Sunday, August 15, 2021

Indiana Bike Tour Day 7 - Crown Point to Winnetka, IL

 And we are done.

We are at my sister Kate's house in Winnetka, IL, north of Chicago. We had a great last day of riding. The conditions were perfect, and the route was mostly bike trail.

Not necessarily scenic bike trail.

This is along the Indiana-Illinois state line, just a couple miles from Lake Michigan. But riding a bike trail through Hammond is better than riding on the streets through Hammond, which we had to do for a couple miles. Crown Point to the end of Indiana is almost all rail trail, and it's a direct line to the Chicago lakefront.

And the Lakefront Trail is fantastic.

The is the first time you get the glorious vista of the Chicago skyline from the Lakefront Trail. Although you can spot the Sears tower on the horizon from way back in Indiana about 10 miles before this.

The Lakefront Trail goes about 20 miles, all the way through Chicago. After that, it's about 10 more miles more or less on Sheridan Road, which mostly has a nice bike lane. Even though it was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, with many, many people on the trail, it was no problem zipping right along because the trail is wide, with lanes marked for each direction, and with a separate trail running parallel for runners and pedestrians. This is a great design.

The one downside is the trail is separated from the city neighborhoods by an expressway, with a bridge or tunnel to go across every couple miles. And there are no real food options on the trail side except hot dog stands. So I made the mistake of putting off getting food until we made it to downtown by the Navy Pier. We went 44 miles with no food stops, which made Max bonk and become very, very hangry. He missed no opportunity to point out all the times we could have stopped and eaten that I made him ride by. He recovered soon enough though once he had a plate of pasta in him from an Italian Beef shop. I've had Italian Beef 3 of the last 4 days I think.

We are going to spend a couple days exploring Chicago, then head home on Tuesday and arrive on Wednesday. Max will have a week and a half left of summer vacation.

Here is the Strava track.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Indiana Tour Day 6 - North Judson to Crown Point

 It was a short day today, only 41 miles. We didn't need to go any farther.

We are at a Hampton Inn in Crown Point, across the street from the Off Square Brewery taproom. We could have gone farther, but that would have made the next day just as short, and we would be eating at a Cracker Barrel instead.

Jim is done, he is now gone to visit his friend Murray, who lives south of Chicago. Murray came and had dinner with us, and took Jim away.

It was overcast with temperatures in the upper 70s, and a light headwind. It was comfortable riding.

However, we are off the USBR 35 route now, and traffic was pretty brutal. The morning started out OK.

It was all empty roads and corn and soybeans. Really nice. 

Believe it or not, somehow we managed to get stuck behind a train out here!

This is a little short haul railroad called the Chesapeake and Indiana. I was talking to the flag man who was working the intersection. I said we are from Baltimore, and I am pretty sure this railroad does not go to the Chesapeake. He said that was true, it is just local. I said maybe they can grow the business and expand and someday make it to the bay.

After the train, we decided to get off the zig zaggy farm roads, and go for a more direct route, which was State Route 8. That was bad. Two lanes, no shoulders, fast (but light) traffic, many trucks.

Lunch was a big win, in Hebron Indiana. Check this out!

Perch! Yummy delicious perch! I can never get perch at home. I can get walleye all the time, but not perch, which doesn't make sense since both of them live in the same places. I can't recall getting perch anywhere that was not within 25 miles of one of the great lakes.

After the miserable experience on SR 8, we decided it's back to the rectilinear back roads, even though there is a diagonal road straight to our end town. So after lunch we head out and after a few miles we find ourselves in the middle of massive new housing developments. Max looked it up and said it's a megadevelopment called Four Seasons, with 8000 homes. 

Did they build the roads for the traffic generated by these 8000 homes yet? Ha ha ha. Nope. In fact, they are currently rebuilding the main road that connects these homes to I-65, so it will be a big four lane boulevard, so that road is closed, and all the traffic has only one road out, which is two lanes, curvy, and had us pedaling slowly along into the headwind. There were cars backed up behind us for miles.

