Road Trips

The bicycles of Knightstown, on the National Road in Indiana

Knightstown, pop. 2,182, isn’t what you’d call a big town. But it’s the biggest one Henry County has to offer along the National Road, which cuts across the very bottom of the county. It’s a typical Indiana small town, with most buildings fronting the main drag built within 20 years either way of 1900. What makes Knightstown stand out to the person just passing through is the bicycles.

The bicycle planters of Knightstown

Chained to every pillar and post, a basket or tub or pot sits on each one, filled with flowers. Mums, actually, given that it was autumn when I passed through.

The bicycle planters of Knightstown

Each is painted a bright color — not just the body, but the tires, the chains, the gears, the seat, everything.

Bicycle planter

But it’s a clever idea that makes Knightstown stand out.

The bicycle planters of Knightstown

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.

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1973 Schwinn Collegiate

During my 1970s kidhood, Schwinn was the ultimate bike. Especially the 20-inch Sting-Ray: banana seat, chopper-style handlebars, chrome fenders, bright colors. All the boys in my neighborhood wanted one, especially if it came with the 5-speed Stik-Shift on the crossbar or the “slik” treadless rear tire. My first bike was an old, battered 20-inch Schwinn with a slik. Since its previous owner had removed its model-identifying chain guard, I never knew whether it was a Sting-Ray. I always imagined it was so I could feel cool.

As we kids outgrew our small bikes, brand loyalty drew us toward the bigger Schwinns. I saved my allowance for years, a five-speed 26-inch Schwinn in my sights. I hadn’t saved enough when my old 20-inch bike in no way fit me anymore. Desperate, I bought what I could afford: a maroon 3-speed made by, horrors, AMF. Yet I rode that bike more than any other I’ve ever owned. I figure I put 10,000 miles on it. I wish I still had it. But childhood dreams can eventually come true: a friend recently gave me the 5-speed Schwinn of his teen years, in Sierra Brown. I had it mechanically restored, and from time to time I take it out for a cruise.

Personal, Photography

Captured: 1973 Schwinn Collegiate



Bikes for rent
Olympus Stylus
Kodak Plus-X

Film Photography


Canon PowerShot S95

Stories Told

Bike rides and ice cream

I enjoyed this summer more than any summer in recent memory. I took plenty of walks, visited plenty of places with my camera in hand, spent plenty of evenings on the deck reading, and took plenty of weekend day trips.

1986 Schwinn Collegiate
My 1986 Schwinn Collegiate

The one thing I didn’t do until just the other day, however, is ride my bike. I’m not entirely sure why I waited so long. I love to ride my bike, a vintage 3-speed. Last year I even had it mechanically restored. But then we had the hottest summer anybody could remember, and I hardly ever rode it because the extreme heat robbed rides of all their fun. It was often dangerously hot for a bike ride. So you’d think I would have been chomping at the bit to get my bike out this year. But fortunately, when I finally got it down and blew off a year’s accumulated dust, it rode as great as it did when I got it back from the shop.

The DQ nearest my Terre Haute home. Dig that great sign. Michael Ray photo.

Riding my bike was one of my great childhood pleasures. I lived on my bike when I was a kid! And as a young adult I used to take rides all over Terre Haute, where I lived then. There must be more Dairy Queens per capita in Terre Haute than in any other U.S. city, because I could easily pass two or three on a single bike ride. Well, except that I usually stopped at one of those Dairy Queens during the ride, and headed home sucking on a chocolate malt. So much for the calories I burned!

So what did I do on my first bike ride of the season? I rode two miles to the Dairy Queen nearest my Indianapolis home, naturally.

I rode so much as a boy that I had legs of steel. Read that story.

Film Photography

Captured: Share the road

Share the road

Indianapolis has become a little more bicycle friendly over the past few years, with some city streets being restriped to add bicycle lanes and many other streets being marked to remind drivers to share the road. As sanitary sewer has been extended into my part of town over the past couple years, the city has taken advantage of the resulting tearing up of streets to reconfigure some of them for safer bike travel. I would have liked nearby Grandview Drive to be widened for bike lanes, as it is narrow and frequently busy. All it got were these Share the Road symbols.

Grandview wasn’t busy the day I took this photo because it was closed for bridge construction. Naturally, that made me want to ride my bike on it! I love to slip one of my small film cameras into my pocket when I ride, and that day my little Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 was loaded with Kodak T-Max 400 and ready to go along.