s Anti-Fascist Art.” Then it was time to head to the airport and return my rental car. I was worn out from driving but happy with the amount of time I had with friends and family.

Falling Under Pella’s Charm Spell


Pella, Iowa is a charming town built around a square, as many communities in #MiddleAmerica are, with architectural distinctions from its Dutch founding families. There is a historic portion of town where the buildings are preserved as they might have been in the 1800s. I focused on the more modern parts of town during “Thursday Night on the Square.”

This particular Thursday had an agricultural theme with Vermeer tractors, NRCS soil health booth, and the Iowa Corn trailer explaining the many wonders and uses of corn. There are also a number of fun stores to browse (including a quilt shop), but a must is Jaarsma Bakery where I tried the Dutch Letters for the first time. The only letters are an “S” and they are a light flaky pastry around an almond filling similar to that used in bear claws. It was delicious.

My cousin Lori lives in Pella, but because the other six siblings and families live closer to Stuart and Des Moines, she’s always been the one to drive to our gatherings. I decided on this trip to satisfy my curiosity about Pella. It is famous as a Dutch town with a tulip festival. It is a sister city to Holland, MI (where I visited in May). It is also the headquarters of the window manufacturer. It is a prosperous and friendly community. It is definitely worth the drive, even if you don’t have a cousin to visit.

Ginormous Des Moines Farmers Market

Des Moines Farmers MArketI thought I have seen some really big Farmers’ Markets, but nothing in my experience rivals the Saturday morning Farmers’ Market in downtown Des Moines. Wow. It stretches from the riverwalk to the Courthouse. and goes down at least a block in each direction on every cross street. My cousins and I spent a Saturday morning taking it all in.

There is a fairly large Amish community in Iowa. They had baking stalls at the Farmers' Market and along the RAGBRAI route.
There are a fair number of Amish communities in Iowa. These women had baking stalls at the Farmers’ Market and others set up along the RAGBRAI route.

We ate breakfast, stopped at Java Joe’s for a cup of coffee and checked out the entertainment as we slowly strolled the grounds.

Steel drum band next to the Amish basket and craft booth.
Steel drum band next to the Amish basket and craft booth.

The diversity in Iowa is “white diversity” with different religious sects and nationalities. Bluegrass entertainment

Amish craftsDowntown Des Moines appears to be in full renaissance and features a beautifully redeveloped riverwalk. At the end of my visit I enjoyed dining at Centro (also downtown) and could envision spending more time in Des Moines.

Des Moine Riverwalk

I only saw corn and soybeans on my ride through Iowa. They grow these beauties somewhere (besides Cousin Kathy’s huge garden). The Farmers’ Market is a fun outing.

vegetables at Des Moines farmers' marketonions, onions, onions

RAGBRAI Finale, Day 7 Woohoo!

American Julie with Hawkeye at University of Iowa.
American Julie with Hawkeye at University of Iowa.

Who turned on the sauna? I thought it was humid before today, but oh my! I was wrong. Today was like hot yoga on my bike. I still enjoyed the 26 miles I rode before meeting up with Team Larry.

We left at 7 a.m. and I wrote the first 10 or more miles with Steve from Team Larry and got to hear his many life stories. I appreciate that he can talk while going uphill. I especially liked seeing the Iowa University campus in Iowa City. I was moaning about how hard the hills felt and then I met a young man who is cycling whilst towing a canoe. He is doing it to raise awareness and money for ALS research. He said he likes towing his canoe around on his bike and when he gets tired of traffic he lloads his bike and trailer onto his canoe and pedals awhile. He added that he gets tired of people staring at him with his canoe and he lost a friend to ALS in 2014 so he painted the ALS web address to basically make him seem less odd. Anyway he reminded me that it is easier to go uphill when you can use both your arms and legs. Good perspective.

Humidity and bike shorts do not get along.
Humidity and bike shorts do not get along.

Steve stopped to pee in a cornrow and I decided to keep riding to the Farmboys pop up restaurant and use the porta-potties. You know it is humid when you cannot pull your cycling shorts back on. Awkward. Even with all of the adjusting I was not able to get my chamois aligned. Fortunately I only had 6 to 8 miles left to ride.

Team Larry SAG support Lane from Atlanta met me in West Liberty and drove me to the Team Larry meet-up. In Wilton we shifted my bike and our van set off for Des Moines. A third of Team Larry did not ride at all, a third rode to the end at Davenport, and a third of us rode part of the way. People have a variety of schedules to meet.

On the way home we stopped in Grinnell and ate great food at Montgomery’s Sandwich Shop (one of the original Made-Rite restaurants). It was fun and tasty. Good thing one of these restaurants is not in my home town or I would weigh a ton.

Loved Montgomery's in Grinnell, IA
Loved Montgomery’s in Grinnell, IA

We arrived at Steve and Barb’s in Des Moines and unloaded the gear. We all said good-bye and Cousin John brought me to the Hampton Inn. Blame it on RAGBRAI brain but I thought my key was not working and when I got back to the front desk I realized it was room 208 not 206.

I am now showered and relaxing and listening to the Satellite Sisters podcast. I am so exhausted and I have such a good feeling of accomplishment.

#RAGBRAI or Bust

Today I started in Des Moines, participating in #PieperFamilyPalooza. We went to the Des Moines Farmers Market. I have many pictures so I will post at a later date. (I am determined to post daily during RAGBRAI and if today is any indication I will have to make it short and sweet.) My cousin John Wagner picked me up about 11:00 a.m. and we headed to Barb and Steve’s aka Team Larry Headquarters. After several hours of gathering, loading and eating we hit the road for Sioux City.

Christi was the first team member to collect her wristband and bikeband.
Christi was the first team member to collect her wristband and bikeband.

Sometime I’ll have to come back and see the Lewis and Clark Expedition museum and enjoy the downtown. Tonight was about getting acquainted with Team Larry and learning to set up my tent. We did not walk to dinner until around 8 p.m.  Our group is about 23 people and on the 20th anniversary ride for Team Larry, the tag-line “herding cats since 1996” is well deserved. Great bunch of people.

Everyone keeps saying tomorrow is the hardest day:  the most hills, a long ride and lots of nervous riders. I better try to get some sleep. Wish me luck.