Here is the Strava track.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Indiana Tour Day 5 - Peru to North Judson

 While we were happily sleeping in Peru, a bunch of severe thunderstorms passed by north of us. Peru only got some light rain, which hit us a little bit in the first hour of our ride. It felt great, no big deal. 

We had a couple really great rail trails today. There was about 20 miles of another segment of the Nickle Plate Trail from Peru to Rochester, where we ate lunch.

And we finished with 9 miles of the Erie Trail.

The Erie Trail has another set of signs for the planets to make a scale model of the solar system. Max determined in this instance of a scale model of the solar system, the scale is 300,000,000:1. 

The Erie Trail is part of the American Discovery Trail, which is a coast to coast route created and maintained by Adventure Cycling. It was originally the "Bikecentennial" route laid out for the bicentennial celebration in 1976. I remember reading about this in 1976, and my 13 year old self really wished I could do this someday.

These trails are really great. Indiana is really outdoing themselves on rail trails. There is some maintenance needed, though. There are a lot of places where the trail has settled and opened giant tire-eating cracks in the pavement, which is scary.

There is also the aftermath of the heavy thunderstorm from this morning.

This was the sixth of six trees that had fallen across the trail in the storms. We did a lot of climbing over trees today. There was also lots of debris on the trail, with many sticks and fallen branches.

When we weren't on the trail, we were on great back roads that followed the Tippecanoe River. These roads were super scenic, and they had no traffic. No shoulders, either, but who cares. The route along the river was not part of USBR 35, and I don't know what they were thinking when they chose the route they did.

This was a really nice day of riding. The storms overnight kept the temperatures reasonable, along with the cloud cover. We lost our tailwind from the last few days, but there wasn't much wind at all. I was expecting today to be a lot harder, with more extreme heat and a headwind as well, but it turned out really great!

We are at North Judson, which is a small town with all the essentials. Including this awesome surviving Googie style drive-in restaurant and ice cream stand. The ice cream hit the spot at the end our excellent bike ride.

We are here because it has the only motel for 20 miles in any direction where online reviews do not mention meth labs in the rooms. We are in the Oak View Inn. It is cheap, basic, and a time warp to the 1970s.

This is so awesome, I had to go for the panorama shot.

Jim is in an adjoining room. His room has an actual heart-shaped jacuzzi.

I was chatting up the permanent residents in the next couple rooms. They said they get a lot of bike tourists (presumably because this is on the American Discovery Trail, and there are no other choices). Then the obese lady in the motorized wheelchair wearing a battered MAGA hat went back to talking about what she just heard on OAN about Mike Lindell and how the truth is about to come out, and I let them be.

This motel is actually pretty good. It's clean, everything works, and there is a nice restaurant across the parking lot. 

The North Judson High School mascot is the Blue Jays. This Blue Jay logo is everywhere, from menus in restaurants to the town water tower. The careful observer might notice that the "Blue Jay" logo is actually a cardinal head colored blue.

Here is the Strava track.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Indiana Tour Day 4 - Noblesville to Peru

 We went to Howard County today. Not home to Howard County, Maryland, but to Howard County, Indiana. I feel like I know a lot about Howard County, Indiana, because of the number of times I have googled something for Howard County, Maryland, and gone to a Howard County, Indiana site by mistake, and read the whole web page before realizing something is not right here and I am in the wrong state.

Does that "Howard County Administrative Center" building in the background look like the George Howard building? See what I mean?

The county seat of Howard County, Indiana is Kokomo, which is a mid-sized industrial city, with at least two Chrysler (er, FCA) transmission plants in operation, because we rode by both of them. It also has two great rail trails, the Industrial Heritage Trail, and the Nickle Plate Trail. The Industrial Heritage trail goes by one abandoned factory after another. They should call it the "Making Lemonade Trail." We really liked these trails though.

Since it was supposed to be brutally hot again, and since we had a roaring tailwind and flat roads, we made an effort to get as much riding in as we could before lunch. We ate in Kokomo at 11:30, and covered 38 miles in 3 hours. Max and I can cruise on the flats with the tailwind and maintain 17 mph. Jim is slower.

