Riding Past Circus History

Trail:  Raccoon River Valley

Location: Waukee to Adel

Ride Length: Moderate

Surface: Asphalt

Terrain: Mostly flat with a noticeable grade going into/out of Adel.

Date:    12-3-2013

Time:    11:00 AM

Weather: 40/Calm/Overcast

Starting Point: My neighborhood in Waukee

Ride Map


  • The fog had started to lift and the temperatures had climbed.  It would be a shame to not get a ride in before winter brought the snow and cold.   I aired up the tires on the Iron Giant and headed out towards the trailhead located at the corner of Hickman and R22.

  • This segment of the Raccoon River Valley Trail runs along the location of the former Des Moines, Adel and Western Railway built in 1878.

  • The asphalt trail is in good shape and runs flat except for the grade just east of Adel.  The portion between Waukee and Ortonville is out in the open along Highway 6 while in between Ortonville and Adel there is heavy tree canopy.

  • Along with trailheads in Adel and Waukee there is one located at Ortonville but it only has a couple of benches and parking.


  • Since the portion of the ride between Waukee and Ortonville isn’t very scenic it can be a good opportunity for riding faster and burning some calories.

  • Keep an eye out for squirrels darting across the trail along with twigs and branches on the wooded portion between Ortonville and Adel.

  • Adel is a great place to visit as the town square is only a couple of blocks North of the trail.  There are several places to shop or grab a bite to eat.


  • Driving past the intersection of Highway 6 and R Ave, a person would never know this little spot in Iowa is where lions, tigers, elephants and monkeys would spend their winter days.  Ortonville was once a thriving community and the home of the Orton Circus, the worlds largest wagon circus.  It would be so cool to go back in time and see the grocery store, post office, cafe and that once existed here.  Today it is considered an Iowa ghost town.  

  • Once arriving in Adel, I went to the town square and visited Brick Street Books and Cafe.  I ordered a hot beverage and relaxed in this quaint coffee house surrounded by one of the things I love..books!  They have best sellers, new releases and even some out of print editions.  Vintage hardware store shelving has been upcycled into bookshelves.  Cozy couches provide a homey feel and the perfect spot to settle down with a book.


  • About a mile west of Waukee I found a purple can koozie alongside the trail.  Finders keepers!

  • Just West of Ortonville a pontoon boat was floating in a sea of fall leaves.  

  • The River Street bridge can be viewed from the trail bridge that crosses over the Raccoon River.  It is one of the oldest remaining truss bridges in Iowa and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.


  • The chai tea at Brick Street Books and Cafe was delicious and did a great job of warming me up before I returned back home.  I definitely will be back to relax among the books.

Wrap Up

I learned so much on this ride.  It was a perfect example of how you can experience and observe so much more on your bike than in a car.  Even though it was a gloomy day I returned home happier, and smarter than I was when I left.  

Happy Riding!