Ride Across Indiana, Road Trips

Bicycling the National Road across the White River in Indianapolis

As I bicycled through Downtown Indianapolis on my way across Indiana on the National Road, I had a challenge to solve: how to get across the White River. The White River State Park and the Indianapolis Zoo were built over the original path of the National Road and US 40 there. I shared the history of this alignment, and the many bridges that used to cross the river here, in this post.

In the map excerpt below, the National Road (Washington Street) enters and exits just above the center of the image, but curves south to skirt the park and the zoo. The bridge that once carried traffic on the original alignment still stands and is visible in the image.

Imagery ©2021 CNES/Airbus, IndianaMap Framework Data, Maxar Technologies, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data ©2021 Google.

If you read the post about the history of the road here, you know that the original path of the National Road here is now the walking path that passes by the NCAA Hall of Champions marked on the map excerpt above. Here’s the beginning of that path, which begins at the Eiteljorg Museum. Here, the path is part of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail.

Original NR path through White River SP, Indianapolis

It also passes by the Indiana State Museum. I remember when this museum was in the old City Hall on the other side of Downtown. That was 25 years ago, and the new museum was built shortly afterward. I still think of this building as new, even though it’s not.

Original NR path through White River SP, Indianapolis

The path crosses a road that leads to parking. Those are the signature Cultural Trail crosswalk markings in the road. This is about where the path becomes the White River Trail.

Original NR path through White River SP, Indianapolis

The White River Trail shortly crosses the Central Canal over a narrow bridge. That’s the NCAA Hall of Champions on the right. On the left, way in the distance, is the Washington Street bridge that used to carry US 40. It’s marked by the rows of lamps.

Original NR path through White River SP, Indianapolis

Here’s where the original National Road alignment ends at the White River. Once upon a time, there was a big covered bridge right here, on the left, at about a right angle to the riverbank.

Original NR path through White River SP, Indianapolis

From that spot I turned to the left to about the angle of the former covered bridge here. This was the view. My understanding is that in the covered bridge’s era, the White River was narrower than it is now, and the west bank would have been closer in.

Washington St. Bridge, Indianapolis

From here, I backtracked and rode over to the Washington Street bridge, which is now open only to pedestrians.

Washington St. Bridge, Indianapolis

Here’s the view from the deck, as I bicycled westward.

Washington St. Bridge, Indianapolis

At the end of the bridge I faced a choice: follow the White River Trail around the zoo’s north edge, or backtrack all the way to where I started and follow current Washington Street back over the river. I chose the former because it was shorter and avoided a lot of traffic.

White River Trail behind Indianapolis Zoo

Shortly the trail opened up and followed the White River.

White River Trail behind Indianapolis Zoo

Soon the trail met the White River Parkway, a local road. I followed it south to where it intersects with Washington Street, which resumed its original path following the old National Road.

Railroad overpass, WB Old US 40

Until this point, the National Road was pretty neatly an east-west road across Indiana. From here on out, it runs west southwest all the way to Illinois.

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Ride Across Indiana, Road Trips

Irvington, an Indianapolis neighborhood on old US 40

In 1870, When Irvington was platted, it was outside the Indianapolis city limits. It was Indianapolis’s first suburb, a quiet town of winding streets bisected by the National Road, known as Washington Street locally.

Imagery ©2021 IndianaMap Framework Data, Maxar Technologies, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data ©2021 Google.

Today, Irvington is a city neighborhood and also the largest historic preservation district in Indianapolis. Its curved streets and older homes are quite lovely. My wife and I are charmed enough by it that we’ve strongly considered moving to this neighborhood.

As I bicycled through on my Ride Across Indiana, I made some photographs of Irvington from Washington Street. This was US 40 and the National Road in its day, but today it’s just a major city thoroughfare. Traffic was heavy and lanes are narrow, so I rode on the sidewalks.

You’ll find a number of apartment buildings on Washington Street, including this one with a Chicago-style central courtyard.

Irvington apartment house

The Irvington United Methodist Church is in many ways Irvington’s centerpiece. It’s about a half block north of Washington Street but is well visible from the street. It was originally the home of Jacob Dorsey Thomas, a professor at Butler University, which was located in Irvington from 1875 to 1928. It was then home of Thomas Carr Howe, then University President. He sold the home in 1924 to the Methodist church, which expanded it greatly in making it into a church.

Irvington on old US 40

Washington Street in the center of Irvington is lined with small businesses.

Irvington on old US 40

This building was originally a freemason’s lodge, but today it houses various businesses.

Irvington on old US 40

Just down the street is the Irving Theater, built in 1913. It was a first-run theater until about 1969, when it became an adult theater. By the early 1980s it had become a second-run theater. In the late 1980s a group of Irvington businessmen bought it and turned it into a theater showing foreign and art films. I saw a film here in about 1989. It closed in 1994 and remained that way until 2008 and is now primarily a live entertainment venue.

Irvington on old US 40

After you pass out of Irvington, the neighborhood becomes rather sketchy. I kept riding and didn’t stop for photographs. I was delighted to find that it’s slightly downhill all the way to Downtown.

