We just managed to get in 30 miles of biking on the Chichaqua Trail, east of Des Moines – riding from the tiny town of Valeria (pop. 62, which may be an overcount) west through bucolic farmland (including surprisingly high corn for June) through the slightly bigger towns of Mingo, Ira (featuring an uncommonly clean, spacious port-a-potty in the park, which believe me, is good to know), and Baxter. We had to ride a little around the town of Baxter in order to accumulate a few more miles, including riding up the hill on the highway into town to the convenience store for some ice tea.
Part of the problem with clocking 30 miles on this trail is that it’s technically closed for repairs west of Valeria. (I’m not sure how far west. When we were on the trail last, in October, it was closed through to the start of the trail in Bondurant.) But even though there’s a big barrier blocking the trail at Valeria, when we were driving home and crossed the trail a little west of Valeria we spotted two riders we’d seen earlier on the trail who appeared to have ridden it west from Valeria. Hmmmm.
Valeria, by the way, has got to be one of the friendlier little towns we’ve ridden through. As we rode up and down the town’s two very short main streets, we were warmly greeted by everyone we passed – including a large group of people gathered in a circle on lawn chairs, who waved at us, and a guy mowing his lawn who stopped to wave and say “Howdy.” We remain intrigued about why – as the sign on the highway boasts – Valeria is the “Town of A Railroad Romance.”
On the way back to Des Moines, we stopped at a favorite east side ice cream stand, Granny’s on Hubbell Ave. That was dinner before we went to see the last performance of “Billy Elliott” at the Great Des Moines Civic Center, which was – as expected – fantastic.