Coffee Outside VI - Clive Greenbelt Trail

The Ride

With crisp temperature the morning was ripe for coffee outside.  The agenda: ride to the Campbell Recreation area for a breakfast brew up.

My route there included the Waukee-Clive portion of the Raccoon River Valley Trail.  I dislike this trail segment...very much.  It includes crossing numerous intersections, entryways, and riding alongside four noisy lanes of traffic.  One can not/should not ride here without being "on alert".   

Using a different route, the ride back was enjoyable.  The pretty greenbelt, quiet neighborhoods and easier intersections are my preferred way to pedal between Waukee and Clive. It's definitely one less traveled.

The Brew Up

Sure, there are plenty of picnic tables at the park, and yes it was a cloudy day, but I couldn't resist setting up my little breakfast camp underneath a beautiful Weeping Willow.

I recently acquired two new additions to my kit.  A camp mug from Omaha Bicycle Co and a burr grinder by Tanors.  Turns out grinding beans is a fun way to kill time while the water heats. My pouring was a bit sloppy but the results proved positive.  

Cross your fingers temperatures stay conducive for morning activities like these.

Happy Riding!

*Jam Jar beans from Kickapoo Coffee Roasters.  

Coffee Outside V - Neal Smith Trail

The Trail

The Neal Smith Trail is named after Iowa’s longest serving congressman and World War II Veteran.  It starts at the marina at Big Creek State Park and winds it’s way south for 26 miles, ending at Birdland Marina in Des Moines. 

This asphalt trail keeps you on your toes, (and sometimes out of the saddle) with it’s twists, turns, and steep grades.  If you need to catch your breath, or just take in the scenery, take advantage of the benches along the trail.  Each has a bike rack to safely park your steed off the trail.  

A bike repair stand can be found at the Visitor Center, along with water and restrooms during operation hours. 

Due to a major construction project on NW 66th Ave, the trail under the bridge is closed.  A marked detour is available to bypass the closure.  See the  Detour Map  for details.  

Trail Map

Trail Information

Saylorville Lake Map

The Ride

Springtime is a great time of year for riding the  Neal Smith Trail.  Campground areas have yet to open so you can take leisurely loops with roads to yourself.  Bald Eagles (and later Pelicans) make the spillway their favorite hangout.  With the majority of the trail in wooded areas the wind can blow all it wants and a ride can still be fun.

I didn't have an agenda for this ride other than to take my sweet time and hopefully discover something new.  Coffee gear had been stowed in my trusty-it'll do-pannier in case I happened upon a good brew up spot.  

There is a serious climb up from the spillway area that quickly pointed out my bike riding is leisure and snack-centric.  I was glad no one was on this part of the trail to witness my struggle.  If squirrels can laugh I'm sure they were cracking up.

At one of the bends in the trail I spotted an unpaved trail and followed.  This would be the highlight of my outing.  The trail deposited me at a sandy makeshift campfire area.   How cool!  With a beautiful view of the lake I brewed up my coffee* and enjoyed a bike break.  I'd like to say this part of the shoreline is a secret but based on the amount of liter it's well used.  

Winding up my ride I felt energized.  It wasn't because of the caffeine or the blood pumping pedaling, or even seeing Bald Eagles up close.  It was all thanks to venturing off the paved trail and experiencing something special.

Happy Riding!

*The morning brew was Mars Cafe's blend of Kickapoo coffee.  






Coffee Outside IV - Great Western Trail

The Trail

A former railway for Chicago Great Western Railroad this trail begins at Park Ave/George Flagg Parkway in Des Moines and travels 16.5 miles to Martensdale.  The asphalt trail winds through Willow Creek Golf course and under Highway 5.  Tree canopy buffers wind and provides shade on a hot day.    Construction projects continue to impact the trail around the Highway 5 area.  Plan for slowing down for equipment and loose rock.  An updated park  just off the trail in Cumming provides a peaceful spot for taking a bike break.  A vending machine with water and sport drinks is the newest addition.  

Trail Map

The Ride

Winter's brown might suggest boring scenery this time of year.  But barren trees and dormant undergrowth play a fun role in uncovering hidden treasures along the trail.  A winding creek, a birdhouse, a stairway and graffiti were all revealed.  Not to be missed was a dumped couch. 

The chipmunks were out and about along the trail.  Also active was a team of men moving dirt south of the lean-to shelter.  Looks like it will be another summer of contending with construction.  A road is being extended and will cross the trail.  (The Facebook trail page has the scoop.)

The little city park in Cumming has become my favorite stop.  It's quiet and comfortable and a great brew-up location.  I had it all to myself while I enjoyed my breakfast snack and coffee*.

