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Belly Up To...

Cumming Tap, a happy accident

4/10/2013

Cumming Tap owner Bob Moural took this picture of me with the new Salsa Adventure bicycle I had won at the cycle-friendly outskirts bar, which is a destination along the Great Western Trail for hundreds of cyclists.

Cumming Tap owner Bob Moural took this picture of me with the new Salsa Adventure bicycle I had won at the cycle-friendly outskirts bar, which is a destination along the Great Western Trail for hundreds of cyclists.

Every once in a while in Des Moines, you’ll spot someone wearing a T-shirt with the shape of Iowa printed on the chest enclosing the clever sexual innuendo: “I <3 Cumming.” (Who doesn’t?)

The popular T-shirt is actually referencing the town of Cumming, which can be found by frustrated motorists who mistakenly missed the last exit heading south out of the Des Moines metro, as the next opportunity to turn around is four miles down Interstate 35 at Cumming. But to the optimist, missing that exit can be a happy accident, as a curious venture into the small town will surely land him at the Cumming Tap, one of central Iowa’s hidden jewels on the dive bar scene.

As a carouser by trade and a gravel-traveler by choice, I happened upon Cumming Tap last fall after bellying-up in Norwalk on assignment. I have to admit, upon entering I could tell this was a tight-knit crowd, and my friend and I were obvious outsiders. But we like it that way, so we found ourselves a two-seater table against a back wall and took in the atmosphere. A chili potluck wafted an enticing warm and comforting scent from a table across the room. I found myself knuckles deep into a warm bowl before I even ordered my beer.

Then I spotted it. The most ridiculous- and bad-ass-looking bicycle I’d ever seen in real life. A brand new, green “Salsa Adventure” bicycle — with tires that looked like they belonged on a Kawasaki KX 100 dirt bike — was casually leaned up against the wall. I helped myself to an unsteady test-drive around the pool table, drawing a few odd glances.

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“You can win that bike,” said a young, bearded man behind the bar, sliding one of his regulars his usual Budweiser.

Doubtful that a free drawing — where you didn’t have to be present to win — would end in my name being pulled from the hundreds who entered, I signed up for the bike anyway. A man in spandex shorts and a windbreaker (this was November, by the way), had assured me of the futility of entering the contest. He’s going to win the bike, he asserted. He definitely wanted it the most; that was clear.

But in the end, it wasn’t about who wanted it most. It was about who needed it most.

You see, I am not a “cyclist.” Rather, I like to ride my bike the way a 7-year-old kid does. My first bike was so shitty (its flower-clad banana seat had broke from the frame from one too many brutal collisions with curbs, trees, posts, fire hydrants, etc.) that my father had to tie it down with a rope that chafed my thighs during those long summer rides. I named it “Good Enough.” About two years ago I found two twin Schwinn 10-speeds on a neighbor’s curb, along with the rest of her garbage. I was in need of a bike, so I decided to keep one for riding and the other for parts. It was “good enough” for me.

Then I got a call from the bearded bartender, owner Bob Moural, who I had met months earlier during my brief time at Cumming Tap.

“You won,” he said cavalierly.

I was beaming. As soon as I convinced a friend with a truck to help me haul the massive all-terrain cycle, I returned to collect my prize. It will not be my last visit to the tap that chose me. I love Cumming. CV

Cumming Tap
117 N. 44th St., Cumming
(515) 981-5149
Hours: noon to close seven days a week.
Happy Hour: Tacopocalypse Tuesdays, Wednesday Steak Night; Thurs., Sat., Sun. Charbuff Grill night
Capacity: 52 indoor, plus huge outdoor patio
Bike Give-a-way: New Belgium Fat Tire Bike raffle begins this weekend, April 12.

 

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