Hop in your car and drive downtown to the Des Moines Farmers’ Market some Saturday morning. That’s a good way to get to one of Iowa’s Premiere events. But there’s a better way to appreciate the aura of this top-notch Midwestern market: ride your bicycle there.
Oh, incidentally, before you ride there, you’ll need to make sure you’ve trained yourself to be an urban cyclist. We’re not talking trail riding with endless opportunities for daydreaming. You need to train yourself to bicycle with an urban destination in mind. You need to practice riding a few big-city hills with more than 6% grade and you’ll need to practice steering around obstacles like parked cars and pot holes. Now, you’re ready.
Jerry and I left from his house on 44th street, turning left onto University Avenue. We made a quick stop in the middle of the block, so we could cut across and navigate the other leg of 44th Street. Jerry signaled that we were turning left onto Kingman Boulevard; we rode along Kingman until it merged with Cottage Grove. Next, we crossed the interstate bridge in a bike lane; a very good accommodation for an urban biker. After a couple of blocks, we crossed MLK and turned right onto 18th which we took to Woodland Avenue. This stretch takes you past the beautiful turn-of-the century Sherman Hills homes. This stretch also afforded a good nature experience: budding lilies, sunlight ricocheting off sidewalks and windows, and endless chirping of birds. This route through residential neighborhoods was not only scenic, but also very bike-friendly. I noted that residents along the route took pride in keeping their yards tidy. It was fun to pedal along Des Moines’ wide streets and boulevards.
After thirty minutes of riding, we were downtown, riding between the shadows of Des Moines’ skyscrapers. We glided our bikes onto a sidewalk and parked them in front of a bail bondsman’s shop. Jerry’s bike cable was long enough to interlace and lock both of our bikes with the stand.
There it was, the Des Moines Farmers’ Market. A couple wearing tight leggings walked in front of us; their two adult Dalmatians, also bundled up in dog sweaters. Ahead of me were stands filled with fresh garden produce, metal sculptures, and floral arrangements. I spied a long line of customers in front of a stand serving freshly cooked burrito sandwiches. We skipped the sandwiches, opting for a strawberry pastry from a la Mie food stand. We followed it with some homemade cinnamon ice cream which we ate while sitting on a sidewalk bench. Soon we found ourselves walking along the market stands while listening to pan flute music, singing combos, and even a group trying to save our souls.
We weren’t there just for fun, though. We had a mission. We were on the lookout for two small zucchinis to use in a Mediterranean style recipe we planned to prepare that evening. My mind wandered to thoughts about Carolina–a friend of mine in Indianapolis who moved there from Mexico. It was nice to be using fresh vegetables in my own cooking like she did.
We had several vegetable stands to choose from. Making our zucchini selection, we fit them into Jerry’s bike bag. Unlocking our bikes, we began the return trip. This time a river route. We wove around Principal Park, the beautiful baseball stadium at the confluence of the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers which met up with the Raccoon River bike path. This area was no slouch to scenery either; its beautiful purple cone flowers and aging oaks welcomed us. After a short water break on a park bench, we angled around Gray’s Lake, passing a large outdoor Yoga class. Back over the Raccoon River Bridge, across Grand Avenue, and onto Ingersoll.
Biking into Jerry’s driveway, we savored our bicycle trip to the Farmers’ Market. A destination like the Des Moines Farmer’s Market should be arrived at in style: on a bicycle.