Monday, June 1

"So, what... you ride a Ducati?!" and feeling the fear of southern Indiana

Saturday, May 30, 2009

I wake up tired but still wanting to take advantage of the day. The weather is cool and cloudy with rain seemingly only moments away. Yet those cheery meteorologists on the Weather Channel claim the day will brighten and warm up. But some parts of Indiana are bracing for a storm. I decided to forego heading to Vincennes, IN today. Just not feeling it. I'm think Dunes! Depending on my start point and the point at which I want to enter, the Indiana National Dunes Lakeshore is about 50 miles away. A nice 100 miles plus round trip sounds fun, stress-free and an opportunity to hike the sand dunes. Besides, I haven't visited the dunes in years, although I pass by them often.

I take my time departing. Before hitting the road, I pack hiking clothes and shoes, my Nikon D80, and stop at a local deli to create a take out lunch.  There are some great roads leading to the dunes. One can go via back roads, lightly traveled highways, or superslab it. I took the latter, given that I leave so late. Last time I ventured this way, I took the wonderfully shaded, wooded and scenic route that sticks close to Lake Michigan's lakeshore. 

The destination ride is uneventful but I can feel the excitement mount in thinking about the hike. Last summer, I visited many state parks for the expressed purpose of hiking and taking pictures. I miss that.  When I get to the National Lakeshore,  I pull into the Visitors Center (VC)  and stamp my Passport book, my first stamp from Indiana. I watch a video about the dunes formation, land acquisition, and lakeshore conversation.  The weather is beach beautiful! I dress for hiking. I find a place for lunch, read a tad, prep my camera and ready for the hike. 

Sand dune hiking is a challenge as the footing is uneven but I enjoy every step. Since it was already after 5pm, I take a one mile hike near West Beach. Doing so, makes me realize how,  in pursuing stamps, I'm getting away from what I enjoy most, that is, using my bike as a favorite mode of transportation to visit parks and other places to enjoy nature, history and some alone time. It is a lovely day! I watch the gulls play with each other and dance on the water.  Riding 300 or so miles to reach a national site before the VC closes makes enjoying the terrain a secondary matter at best.  On too many occasions, I arrive and don't have time to even watch the video!  Saturday had everything and it all turned out so well. Beautiful lake scenes, clean beach area, friendly sun worshippers and nice photo opportunities. I hike the quite sandy forest and dunes feeling renewed with each step. 

When I leave the beach, I feel lighter, unloaded with the previous week's stress. I head to my house in the suburbs. I hang out, have dinner with husband and daughter, both of whom are leaving for Portugal Sunday for two weeks. I will join them the second week.  Later that night, I head downtown Chicago. I park Jesse Owens (my bike's name, in case you don't know that) and enter the building's elevator. 

A young 20-something guy, dressed in chic hip hop fashion (that is, expensive hip hop) looks at me with what looks like s smirk, sort of, on his face. It is part smirk, part "Look at me, I'm the definition of Kool." I am facing the elevator door; he is facing my left shoulder. He is looking me up and down with a half smile, full smirk. "So, ride a Ducati?"   I want to respond to him in my horrible Robert DeNiro (Taxi Driver)  impression and say, "You talkin' to me?" But I resist. Instead, I look as incredulous as I can and say, "What?" He repeats himself. I calmly say, "No." I leave it at that. "So what do you ride?" He continues his head to toe body scan.  "Eight hundred BMW." His response, "Awww."  His look is one I can't decipher but  I later wonder what that exchange was all about. 

The storms in parts of Indiana are over. The weather in southern Indiana will be ride-perfect. Mid-seventies and mild wind. I head out around 6am for Vincennes, IN.  Before I leave, Dave puts air in my tires, makes homemade oj for me and debates with me about my instrument panel, which is basically the same as his F650GS.  I decided to do a little superslabbing but mostly I stay on secondary highways, which will take longer but will be far more scenic. For much of the way, I take US 41 south. This will take me through Terre Haute, a place I've avoided most of my life.  Although Indiana is Midwest, like Illinois, it has towns that extend far south, some more southern in culture, values, and dispositions than many southern cities--even the accents let you know you're in the south. 
Terre Haute used to be a hot bed of KKK activity. As a history major, I can still recall some of legacy. So, I decide to not only ride through, I will stop in Terre Haute.  I get gas and strangest of all, stop and talk to a Terre Haute policeman. Because the gas pump didn't give me my receipt, I am forced to go inside, where a policeman stands. As I enter, he walks to the outer side of the counter. I decide to make a pot stop there. But it is occupied. I wait and the policeman says, "Where you heading?" My mind flashes to the movie, "In the Heat of the Night." I can't help it...this is how my mind can sometimes wander.

Sunday, May 31, 2009
"Vincennes," I say. He then asks me a series of questions. He seems like a nice enough gent. It's me trying to get over my history issues. I soften when he admires my bike and tells me about a friend who "will only ride BMWs now..." He asks my opinion on BMW bikes. I give my overtly biased perspective. As I leave, he tells me to enjoy myself and to be careful.  I relax. As I walk to my bike another encounter with a stranger.

"Been dangerous out there lately, uh?" I answer him the way he ended his question. He then proceeds to tell me about the people who have been killed on motorcycles recently, many of whom, according to him, have died as a result of being rear ended. He tells me those are accidents "no" rider can control.  I can't help wonder why he feels the need to share this with me at this time. I thank him and give him a "what will be, will be" hunch. He tells me how he used to ride a motorcycle and how he loved it at the time. But now things are different. He's found it too dangerous and so he stopped riding. There it is. Finally, he reveals himself; he shows his true colors. It goes something like this, "I used to ride a motorcycle. Now, I don't. So you should stop too and do as I do as I am the enlightened one."  

George Rogers Clark National Historic Park. The monument is being renovated so I could only look at it from behind a fence. In the VC, I watch the video, which was really quite good. Clark is the brother to the famous explorer William Clark of Lewis & Clark. George Rogers Clark came from a wealthy family where many of the male children accomplished great things. George successfully led an incredibly small, rag tag group of soldiers who defeated the British for land in what is now part of IL, IN, KY and MI. I enjoyed my time in Vincennes and I motored around the small, old town to check out some of the sites and observe the people. Vincennes also happens to be home of Vincennes University, the oldest public university in the state. 
My ride home would be via Indianapolis, a bit out of the way, but whenever I'm within 100 miles of Shapiro's Deli, I will make that detour. I love Shapiro's! Were it not for hating to ride with a heavy meal in my belly, I'd eat myself into another dimension at Shapiro's. The entrees look scrumptious and hearty, the kind Grandmothers make to fatten you up. I always settle for a tuna sandwich, which is a two meal affair for sure.
I always add a slice of cake, a treat I rarely get to indulge--and the homemade selections are vast.  I always get to bring half the meal home for later enjoyment. I will go to Shapiro's any day for lunch. And dinner. And stay over the night for breakfast!

Belly full, I ride home oblivious to the time it takes. I pull into the garage at 10:08 pm. 

Weekend total miles: 757.00

Degree of fun = immeasurable!