I've yet to decide if I need a different method for transporting coffee gear.  This trip I packed everything in a back pack and stowed it in my grocery pannier.  It worked just fine.  Perhaps there isn't a need for a fancy trunk rack or carradice bag but more of a want.  Having either would mean more room for snacks though, and snacks are must!

Happy Riding!

*The morning brew was Buziraguhindwa from Counter Culture, purchased at Stomping Grounds in Ames. 

Coffee Outside III - High Trestle Trail

Today was not only the first time I've enjoyed coffee* while standing on a 13 story high bridge, it was also my first bike ride brew-up.  

An overlook spot on the High Trestle Bridge proved to be a great location for a coffee break.  It was breezy but the stove was nicely tucked out of the wind. In less than 10 minutes I was enjoying my caffeine fix while soaking up some sun and admiring the view.  Other than sounds of cracking ice it was a quiet morning. 

Along with continuing to brainstorm future coffee outside locations, I need to determine a better way to tote coffee gear. I'm sure I looked quite silly riding down the trail using one grocery pannier.  Thankfully the only witnesses were deer, and they can't laugh.

Happy Riding!

*The morning brew was Sumatra from Corazon Coffee Roasters


Day Trip - Indianola and the Summerset Trail

The Trail

The Summerset Trail is a National Recreational Trail traveling 12 miles from Indianola to Carlisle.  It is also a recognized destination by Rails To Trails Conservancy.   The asphalt trail provides a variety of scenery. In Indianola you travel through industrial areas, then through neighborhoods.  Next it’s the wooded sections through the state park area followed by open prairie and farm fields as you approach Carlisle.

The Indianola trailhead is located in the 300 block of N 5th Street.  Parking, restrooms and water are available along with a picnic area.  At the trail’s halfway mark is Banner Lake State Park.  There you can ride the loop around one of Iowa’s trout lakes that was formerly a coalmine.  The trailhead in Carlisle is along Highway 5, just south of the town's last stop light.  It has parking, a shaded spot to rest, and is conveniently located next to an ice cream and sandwich shop.

Trail Map

Trail Information

The Ride

Indianola is a great place for combining biking, shopping, and eating.  Who doesn't like that combination?  The plan for my outing was to get a ride in, enjoy some coffee outside, and then spend some time exploring the town square.  

Before heading down the trail I needed some coffee!  I had intended to bring my thermos along, but had left poor Stanley back home on the kitchen counter.  Time to improvise.

Arriving in Indianola I drove through Mudslingers  and  ordered a small brew.  The accommodating baristas were kind enough to put it in a large cup.  It ended up fitting in my bike's bottle cage just fine with the coffee not sloshing out.  The only down side was it didn't stay warm.  The price I had to pay for my forgetfulness.

Only two days prior I had visited the Chichaqua Valley Trail .  Because autumn's colors were still hanging on there  I anticipated finding a similar palate along the Summerset Trail.   However, I was too late.  To quote Maxwell Smart:  "Missed it by that much!"  

My luck turned though with another turkey sighting.  3 hens were out gobbling corn from a recently harvested field. I stopped and watched for a bit thankful for the fallen leaves.  There's no way I would have spotted them otherwise.    

It was a quiet day on the trail.  Literally.  The shooting range in Banner State Park was closed so my coffee stop at the viewing platform was a peaceful one.  I enjoyed my coffee and took in the scenery.  Surprisingly enough there weren't any geese out on the water. 

After returning to Indianola I checked out the McVay Trail.  It's a short stretch of trail but deserves a visit.  Traveling behind neighborhoods it's flanked by trees and has a fun bridge to cross. 

The Field Trip

Indianola has one of my favorite Iowa town squares.  There are historic buildings, gardens, art and lots of interesting stores. 

My attention was immediately drawn to Pageturners Bookstore .  They have an impressive selection of new and used books.  This is a must-visit shop for bookworms.     Lots of used books are priced at less than $2.00!  There was no way I was leaving this store with out a treasure! 

Next stop was adorn.  This shop is filled with LOTS of cool gifts and decor for the home. I found the perfect birthday gift for my niece and the store's owner Erin carefully wrapped it for me.  This is a store I'll be sure to visit again and again.

After popping in at Canoe Sports Outfitters and checking out their selection of Jamis bicycles, I headed to Funaro's Deli and Bakery and ordered a Turkey Pesto sandwich to go.  Finding a picnic table on the courthouse lawn I enjoyed my lunch while admiring the sculpture Grandmother's Garden.   

My visit wrapped up with a walk around the square window shopping and admiring the RAGBRAI mural, Salem Court, and historical buildings.  

With the Summerset Trail close-by and a town square filled with specialty shops and small town friendliness Indianola is a great destination for a biking day trip.

Happy Riding!