Anderson to Lebanon via Strawtown and Cicero: Oh yes! I’m living my dream!
Thursday May 6, 2010, 47 miles (76 km) – Total so far: 47 miles (76 km)
Thursday morning. The ride begins. Or not.
My dad insists on taking me to the edge of town because, you know, there’s morning traffic, school buses, and people who aren’t used to looking out for cyclists. It is nothing that I won’t encounter over the next seven weeks – but I know it will make my dad feel much better, so I concede. He drives me the first ten miles to the edge of town. If he knew all of the adventures I’ve undertaken over the past 15 years since leaving home (and most of the things he does know), then it seems like this would not be a big deal. But for whatever reason(s), it is. He may not be able to protect me from negative experiences along the route, but he can do his best on his own turf.
So when we pull over and unload the bike, I give my dad a big hug. It is an awkward goodbye. I will see him on Saturday, when I meet him and my mother at a state park for Mothers Day, but the heavy feeling in the air between us makes this seem much more final. I’m not scared about this trip, but his uneasiness is contagious and it creates a tiny bubble of uncertainty in my mind. I push off and wave as I turn left and west for Colorado and behind me he turns right and back to town. In my rearview mirror, I watch his red pickup grow smaller and smaller and then turn a corner out of sight.
The contagious uncertainty bubble vanishes immediately. I’m living my dream! The route (W. 8th St., Strawtown Ave) I’ve chosen out of town follows the White River. The native Americans used this route, as did the earliest settlers moving into the county. There are archaeological remains all along the river and it’s a beautiful winding road with corn fields on the left and houses backing onto the river on the right. I stop at the oldest cemetery in the county (i.e. Perkinsville) which sits on this side, the high bank, of the river. I contemplate what the landscape would have looked like when these folks arrived and what hardships they would have found on their journey to Madison County.
I continue my own journey, stopping at the Strawtown Park. I’m visiting because it is a recent addition to the Hamilton County Park system that is proving to be quite a significant archaeological site. (They’ve even found Clovis points here- associated with people 10,000-12,000 years ago – which gives me chills when I look at one in the case.) As I’m looking at the info board outside, the naturalist comes out and invites me in. And so I meet Steve, a marathon runner and former history teacher who is one of those folks with untiring energy and enthusiasm. He gives me, and an older gentleman who is there on a family history search, a tour of the centre and the artefacts. He enthusiastically relates to us the programs they run and how they’ve improved the place and all the things they hope to do. We talk about my trip and he is impressed by the undertaking. I’m gobsmacked by the importance of the finds at this site, wondering how I could have lived down the road from this my whole childhood and never known it was there. I’d love to stick around and take it all in a bit more, but I’ve got to get going. I don’t know what I’m capable or not capable of on the bike yet, and there are miles to go. I exchange email addresses with Steve – he asks that I keep him updated on my journey. I leave, thinking about how fortunate organisations are when they can find people like him who absolutely love what they do.
I stop for second breakfast at a park overlooking Morse Reservoir in the town of Cicero. They’re repaving the road and the asphalt blokes look at me like I’ve descended from another planet. I give a wave and a smile – what else do you do?
I then travel several roads with no shoulder and lots of traffic and zig zag my way westward. Once I get past Westfield, an emerging suburb of Indianapolis, the traffic eases. I’m really surprised at the patience of the drivers. Maybe they could tell I wanted to be on those two roads just about as much as they wanted me to be there. From here on out, traffic is light, the county roads are in pretty good condition and I’m free to enjoy the absolute perfect conditions for the first day of my ride. It’s 69 degrees, sunny and only a breath of wind on occasion. Oh yes, I’m living my dream!!
With 10 miles to go, I stop at an intersection to give my butt a break and to contemplate which route I want to take into Lebanon. I straddle the bike for a snack and check out the map. I notice Verne has a huge spider on his head about to crawl over his eyes. I flick the spider and Verne’s head. ‘Sorry, Verne.’ It will be the first of many times I inadvertently torture my handlebar bag companion. But Verne keeps smiling. His arms are outstretched and he looks as excited about the adventure as I am. I decide to head straight ahead, even though it means riding a gravel road for a couple miles. It’s a bit slower and Verne’s head bounces continuously, but I manage to avoid the bigger stones and the wheels stay in true. Shaken Verne politely requests we avoid gravel in the future when possible.
As we come into Lebanon we’re on a quiet residential street. Kids wave, there are women out sweeping front porches of early 20th century homes and a man in a car waves me through the four-way stop. For a moment I feel like I’ve pedalled into a Norman Rockwell painting. I avoid the commercial streets as long as possible, but I have to get on the state highway to get up and over the interstate to the motels. Somehow I time it right and don’t hold up any traffic. I find the Econo Lodge, which is run by a friendly Indian man and his son. They are amazed I rode all the way from Anderson, suggesting that they used to ride bicycles in India but never that far and definitely never alone. The motel would have been a much fancier place in the early 1990s, but it’s clean and well-kept and good value for money. I grab a fast-food dinner across the street and then really enjoy a hot shower. 3 dog chases today, but none were very serious. I guess it’s no fun to ‘chase’ a nearly stationary object. It was a perfect first day!!
Distance: Car 10 miles; bike 47.07
Max speed: 21.2mph
Ave speed: 10.6