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Ride Across Indiana, Road Trips

A rail-trail detour on the Ride Across Indiana

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.

Map data ©2021 Google.

It started out as a pleasant, quiet ride behind the strip malls.

Pennsy Trail

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.

Pennsy Trail

It’s easy to forget that you’re a quarter mile away from US 40 when you’re on the trail.

Pennsy 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.

Pennsy Trail

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.

Shadeland Ave. NB from Pennsy Trail

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.

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Personal

Goodbye Liberty Street

I was hardly a regular; I live too far away and prefer to drink at home anyway. But Liberty Street was my favorite bar and tonight’s its last night. It’s closing for good.

The bartender said that business just hasn’t come back to pre-pandemic levels, and the owner doesn’t see when it will recover. Better to move on and cut the losses now.

I couldn’t make it tonight, but I could last night after work, and so I did. I photographed the barroom with my iPhone.

Goodbye Liberty Street

Here’s my last Manhattan at Liberty Street, half consumed.

Last Manhattan at Liberty Street

Liberty Street had an enormous selection of whiskeys, mostly bourbons but some Scotches. It was fun to go in and have neat pours of whiskeys I’d never heard of before and probably could never find at the liquor store. I usually met my brother there. Our traditional seats were at the end of the bar. He and I will have to find another favorite place now.

Here is a selection of other photographs I’ve made of Liberty Street over the years.

At the bar
Canon TLb, 50mm f/1.8 Canon FD S.C., Kodak Gold 200, 2015
Liberty Street
Canon TLb, 50mm f/1.8 Canon FD S.C., Kodak Gold 200, 2015
Liberty Street
Kodak Pony 135 Model B, Agfa Vista 200, 2018
Liberty Street
Yashica-12, Ilford FP4 Plus, L110, Dilution B, 2021
Liberty Street
Olympus XA2, Kodak ProImage 100, 2021
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Under the Artsgarden

Under the Artsgarden
Canon PowerShot S95
2021

On my Ride Across Indiana, the National Road brought me through Downtown Indianapolis. It’s Washington Street there, and where it intersects Illinois Street it passes under the Artsgarden. It’s a glassed dome that serves as a pedestrian walkway and a place to perform and display art. It’s been here since 1995.

I’ve photographed it from the front and the side many times — type Artsgarden into my blog’s search bar to see — but never from underneath. I made this photo from the saddle of my bike at what is roughly the halfway point across Indiana.

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Photography, Ride Across Indiana

single frame: Under the Artsgarden

Image
Film Photography

Shooting Kodak ProImage 100

I’ve been meaning to try Kodak ProImage 100 for some time now, so when I needed to order something else from Freestyle Photographic I threw in a couple rolls of it.

I shot the first roll in my Olympus XA2. I kept it in my bike’s saddlebag and shot things I saw as I rode around. I love doing that! When I got the roll back from the developer, I instantly disliked the muted, sickly greens I saw. Unfortunately, on this roll most of what I shot was green. Welcome to late spring in rural Indiana!

Barn and tree
Cornfield
Yellow barn

The film captured yellows, blues, and reds pleasingly, and with good fidelity to real life.

Bike by the barn
On the farm
Silos

Despite unsatisfying greens, I like how this photo turned out compositionally. There’s a saying in Indiana: knee high by the fourth of July. That refers to corn, and how tall it should be by Independence Day. I photographed this corn in the second week of June — it’s ahead of schedule.

Cornfield

My favorite photo from the roll is this one, which I made when I drove Downtown to meet my brother for a drink. This bar has arguably the most extensive whiskey selection in Indiana. I had a delicious whiskey from Oregon that reminded me of a peaty scotch, and an unremarkable whiskey from Nebraska. The ProImage 100 delivered true-to-life reds and excellent blacks.

Liberty Street

I put a second roll of this film into my Pentax Spotmatic F and screwed in my 35mm f/3.5 SMC Takumar lens. The camera came with me to work, so most of the roll features images from Downtown Indianapolis. I got far better results this time. It’s probably valuable to note that I used a different lab to process and scan these, which might also play in these results. But bottom line, the sickly green caste was gone.

The Slippery Noodle
The Lacy Building
Bank of Indianapolis
Harry & Izzy's

The meter on my Spottie was fussy through the roll, and it quit registering altogether toward the end. I brought the camera home and blew through the last of the roll using the Sunny 16 rule. The greens were not so sickly this time.

To the left
Old farmhouse
Escape
Chicory

I’ve not been thrilled with my Olympus XA2’s performance at all this year, with any film. So perhaps it was a poor choice to test Kodak ProImage 100. When I shot the film in my Spotmatic, I got fine results. This is a good all-purpose film. Its color palette is slightly muted compared to Kodak Gold 200 and Kodak Max 400, which is nice. But I don’t see myself buying it much when I can buy Gold and Max for far less. Both films look wonderful with a stop of overexposure, bringing them in line or close to ProImage’s speed — and both films cost a lot less than ProImage.

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