The High Trestle Trail: Non-Silo Thinking

grain silos

Apologies for those who are here for the gardening, hares and persistent light rain – normal service will be returning soon when we return home next week. But meanwhile we have been down to Iowa for a couple of days and our hosts were keen to stick us on a couple of bikes and send us off on their local tourist attraction, the High Trestle Trail (‘it’s a 46 mile ride but serious bikers like you should be fine’ … um).

iowa farms

I can’t tell you much about utility cycling in Ankeny or Des Moines (although there were an impressive number of bikes parked outside the local elementary school as we set off in the morning) but I can tell you that Iowa takes cycle tourism seriously. As well as an annual mass ride across the state (around 450 miles; Pedal for Scotland, eat your heart out) they’ve invested big time in leisure cycling with a massive 1,800 miles of cycle trails. And by ‘cycle trail’ we’re not talking ‘a goat track interrupted by steps’ or even ‘a blue sign alongside an A-road‘, but (at least as far as the route we took) something that’s an absolute pleasure to ride on a bike

toilets and bike parking

Complete with actual toilets, oh glory be.

honesty lights

Oh and lights sold on an honesty box system.

It helped that we chose a glorious day to cycle out to ‘the bridge’ (as it’s labelled on the direction markers) with a nice breeze (more of that later) to counteract the forecast 30 degree heat. The cycle to the start of the trail was mostly along the usual American shared-use sidewalk (‘double wide’ to accommodate cyclists) but once on the route it was completely off road, almost entirely level, and smoothly paved (unlike many of the roads we crossed, which in a reversal of normal practice, were often just gravel).

flat tire lounge

This unpaved gravel road is for the cars – the bike path is paved. Sustrans take note.

These routes are largely intended to be a tourist attraction and the towns we passed through are clearly keen to take advantage of all those passing hungry cyclists.

BBQ sign

 

This shouldn’t be rocket science, and yet it’s something we often forget to do in the UK – sending cyclists out into beautiful countryside, often bypassing any towns with any actual shops in them, and then neglecting to do anything to take their money from them.

We were a little nervous about committing ourselves to such a long ride on unfamiliar bikes (especially once we realised we were riding a strengthening tailwind) but the trail was so pleasant and the miles ticked away so easily, it seemed churlish not to go and at least look at the bridge, so sustained by granola bars (and a free banana) from a shop in a small town en route, we pedalled on.

High Trestle Bridge

The bridge was entirely worth it, too. Photos don’t really do it justice, but I did wonder at the sanity – and climbing skills – of the graffiti artist who had tagged the nearest pier.

view from the bridge

Bridge admired, and ridden over, there was nothing to do but turn around and go back again, but first we had to inject some of our tourist dollars into the local economy, in an extremely pleasurable way (not quite up to the standards of our taco safari, but very tasty nonetheless and the standard ‘feed a family of four’ serving size was welcome after a morning of steady pedalling).

The last 12 miles were into what was now a stiffish headwind, and my bottom was beginning to comment unfavourably on the non-Brooks saddle on my otherwise lovely borrowed bike and wonder in increasingly insistent terms where its comfy leather hammock was, but we got our heads down and took turns to be in front and before we knew it we were back at our hosts and ready to go out and eat All the Food once more.

If you’re ever in Iowa (and why not?) I would highly recommend getting onto a bike and exploring the trails. Now all we have to do is build something of similar quality in Scotland and start hoovering up those tourism pounds.

Bison

Moo-I-5 might need to up their game a little though …

4 Responses to The High Trestle Trail: Non-Silo Thinking

  1. LizzieLizzie says:

    Thought for a minute there that “the bridge” was going to be one of the famous covered ones (as in The Bridges of Madison County “). What a great cycle trail!! And regarding cyclists and the local economy, round here I think you could stick a cafe literally anywhere in the countryside and cyclists would swarm to it. Add a bike shop to it and it would be even more popular.

  2. disgruntled says:

    We do like our cafe stops, it’s true …

  3. […] importantly, and not to be outdone by Iowa, it has an impressive bridge, and although this one is mostly for cars, they let people use it […]

  4. 2whls3spds says:

    I have ridden many a trail in Iowa and enjoyed every one of them. Unfortunately, I live in North Carolina where very little of that type of riding is to be found.

    Aaron

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