Will and I left just after sunrise. This part of Indiana, while on Eastern Time, does not institute Daylight Savings, so the sunrises an hour earlier, which meant 5:45. We hoped to make it all the way to Indianapolis before noon, avoiding both heat and traffic on this Sunday morning. We accomplished both by shooting straight up US 31 to Franklin, then over SR 144 to Mann Rd, entering Indy from the SW, and riding through neighborhoods near the airport to our motel on Rockville Rd at the lodcal Beltway, I-465. Five hours/70 miles with stops and map breaks.
On arrival, I jumped into the pool in bike shorts, and dried out by the time Cheryl and Cody drove in with the girls 90 minutes later. When Duke and Jane arrived, we set out to tour some of the "close-in" sites where he had lived with his parents, and later with Jane as a medical student and intern.
First stop, though, was the carefully preserved Victorian/Gothic home near downtown Indianapolis, where James Whitcomb Riley, the "poet laureate of Indiana" lived the last 23 years of his life. Riley, sort of a Hoosier A.A. Milne, created in his poems Little Orphan Annie and Raggedy Ann. The house features 12-14 foot high ceilings, all the riginal furniture, and docents explaining each item. Our tour guide was Jane's cousin, but we still had to stay behind the velvet ropes, and look, not touch, all of the now priceless antiques and bric-a-brac.
From there, we went east, to Duke's old neighborhoods. We saw at least four houses, and several schools, all in various stages of aging. Two of them had been improved by their current residents, and we looked interested enough to be invited in. The first was in a neighborhood occupying the original site of Butler University. A "For Sale" sign hung outside, and Duke snagged a few of the color pictured flyers with details of each room. The house was essentially four stories, with the attic and basement recently finished. The yard stretched back more than 100 feet, to the CSX tracks.
"The trains come through more often now. We'll miss them when we go," the lady of the house told us. "We like it so much here, we might stay in the neighborhood. Did you know this house has had only five owners. It was built in about 1905, and the lady who lived here liked it so much, she had her husband build another like it next door. Then there were your parents, I guess." "Yes, we moved out about, oh, let me see, 1940," Duke offered.
"Right, and they sold it to the Coxes, who stayed into the 70s. They did such nice things to the house. The ones who came after them just trashed it, though. We've done so much, with the basement, turning the attic into a room for our daughter - she's gone now, away to college; I hope for good."
Duke whizzed by a room upstairs. "This was my room here," he said as we went up to the "attic". Duke had lived in that room from age ten thru high school. The room across it was the nursery used for Cheryl's sister. Duke and Jane had moved back into this house the last year of medical school. There were four bedrooms upstairs, as well as the attic.
Coming back down, I asked Duke, "Can you remember that room?" "Oh yeah, that was my room all right," he said without going or looking in. Cody and I exchanged glances. "But can you visualize what it was like?" With that, Duke led us in and started describing what furniture was where. I thought I'd ask him what it was like to live there, or where he studied, either in high school or medical school, but he whizzed out again, moving prettyfast for a man who just had back surgery ten days before.
His old high school, Howe, was shut down. Some windows were boarded up, and the track cinders were now covered with fine grass. The stadium seat, clustered under the scoreboard at the fifty yard line, looked fit and ready for action, though. "See that hill over there?" Duke pointed to a rise about 10-15 feet high, a "hill" in Indianapolis, I guess. At the "top" was a concrete foundation. "There was an old house there; that was my favorite place to go sledding." His old home was about six blocks from the school; it would have been an easy walk dragging your sled, but it was hard to imagine any snow at all right now.
The last house was Cheryl's grandparents' home where she remembered going on visits as a child (she spent a year in Indianapolis near the end of Duke's medical training in the early 50s. I'll let her fill in the details on this one.
Miles: Will, 71; Al (single) 71.
Total miles: 1159
**Next Day's Journal**