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!




Day Trip - Cedar Rapids and the Linn County Trails

The Trails

Cedar River Trail - South

Running south from downtown Cedar Rapids, this asphalt trail is in fantastic condition. Within the city it provides easy access to the Czech Village and NewBo District.  The most southern portion loses it's urban vibe as it travels along the Cedar River before merging into the Hoover Trail.  

Map and Information

Hoover Trail

Named after our 31st president this trial connects to the Cedar River Trail and travels into the quiet town of Ely.  It is a paved divided trail that has been very well maintained.  With minimal grades and shelter provided by wooded areas, it's an enjoyable ride.  There are a couple of highway crossings but they did not prove challenging.  

Map and Information


The Ride

Sometimes you just gotta get away.  Sometimes you only have a day to do it.  Thank goodness for day trips!

My sister and I headed to Cedar Rapids for a day filled with shopping, eating and and out-n-back ride to Ely.  Thanks to the one-click provided by the Cedar Rapids Convention & Visitors Bureau, we had a list of places to visit. 

Our adventure began at Brewhemia.  After a long car ride caffeine was needed.  This quaint spot was hopping!  Lots of people were meeting up for conversation or working from their laptops.  Luckily we found a quiet corner towards the back to enjoy our coffee and discuss the plans for the day.  

We intended to start our ride after getting caffeinated but I couldn't just walk past the  independently owned bookstore next door.   In we went to browse books and admire art.  The Next Page Bookstore  is just like the bookstore I've always dreamed of working in.  Small, with an interesting selection and cozy spots to relax and turn through the pages.  

Finally, it was time to hit the trail.  We unloaded our bikes and headed to Sokol Park to catch the southern portion of the Cedar River Trail.

Crossing the Bridge of Lions on 16th Ave SW we paused to admire the stoic lions.  Lions are symbols of Bohemia and signify power and sovereignty.  These  reminded us of Aslan, C.S. Lewis' character from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.   The Bridge of Lions is a popular Cedar Rapids landmark and an important link connecting the Czech Village and the NewBo district.

Following the trail along the Cedar River we enjoyed the fall colors and views of the water.  We pedaled past a couple of industrial plants and speculated the source of the smells coming from them.  I had forgotten about the odoriferous aspect of CR.  

Our ride to Ely was beautiful.  Leaves falling, a smooth trail, and some curves to keep it interesting.  

Then it happened!  The thing I've always hoped to experience on a bike ride.  Seeing turkey!  A big tom and his harem were out enjoying the sunshine gleaning corn from a recently combined field.  We stopped and watch them for a while.  They were either unaware or unconcerned of our presence.  Now I can check turkey off my "wildlife seen on a bike ride" list.  

Arriving in Ely we found our way over to The Retreat.  This is a charming spot for taking a bike break.  Located in a renovated house, this coffee shop uses a special water filtration system to make a perfect cup of joe.  With so many cozy nooks  to choose from it was almost difficult to pick where to sit.  What was difficult was leaving!!  We could easily have spent the afternoon here relaxing, but there were only a few hours left in our day and there was more to explore.


The Field Trip

After returning to Cedar Rapids the whirlwind of eating and shopping began. 

First was a refreshing pint of beer inside the eclectic Parlor City Pub then across the street to NewBo City Market where we discovered Rare Bird Soap Shop  and shared a tasty snack from Dumpling Darling

With the smell of butterscotch wafting down the sidewalk we were lured inside The Great American Popcorn Co where we tasted fresh, warm and irresistible caramel corn.

Our day wrapped up in the Czech Village browsing through the shops and dinner (and beer of course) at the hip and friendly Lion Bridge Brewery.  Because I just couldn't seem to get enough coffee, I opted to try the Coffee Compensation.  Loved it!!  It was sooo tempting to stay longer and sample more craft beer, but it was time to return home.  

Sometimes you gotta get away.  Sometimes you only have a day to do it.  Thank goodness for Cedar Rapids.

Happy Riding!

Day Trip - Chariton and the Cinder Path Trail

The Trail

Iowa's first rail-trail can be found only 80 minutes south of the Des Moines metro.  The Cinder Path is 13.5 miles in length and travels from Chariton to Humeston.  Leave the road bike at home as this unpaved trail has a mixture of terrain consisting of cinder, limestone, gravel and even grass.  Scenery consists of forest, wetlands, and the Chariton River.  There are no facilities along the trail, so pack and plan accordingly. 

Trail Map

Trail Information


The Ride

The Cinder Path has been on my "to-ride" list for several years.  This would be the day I'd be checking it off!