We got into Peru by 3, after a very leisurely lunch. And the 20 miles after lunch turned out to be not so bad because we rode through a thunderstorm which cooled it off for a bit. We only got moderate rain for a little bit, and not a soaking.

We are in an AirBnB tonight. There are a bunch of naked ladies here. I took a picture of myself with them.

Actually, there are lots and lots of naked ladies all over Indiana. Who would have thought?

Our AirBnB is pretty nice.

It has some quirks. Like no shower, it has an ancient claw foot bath and a hand sprayer. Max was perplexed and annoyed by this.

Peru is the home town of Cole Porter. Our AirBnB is the "Cole Porter Inn", and it was his actual childhood home. We've been streaming Cole Porter songs on my phone all evening. Note to self, if you are going to show Max how great Cole Porter songs are, don't start with Billie Holliday singing "Let's Do It." The 1930s lyrics let's say haven't aged well. I got such a look of diapproval.

This is a neat old house, despite the quirks.

We walked about 4 blocks to "Smitty McMusselman's Pub and Grub", where we got way too much food because we were very hungry and the portions are huge. So we brought home lots of leftovers, which we will eat for breakfast tomorrow morning.

Here is the Strava track.

Indiana Tour Day 3 - Shelbyville to Noblesville

 We rode through Indianapolis in the hot, hot heat and humidity. 

We made it through 30 miles of I-74 frontage road, corn fields, new housing developments, and rail trails to get to a bike shop where Jim bought a new saddle. He now has a Brooks C17 Cambium, which is identical to Max's.

The rail trail was the Pennsy, which runs east-west straight to the center of Indianapolis. I felt right at home on it.

Planets! ROFL.

Just down the street was this yummy Italian beef/hot dog stand.

It was great. Jim had his first Italian beef sandwich.

We left Indianapolis on the Monon Rail Trail, which goes north for about 20 miles. After lunch it was oppressively hot and humid. The heat index was over 100. 

We went through the crazy town of Carmel, which is a city of 100,000 that basically looks like it was all corn fields 5 years ago. It's like they built 3 downtown Columbias at once. Except in Carmel, they built new schools to go with the houses.

Since Jim had thwarted the bike gods with his nice new saddle, they shifted their wrath back to Max, who got another flat tire a half mile from our hotel. I had him ride the flat to the hotel, because I really wanted to fix it in an air conditioned room in the Baymont Inn, and not on the side of the road in 100 degree heat.

Which is what I did. I also installed the new spare tire he'd been carrying, along with the new tube. I hope this will foil the evil Bike Gods for good.

It was laundry day at the Baymont, which turned into an entertaining circus. I went to the front desk to get some quarters for the washing machine and dryer and soap. The super nice manager said they didn't have any quarters, because the bank guy had not arrived yet today, but they most definitely should be able to give me quarters because guests can get quarters at the desk just like the sign in the laundry room says. And also, she has been the manager for two days now. 

So she started rooting through her purse for quarters, and had everyone else working there root through their purses too. This produced 6 quarters, which got the washer going. She gave me some detergent for free from the maintenance room.

As the wash ran, she decided to get the rest of the quarters I need for the dryer by taking the ones out of the washer. Guaranteed to be at least 6 in there! But she doesn't know which keys open the washer, so she comes to the laundry room with a giant chain of unlabelled keys and starts trying them all.

We had a nice talk. She just became the manager after working at the front desk for a month or so, which was her first job returning to the workforce after staying home with her kids for 8 years. She said she was enjoying her motel manager job, and she really needed adult conversation. I told her how I've observed that most of the low end hotels now are full of homeless people. She said that's true and they've avoided that at the Baymont because it's a bit off the beaten path, and the surrounding area is very affluent. But sometimes the police show up with a homeless person, and register them and pay for the room, and what are you gonna do? (Apparently you're gonna have the police come back and evict them a few days later, because just after our conversation, about 5 police show up and throw some dude out.)

