When in Doubt, Cook It on Medium, Bike Woes, and Biking to Indianola

Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz) cooking

Ricky Ricardo (Desi Arnaz) cooking breakfast.

My husband asked “Would you like pancakes?”

What an Arcadian beginning to Spring Break!

I was groggy.  Was I back on the commune in the ’70s? I wondered. That was the last time anyone cooked pancakes for me.   But no one was wearing overalls, listening to Blind Faith, or feeding scraps to a cute dog from the pound, so I figured it was 2015.

I was reading an article about Hilary Clinton’s private e-mail account when the smoke alarm went off.   BLEEP-BLEEP.  “Where is it?”  That is always the question.   There is hunting, there is following the loud bleep, there is climbing on a chair, and there is disconnecting.  Then there are black-crusted pancakes. They were burnt, but delicious with real maple syrup.

It was a surreal sitcom morning.

Here’s what we learned.  When in doubt, cook it on medium.  My motto:  Cook everything on medium except boiling water.  You boil that.

Bike Woes and Biking to Indianola


My Cannondale is the one with green pedals.

The weather has been heavenly.  It was 68 degrees today.

Biking weather.

I have had a few bike woes lately.

Do you, like us, have several bikes?  A city bike, a long-distance bike, and an old back-up?  Maybe a few more in the basement?  When the back-ups break down, you know you’re in trouble.

My woes started last year when my 2003 Cannondale got creaky.  Everything had been replaced:  seat, pedals, chain, derailleur, brakes, you name it.  I didn’t like the new noise, so I bought an inexpensive Raleigh.

My husband was a little upset by the cheap Raleigh, and said I needed a better bike.  But my reasoning goes like this:  Why spend a lot of money on a bike when you can buy books?

The lovely cheap Raleigh has collapsed, less than a year after buying.   And so I am back on my Cannondale.  It creaks like mad, but it is much faster and easier to ride uphill.   And now I know:  it is the better bike.  He was right.

And so CREAK-CREAK-CREAK:  Yesterday we rode our bicycles on the Summerset Trail from Carlisle to Indianola, Iowa.  The 11-mile trail (22 miles round-trip) is VERY EASY. And that’s why you want to ride it.  Your first long trip of the year eases you into riding.  And so you ride past the wetlands with the frogs croaking and then you are in a state park with a lake.

Uncommon Grounds, Indianola

Uncommon Grounds, Indianola

If you are lazy, you can stop by the small lake (six miles into the ride) and have a picnic.  We go on to Indianola,though,  because I really, really like coffee.

You can go to Uncommon Grounds, a coffeehouse-cum-deli with great coffee, delicious sandwiches, and dessert, if you get there before 2 p.m.,  when everything on the square closes up.

Crouse Cafe, Indianola

Crouse Cafe, Indianola

If you have a big appetite,  you can go to Crouse Cafe, which is open all day.  It has wonderful home-cooking specials like chicken with noodles, rigatoni, or catfish. I’m not sure about the coffee.

I am so happy to take a long bike ride so early. (Last year, we weren’t on the Summerset Trail till April 26:  read about it here..) No jacket, or wear just a sweatshirt–we’ve got to be kidding, right?  And the weather’s going to be nice all week.

Bicycling Chronicle with Coffee, # 1: Indianola, Iowa


Salem Court, Indianola

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.

Uncommon Grounds IndianolaBack 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.