[Posted to the Wheeled Migration Yahoo Group on September 22, 2004]
Hi, folks. I'm writing from the home of my uncle, aunt, and two cousins in Indianapolis. I'll be leaving tomorrow (Wednesday) morning.
I last wrote you Saturday night from Whitewater Memorial State Park in Indiana, which turns out to be a very popular weekend getaway for families with young children. I have the following to say to the parents of America: if you must buy electric scooters for your children, do not bring them camping. No one wants to listen to your kids riding their scooters to the bathroom early in the morning. Two or more scooters going by together sound just exactly like a Martian invasion fleet. Get your kids nice quiet bicycles instead. Thank you.
So that was Sunday morning. My maps, circa 1999, said there was a bike route north from the park to Richmond, and then recommended biking along US-40 into Indianapolis. I was skeptical, so I asked at the park office. The rangers assured me that although there was no bike route per se, I would do well to follow a valley through a series of small towns into Circleville (west of Richmond) and then take US-40. I rode into Circleville and sought out another opinion about riding on the highway.
A strapping young man at an antique shop -- who let me send my previous message to this list from the phone in his store -- assured me that the highway is the ideal way to bicycle into Indy, no question. Well, OK... Turns out they were all correct: US-40 is a great road for biking. The shoulders are generous and well maintained, traffic is light and polite (at least on a Sunday), and the hills are so gradual I was in high gear most of the day. And I really cruised! Some days I hit my stride at 5 MPH, but some days it's more like 15!
I rode nearly to Knightstown before heading north toward the only campground I knew of, Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park, Voted One of Indiana's Five Best Family Resort Campgrounds. I was dreading this, since I expected to have to pay for a lot of services I wouldn't be using. But as I crossed I-70, I saw a "campground" sign at a truck stop, and sure enough, there were people camping there. At $10 it was competitive with the most affordable state parks, the facilities were better than average (private shower rooms!), the highway noise and light pollution weren't all that much worse than at some parks, and on top of everything it had a fully-stocked convenience store and two restaurants open 24-7. So I slept at the truck stop! I did wind up wearing earplugs and a ski mask over my eyes, but I slept great, and I'll definitely look for more truck stops in the future.
I got into Indianapolis early on Monday afternoon and killed a few hours at a library before dropping in on my relatives. One of my cousins is a high-school senior and the other is in 8th grade, so they're on the go all the time, but we had a nice visit. I spent this morning on the Internet and rode into town after lunch. Indianapolis feels a lot like Minneapolis transportation-wise (which I mean as a compliment): it's about the same geographic size, it's flat as a pancake, it has a good system of bike trails in place and more in the works, and although people complain about the bus system it seems pretty straightforward and well used.
I rode the Monon Rail Trail straight south from 75th Street into downtown. The only public trail I've ever seen with more people walking, skating, and biking just because it's a nice day is the one around Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. Tons of people. I was glad I didn't have my trailer because I had to weave around so many people. Anyhow.
I think I mentioned that when I saw the Cincinnati main library, my jaw hit the floor -- four floors above ground and two below, in three connected buildings. Well, the Indianapolis central library is closed for renovation and new construction that will triple its size. I thought I knew what to expect from an "interim" library, having seen the ones in Bartlesville and Minneapolis. But the interim location the Indy librarians scored used to be the Historical Society. Creamy marble walls and green marble columns and dark wooden banisters and a huge four story atrium and a stained glass ceiling and classical paintings above the doorways. I tried to get a photo but I couldn't get a wide enough angle to do the place justice. More than 90% of their collection is on the shelves, and this is just their temporary location. Now I see why the Minneapolis library board kept trying to get city council to think big!
So I got my route planned for Illinois and copied the maps I need. Looks like I'll cut straight west across Illinois to the ecovillages in southeast Iowa and northeast Missouri before heading down to St. Louis, instead of going to St. Louis first. It was a tough call, but I made the best decision I could with the information available. We'll see how it turns out! I may be out of touch between here and Peoria.
Happy trails! --Ben