Isles of Wonder
Prior to spending nearly every available minute of the last two weeks watching nearly every imaginable Olympic event, I was fortunate enough to be able to ride the Brompton in the 12th Annual Great Greenway Tour. The annual bike ride benefits the Cardinal Greenway rail trail running from Marion to Richmond, Indiana. While routes are available from 10 to 100 miles, I chose to ride from the Wysor Street Depot in Muncie to the Richmond Depot District. The route included 42 miles of trail and about 2.5 miles of city streets to Barbara and Phil Jenkins’ home for some quick woodworking on their kitchen remodeling project, a grilled cheese sandwich, and a much-appreciated ride back to Muncie.
Given the recent drought conditions in Indiana I was amazed right from the start of the ride by the healthy green foliage lining both sides of the trail, even in an industrial area of Muncie. I thought perhaps Muncie had received more rain than other places, but the Kermit-the-Frog greenness held true the entire ride, increasingly so as I traveled south. At a certain point near Economy, hard as it is to imagine, the scene actually had me recalling director Danny Boyle’s “Isles of Wonder” London Olympics opening ceremony from the night before the ride.
Boyle’s ceremony opened on a set depicting a idyllic English countryside. From there, his script followed the course of British history from the time of hunter-gatherers, through agrarianism, to the emergence of the Industrial Revolution, eventually culminating with the rise of British pop culture. A portion of my ride traveled through a strangely similar trajectory. I rode through through dense, almost jungle-like Indiana woodlands, the realm of our own hunter-gatherers. From there, I passed by tiny farms with small plots of corn, huge vegetable gardens, and little red barns. Finally then, at Richmond, I reached the remnants of the Industrial Revolution, crumbling brick factory buildings, smokestacks, and all. Of course, Richmond was also a birthplace of recorded jazz, our early pop revolution. Given the context of Boyle’s display, the ride was a little like traveling through time. Cool.
Zipping along a particularly new portion of the trail, I marveled at the contrast between the silky smooth asphalt and the brush and trees to my left and right. How long would it have taken, I wondered, for say Chief Little Turtle to travel a similar route? Several days, I’m sure. I imagined his men blissfully navigating the thickets by narrow and curvy wooded paths, hunting deer, enjoying the warm summer sun, perhaps the smell of rain. Paradise! I imagined that… right up to the point I arrived at the sign along the trail marking “Mad” Anthony Wayne’s establishment of the Greenville Treaty Line following his victory over a confederation of Indiana forces in the Battle of Fallen Timbers. Yikes! So much for the idyllic imagery… but I guess Boyle left out a little but of British history as well.
The Battle of Fallen Timbers
The difference from car to bicycle is quite amazing. Having traveled the road from Muncie to Richmond perhaps several hundred times, I never once considered the territory's place in history, the plight of its earliest inhabitants, the blessings of our current era, or the potential for its future. It all simply slipped by at, we’ll say, just a little above the posted speed limit. Not by bike. The bike is quick enough to make you feel fleet in comparison to mere chipmunks and squirrels, but not so hurried to prevent you from noticing a toadstool, wooly worm, or poignant point of history. It was nice to ride the Brompton, blow the cobwebs out of my head, and contemplate.
Overall, the Brommie did an excellent job on the trip. It ran 45 miles without a hitch, carried all my supplies in my messenger bag clipped on front, got me to Richmond two hours earlier than I thought, and tucked invisibly into the Civic hatchback (along with at least three baseball stadium seats) for a cozy trip home. Speed-wise, I suppose I paid a tiny penalty in terms of the (alleged) rolling resistance of small wheels and (verified) mechanical resistance of the Sturmey Archer internally-geared hub, but I can’t say I noticed it. I passed more than a few fellow travellers along the way I assure you. A couple of riders did somehow manage to pass me. Had to be 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins and his wingman Chris Froome. Who else could have pulled off such a feat as passing me and the Brommie on my own home turf? Mysteriously, however, they seemed to be competing in the London Olympics at pretty much precisely the same time… Hmmm? Interesting...
So, it was a ride of moderate length... I thought some interesting thoughts... but that happens on every small wheel ride. Because, be it forty-five miles of rail trails or a 30-minute work-break ride downtown, every small-wheel ride is an adventure of its own. Try it for yourself today!