None of the keys worked. And the wash was done. I had an idea that maybe I could buy something from the vending machines and get the rest of the quarters I needed for the dryer. Also, I told her that all our clothes except the bike kit I'm wearing are in the dryer, so we can't go out to eat until the clothes are dry, and Jim is sitting around in his room upstairs in his boxers. She laughed and said I was rubbing it in, and she sent the other person working the front desk to the gas station across the street to get more quarters.

We had dinner at a sushi place across the street that also had Chinese food on the menu. It totally hit the spot.

Here is the Strava track.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Indiana Tour 2021 Day 2 - Seymour to Shelbyville

 The severe thunderstorms hanging out just to the west of us made it a short day. We took a very direct route instead of the scenic meandering on USBR 35. Instead we got roads with no shoulders and light traffic with many drivers driving way too fast.

It was 49 miles (instead of 62), flat, with a strong tailwind. We spent less than 4 hours pedaling. 

We also spent a lot of time sitting around to avoid getting rained on. And we were very successful at that.

We ate breakfast at Larrison's diner, across the street from our AirBnB. It was raining lightly outside.

After breakfast we hung out in the AirBnB. The weather said the storms would be through by 11. By 10, the forecast changed, and the storms were going to be at 1. Since there was a gap on the radar, we set out for Columbus 20 miles away hoping to get there before the rain started again.

We almost made it, we only had some moderate rain for the last couple miles. So we stopped under a covered entrance to an office building to decide where to eat lunch and wait it out. This little guy was waiting with us.

At the end of the block there was a tasty Italian restaurant, Bucceto's, which had outdoor tables under an overhang where both us and our bikes could wait out the rain and eat lunch.

We watched the radar for an hour and a half, as storm after storm approached from the west, and evaporated before it got to us. So around 2:00 we decided to go for it and ride the 30 miles to Shelbyville, and hope the weather would hold. It did, we never got any more rain the rest of the day.

There was a bike shop in Columbus, where I bought three more inner tubes for Max's bike and a fresh patch kit. My friend Murphy says there will be no more flat tires as a result. Just like he made us not get rained on because Jim bought garbage bags yesterday and put all his stuff in them.

The Bike Gods have now turned their wrath on Jim. The rail on his saddle broke as he was carrying his bike up to our room at the Econo Lodge. It's 25 miles to the next bike shop, which is in Indianapolis. Their web site says they have a nice selection of Brooks saddles. Jim's broken saddle is about 20 years old, it's Bontrager, and the vinyl covering has cracks all over it with foam coming out. I adjusted it so the break in the rail is in the middle  of the seat post clamp. Hopefully this will hold. Otherwise he's gonna be calling an Uber to the bike shop.

Speaking of our Econo Lodge, this one is pretty nice. We have a crazy room with 3 beds. Here is a panoramic view:

This is right off the exit for I-74, which means dining options in walking distance are limited to fast food and a Cracker Barrel and a "Texas Corral" steak place. Given the alternatives, we decided it was steak night.

This turned out to be a good choice.


Electrolytes were replenished.

Here is the Strava track.

Sunday, August 08, 2021

Indiana Tour 2021 Day 1 - Louisville, KY to Seymour, IN.

 Here we are, ready to set forth.

It's 8:30 in the morning. I've drug Max out of bed. We have not had any breakfast, but at least I am caffeinated from the coffee maker in our hotel room.

We set out across the river, hoping there would be a place we can get food on Sunday morning in Indiana.

This is the magnificent Big Four Bridge over the Ohio River, which was once a railroad bridge, and is now a bike and pedestrian bridge!

At the end of the bridge in Indiana, there is stuff which I am pretty sure is Art.

I mean it must be Art. What else could it be? 

Six miles later, we came upon a Bob, which eventually served us breakfast after about an hour. Even Bob Evans cannot get people to staff a restaurant in these pandemic times. But we all got a nice hearty breakfast. Eventually. And we set forth into the wilds of Indiana. Expectations were low, because it is Sunday morning in very conservative southern Indiana. Max decided to amuse himself by counting churches. (Final tally: 25 in about 50 miles).

