Thank you, all of you, who participated in the second annual Monon Milestone Birthday Bike Tour. That is now the official name, mostly because I want to see if I can get people to casually refer to it as the MMBBT (pronounced "mimbibbit"). Hey, if Hoosiers can refer to IUPUI as "ooey-pooey" without giggling or refer to Broad Ripple without saying, "Mmm...that sounds good. I'll have a scoop too," than mimbibbit seems like a small leap.
We had beautiful weather on Saturday. Eleven of us (including me) started out together on the Monon, and probably no more than three of us (including me) actually finished the 34 miles round trip including the newly opened Westfield leg of the Monon. It doesn't matter. The fact that I got ten other people to join me was a great belated birthday present. And the fact that the youngest member of our group, who is only 7 years old, managed to bike at least 9 miles, is nothing short of amazing. You know who you are, and you are my hero.
Only one of the group refused to wear a bike helmet. You know who you are, and your mother and I are about to give you some major aggravation. Be prepared.
I find the Monon trail to be a fascinating ride, mostly because it cuts a cultural swath through the Indy metro area. There is no better way to understand Indianapolis/Carmel than to ride the Monon.
At 16th Street, you start at the Frank and Judy O'Bannon Old Northside Soccer Park, where you are sure to find young, athletic African men playing soccer. The international flair provides an interesting multicultural start to the trail.
You immediately travels north past lumber, construction, and trucking companies to see the blue collar backbone of our city.
You pass several grassy parks and eventually crosses Fall Creek to see a more pastoral view of the city. There is a rough, unkempt, authentic feel to this part of the trail...a feeling that even in the midst of the urban city, nature can take care of itself for a while.
You ride up to 38th Street, and if you can cross the two-lane road without dying or (worse yet) soiling yourself, you can pass by the Indiana State Fairgrounds. You will not actually see the fairgrounds themselves, but you will see all the trailers parked outside the fairgrounds. This provides an interesting view of all the "real" people supporting the State Fair. Actually, this part of the ride is kind of boring.
You travel north to see the backyards of many lower class houses. Slow down to watch people fixing cars, playing basketball, cooing over babies, mowing lawns, and generally being real life people.
Look to the right to see the Indiana School for the Deaf. It is a beautiful campus. The sunflowers are in full bloom now.
Continue north to Broad Ripple. Here everything feels more overgrown but in a controlled way. Lush gardens pop up right and left. The houses are still small, but the gardens make them look more young professional and less working class. To the right, you will pass Canterbury Park where a volleyball game between attractive 20-somethings is almost always in session. Young parents are strolling about the playground with their infants and toddlers. Most of them eye me suspiciously. I speed up.
Be careful. The traffic is increasing on the path, although nearly all of the pedestrians and bikers are still pretty respectful of the rules of the road.
Eventually you get to Broad Ripple Avenue, the new hippie business district. Take a jaunt over to Good Earth Natural Foods to stock up on Tiger's Milk bars. Or better yet, stop over at Red Mango Frozen Yogurt, a trendy new yogurt restaurant. Try their Tangomonium with fresh mango topping or (better yet) fresh raspberries.
North of Broad Ripple Avenue, high school students, college students, and young professionals walk and ride up and down the path. This is a great place to hang out if you want to pretend that you are still young and hip. Just please don't use the term "hip". That and your receding hairline will give you away.
At 67th Street, you pass the Indianapolis Art Center. Stop at the sculpture garden if you have a minute. Some of the art is incredibly engaging, especially the giant balls woven out of wicker...assuming they haven't taken them down yet.
As you get closer to the White River, enjoy the greenery. This is one of the prettiest parts of the trail. However, be careful. You are now entering the Zone of Extreme Stupidity. Here is where you are most likely to meet wildly veering pedestrians on cell phones, little children vapidly exploring the wrong side of the path, and hard core bikers speeding past you at 25 miles per hour without announcing themselves. It is hear that you are most likely to lose an appendage or wrap your bike around a baby stroller.
Please be careful.
However, the greenery is stunning along Marott Park. Next to this stretch of path are dense patches of trees, thick vines hanging low, and lush ground cover. It's a bit spooky at dusk. Not that I ever ride at dusk since that's against the rules of the trail. Obviously.
However, just north of 75th Street, stop for a minute at the entrance to the Indiana School for the Blind. This is a great place to eat your Tiger's Milk Bar and feel the tiled bas-relief sculptures standing tall like turquoise crystals ready to orate a mysterious ancestral history. They are very cool.
You continue north to 86th Street where you stop at Chris's Mexican Food to get a scoop of ice cream (assuming you are not already full from the frozen yoghurt and Tiger's Milk Bars). Chris's Mexican Food used to be Chris's Ice Cream Shop, and the irony is that the ice cream is much better now that the place is under new Mexican management and no longer called an ice cream shop. It is worth the stop, even if only for a $2 child size cone.
North of 86th Street, the trail stretches out into long stretches of new development. I call this the badlands. The badlands continue to 96th Street, where the Indianapolis portion ends, and a friendly sign invites you to Carmel, "A bicycle-friendly community." Naturally, you continue on...
(To be continued)