After a quick pit stop at a gas station outside of Chariton I parked at the trailhead and prepped for the bike.  I had borrowed my son's mountain bike since the trail is known for being rough.  His bike is a bit small for me but not uncomfortable.  I had a seat bag holding repair items but didn't have  a handlebar bag for other essentials.  As a work-around I  brought along a draw-string bag to carry a snack, tire pump, car keys, wallet, phone, and bandanna.  It worked great. 

Only yards from the parking lot is the first bridge of many.  I'm not sure why signs instruct riders to walk bikes across.  Perhaps it's because the boards get slick when wet.  Maybe it's because some of them have wide gaps between the wooden slats.  I threw caution to the wind and slowly rode across.  With over 15 bridges on the trail dismounting for every one would certainly get old.

The trail was is great condition.  I was anticipating it being rough and narrow.  It was quite the opposite.  A wide trail and a smooth ride was a nice surprise.  In my opinion, the Cinder Path is smoother than the northern unpaved portion of the Chichaqua Valley Trail!  

Trailside benches and structures were needing attention.  Many were overgrown with vegetation and did not look structurally sound.  They did a great job of adding interesting character to the trail.

Hunting is not allowed along the Cinder Path.  By the amount of squirrels I saw it's their hangout during squirrel season.  They have plenty to eat with all walnut trees shading the trail. 

The wooded corridor made for a serene ride and a refreshing change from the busier central Iowa trail system.  This would be an ideal trail for enjoying fall colors and a fun spot for winter fat biking or cross country skiing. 

Almost 7 miles in I spotted two large dogs running towards me.  If I wasn't riding solo I would have ventured ahead hoping they were friendly.  But, alone on a trail in the middle of nowhere, and a bit scared of dogs, I didn't want to chance it and turned back.  I was followed for a bit until they were distracted.  I probably have a fat squirrel to thank.


The Field Trip

After wrapping up my ride I headed into Chariton.  My agenda for the day included a couple of stops around the town square.  The first was Piper's Grocery and Homemade Candy.  A Chariton institution since 1903, the store front greeted me with it's cheerful awning.  Inside there was an interesting mix of groceries, antiques, deli counter, and of course handmade chocolates.  I picked a small box containing a sample of their fudge, pecan roll, and turtles. Warning!!  Do not leave this store with a small box!!  It's not enough!!!

Next stop was the Connecticut Yankee Pedaller.   This bike shop is located inside a former movie theater built in 1927.  What was once a balcony filled with seats is now lined with bicycles of every type.  Name it, and the Hendricks family has got it.  Even penny-farthings!  I drooled over a sporty orange trike an it's cool set of wheels.  This might have to be my next bike.  I can picture it now:  Zipping down the trail on this tough trike while eating the big box of Piper chocolates and being tailed by a couple of  dogs.

Happy Riding!





Day Trip - Pella and the Volksweg Trail

The Trail

Dutch for “people's path”, the Volksweg Trail travels 13 miles from Pella to the Lake Red Rock area.  The Pella trailhead is located at W 5th Street/University. Parking and facilities are located within the state park at campgrounds and recreational areas.

From the trail riders can get wonderful views of Iowa’s largest body of water.  Each curve in the trail provides interesting landscapes ranging from prairie, wooded areas, small marshes and even a nature-inspired play/rest area.  Listed as "difficult" on Iowa by Trail app the trail has some steep grades and puts gears and legs to work.  

Note:  Portions of the trail are closed due to the hydroelectric project at the dam.  The northern segment can be accessed inside the North Overlook Campground via the spillway bridge or Idaho Drive. 

Construction Project Map

Red Rock Hydroelectric Project

Trail Map

Trail Information


The Ride

A mid-week work break prompted my husband and I to take a trip to Pella.  Only an hour from the metro this town is known for Tulip Time and is home to Central College.  What prompted our visit?  Dutch pasteries, fastastic coffee, and most importantly, the Volkweg Trail.

Arriving in Pella we began our morning with a visit to the town square.  First stop was grabbing piping hot java from Smokey Row Coffee and "only in Pella" goodies from Vander Ploeg Bakery.    We headed across the street to Public Square Park and found a shady picnic table.  There we enjoyed our breakfast under the watchful eye of a gigantic caterpillar and a memorialized Civil War solider. 

Next it was a stop at Iowa Bike and Fitness for first-hand information on the trail.  Francisco let us know it was dry despite frequent rain and showed us routes for accessing the northern portion of the trail.  

We chose to skip riding the segment from Pella and used the North Overlook campground area as our trailhead.  The northern segment of the Volksweg Trail is my favorite and was just as beautiful as before.  Butterflies were lilting between blossoms, deer were grazing, and sailboats floating on the water.  We leisurely rode through the cool shady wooded areas and ventured off the trail to ride through campground areas.  

Our small excursion away from the daily routine left us recharged.  Which was it?  The Dutch pastries, coffee, biking or the outdoors?  All of the above!

Happy Riding!