Heart of Nature, Heart of Iowa
This route was scouted by: Lisa Hein, Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
Length: 33 miles
Surface: Paved Roads
Parking and Restrooms: River Valley Park
Start your ride out of Ames following sidepaths on East 13th Street and Dayton Avenue to East Lincoln Way (old Lincoln Highway) to Nevada. Lincolnway bike lanes on the road make this leg easy. Sixth Street in Nevada (pronounced “Ne-VAY-dah”) has two great stops for breakfast at the Snack Time Restaurant or lunch at Mi Casita across the street. Continue a few blocks south to I Avenue and turn west. I Avenue becomes S14. At the south edge of town use caution to cross busy Hwy 30. Stay on S14 for about 7.5 miles, then west on E63. In four miles you cross the Skunk River to reach Cambridge. The Water Street Bar and Grille one block south of E63 is the stop-off point in town.
If you want to get off the county roads for a while to enjoy more wildlife and scenery, stay on S14 for 1.5 miles, take the Heart of Iowa Nature Trail (compacted limestone surface) west to Slater (7 miles), then hop on the bike lanes on R38 back to Ames. Otherwise, from Water Street in Cambridge go back to E63 and turn west. In about 6 blocks, turn north on Park Street, which becomes 580th. Soak up the views of the Skunk River Valley as the road leads you back to Lincoln Way.
Where to stay: MonteBello B&B Inn ( 515-296-2181).
I enjoy bicycling for the fresh air, scenic views and friendships found. My riding style is more like a ‘weekend sightseer’ than ‘weekend warrior.’ The route selected is easily accessible from east Ames, it has gentle views of the Skunk River Valley, and my friends Jeri Neal and Jen Garst are always fun riding companions. In addition to my land conservation and rails-to-trails work at the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, I support bicycling activities as a board member of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition. I value bicycling because it is a mode of transportation available to a broader diversity of ages and capabilities than the automobile. I believe our transportation corridors need to provide mobility options for all people—instead of just being habitat for cars.