Celebrating 50 Years Young
As a 46-year-old bicyclist, I have found myself dreaming of a grand cycling adventure across the USA. Having four very active teenage children and being a partner in a small business, however, keeps this dream out of reach for the time being. I have ridden in RAGBRAI, the Ride Across Indiana (RAIN), and the Hilly Hundred in southern Indiana, but now I want something different. Cycling for fitness used to be a primary goal; now I am enjoying destination rides, commuting, and generally a slower pace ... one that allows me to take in the journey differently than when I had to complete X number of miles in X amount of time.
Over the past few years I have read about the S24O (sub-24-hour overnight) and Bike Overnight concepts, and considered how I could squeeze in a few of these types of bike-camping adventures. So last spring my friend Wayne Capek and I purchased BOB trailers in anticipation of bike camping. Wayne even purchased a Surly LHT and a complete set of Ortlieb panniers.
I have a very nice custom-made titanium road bike from Roark Cycles, but it is not really set up for what I had in mind ... no eyelets to mount panniers, etc. So, I pulled out my old Schwinn ten-speed that served me well during college, about 25 years ago. I had fenders mounted on it and purchased an Arkel Tailrider trunk bag.
Wayne and I work together, so we talked often of where to go. Work and family obligations hung on tight and the summer passed without even one adventure. But a window of opportunity finally surfaced during a weekend in October. Wayne was turning 50, and he devised a plan, asking me and several other friends to ride with him 50 miles to a state park here in Indiana called Turkey Run.
Wayne, 50 years young.
We would ride there during the day, eat dinner at the park's inn, enjoy a robust campfire and conversation until early morning hours, sleep, eat breakfast at the inn, and then spend the next day riding 50 miles home.
With the plan created, the invitations went out. A group of five took off from Danville, all but one of us active cyclists. The one who was not is a dear friend from Great Britain. He heard of the plan to celebrate Wayne's 50th birthday, and said he had an old bike and wondered if he could join us. The answer was, of course, yes!
From left to right: Gordon Reed, Wayne Capek, James Freestone (U.K.), author Craig Callahan, and Klint Crawford.
James' bike was a single speed and he did not have all the cycling gear, but he really wanted to be caught up in the adventure and celebration of our friend’s birthday. He suffered greatly -- and, in the end, admitted that he hadn't really thought this out very well. But instead of saying “I will never do this again,” he vowed to get on Craigslist and purchase a different bike … another cycling convert was born!
We headed northwest from Danville on county roads to North Salem, from which point it was about 35 miles due west on State Route 236 to Marshall. The horizon and sky really opened up as we headed west, and we wondered: Is this what Big Sky Country looks like?
In Marshall we turned onto Main Street, which took us 2.5 miles to the entrance of Turkey Run. The weather was very windy on the ride there, and unfortunately in our faces, but the sun shone brightly and the temperature was in low 50s. During the night the temps dropped to near 30 degrees, but we did more than survive; we thrived! Our conversations were graced with laughter and enthusiasm for the point in life we had all reached.
Dinner and breakfast at the inn were both awesome. Food is always more tasty and fullfilling after a long ride, of course.
The cozy interior of the Turkey Run Inn.
The campfire kept us warm as we talked into the morning, and the raccoons raided the food we left out on retiring for the night. Camping rookies, we were.
We were not the only slow-going traffic out there.
This was the first of what I hope are many more Bike Overnights. And the dream to ride across the USA now has a date attached to it: In four years I will be 50 and, Lord willing, I will celebrate by traveling across this great country by bicycle. Many more memories will be made between now and then, some on the bike and some off. The dream, however, calls me to a special time, a probable once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
But I didn’t wait to go cross-country. I went overnight!
Tip for this adventure: Dining at the inn at Turkey Run State Park is a must.
Favorite local bike shop: A1 Cyclery in Indianapolis.