• Posted Oct 1, 2003

By INGRID STUKERJURGEN 10/2/2003 Des Moines Register For Greg and Sandy Beckett, location is everything. Their Polk City home and business, Polk City Bike Rental, sit on Iowa Highway 415 at the end of West Bridge Road - otherwise known as the Mile Long Bridge - just a short ride from the Neal Smith recreational trail. "This is a great spot. Over a million cars go past this corner each year," said Greg Beckett. The Becketts rent their 20 to 30 traditional bicycles, recumbent bicycles and tandems, as well as child trailers, to three or four families and several individuals each day on summer weekends. Greg Beckett said they originally thought their main customers would be campers from the Saylorville Lake campgrounds, but that has been only a quarter of their business. "The main customers come from the Golden Circle area," he said. "Most of our riders come with bikes on (their cars) and need bikes for some of the people in their group or they need specialty equipment like the (child) trailers." The Becketts maintain the bicycles themselves and replace them about every two years with new models. They buy brand-name bicycles from local dealers, who in turn provide rental referrals.

Polk City Bike Rental

OWNERS: Greg and Sandy Beckett.

FIND THEM AT: 1021 S. Third St., Polk City (Highway 415 across from Casey's at West Bridge Road); 984-6737; e-mail

HOURS: Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to an hour before sunset; Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holidays: 9 a.m. to an hour before sunset for bicycle rental and until 9 p.m. for firewood sales. Closed Tuesdays.

BIKE RENTAL: April 1 through Oct. 31 or by appointment

WHAT YOU"LL FIND: Bicycles, recumbent bicycles, tandems, Burley child trailers and Adams trail-a-bikes; firewood; ice; fall pumpkins.

The Becketts say the location was not always as busy and Mother Nature helped them get off to a rough start. "We got started during the flood," Greg Beckett said. "We opened for business and watched it start to rain. Between April 9 and August 10 (in 1993) we had nine customers." Beckett had quit his job as a frozen foods warehouse manager to start the business - and had to weather the apprehension of his wife that accompanied the rain. "My wife is the penny pincher and she was wondering what I had done," he said. "I had bought 30 brand-new bikes and gotten insurance." But business improved that fall, and over the years the Becketts have diversified, offering seasonal selections such as firewood, ice and fall pumpkins. At this time of year the Becketts' front yard looks more like a pumpkin patch than a bicycle rental business. Their lawn is covered with pumpkins, grouped by size and price. A local Madrid artist, Al Newman, paints faces and Halloween scenes on many. The yard is "like a pumpkin patch, but you don't have to walk the entire field with the mud and grasshoppers," Sandy Beckett said. "And you don't have to pick through the pumpkins to find the nice ones." The Becketts sort through all of the pumpkins they get from a local farmer before setting them out in the yard. On a windy fall day recently, a family posed for a pictures amid the mass of orange pumpkins. The children, excited to pick out the perfect pumpkin, could hardly sit still for the camera. "A lot of cameras and camcorders have come through here over the years," Sandy Beckett said. Dan Hoyt of Des Moines said a trip to Polk City Bike Rental has become a family tradition. He began taking his sons, Andrew, 8, and Benjamin, 5, to buy pumpkins there about five years ago. "The kids like to come here," he said. "When we mention the pumpkin patch, they know where they're going." This year, Hoyt's fiancee, Beth Brouwer, and her son, Carson Rashid, 3, have joined the tradition. The boys are excited to try roasting the seeds of their pumpkins. "I like to eat the seeds," Benjamin said. Greg Beckett started his business because he wanted to work for himself. Although the business keeps him busy year-round, he said an added bonus is that he gets time to fish. "I don't open until 11 a.m. during the week, so I get to fish when everyone else is working," he said. "My wife says I work to fish."

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