Sundays in rural Indiana being what they are, lunch became more and more of a challenge. After 30 miles, all we could come up with was a Subway and a Casey's convenience store in Scottsburg. But at the Casey's, Jim chats up some random woman, who it turns out is from Baltimore, and who tells us there is a pizza place, Marko's, four miles up the road in Austin. Where we can sit and eat pizza in air conditioning like civilized people. It's 90 degrees out.

So we go to Marko's. It's mostly a take-out business in a storefront, but they have some tables, and we can sit and eat our pizza. Which is pretty great midwestern pizza, to tell the truth.

While we are eating pizza, and Gilligan's Island comes on the TV. I ask Max if he has ever seen Gilligan's Island. Answer: no, and I don't care to. Me: you could be more culturally literate if you watch Gilligan's Island. Max: No way Dad.

This discussion causes Jim to strike up a conversation with the lady who makes the pizzas. Let's say she is a bit of a country person. She fondly talks about how she loves Hee Haw, which she used to watch with her grandparents. And Jim gets her to admit that she has a copy of every single episode of the Dukes of Hazzard ever made.

As we are riding away, Max observes that there are a lot of Trump signs in this part of the country. I told him that there is probably a lot of overlap between the set of people who have a copy of every episode of the Dukes of Hazzard and people who like Donald Trump. Max: the Venn Diagram is probably a circle. 

I asked Max if he has ever actually seen an episode of them Duke boys. He said no and he doesn't want to. I explained the basic premise of the Dukes of Hazzard, and about the General Lee, with the Confederate flag painted on the roof, and how it is claimed that every single 1969 Dodge Charger was destroyed in the making of the Dukes of Hazzard TV show. And how he should get a better understanding of the mindset of the Trump vote by watching an episode of them Duke boys and pondering what sort of person would find this entertaining. Max is having nothing to do with this.

Only 20 more miles to our end town of Seymour, and Max gets four, count 'em four flat tires. Did I mention it's 90 degrees out? The first flat is some road debris punctures the tire and the tube. I patch the tube, and we continue on. Five miles later, another flat. The patch failed. I put in a new tube. A couple miles more, and another flat. This time it's a piece of wire in the tire. I patch the tube. Five miles more, and the patch fails. I put in Max's last spare tube, which is already patched. This holds for the seven miles left to our AirBnB in Seymour. I think the glue in my patch kit is way too old, and that's why the patches are failing.

Anyway, here is the scenery coming into Seymour. That's Jim coming down the hill.

There is corn and nice old farm houses that nobody seems to live in.

We got into Seymour about 4:30. Hot and sweaty. Max: "I want a shower." I'm pretty sure he has never spoken these words before!

Our AirBnB is really cool. It's a huge loft over an Edward Jones office in an old building in downtown Seymour. 

The coolest part of it is it has a record player and a bunch of records. I made Max learn how vinyl LPs work! 

Me: "Max, they have an album here which was my favorite album when I was your age. I'm going to play it!"
Max: "OK Boomer. You are so old."
Me: <plays the first Boston album>
Jim: <relays story of seeing Boston at Hammerjacks with unknown band Foreigner opening in the 70s>
Max: <dying inside, I'm pretty sure>

And then it is time to figure out where to get dinner on Sunday night in southern Indiana. Our hopes are low. Here is what is in the neighborhood.

A giant abandoned grain elevator and an historic caboose. There are so many great restaurants by this AirBnB, which I why I stayed here instead of the Hampton Inn five miles away next to the Cracker Barrel, but all those great restaurants aren't open on Sunday.

But the Mexican place next to the grain elevator is open.

And they have really, really big margaritas!

So now Fortuna's wheel is on an upward cycle. After a very tasty dinner of Mexican food, with electrolytes replenished, we wander across the street to the CVS to get some suntan lotion. 

OMG, the CVS stores in Indiana sell beer, wine, and liquor. On Sunday. Who would have ever imagined this. Jim immediately buys a six pack for later. And he tells the cashier that he had no idea Indiana was so civilized. The cashier says she has lived in Indiana for 35 years and this is the first time anyone has told her that Indiana is civilized.

Here is the Strava track.

