Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
For years my wife’s family has held their annual reunions at Turkey Run State Park, a ninety-minute drive from our suburban HQ and well outside the range of my phone carrier’s coverage. For the space of one Sunday afternoon it’s an opportunity to unplug from the internet and all its problems, experience fresh air, enjoy good weather live and in person (Lord willing), catch up with loved ones that we’ve been too preoccupied to visit, exchange pleasantries with distant relatives whose names we’ll never remember, test which family members will still commit to a long drive for any of these purposes, and remember how to mingle in large, awkward groups without access to Words with Friends as our consolation playmate.
This year’s shindig went far better than last year’s, which was canceled altogether due to dangerous storms. After we said our farewells to the family, Anne and I decided to make a quick stop on the way home even though we were still stuffed from the reunion pitch-in. Such is our dedication to finding new pastry purveyors whenever we’re out of town and remember to check around.
The nearest civilization to Turkey Run State Park is Rockville, Indiana, the kind of charming place that still has a town square with active businesses. Our path from Indianapolis to Rockville takes us through the heart of town, but travelers will never see the donut shop if they stay on US Highway 36. The first step toward sugary goodness is a right turn at the Thirty Six Saloon, which is a much more visible landmark.
(As we walked past the Thirty Six Saloon on a Sunday afternoon, we saw and listened to a live singer/guitarist entertaining the crowd, and smelled the wondrous aromas of finely cooked meats wafting from within. Maybe we’ll need to check them out next time we’re in town.)
Our destination was on the next side street behind the saloon. We’d driven past it once without identifying them, but spotted them more easily after we parked the car a block away and approached on foot.
Thus did we make our acquaintance with Rockville’s own Wheel House Donuts, opened two years ago by a transplanted Canadian couple who firmly believe every good and decent town needs a solid place for coffee and donuts. They are correct.
We don’t have a photo of a grand display case with dozens of different donuts because that isn’t how they operate. At Wheel House, all donuts are made fresh to order. For each cake donut the buyer can choose from five different icings (maple, vanilla, strawberry, etc.) and over a dozen different toppings (peanut butter drizzle, sprinkles, coconut, etc.), thus providing a fun array of combinations for your half-dozen or many dozens.
As with artisan establishments we’ve seen in other areas (e.g., St. Paul), the interior decoration is automotive-themed. Remnants of a former garage have been integrated into the shop design, with accents of blue-collar chic all around. Works for me.
The bottom line: the donuts were beyond reproach. I say this as someone who’s on record as hating cake donuts. At most joints, cake donuts taste like artificial assembly-line products that are delivered weeks in advance, dumped into a dustbin for safekeeping, then tossed underhand onto cookie sheets beneath a heat lamp for doling out as needed. Wheel House aims higher with their cake donuts, delivering value-added freshness, dozens of flavor options, and a winning dough recipe that doesn’t feel overladen with the mainstream donut industry ‘s favorite chemicals.
One caveat: outside summertime, Wheel House Donuts closes at 4 pm daily. That means in future years we’ll need to make sure our family reunions end on time, even if sometimes it’ll mean walking away from Grandma mid-sentence.
(To be fair, Anne would not do that. I can always come back and pick her up later.)