The 11-mile Summerset trail from Carlisle to Indianola in Iowa is perhaps the easiest trail we ride.
This converted rail trail is smooth and mostly flat, and it is pretty in a demure Iowa way. You ride on the prairie past a marsh (frogs croaking), Summerset Park (a small park which has a lake where people fish), and a private menagerie (llama, goats, and ponies), and then uphill perhaps three miles. The good thing? On the way back it’s downhill.
I was so happy to be out in the sunshine, though it was very windy, and it was horribly dusty every time a car passed. Still, it’s green and the trees are budding, and it should be greener soon, since rain is expected all next week. The rainy days have made me think of Ray Bradbury’s famous short story, “All Summer in a Day,” about rain on Venus and a rare day of sunshine. I love light, and once, when I was in the hospital, I threatened to yank out the IV if they didn’t allow me to go outside. So there I was in my hospital gown with a coat thrown over it, and the damned IV on a pole.
Back to the trail…At the top of the hill you’re in Indianola, a small, pretty town with a lot of green space. Our favorite hangout is Uncommon Grounds, a coffeehouse and restaurant downtown on the square. We got there ten minutes before closing, and were in time to grab scrumptious muffins (one double chocolate and one blueberry ) and coffee.
We devoured our muffins at Salem Court, an alley which has been converted into a lovely, bright space where you can have lunch or just hang out, furnished with very comfortable iron tables, chairs, and benches, and its walls decorated with charming murals that represent the town’s history.
What else is there to do in Indianola?
It’s mostly a place to enjoy the quiet, but you can also
1. Eat at the Crouse Cafe, which has delicious homestyle specials: I have loved the rigatoni covered thickly with cheese (yum!) and my husband recommends the chicken and noodles.
2. Visit Lake Ahquabi State Park, a gorgeous 770-acre state spark with very tough, hilly hiking trails and many picnic sites. You can take your camping equipment on your bike–it’s been done!–and enjoy the beauty.
3. Strongly recommended by others (I have not yet been there) is Summerset Winery, which is a few miles off the trail approximately halfway between Carlisle and Indianola. In Iowa, there are bars on the trails, but the winery adds an elegant note, and has concerts every Sunday afternoon.
In reality all we do is ride our bikes and have coffee, but the aforementioned are for variety.