Indiana Tour 2021 Day 0 - Getting There

 My son Max, my bike touring buddy Jim, and I have decided to ride US Bike Route 35 across Indiana. No, I don't know why we want to do this, or anyone else. Anyway, we are riding from Louisville, KY to Chicago, IL, mostly on USBR 35.

So the first part of the puzzle is how to get out there and back with our bikes. Efficiently. I hate flying on planes. Amtrak doesn't go to Louisville. 

But my wife is the most awesome person ever. 

"Hey hon, how about we all drive to Louisville, KY, with our bikes, and then you drive the truck to my sister Kate's in Chicago, and fly home?" Then at the end of our bike tour, we put our bikes in the truck, predeployed to the end of the ride, and drive home.

She agreed to do this! She is the best.

This is somewhat easier than you think, because my sister Amy lives outside Cincinnati, and we can visit her for a night before proceeding on to Louisville.

Amy has made a flower farm in her back yard.

This is amazing and I am humbled. She has a potting shed to get the plant started. The flowers go in holes in the heavy duty ground cover, with irrigation, and hoops to cover them from the cold, and netting so they get support to stand up straight.

She picks the flowers and makes bouquets.

Which she sells at the farmers market in her neighborhood. We got there an hour after it opened and she is almost sold out. In the picture L to R is my Aunt Therese, Amy, my Dad, and Debra. Dad and Therese came up to visit because we were in town. 

I stocked up on some manly organic goat milk soap for the bike tour. I will need this.

So after we checked out Amy's farmers' market, we headed off to Louisville. We picked up Jim at the Covington airport, and introduced him to Cincinnati chili at Skyway for lunch.

We stayed in the fancy AC Hotel in the trendy NuLu neighborhood in Louisville. The AC Hotel is nice, but I would not exactly say it is a solid value proposition. Nonetheless we had fun. We all wondered off in search of food and libations. 

We started at the Akasha Brewery taproom. Jim and I got beers, and then we discovered nobody would bring us food. So we finished our beers and went over to The Grind hamburger restaurant, where they said it would be an hour for food. Max bailed at that point. He had Debra walk him back to the hotel, and buy him a ginormous ice cream sundae for dinner. Debra and I debated later whether this was a good plan the day before we are going to ride our bikes 60 miles. Debra: this is all sugar and a bad idea. Me: No, this is a fat bomb and it is good for lots of miles."

So after Max abandoned us, we had our OK burgers and disappointing craft cocktails at Grind. But while walking back to the hotel, we passed the Taj Whiskey Bar, and decided to stop for a drink.

This was the big win of the evening. Taj mad me a kick ass Old Fashioned, and we parked ourselves at a table on the sidewalk out front and proceeded to drink and people watch all night. Here is the street scene. 

So I totally became very intrigued by the building next door. It looks like Formstone! Could it be Formstone in Kentucky? Is there Formstone beyond Baltimore?

When you look at where it has fallen apart at the bottom of the building, you can see the metal mesh underneath, and it sure does look like Formstone.

Anyway, the guy at the table two pictures back struck up a conversation about my unnatural fascination with the purported Formstone. I explained to him what Formstone is (concrete slathered on a nice brick building, and shaped and colored to look like stone.) He said they call the finish on that building "veneer", and as it happens, he just finished installing such a veneer around the base of a hot tub for one of his clients. So on closer inspection, and after being educated, this is *not* Formstone. It is real stone, applied as a veneer over the brick.

I was sad, but the girl he was with gave me a big hug. She was even drunker than I was. 

Louisville was fun.

Thursday, July 01, 2021

Riding Home from New York - Day 5 - Baltimore to Lawyers Hill

 The great Empire State Tour Ride Home from Canada is done. 

I am home with my dog who loves me.

It's just a quick 15 miles from the crash pad to home. I got in before 10, when the heavy rain was supposed to start. I had a couple nice refreshing showers during the ride.

Baltimore has made a wonderful separated cycle track running north-south through the city. It is really sad that the cycle track has become parking for work crews. I'm pretty sure that's not why it is there.

Two different Verizon trucks and another work truck. This is just sad.

Totals from the tour: 2 weeks, 650 miles. Really fun.

Here is the Strava Track.