Des Moines

I really like the Midwest in June. Admittedly, I have spent very little time here outside of the month of June, but I still feel confident staying that June is the best month in the Midwest. Here in Des Moines Iowa it’s humid and warm, and there are birds and bugs and chirps and leaves all around. . . And the smell of an approaching thunderstorm!

I spent June in Missouri at my grandparent’s house almost every year growing up. That’s where I learned to drive (I was eleven years old), it’s where I first saw a firefly, it’s where I first learned that fishing doesn’t actually involve fish. . . you get the idea. I like the central Des Moines city a lot. It’s quaint, filled with trees and streams, small brick buildings with cool shops (I got scrambled eggs at a coffee shop where they scramble the eggs with a milk steamer!), and uncrowded streets where the cars that do pass you on your bike are quite patient and polite. It’s very much un-redneck here.

The first part of the week I stayed with JJ Bailey. He’s a local elite amateur triathlete who I competed against in 2006 and 2007 when I was racing age group. He has a nice little house with a spare bedroom where he let me stay until yesterday, when his mom came into town. After emphasizing in my last post that family should always come first, I was not at all offended that he would tell me to find another place to stay. Luckily, there was one last room left at the host hotel in West Des Moines.

Oh yeah, West Des Moines. The Hy-Vee Elite Wold cup is not being held in that beautiful capital town that I just finished describing. After a flood forced the race to relocate in 2008, they’ve kept the race in West Des Moines, a suburb (to the west). West Des Moines is not a beautiful quaint and quiet city like the neighboring capital city. Rather, it’s an example of poor public planning and the type of sprawling development that is ruining the American Landscape. There are sprawling strip malls where, instead of cool shops, there are gigantic box stores like Target, Kohl’s and Best Buy. Walking is completely out of the question because the sidewalks don’t go through, and the distance between buildings is substantial. This is not a place I would ever want to live, but I can see that many Americans do.

The saving grace of this town is that Hy-Vee is headquartered here. The Midwestern Grocery Giant is the best thing ever to happen to Triathlon because they’ve not only created the largest, most prestigious elite triathlon, but they’ve brought big name sponsors into the sport as well (Pepsi, Kellogg, etc.) . I mean, a one million dollar prize purse? That’s incredible! It’s the kind of support that makes it possible for our sport to approach the mainstream. Thank you Hy-Vee!


there’s another saving grace that I discovered in West Des Moines today, though it may have technically been a different suburb. There’s a YMCA Healthy Living Center that is working with cancer research centers, doctors and weight loss clinics to support healthy living. It’s an example of what a gym really should be.

Published by Ben

Ben Collins Professional Triathlete

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  1. Why would I hate a grocery store? I love food, and they have an organic section and a gluten-free section too! I’m not sure a grocery store would fit into the “Big Box” definition anyway, since selling food is practically a community service. Sure, the corner market is nice, but I’m pretty sure Hy-Vee is not eliminating any corner markets from West Des Moines.

  2. How does one find a corner in a Cul de Sac?

    Great race, one of the most fun for me ever as a spectator.

  3. Just found this old thread by a Google search for “West Des Moines Big Box Stores” (long story). Anyway, I really appreciated your take on the City. As a landscape architect and urban planner, you’re spot on – the City has developed too much sprawl – primarily on the western side. The “Old” West Des Moines, or Valley Junction as it was originally called, is a much more pleasant and interesting place. I run and train for marathons throughout the West Des Moines trail system. We have some amazing parks, some great local shops, and some very interesting history. Unfortunately, most people only see the lucrative west side of the city. If you make it back, I hope you get a chance to see the better side of the town.

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