RAGBRAI 2019, day 5: Centerville to Fairfield

After lunch in Centerville, I headed east on Highway 2, through unincorporated West Grove, arriving in Bloomfield – RAGBRAI’s day 5 meeting town.

Did I mention it was hot? I cannot imagine doing this ride on a bicycle in this sweltering weather. It’s bad enough driving the route in an air-conditioned car.

I’m particularly fond of Bloomfield. It has another one of those gorgeous county courthouses in the center of its downtown (the Davis County Courthouse, built in 1877); it’s even more ornate than most (see detail below). And there’s a bonus Statue of Liberty replica (above), the first of three I’d see on the route.

Bloomfield was definitely beautifying the downtown area and gearing up for RAGBRAI, and I noted that the town is part of the Historic Hills Scenic Byway. On my way out of town, I stopped at the Iowa Welcome Center because I’m a geek and love to stock up on the latest Iowa travel brochures. I had a nice conversation with an older woman who worked there; she gave me some advice for the next day. But I’ll get to that later.

After Bloomfield, I breezed through Troy and Lebanon (on county road J40) without stopping. Turning north on V64, I crossed the Des Moines River, which runs between Leando and Douds. Combined, the two towns have a population around 267.  Here’s the bridge that connects the two towns:

The town of Libertyville (population 345) is the last stop before today’s overnight stop in Fairfield. I give this little town a lot of credit for its RAGBRAI planning. And I so wanted to stop at Peck’s Pub for a cold beer…but I needed to keep driving.

I was really looking forward to spending time in Fairfield and staying overnight nearby. Fairfield is one of my favorite Iowa towns; it’s completely unique – even out of place – in this part of the state.

Fairfield is all about culture and individuality, community and creativity…and FOOD. According to Fairfield’s promotional materials and website:

  • Smithsonian Magazine has called Fairfield one of America’s best small towns
  • Fairfield has more restaurants per capita than San Francisco…
  • …and their eateries offer cuisine from more than 10 nationalities
  • This small town of less than 10,000 people is bursting at the seams with artists of all kinds: painters, sculptors, musicians, dancers, and poets
  • First Friday Art Walks are held the first Friday of the month year-round, not just in the nice-weather months. More than half a dozen art galleries are open for business in Fairfield, and the Art Walks also include music and food.

By my own observations: you can get a damn good cup of coffee here, and the shops and restaurants are actually open, some even after 5 p.m.! I could happily live in Fairfield if it wasn’t located so far away from a bigger city.

Fairfield is one of the overnight towns on the RAGBRAI route this year, and I’m sure they’re going to do it up right.

One of the big reasons that Fairfield is, well, Fairfield, is the presence of Maharishi University of Management. Since 1974, this university has offered “consciousness-based” education programs, making Fairfield an international center for Transcendental Meditation.

The Maharishi campus includes a Tower of Invincibility, plus golden domes where 1,000 people are said to gather twice daily to practice Transcendental Meditation.

Maharishi Vedic City, situated just north of Fairfield, is designed as a model of ideal city life based on the Vedic knowledge that influences the architecture, agriculture, health care, and economy of a city. I don’t know diddly-squat about this…I’m just quoting from their materials. But I did drive by, stop my car, and tromp around a bit.

The homes seem quite peaceful, painted in restful, pastel hues. And there’s a Vedic Observatory that uses a series of sun dials to map out the university according to Vedic teachings. (The historic Vedic religion is a predecessor of Hinduism and is associated with India.)

See? I told you Fairfield is unique.

Anyway, I rolled into town around 3 p.m., parked my car, and walked for a good long time around the downtown area. There is so much to see here! Another great old courthouse (with another Statue of Liberty):

I love the colorful architecture in this town, and I could not wait to eat dinner here. But first, after about an hour of walking and sweating (my car’s temperature gauge said 106 at one point), I decided to go check in to my hotel: The Rakmapura Park Hotel in Vedic City.

Now, you may wonder why I decided to stay here. This place gets iffy (at best) online reviews, but I thought it looked interesting and relaxing. I brought a swimsuit, even though I do not swim, because I thought it might be nice to cool off in the water. Unfortunately, the Rakmapura has no pool.

The hotel is located north of Fairfield by several miles, and I’m glad I had Google Maps or I would never have found the place. You go by the aforementioned Maharishi University of Management and past fields and whatnot…it’s quite remote.

When I arrived between 4 and 5 p.m., there were a few cars in the gravel parking lot, but nobody working at the reception desk. In fact, it did not appear that anyone had been working here for quite a while judging by the number of packages sitting there. My room key was in an envelope with my name on it, so I took the key and walked down to Room 4 to see what awaited me there.

The room – a suite, really – was ridiculously large for what I paid ($99 a night), which made my mind jump to all kinds of crazy conclusions, most of which I learned from scary movies (think “Get Out” and “The Shining”). The room was super nice (almost too nice?)…it had a fireplace and an oval bathtub and a mini fridge and a porch…but it just, I don’t know, gave me a vibe. I texted my family, just in case.

I was so hot and sweaty that I decided to wash up and change my clothes before going back into Fairfield for dinner. I needn’t have bothered…my new clothes were immediately soaked through after about 5 minutes in the humidity.

My information sources had indicated there would be Ethiopian food just off the square, so that was my destination. But I didn’t find the restaurant.

After walking (sweating) a while, I decided to have a drink at Amore Mio, which I assumed was a wine bar but was actually a full-service ristorante Italiano. The crowd that night was a bit odd – I overheard some pretty bizarre conversations while sitting at a high-top in the bar – but the service was superb, the pinot noir was inexpensive, and the pour was generous. My server kept my water glass full and even brought me some bread to munch on.

My second choice for dinner was Indian food, so I cut across the park to India Café. The restaurant was mostly empty, so the service was prompt and the food was very good. I had rich, creamy navratan korma with rice and naan, and I could only finish about half of it.

Back to Rakmapura Park Hotel, I soaked away the grime of the day in my peach-colored oval bathtub and then went to bed.

Here are some parting shots from Fairfield:

1 comment so far

  1. Barb Foss on

    So interesting to read about Fairfield as written by someone who doesn’t live here!


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