Off the Beaten Path: Meet the Willeys, Altoona’s Local Cycling Celebrities

“Off the Beaten Path” is sponsored by the City of Altoona.

Leave the car keys at home; cycling is the best way to see Central Iowa.

Our region is famous for its elaborate bike trail system, which runs for hundreds of miles along gorgeous rivers and rolling hills, winding its way through neighborhoods, forests, downtowns and parks. The trail connects numerous communities and individuals in the area, offering stunning views and a sense of comradery.

On ideal mornings, hundreds of cyclists take to the trails, tracing their own unique paths through the Des Moines metro. Cycling clubs often stop at breweries along their journey for a cool glass of local craft beer—another source of Central Iowa fame.

Located just east of Des Moines, Altoona is the perfect place to begin and end your Tour Des Moines. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) Altoona offers plenty of places to eat, play and stay, with hotels and campgrounds, unique restaurants and breweries, as well as shopping and entertainment destinations.

We recently spoke with husband-and-wife cycling duo Vern Willey II and Vickey Willey at the Altoona trailhead of the Vern Willey II trail. The Altoona bike trail, of course, is named in honor of Vern.

The pair has been cycling on the Central Iowa trail system for decades. But they do more than just ride the trails. They had a major role in building them. And they continue to advocate for the trail system and take a leadership role in the cycling community today.

Watch our video interview above and learn more about Altoona’s great outdoors here.