Hawkeye had 438 people at the 2020 U.S. Decennial Census. On Friday, July 29, its population swelled to at least 41 times that, as the 2022 Des Moines Register’s Great Annual Bike Ride Across Iowa with its 18,000 registered riders — and many more who joined temporarily along the route — swept through en route that day from Charles City to West Union. From there, they would conclude Saturday in Lansing, Iowa, dipping their bike tires in the Mississippi River.
The riders were diverse in age, ability, and geographic origin. But those who shared stories had a couple of things in common. Gratitude for the citizens of Iowa who welcomed them. And thanks for the weather, which was fortuitously pleasant for July.
The restaurateurs of Hawkeye were equally impressed by this year’s ridership.
Diane’s Cafe owner Diane Ungerer opened Friday at 5 a.m. as usual. She had riders come through for breakfast asking for “real food,” and she delivered. Riders from Kansas to Texas posted pictures of their Diane’s Cafe breakfasts on social media.
For the bike riders, she served three electric roasters of barbecue pulled pork which sold out by 12:40 p.m. and 200 dill pickles, which were gone by 2 o’clock.
Reading her shirt that says, “Just like Grandma’s cooking,” someone said, “You are a grandma’s cook.”
“A guy even gave me a kiss on the cheek for it,” Ungerer said.
Riders were kind to her two granddaughters, ages 5 and 8, who helped out.
Ungerer, who has operated as Diane’s Cafe for 43 years of her 51 1/2 years as a cook, has served RAGBRAI riders in the late-’80s-to-early-’90s in West Union and in 1996 in Hawkeye.
“I couldn’t ask for sweeter people,” Ungerer repeated. “All nice, kind. Such a big crowd.”
Down Main Street, Jimmy D’s is open from 11 a.m. until midnight Friday. Owner Dave Novak started with two roasters each of barbecued chicken breast, and of steak sandwiches topped with cheese.
“In one hour, we were out,” Novak said, of food. Some of that was intentional in deference to other groups selling to the riders like the Boy Scouts and Lions Club, he said.
Novak worked 14 hours Friday and slept four that night. He was cleaning up some on Saturday but said the riders pleasantly surprised him.
“They cleaned up a lot themselves, these people. I figured it’d look like a dang concert was here, but it turned out good,” Novak said.
“Everybody was respectful, no fights, no nothing,” he said. “Well behaved crowd, and we were packed in here.”
Hawkeye Coffee Co., a relatively new business — open since April 1 — was open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday.
Jordan (Westpfahl) Sherman and Matt Sherman of Sumner run it. Jordan Westpfahl attended North Fayette Valley as a Hawkeye resident until her family moved to Sumner in 2004, where she later graduated, her husband, Matt Sherman said.
Her grandparents, Keith and Marilyn Westpfahl, purchased the building, which includes the shop at 105 W. Main St. in Hawkeye, to keep the building active in town.
The Shermans own The Grind on the Go coffee trailer, which predated the Hawkeye Coffee Co.
“When we wanted to winter our trailer we said ‘can we put it here,’ and the town said they wanted a coffee shop,” Matt Sherman said.
One thing led to another, and on April 1, Hawkeye Coffee Co. opened.
The shop had a steady stream of traffic Friday, doing over $200 an hour in sales “and we still didn’t sell out,” Matt Sherman said.
They have already passed muster with the Black Hawk County Health Department, and the RAGBRAI revenue will allow them enough to file the new business paperwork, Sherman said.
It wasn’t all for private enterprise, either.
The Hawkeye Fire and Emergency Medical Services sold bratwursts and beer to raise money for two Americans-with-Disabilities-Act accessible restrooms from the Hawkeye Community Center, at an estimated combined cost of $8,000.