Escape from Indiana
Wow, I’ve been pretty bad at keeping this blog up to date, I’m like two states off from the previous post last post anymore. A lot of that has to do with the fact that my computer is kind of sort of not working, at all. As it turns out, my fancy Solid State Disk, the super rugged one without moving parts that can withstand 1500G-forces and has a 136.98 years mean time before failure, has indeed failed catastrophically after only one year of use for no discernable reason. This has left me dead in the water with a giant heavy battery with which to charge my other electronics with. Luckily, I also brought my really shitty GPS with me and am able to navigate relatively successfully. I was also able to install a copy of Linux onto an SD card and have a bootable PC. As an aside, I must say, I really really really hate running linux on this machine. It seems that the SD card is constantly thrashing, which means that the entire OS just seems to freeze randomly for seconds at a time. Suspend and hibernate never ever work. The battery life is shit, and through an install error on my part, I only have 31MB of space to install applications.
I think where I last left off, I’d just crossed the border into Indiana, and had splurged on a luxurious stay at the Days Inn after trespassing in a state park in southwest Ohio. Looking at google maps that morning, I realized that Indiana and Illinois are pretty much devoid of bike trails, with the exception of a rail trail through Muncie, and the city of Carmel. Well, Muncie was kind of in the direction of Indianapolis, and I had gotten used to the comfy rail trails of Ohio, so I started going in that direction.
I had been cruising up the rail-trail, until I reached Muncie, at which point I wondered how being in Muncie helped me get anywhere. I stopped at a library and looked up directions to the closest state park and headed westward. This park was actually relatively cheap and quite giant by comparison to all other parks I had stayed at. They must have had at least a 100 lots in addition to picnic areas and hiking trails. They also had what I presume to be a youth group trip of about 20 tweener kids. On cue, around 12 AM, they started wandering around, LED flashlights drawn, giggling and laughing. On several occasions they would walk directly through my camp site, shining their lights directly in my face wondering “What’s that?” It’s a freaking tent. I’m trying to sleep, get your goddamn light out of my face. Maybe I’m becoming a curmudgeon.
The next night I had arranged to stay with some family friends in Carmel, IN back from when we used to live there 15 years ago. I had originally been recommended by a cyclist to take the state route 67 to Indianapolis. It didn’t take me long to see that they were recommending a full freeway to me, so I nixed that plan and started taking a series of zig-zagging county roads to get into town. My google maps printout showed a network of bike routes around the city of Carmel, but there were two or three other cities in between there. I suddenly found myself in heavy traffic on roads with literally zero shoulder and a 6 inch drop off the edge of the pavement. Riding in traffic is one thing, but getting passed at 50 miles an hour by dump trucks and semis while trying to straddle a painted white line is another.
After several detours, I ended up in Carmel, where suddenly there was space to breathe. I started to recognize churches and some of the other buildings along the way. It’s a weird feeling to travel back to somewhere you haven’t been since you were 10. I arrived at my destination and was greeted by Matt and his parents, Bert and Sue, and was offered food, drink, and a hot shower. Eventually, Matt’s sister and fiancé showed up and so myself and their whole family sat outside drinking beers and conversing. Bert and I shared war stories about corporate America and inept management. It was an entertaining evening.
The next morning, Bert and Sue made sure that I had everything I needed before heading out the door, including a solid dozen cookies, which I munched on for the next few days. They even offered to drive me the full distance to Bloomington, which was tempting given the heat and humidity of the next couple days, but I eventually took off to the road once again.
Heading south through Indianapolis was not bad, as the Monon Trail heads through the center of the city. This is great and all, but it doesn’t really exit the south side of the city, so I had to meander through Purdue to what google and the city of Indianapolis had marked as “suggested bike routes.” I would disagree heavily. They followed what seemed to be the Indiana trend of “no shoulder, 6 inch drop off the road, lane markers painted on the complete edge.” I ended up eventually making it to a red-neck fishing hole RV park, which at the very least had electricity and wi-fi. This proved a boon, as it allowed me to check the radar and see a large orange blob headed directly in my direction. I started to panic, as I had no idea how well my tiny tent would hold up in a thunderstorm and waited in the dark bubble of a tent with my laptop. As it turns out, the rain was only moderate and there was not much wind or lightning, so I got worked up over nothing. Everything in the tent was perfectly dry.
The following morning, I got on State route 37 towards Bloomington, where I would be staying with one of Jared’s internet buddies. Riding the freeway was really not too bad 90% of the way. The shoulder was at least 8 feet wide with a rumble strip in between cars and the shoulder, making it quite possibly one of the safest roads I’ve ridden in Indiana. This did not make it any less psychologically draining to get passed by semi trucks at 60 miles an hour, but I just jacked my headphones up to drown them out. The only problem I ran into at one point was that the highway inexplicably changed from 2 lanes to 3 for about 2 miles, gobbling up the entirety of the shoulder. When this happened I weaved onto the rumble strip for a brief moment, lost control, and rubbed into the right barrier, falling off my bike. I was pretty shaken up, so I walked my bike until the shoulder returned.
Arriving in Bloomington, I met with Greg and Christie, two cycling friends of Wasitabatisaw. They were kind enough to spend the day with me, taking me to various art shows and a musical performance to get a taste of what Bloomington was all about. As near as I can tell, Bloomington must be the hipster capitol of Indiana, and perhaps the entire midwest. Greg helped me hunt down a 12-32 7-speed cassette and retrofit a new freehub body onto my rear hub so that I could not blow my knees out. In the process he helped correct a number of slipshod assembly issues that I had ignored up until this point.
As I headed out of Bloomington towards the Illinois border, I was extremely grateful for the hours that Greg took getting my rear wheel setup with my new cassette. The country roads leading out of Bloomington were extremely steep and the 90+ degree weather was not helping in any capacity. My garmin was ticking off climbs that were 16%, yet I was able to clamber to the top in my shiny new granny gear at 3 mph. I think I would have done a lot of walking without the extended range.
I eventually arrived at Greene-Sullivan State park and set up camp. No one was present at the office and I did not have exact change so I skipped registration. This did not go unnoticed as some park rangers rolled by later after noticing me setting up my rainfly in the dark. Pro-Tip: if you’re trying to not be found, don’t use your ultra-bright headlamp. They let me stay provided I pay the registration fee at the office in the morning. Theoretically, I could have just ridden off as they had no real information about me, but I figured that might harbor some negative karma towards future bicycle tourists passing through the area.
So that was my stay in Indiana. The people I stayed with along the way were awesome, but the roads for the majority of it were complete shit. It seems that Indiana’s strategy towards cyclists is more “let’s give them some rail trails and they’ll shut up” except that the paved trails are nowhere near pervasive nor connected. It might actually be safer to take the highways in this state than the regular roads.