If interested contact Mike Delaney, president, at firstname.lastname@example.org. or call 515-339-0438
The purpose of the Raccoon River Valley Bike Club is to promote the Raccoon Valley Trail and share the joy of riding this wonderful trail. There are no dues and no obligations. Please pay trail fees where appropriate. Raccoon River Valley Trail annual pass is $10. Write to Mike Delaney (email@example.com). He will mail a pass envelope to you.
Raccoon River Valley Trail
On June 12 it was cloudy and spitting rain off and on. The ride from Walnut Creek to Perry took about two and half hours. I was very pleased by the very smooth concrete surface from Waukee to Perry (about 20 miles) and the fact that the gravel road crossings were paved also. The segment of the trail along Hickman is not fun. It feels like I am always riding up hill and into the wind no matter whether I am going east of west. It is dangerous because of traffic leaving Hickman and pulling into side streets across the bike route. Also the juncture of trail pavement and street pavement is not always smooth. I have seen many a popped tire along this stretch.
However once you leave Hickman heading Northwest, trees block the wind most of the way and the wide, smooth, straight trail allows one to slip into high gear and fly. My leisurely return trip took about and hour and 45 minutes to go from Perry to Waukee.
The Waukee terminus offers bathrooms and benches. Going northwest one comes to Dallas Center in about 40 minutes. There are toilets, a rail pass post for registration and maps of Dallas Center. Food, drink and ice cream are very available.
A half hour later I came to Minburn. Surprise! Surprise! An old brick train station has been moved to the trail and beautifully restored. The Crossroads restaurant offers food and drink indoors and out and bathrooms. Very nice.
In another half hour you are rolling into Perry. This is a good sized town with bars, restaurants and the Hotel Pattee which is a one of kind beautifully restored hotel with rooms that have themes and museum quality fixtures and artifacts. Good service, good food, very good bar, sauna and hot tub/pool provide all you need for an overnight on the trail. Bike rack indoors and cozy library are extra special features.
Wildlife along the trail is very surprising. One of the untold advantages of our bike trails is that it creates habitat and corridors for wildlife. He one does not farm Iowa soil it spring to life in a thousand ways and wildlife flourishes. Birds on this early June trip included: Yellow Warbler, Common Yellow Throat, Indigo Bunting, Gold Finch, Brown Thrasher, Catbird, Red wing Blackbirds and other more common species. A Killdeer flew low over the pavement for about 100 yards, likely leading me away from her or his young. Mammals included; Ground Squirrels, Muskrats, Rabbits. No doubt deer, coyotes and foxes run the corridor too. The cold blooded animals were on the tail for the warmth on my sunny return trip. I stopped to hurry a Fox Snake off the tail for fear it would be run over. It did not like the shove I gave it with my foot. It coiled up and shook its tail like a rattler or a Bull Snake. All our snakes are disappearing. A Snapping turtle and a large Painted turtle were also sunning on the edge of the trail. So watch our for these critters for your sake and theirs. The rabbits are more problematic. They are so erratic in their escape you never know when you might hit one.
My biggest surprise of a nature type on the trail was the native wild flowers. The trail is built on a railroad line. Many of our railroad lines in the are were laid down through natural prairie and wetlands. There are places along the trail were farmers could not plow. The result is native prairie remants along the route-especially southwest of Dallas Center. However, there were bits of prairie all along the way. At this time of year look for: Prairie Phlox (hot pink), Canada Anemone (white, low), Thimble weed (white, tall single stem), Penstemon ( in a wetland to the west along with Cattails and Canada Wild Rye, multiple white flowers on a stem), Golden Alexander (looks like short Cow Parsnip-there is plenty of that, too.)
The people on the trail were a little different than those on the Great Western. They were more rural, local and new to the sport. I was in front of the Hotel Pattee, getting on my old Motobacane when I older guy (like me) came up to me. He had a German Shepherd in a Bewley (trailer) behind a really nice new bike with a brown leather English, Brooks seat. He said, “You look like you ride a lot.” I was wearing my 2013 RAGBRAI shirt with the water tower and gear on it and my bike shorts. He went on, “Can you show me how to get on?” He said he had bad hips and was having a hard time getting on his new bike. He had not shaved for awhile and was wearing what looked like cut-off Carhart work pants with bib and shoulder straps and of course a bike helmet. I have never seen an outfit like his, even on RAGBRAI. I said, “Sure!” like guys like him ask me this everyday. He said, I have a farm along the trail and I use it to come to see my grandkids ball games in Perry. Wow! “How cool!” I thought. I said, “ Bring your bike, dog carrier and dog out here in the street and turn to put yourself on the curb. When I was a kid with a “too-tall” bike I had to mount it from high ground.” So he stood on the curb in front of the hotel and swung his leg over that nice seat to the peddle. He said, “ That was much easier, thanks.” Was that an Iowa experience or what?
In contrast an hour later I was heading toward Dallas Center when a very small, but athletic ,young woman approached at a tremendous rate. She had her head down and was totally aerodynamic with her arms cradled by those supports you can mount on your handlebars. Her knees were close to the frame and she was moving! Here and gone in a flash. About one hour later as I was heading east on Hickman (it seemed like I was going uphill and against the wind) the same very young girl flew by doing well over 20 mph. I think she road to Perry after she passed me, turned around and passed me the second time on her way into Des Moines. Great form, carbon fiber aerodynamic frame, pretty skin-tight cycle top and pants, new helmet, disappearing down the trail along Hickman in a few minutes. A beautiful sight!
By the way, if you want to see friendly, happy, beautiful, fit ,young people -- get out on the bike trails. It is a totally different reality from what we see on TV or in the newspapers. It is wholesome and good. It gives one hope.
President, Raccoon River Valley Bike Club (self appointed)
Membership (founded June 13, 2015)