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'A Little RAGBRAI' on the High Trestle Trail from Ankeny to Woodward, IA

The Flat Tire Lounge Ride Saturday, 5/12/12, on the paved High Trestle Trail from Ankeny to Woodward, IA, was the "little RAGBRAI" it promised to be.

The Flat Tire Lounge Ride Saturday, 5/12/12, on the paved High Trestle Trail was the "little RAGBRAI" it promised to be. The High Trestle Bridge stands 13 stories up from the Des Moines River, a winding, oxbow-lake style river in a green valley below.

My husband Jim and I arrived a day early to bike all of the High Trestle Trail, from Ankeny to Slater, through Madrid, and up to Woodward, Iowa, on Friday and Saturday. It's like being up on the Root River Trail in southern Minnesota, where people understand that a paved bicycle trail is an economic boon to urban as well as rural areas.

Everywhere we went, people were friendly and hospitable. A deputy and a police officer guarded a highway crosswalk on the trail. We visited restaurants and bars that had just opened. I had a terrific spinach and artichoke flat bread at Baldy's Bar in Woodward that could have been made at Red's Ale House in North Liberty. The beer was cold, the drinks were strong, the food was exceptional, and it was fun to engage both local farmers and fellow bicyclists in conversation. I had the best patty melt I ever ate at the Nite Hawk in Slater, a brand-new bar. Jim and I together couldn't eat all of the onion rings that came with it.

We heard two really moving stories from two riders who survived tough odds to become professionals in their fields. We made new friends and had a friendly chat with Banana Man, who was also riding the trail. Years ago Lucas Elementary School students used to call Jim "Banana Man" because he supervised their recesses and lunchtime in a bright yellow jacket. RAGBRAI Banana Man was fully clothed in a banana suit. He recognized our MelonHead jerseys and complimented my watermelon helmet.

In Slater, I left my debit Visa card on the counter at Sheldahls' antique store while Jim and I were deciding who would carry what. I got an antique cake carrier for my "Cake Doctor" cakes I make for birthdays. I also got a little antique apron and an antique "Madeyeine" book for our 23-year-old daughter, who took care of our cats, Gracie and Tigger, while we were gone.

"Twelve little girls in two straight lines."

As it happened, it was her favorite Madeleine book.

Martha Sheldahl, co-owner of the antique shop, wrote a big sign and taped it to the window of our Ford Taurus left behind in Slater in front of the bar. She told me she had my debit card and left a phone number where I could reach her. 

On the phone later, Martha and I tried to rendezvous, but it was Mother's Day, so we were both busy. I had to get back to Iowa City for Mother's Day brunch with Jim and the kids, and she had to go to church. I asked her to mail me the card. I got my debit card back within a few days in a pretty little peek-a-boo card with a kind note. We'll definitely be back to Sheldahls' antique shop.

Jim told me I wasn't up to the bike trip after seven weeks of flu. I said I was. We were both right. I did 26 miles one day and 27 miles the next, and felt mildly ill each night, but it was a trip to remember, and I did it!

We found the High Trestle Trail in photos in the Des Moines Register when it first opened a few years ago, and found the trail itself on an unscheduled RAGBRAI detour out of Luther, Iowa, in 2011. We took a busy highway south, beautifully black-topped with a wide, complete-the-streets paved shoulder.

The Flat Tire Lounge had opened in Madrid the month before in June. A bicycle hangs from the ceiling with horns and an Iowa State Patrol hat hanging from it, unless the sun got to me that day and that's not what I saw. It was awfully hot. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of RAGBRAI-ers visited the Flat Tire Lounge that day, and soon the troopers showed up to shoo us out of there and move us along. They don't like RAGBRAI-ers riding at night, even when brightly lit with multiple blinking lights. The troopers didn't claim their hat, though. It was still hanging from the bicycle on the ceiling over the bar the last time I looked.

You could call the troopers' hat their calling card, a guarantee of sorts that they'll be back whenever RAGBRAI returns, however unscheduled and off route our stop might be.

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B.A. Morelli May 18, 2012 at 04:39 PM
I love that trail. Have you tried the Flat Tire Lounge in Madrid?
Maria Houser Conzemius May 18, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Brian, sure have! We were there on RAGBRAI (a detour) in 2011 and there again this past weekend and another time last summer. Isn't there a bicycle hanging from the ceiling with horns and a trooper hat?
B.A. Morelli May 18, 2012 at 07:13 PM
I think so. I recall the Madrid detour on RAGBRAI. It was two years ago, right? That day was a lot of fun and what a fantastic bike trail. I've been out there twice now.
Anne Carothers-Kay May 18, 2012 at 07:41 PM
I love that bridge too. Every time I've been there, it's been what we old folks used to call "a happening." The bridge draws people from all over the country.
Scott Olsen May 20, 2012 at 12:22 PM
Great article! Baldy's is in Madrid though :) At Flat Tire, we have 2 hanging bikes, 1 2010 Fat Tire cruiser with the state patrol helmet and one vodka bike. We also have a John Deere and 2011 Fat Tire Cruiser sitting up on a ledge. The RAGBRAI detour was 2011 and here are some pics we took http://www.flickr.com/photos/29711437@N04/sets/72157627322690328/ We estimated we had about 4k people come to Flat Tire that day and probably over 5k that took the detour.
Maria Houser Conzemius May 20, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Scott Olsen, thanks for your compliment and correction. That's right, Baldy's *is* in Madrid. Your photos are great! Good job on the ride Mother's Day weekend. We had a wonderful time. The success of your bar on the High Trestle Trail proves the adage, "Build it, and they will come."
B.A. Morelli May 20, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Scott, What town is Flat Tire lounge located?
Scott Olsen May 21, 2012 at 12:52 PM
It's in Madrid as well. We are about 15 feet off the High Trestle Trail across from the Madrid trail head and about 2.5 miles east of the bridge.
Maria Houser Conzemius May 21, 2012 at 01:46 PM
Scott, the Flat Tire Lounge on the High Trestle Trail was a huge bright spot on RAGBRAI 2011. It's also the most bicycle friendly, imaginatively decorated bar I've ever seen. It's a far cry from a bar in eastern Iowa closer to Iowa City where a good ol' boy in a pickup and an empty trailer drove me off the road at the top of a hill with no shoulder. Later, he stopped at a bar on the Cedar River carrying an open container from his pickup to the bar. Enraged, I caught up with him and asked, "Why did you run me off the road back there?" Good Customer replied, "Ah don' lahk bi-seckchewals." "You mean, you don't like bicyclists," I corrected him. "No," he persisted. "Ah don' lahk bi-seckchewals." Loaded for bear and carrying more beer, with the full support of the bar owner, who also doesn't like bicyclists, Good Customer tried to run me over as he spun out of the parking lot. I jumped sideways when I needed to, but dropped my glasses, which Good Customer ran over. Fortunately, the glasses were in a hard case and I was able to bring the twisted remains to my optometrist for a free replacement pair.
BananaMan May 23, 2012 at 09:35 PM
Love it All! BM (BananaMan)
Maria Houser Conzemius May 23, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Hey, BananaMan! You're the real deal! So glad we got to talk to you outside the Nite Hawk in Slater on the High Trestle Trail Mother's Day weekend. If you see us on RAGBRAI, give us a holler! And we'll do the same.

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