I'd heard of Pella and knew it was a popular place to visit, and I'd passed through Hedrick and Fort Madison en route to my college town, but the majority of these places, I would never have seen and loved.
OK, sure, these towns really rolled out the red carpet for RAGBRAI. I doubt they'd be this appealing to me, if I weren't visiting as part of a totally hedonistic organized road trip.
But surely the enthusiasm of their welcomes/farewells — Des Moines residents literally applauded as we rolled past — deserves some praise in return!
|I think Pella and Keosauqua were my favorite towns, though Oskaloosa and Fairfield had some darn good parties.|
|At the Vermeer Mill. When we arrived in Pella, my thirst became for touristy sights, not beer or Bloody Marys.|
|Bike sculptures were definitely a thing. Pella's offering, seen here, was much less creepy than Oskaloosa's — there were stuffed figures sitting on bikes, leering at us as we rolled into town.|
|Is Bussey famous for anything? No idea. It's a beautiful mural, though, and I'll remember it fondly for the pizza (and free beer) I consumed there as an appetizer for ice cream a few miles later.|
|I loved where Fort Madison dumped us out at the end — downstream from the prison, right by the fort, within sight of the neat suspension bridge and underneath another stellar example of bike art.|
Kirksville, Mo., where I went to college, had a decent farmers market and craft festival in its downtown square, and so when we scarfed dinner in the shadow of Oskaloosa's courthouse and did wine-inspired yoga in the grass of Fairfield's square, it brought back some fond memories without the bittersweet feeling that those days are gone.