The High Trestle Trail connects five towns and four counties across central Iowa, resulting in a recreational trail that can be used as a quick jaunt from one town to the next, or a daylong excursion if you ride the whole 25 miles (one way) from Ankeny to Sheldahl to Slater to Madrid to Woodward. We drove to Madrid on a sunny afternoon for a drink at the Flat Tire Lounge before biking eight miles to Woodward, which took us over the 13-story-high High Trestle Trail bridge over the Des Moines River.
We left Des Moines at 3:30 p.m., and arrived in Madrid shortly after 4 p.m. We beat the after-work crowd, and easily found a table on the large patio off the front of the bar. The Flat Tire Lounge is housed in an old hoop barn about three feet off the High Trestle Trail, making it a popular destination for cyclists and Madrid locals. The patio is large, and the inside is even bigger, with lots of seating and a wide-open feel, thanks to the tall ceilings. It’s no secret that this is a bicylist’s bar, with Fat Tire signs, bikes suspended from the ceiling and a significant percentage of people in spandex walking around. If you did get a flat, the Flat Tire Lounge is where you’d want to end up.
We enjoyed cold Summer Shandy and Fat Tire draws, while eyeing the Radish Express vendor just off the patio. An offshoot of The Radish in Grimes, the booth offers hamburgers, wings, pork tenderloins and more. It was tough, but we decided to hold off until we returned from our ride. Beers downed, we mounted our two-wheeled steeds and set off for Woodward.
About three miles into the flat trail, we hit the High Trestle bridge. The half-mile beauty used to be a railroad bridge, and is one of the largest trail bridges in the world. We stopped to read about the history of the Des Moines River Valley on the informational signs that dot the bridge, and to take photos of the expanse of nature before us. Then, we continued to Woodward.
The High Trestle Trail ends in Woodward (they’re working on expanding it now), and the last leg, from Madrid to Woodward, is about eight miles. It took us about 45 minutes at a slow, leisurely pace. When we arrived, we rewarded our work with a couple cans of Budweiser and Bud Light (just $2.50 each) at Mr. C’s, a little dive on Woodward’s main drag. The owner served us kettle korn and chatted with us about a new bar being built off the trail, which is expected to be finished this summer.
Back on our bikes, we made our way back to Madrid. It was about 5:30 p.m., and traffic on the trail had picked up a little, including a few runners and a troop of Boy Scouts who were more interested in picking through the nearby woods than riding on the trail. We arrived back in Madrid a little after 6 p.m., and, despite a growing crowd, found an open table on the Flat Tire patio.
We ordered a few items from the Radish Express — a grilled pork loin sandwich and a chicken quesadilla, and an order of wings to split. The sandwich was tender and juicy, and the quesadilla was the perfect blend of spicy and gooey. The wings were hot, but not too hot. We’re looking forward to returning on a weekend morning for breakfast.
If you want a fun bike ride outside of Des Moines, try the High Trestle Trail. The scenery is beautiful, the bridge is a work of art, and the food and beer at the Flat Tire Lounge is tough to beat.
Flat Tire Lounge
Find it: 304 S. Madison St., Madrid
How to get there: Bike the High Trestle Trail going northwest, or take Highway 141 to Highway 17 to Madrid.
Best night to ride: The Flat Tire Lounge features specials all week, include Tacopocalpyse on most Thursday evenings with $7 pitchers of Fat Tire. Wednesday night is barbecue night. Stop by Saturday evenings for live music.
What you need to know: Don’t save your bike ride for after work. Make a day out of it and bike on the weekend — the Flat Tire serves breakfast from the Radish Express and $4 Bloody Marys.