Friday, January 10, 2020

Ride: The Wabash Trace

From the mid 1800s to the mid 1900s, the Wabash Railroad managed a variety of rail lines that stretched from Ohio to Nebraska, servicing cities like Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City.  A number of branch lines served smaller cities and towns along the way, including a branch that ran from Missouri up to Council Bluffs, Iowa.  Today, that rail line is the Wabash Trace Nature Trail, a bike path that runs through the rolling hills of western Iowa.

The western end of the 63-mile Wabash Trace is located in Council Bluffs, and it snakes through several small Iowa towns on its way to the Missouri border.  Perhaps the most famous of these towns in Mineola, home to the Mineola Steakhouse and the destination of the weekly Wabash Trace Taco Ride.  The twenty-mile round-trip ride from Council Bluffs to Mineola happens every Thursday during the summer, and is a regular pilgrimage for hundreds of riders each week.

Starting out on the southern edge of Council Bluffs, the ride quickly moves into corn fields and forest as it makes a gradual uphill climb to the halfway point.  It is here, just past the underpass at Dumfries, IA, that the trail opens up into the clearing referred to as Margaritaville.  This popular socialization spot slowly fills up over the course of the ride, and by the end of the evening it turns into the Taco Ride After Party.

The second half of the ride is a gradual downhill slope toward Mineola itself, and the Mineola Steakhouse lies a couple of blocks off of the bike path.  While their tacos give the ride its name, the Steakhouse is really about the destination: hanging out with the hundreds of other people who have made the ride, getting some food, and listening to some music.  After filling up on tacos, it's time to head back up the trail to Council Bluffs and the end of the evening.

By the next morning, the trail is once again back to being the quiet refuge that it is for the rest of the week.  If riding for tacos isn't your thing, the trail offers a comfortable short-distance or long-distance ride through picturesque farmland along a fairly level path.  Each of the towns along the way offers unique sights and amenities, from the larger-town pitstops available in Shenandoah to the well-known tacos in Mineola and the Airbnb-listed bunkhouse in the old train depot in Malvern.

Whether you're looking for Thursday night festivities or a day trip from Omaha, the Wabash Trace has a lot to offer.  Start exploring it on the Wireless Bike Map.

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