• Wed May 10 2006
  • Posted May 10, 2006
MIKE KILEN REGISTER STAFF WRITER May 10, 2006 Jeff Mertz commutes to his downtown job from Waukee. On his bicycle. If you’re not familiar with Waukee, it’s a one-time bedroom community turned far-west suburb that by various bicycle routes can be 14.5 to 24 miles away from downtown. Mertz, 36, is not crazy. In fact, he’s an enthusiastic salesman of the idea, especially during this week’s Bike To Work Week festivities. Here’s why: • Since he started this bike commute last summer he has dropped from 250 pounds to 200 pounds. • Mertz figures he saved $100 a month in gas for his half-ton, four-wheel-drive pickup by bike commuting three days a week. • The wear and tear on his peace of mind has diminished. After a frustrating day in his job as design editor for Meredith’s Wood Magazine, he has “45 minutes to crank through the miles, which totally changes my attitude.” • He’s doing his small part to help the environment. “I drive a half-ton pickup and I’m a woodworker, so there’s that side of me,” he says. “But I bike to work as much as I can. You have to have to be reasonable. You do what you can.” OK, so you’re thinking of the obstacles. • The danger: Mertz’ route is largely on bike trails. His 14.5-mile route includes the Raccoon River Valley Trail, the Clive Greenbelt and, if he’s stretching it for a longer trip, he’ll include the Bill Riley, Waterworks Park and Meredith Trails. • The sweat: Meredith has shower facilities in its complex. • The time-and-family-duties factor: On a good day he can crank out the 14.5 miles in 40 minutes. If he’s feeling saucy, he’ll do an alternate route that is 23.5 miles, which takes 100 minutes. He can leave work at 5 p.m. and be home by 6 p.m., he says, “and help with the dinner and the dishes.” He says he is lucky that the family lives close enough to the school so the kids don’t need to be picked up. Still, things come up so he’ll typically squeeze in three biking days a week. He’ll even bike in the winter at least once a week providing the trail is free of snow and the temperature is above 25 degrees. A hybrid works betters on the trails although he does take his road bike on occasion. Bottom line: “I feel so much better. I have a lot more energy,” he said.
Here are the routes Jeff Mertz takes from his Waukee home to his downtown Des Moines workplace: Route 1: From his Waukee home north of the Waukee Middle School, he rides north to Hickman Road, which is flanked by the Raccoon River Valley Trail. That trail connects with the Clive Greenbelt Trail which dumps out on Center Street, north of 63rd Street and Grand Avenue in Des Moines. He rides Grand to his office at Meredith. It’s 14.5 miles. For added miles, he’ll take the Bill Riley Trail at Greenwood Park, through Waterworks Park, across Fleur Drive and down the north loop of Meredith Trail to his office. Route 2: Raccoon River Valley Trail to 128th Street in Clive, south to Westown Parkway, west to 60th Street and south to the Jordan Creek Trail running along E.P. True Parkway, which runs into Railroad Avenue to 63rd Street, where there is a levy trail behind the Quik Trip leading to 56th Street. Take 56th to Grand Avenue to the Bill Riley Trail, through Waterworks Park to the Meredith Trail. For added miles, he takes the Gray’s Lake trail at Fleur to the south loop of the Meredith Trail down to Principal Park and back up Martin Luther King Boulevard. It’s 23.5 miles.
Reporter Mike Kilen can be reached at (515) 284-8361 or

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