Smile Politely

Bike Tour Has Its Ups and Downs

My friend Tony and I went for a bike tour of the lovely state of Indiana a couple of weeks ago, and it was a truly humbling experience. We rode 500 miles in four days; day one was Champaign-Urbana to Terre Haute, Ind.; Day Two, we met up with Tony’s family and participated in RAIN, a 160-mile trek from Terre Haute to Richmond, Ind.; day three was Richmond to Carmel, Ind.; and day four we returned from Carmel to C-U. I don’t spell out the route in order to brag, because the trip temporarily drained me of the will to live, but to give you some perspective for the Roger Ebert-style breakdown which is to follow.

Thumbs up: Bag Balm. This stuff is the nectar of the Gods. It’s original intention was to heal the chapped udders of dairy cattle, but it’s also been found to be ideally suited to delay the chapping of cyclist’s rear ends. According to Wikipedia, Bag Balm in its earlier formulations contained mercury, which was much more effective at clearing up infections. I’m sure there was some reason they no longer use it. Even without it, it’s still pretty good stuff.

Thumbs down: Indianapolis. Overall, after almost two weeks to reflect, I still feel quite comfortable saying that Indianapolis can eat my ass. What a miserable excuse for a city. It just sprawls on forever in all directions with strip malls as far as the eye can see. There are bike routes everywhere which make absolutely no effort to accommodate bicycles. If you want to do something “across town,” it’s easily a one-hour drive, even at their customary Speedway speeds. What a mess!

Thumbs up: Peaches. We were able to completely avoid any and all towns from Allerton, Illinois, until we were almost to Terre Haute. I was pretty much figuring on having the opportunity to get lunch somewhere along the way, and we were pretty much bonking by the time we saw a roadside produce stand on the outskirts of the humble burg of Sandford, Illinois. They sold us five peaches for two dollars, and we ate them in roughly 15 seconds, giving us enough fuel for the final push into Terre Haute.

Thumbs down: Big douchey trucks. Indiana, as a whole, is ugly with these things. Some even must come standard with a gigantic confederate flag, because they were too common to be optional equipment. The absolute neatest trick is when they “hide” behind you, thinking that you can’t hear their straight pipes when they’re at idle, then roar past a foot or so to your left with stars-n-bars flying and cow balls dangling. Yee-haw!

Thumbs up: Outside water spigots. These things are mighty welcome when pedaling through rural areas. It’s hard to carry enough water to get from town to town, and the occasional country church with a faucet on the outside wall is a good deal.

Thumbs down: Lycra-clad jerks. Yes, you are much faster than I am. That doesn’t mean that you need to completely snub me when you roar past me at 20-plus miles an hour. I know that your brand of overwhelming speed requires surgical focus to maintain, but is it too much to ask to get a nod or a grunt, let alone a little wave?

Overall, it was a good trip. We didn’t have any major mechanical issues or health problems, and there was enough scenery and hills to keep things from being too brutally boring.

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