Saturday, June 3, 2017

In Which a Fruit Angel Appears at a Library

Crossing Lake Macbride on way to North Liberty on Bookworms on Bikes ride.

I forgot to look at my computer for a final tally, but I believe the Bookworms on Bikes ride added up to the low 50s somewhere—52 to 54 miles, all told.

It was a fine day, hot in the afternoon, for a RAGBRAI-like bike ride, and this ride lived up to that experience. I woke up early, had a nice breakfast, and was a bit slow getting out the door, so I was worried that I would miss the start of the ride. As luck would have it, I arrived at the Marion Library just at 7 a.m.

And I was early. After a few minutes, Michael Miller and Laura Runkle showed up. Mike is the ride organizer. We were a small crew, but Mike took a group picture with the library as a background to post on his Facebook group page, and we were off. We rode to the Boyson Trail, Lindale Trail, then the behind-Target route to get to the Cedar River Trail.

After a second library-group photo at the Hiawatha Public Library, we continued along the trail to downtown Cedar Rapids.

The first city farmer’s market was underway, and the Linn County Trail Association ran a bike parking booth at Greene Square. We parked, visited a vendor fair at the Presbyterian Church, and headed over to the Cedar Rapids downtown library for bookworm photo op number 3.

It was getting warm. We were facing a bit of a headwind, although not enough to be a problem. If anything, as hot as the day turned out, having a bit of a breeze was a net plus—it wasn’t enough to make biking too difficult, and the breeze helped cool us a bit.

A co-worker of Mike’s joined us on the trail south of the river, so we were a band of four bookworms.

We watered up at the Ely City Park. Ely was the first open library on the ride, and we had a pleasant chat with the librarian before moving on.

The ride form Ely to Solon was as expected—the scary part of the ride, on a narrow and busy county road.

Well, we made it to Solon. Then headed out to North Liberty—still riding on county roads, but this time with a nice paved shoulder. It was around noon, and the day was sunny and hot.

And the ride started to get hilly. After the first crossing of Lake Macbride, the road headed up a hill that was longer than it looked—it snaked through some bends, so when you thought you were at the top, you were mistaken. It was hot by now, and humid, and I was definitely the tail end of the ride. I was feeling pretty spent by the time we rolled into North Liberty.

In Iowa towns, libraries are important civic institutions—not just information equalizers by providing books to all, but also centers of activity. The earlier libraries had been closed, but starting in Ely, on a fine, hot summer Saturday, community libraries were busy hives of activity.

With at least one angel.

North Liberty was ready for us. Mike had contacted the libraries on the route, and North Liberty had a “welcome riders” sign out, some chilled water bottles ready and a plate of cereal and granola bars. That was good enough, but after we had been there for a few minutes, one of the front desk librarians went to a back room and returned with fresh fruit kabobs and little banana sandwiches.

Clearly, she was the fruit angel. On a hot summer bike ride, her appearance was almost mystical.

Just like that, the fruit angel appears. And the fruit was good.
Actually, as she explained, the library had just finished a stuffed-animal sleepover program, and these were leftover snacks that children had not consumed at the end of the event.

Anyway, the greeting at North Liberty was much appreciated. After that was a trail ride to Coralville.

This little bookworm-library ride has started small—only four bikers on this first ride. But RAGBRAI started small, too, and I hope it continues and that many more bikers will have the pleasure of meeting a fruit angel in North Liberty.

Coralville Library lobby.
After the Coralville Library, with the worst of the hills behind us and only a few miles to Iowa City, plus blessings in our bellies from the fruit angel, the final leg of the ride, despite the heat, passed pleasantly. When we got to the university area in Iowa City, a big art festival was in full swing, so we had to walk our bikes the last block to the Iowa City Public Library.

All in all, it was an interesting ride. Besides angelic library hosts bearing fruit kabobs, the ride included iconic Iowa events—from the farmers market in Cedar Rapids to the art fest in Iowa City. Seeing so many public libraries was a nice reminder of how important they still are to their communities. Even in the internet age, libraries matter.

So, may the Bookworms bike ride continue and grow in popularity. I don’t know what Mike has planned for the future, but I hope today’s ride was the start of something. More photos of the ride on my Facebook gallery.

Crossing Iowa River, above. End of ride, below. And then I rode back to UI Law School where I met my wife, daughter and grandson.

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