The Big Chicago Loop Leg 1
Me and Stanley my Kona Sutra touring bike, took Amtrak to Chicago to spend a few days with my “tour guide”, Ellen, before beginning the Big Loop.
I left Chicago on the Lake Shore trail heading southeast with pleasantly cool weather. The first day, or any other, for that matter, never seems to go as planned. I missed a few turns and got bonus miles, repeating part of the route, but no need to stress about it, as I was riding on a network of bicycle paths. While taking a break, a nice rider offered me a bottle of Gatorade and a couple of tandem riders provided good directions to pass through a tricky part of town. Arriving in Dinwiddie, Indiana, I opted for a hotel as weather predicted rain/storms. Today’s mileage – 61.5; bike trails ridden: Lakefront, Burnham Greenway, Erie Lackawanna.
Dinwiddie to near Monterey, Indiana; 45.9 miles; bike trail ridden: Nickel Plate
Today’s route was on quiet farm roads, using Adventure Cycling routine for CHI-NY Map 1. The digital map worked flawlessly on my Garmin 830 but I'm glad I also bought the paper maps. I was pleasantly surprised to discover all these back roads are paved! And well maintained. The state park I planned on involved another 5 miles on a heavy traffic, no shoulder, pouring rain road (off route).
I decided to continue on to Rising Sun Campground. What a wonderful, old-style, family campground with a large community room where I was able to set up my “camp”. Heavy rain continued through the night and I was thankful to be inside the building.
Rising Sun Camp to Peru; 53 miles; bike trail ridden: Nickel Plate (goes right through Peru)
The day started dry, except for the dampness of the dense fog. The miles logged quickly for the first few hours, then it got really hot when the fog burned off. I met a nice local couple, Jim and Rayne who rode with me to Peru. I called local police and was given the OK to camp in the River Walk Park in Peru.
Peru to Tipton 32 miles; bike trail ridden: Nickel Plate
It got hot very fast today and while on the Nickel Plate, I enjoyed some shade and views of the vast farmlands stretching to the horizon in every direction. I expected wind today but not this. Winds were 28 and gusting higher, almost on the nose and it was very hot. By this time, I was on Highway 19 but the few cars/trucks were so very kind and respectful. I began to struggle to keep moving forward, stopping often, drinking both water and electrolytes. I took a break at the Macedonia Christian Church and had a chat with the pastor and his wife, recently arriving from Florida. Back out in the very miserable wind which worked really hard at knocking me and Stanley over, in spite of his weight of 70 or so pounds.
I saw a gentleman hitting golf balls from his yard into the wind, stopped for a chat and spontaneously asked (begged?) for a ride to Tipton, about 6 miles on. I was just so done. Don and his wife graciously complied and in the short ride to town, I learned a bit about the area, including the fact that in one week, 20,000 pounds of pigs are sold by a guy with a 1000 acre ranch. That’s a lot of bacon!
Tipton to Indianapolis, 44 miles; bike trails ridden: Hazel Dell Parkway, Monon Trail
Yay! No wind today. Weather was threatening severe thundershowers but knowing I’d be in more urban areas, I could easily find shelter if I needed it. I did start out in heavy rain, but traffic was light on a Sunday morning. Rain subsided and I reeled in the miles. Passed through Northridge population over 75K, with two farmers’ markets going on, so traffic and people were everywhere, but the beautiful historic neighborhoods I rode through compensated. I took a break in Carmel, which looks like a brand new town, but with “historic” buildings. It’s a very wealthy suburb of Indianapolis.
Arrived at my WarmShowers hosts, Nathan and Liz, in Indianapolis and was greeted by Charlie the black lab and their two cats. They live in a wonderful historic house which has been renovated and modernized inside but retained its historic charm. Liz works for an non profit organization called Historicorps.org, recruiting and placing volunteers to restore historic public buildings. Fascinating stuff. Check it out!
Days 6 and 7
Indianapolis to Greenburg (54.6 miles), Greenburg to Cincinnati (63 miles)
I created this route, as I could find no guidance. From Indy to Greenburg was pretty good in spite of the fast-moving traffic. Thank you Indiana drivers! You are respectful and never once seemed irritated to have to wait to pass me. One woman held up a line of traffic so she could offer me water. Passing through Shelbyville, established in 1822. Most of the little towns I rode through were established around that time and I often checked cemeteries (there are plenty of them) for the oldest graves. Greensburg is partly famous for a tree growing out of the courthouse tower. I couldn’t find it as I mistakenly rode west instead of east, again acquiring some bonus miles.When I left Greensburg for Cincinnati it was actually cold enough to wear my leg covers, jacket and long fingered gloves, something I didn’t expect but glad to be prepared.
I took a break at the Heartland Events Center of which the building was a former covered bridge, arguably the longest in the US in the early 1900’s. The owner, Angie, gave me a tour and some of the history. A massive river flood knocked the bridge off it’s pilings, and moved it intact, down river. Into another county. A battle ensued as to who had salvage rights. Once settled, it was purchased and built into a building which hosted community events, square dancing, and more. Angie’s father purchased it and eventually Angie did and it’s now a popular wedding venue. While I was visiting her crew were cleaning up after an unexpected tornado which came through a few days earlier. On the day of a wedding. Somehow they worked around it and the wedding was a great success.
The last push into Cincinnati was not pleasant as my route took me to the “heights”; beautiful area but a couple of hills so steep (6%) that I had to walk. Walking a 70 pound bike up hill with no shoulder and heavy traffic – not even type 3 fun! I have a zero day today to eat and sleep then tomorrow I begin the OTET trail, Cincinnati to Cleveland, with my friend Flavia. Of the 326 miles, I’m told 90% is off the road! Stay tuned for Leg 2 updates...
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