Bike riding has been our saving grace during the travel-limiting pandemic – and I write this, sadly, while RAGBRAI was supposed to be happening. Peddling along our favorite loop ride from Beaverdale to downtown Des Moines yesterday , we admired new attractions in Waterworks Park downtown and Riverview Park, near North High School.
Waterworks Park is now home to a sculpture honoring RAGBRAI founders John Karras and Don Kaul, who we remember fondly from working in the 1990s at the DM Register during happier days (for newspapers and the world beyond…). Adjacent is a fantastic new playground/playscape made of huge grey rounded logs that reminded me of the Flintstones and an F Troop fort. Would love to see what kids make of it. And this is all part of the great new outdoor amphitheater there, where last year we enjoyed a free DSM Symphony concert (in the rain, no less).
The tunnel leading under Fleur Drive from Waterworks to Grey’s Lake Park is not technically open but it proved a fantastic alternative to riding across four lanes of busy traffic. It’s also very attractive.
The redevelopment of Riverview Park is coming along nicely – with a huge outdoor amphitheater rising and a fun new old-fashioned-looking playground with a red and white carnival look that I assume is a big nod to the former Riverview Amusement Park, which was built on this site in 1915 – based on Brooklyn’s Coney Island – and lasted until 1978. The amphitheater stage has acrazy 60-foot high steel arch that mimics the Amusement park’s old rollercoaster and is named after the Riviera Ballroom that was once part of the park, hosting luminaries including Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington!.
Seeing these new projects gives me hope during a bleak time.
I have such fond memories of warm summer nights on the lawn of Meadowbrook Hall in suburban Detroit, listening to live music performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Flash forward to Des Moines , which has a new outdoor stage in Waterworks Park for concerts by, among others, the Des Moines Symphony. Last night’s weather was not ideal – light intermittent rain – but what a treat to sit on a lawn chair on the green grass, watching clouds drift by in the sky, eating ice cream served from The Outer Scoop’s truck and listening to John Williams’ movie scores played by the Des Moines symphony. Oh, and did I mention that the concert was free? there were two free symphony concerts this year. Next up, performances by Ben Folds and Maren Morris …neither free.
We really haven’t gotten that perfect spring weather for biking yet (except for last Monday, when temps rose to the 70s, but then plummeted a day later and it got rainy). But last Saturday under overcast skies and with a cold wind, we did our first ride of the spring on our favorite loop through Beaverdale/Drake neighborhood to South of Grand to downtown Des Moines and back to Beaverdale/Drake, which includes bits of several officially-named trails (Walnut Creek, Bill Riley, Meredith, John Pat Dorian and the Inter-urban).
Each spring, we’re braced for various construction projects that may hamper our journey but the three c0nstruction projects we came upon all had handy detours that takeyou around the bridge construction at 63rd and Grand); past the closed footbridge west of I-Cubs Stadium; ); and around the construction at the Botanical Center. It also was nice to see that last year’s construction on the west side of the Riverwalk by Court Avenue appears to be done (or at least done enough that you can now ride along this stretch of the trail by the river.)
A more detailed look at our favorite 18-mile loop: We ride from our Drake/Beaverdale neighborhood house south from the Franklin Library to 56th Street, then south through the woodsy trail around there to 63rd street and Grand; then east along another wooded trail to Waterworks Park and Gray’s Lake, past I-Cubs stadium and the East Village downtown;, then back north along the river along the Dorrian trail (which I always confuse with the Neal Smith trail further north) to the trestle bridge that leads west to MLKing Blvd;and then uphill on the Urbandale trail and over to 38th Street (or so) and south to our house. Our ride was about 18 miles.