US 40 on the east side of Indianapolis is one long string of strip malls. Traffic can be thick, and shoulders are narrow to non-existent. Also, I would encounter two major highway ramp intersections, one with Interstate 465 and another with Shadeland Avenue, a major local road. I had little desire to deal with any of it as I bicycled through on my old Schwinn.
Fortunately, Google Maps helpfully pointed out that I could detour all of it on a rail-trail created on the former Pennsylvania Railroad bed. The trail would even take me over those two highways! Sold! I picked up the trail behind a Mejier big-box store and rode it all the way to Irvington.
It started out as a pleasant, quiet ride behind the strip malls.
This is part of the National Road Heritage Trail, which, when it’s finished, will parallel the National Road across Indiana. About 68 miles are open of the 160 planned.
It’s easy to forget that you’re a quarter mile away from US 40 when you’re on the trail.
Riding across Indianapolis worried me a little. Not only is Washington Street (former US 40) not friendly to bicycles, the road leads through some sketchy neighborhoods. I was worried about encountering someone unfriendly. I thought surely the trail would be a respite from that worry. But there was an incident.
It happened about 100 yards down the trail from here. A fellow riding a recumbent bike was headed my way from the opposite direction, and he started bellowing at me, “Get out of the way! There’s a car behind you on the trail!”
I stopped and turned around, and sure enough a small white sedan was headed my way. I pulled off the trail to let them by, puzzled over why they decided driving on the trail was a good idea.
But the recumbent rider wanted to give the driver a piece of his mind. “Turn that car around! Get off the trail!” he bellowed, over and over, at top volume.
The white sedan screeched to a halt and a young man and woman got out, chests out, ready for a fight. If recumbent rider was going to yell at them, they were going to yell right back! “How in the hell are we supposed to turn around? There’s no room! GPS brought us down here! We’re from out of town!” They rightly noted that the only way out was through. Everyone started swearing.
The couple frankly looked like the kind of people who were always ready for a fight. Recumbent rider started out as sanctimonious but turned into a straight up jackass. It truly felt like someone could throw a punch, or worse, at any minute.
Notice the two-track road to the left of the trail in the photo above? It’s someone’s long driveway. I rode my bike up the little hill to the two-track, around the altercation, and then back down onto the trail.
When I got to the next crossroads, the car sped up to me on the two-track. The fellow rolled down his window and offered a quick, weak apology, but then got animated again and said, “The dude called my wife a fat bitch and pulled a knife on us!”
My BS detector went off, and it just seemed best to be as far away from this couple as I could get. I turned away and rode off. Fortunately, I never saw any more of them.
Shortly I crossed over I-465, then Shadeland. Here’s the northbound view from the trail overpass.
I got off the trail at Arlington Avenue and rode back up to Washington Street in the heart of the historic Irvington neighborhood. I continued my journey west on old US 40.
I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.