When Jan and I lived in Aurora Colorado in the 1980s, I used to ride into downtown Denver all the time. There were bike paths and roads into the city from the suburbs that made the trip a breeze. It was fun. There’s something exciting about being in the middle of a major city on a bicycle.
I had wanted to ride to downtown Indianapolis since I first got back on the bike in 2013, but from where we lived on the west side of town there was no good route into the city. Every possible route required me to travel stretches of crumbled, narrow, shoulder-less two lane roads where cars tend to travel at high speeds. It wasn’t attractive and so I put it off.
Sunday morning March 13 dawned cold and wet. The wind was blowing out of the east and I didn’t relish a long ride out west into the countryside where I’d have to fight that wind coming home. Instead, I left home and drifted east towards the city although it wasn’t necessarily my destination. I worked my way through Plainfield and out onto US 40, the National Road. Traffic was light and there was a shoulder and although it was littered with debris I felt safe enough here. I was able to gain Perimeter Road around Indianapolis International Airport and things just sort of “took off” from there.
I knew I could get past Interstate 465 on Minnesota Street and I could utilize the city’s grid to get downtown from there. I didn’t have a particular route in mind, but I’ve discovered that I really love trips like this. Route finding turns these journies into adventures.
Once I crossed under 465, I was in a strange and foreign land. I didn’t know this area of town and Indianapolis has a violent crime problem, but I wasn’t particularly concerned. Our natural tendency to fear “bad neighborhoods” is mostly unfounded. Years ago I ran a half marathon in Houston. It was great fun. When I think back, the best part wasn’t the relative glitz of the trendy Montrose neighborhood or the spectacular view of the city’s ginormous skyline as we headed toward the finish on Allen Parkway, but rather the barrio just across the Elysian Viaduct that we passed through at the start of the race. There were parrillas blazing and Norteño blaring from boom boxes. Everybody was out and cheering loudly at sunrise. If there’s a heaven and I end up there, I hope it’s as joyous than that stretch of Elysian Street was on a similar Sunday morning from way back when.
Not surprisingly, I had no problems. I got lost trying to follow an under construction path that lead nowhere. I had to muscle my way along Minnesota Street for a few miles. I passed by oil refineries and other industrial shells. Soon enough I was in sight of downtown. I crossed the repurposed Washington Street bridge, buzzed the state capital, did a lap around the city’s iconic center, Monument Circle and then headed back home to Plainfield. It was a good day.