We tried out the new spur of central Iowa’s Raccoon River Valley Trail on Sunday, riding 38 miles round trip from Waukee to Perry through the small towns of Dallas Center and Minburn. The trail was straight and flat (which explains why we rode so far) and pretty scenic, lined on either side primarily by fertile fields of corn and soybeans. (Perfect for a tutorial from my ag expert husband on how you can tell the difference, visually, between a field of seed corn, the kind grown to produce seeds that are planted to grow corn, vs. commercial corn, the kind grown to feed livestock.)
Having small towns to ride through every six miles or so helped keep the scenery from getting too monotonous. In Dallas Center, we spotted a nice b&b on a side street (The Yellow Swan, see photos above) and in Minburn, a little park at the edge of the trail had some cool old farm equipment that we sat in and posed for photos. In Perry, we chanced upon a terrific little Mexican restaurant off the main drag called Taqueria Villa, serving very fresh, well-seasoned, and delicious tacos (we had the “authentic Mexican” style, trying three kinds – Roasted Pork, Grilled Steak and Rotisserie Pork). The prices were almost embarrassingly cheap – a substantial portion of guacamole for $1 – yes $1. What costs $1 anymore? Add chips and it was $3. The tacos were $2 each. The owner took obvious pride in his food and service, which we greatly appreciated. Word has it you can find him and his food at this year’s World Food and Music Festival (part of the World Food Prize festivities) Sept. 20-21 in Des Moines’ East Village if you can’t make the trek to his little hole-in-the-wall in Perry. We were saddened to see the shuttered Hotel Pattee (hope that changes soon) but impressed by the Raccoon River Valley Bicycle Co., an unusually elegant bike shop in what was once the hotel’s gift shop.