As I mentioned the other day, my birthday present this year from Carrick was a surprise trip to Indianapolis this past weekend to participate in the Indy N.I.T.E. Ride, a 20-mile nighttime ride through parts of Indianapolis. The girl knows how to plan a great trip! (Thank you, Carrick!)
Friday afternoon, we checked into our hotel, unpacked, then headed to the Indianapolis Museum of Art for a screening of “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure” at the outdoor amphitheater. (Louisville’s Iroquois Park has movies and concerts each year in the outdoor amphitheater. We’ve not been to any events yet, but plan to go sometime soon.)
It was hot (temps in the 90s) and very humid, so after we staked out our spot on the grass with our picnic blanket, wandered around the museum grounds looking at the sculptures, then went back inside the museum for a while to check out the fantastic exhibits (and enjoy the air conditioning).
Around 9 p.m., the sun finally went down and the movie started. I’ve always enjoyed that movie, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen it and I forgot how funny it is.
Saturday, we took advantage of the “open rides” at the Major Taylor Velodrome. American cyclist Marshall “Major” Taylor overcame racism and set the world record for one-mile track cycling in 1899 when he completed the one-mile race at 1 minute, 19 seconds. According to indygov.org, when it was built in 1982 (at a cost of $2.5 million), the Major Taylor Velodrome became the first building in Indianapolis built with public money to be named after a black person.
The track is 333.34 meters long with 28 degree banked turns and 9 degree straights. From 3-5 p.m., the public was allowed to ride the velodrome prior to the evening races. This was our first visit to the velodrome, so we weren’t sure what to expect. We walked our bikes up to the inside gate where someone asked if we had ridden the velodrome before (it was probably pretty obvious we hadn’t). He quickly explained the rules: ride the flat area until you’re warmed up, then when you’re ready enter at the flat section and use momentum (rather than speed) to stay on the curves. After making a few laps on the flat section, I made it about half way around the 28 degree banked turn, I chickened out and dropped back into the more gentle curve. I tried again a second time and suceeded in riding an entire lap in the top of the curve. After a couple laps, I was exhausted. (It didn’t help that it was horribly hot and humid outside and riding in the velodrome was “like riding in an oven” as Carrick put it). Riding the banked turns was much more intimidating than I expected it to be, but I’m happy I managed to do it without crashing.
We spent the next few hours sitting outside watching people gather for the ride. When the heat and humidity became too much to bear, we sat in the car with the A/C running for a few minutes until we cooled off. Not very environmentally-friendly I realize, but necessary.
It was amazing to see how fast the racers ride around the track. They’re obviously not intimidated at all. One racer had a blow-out, but expertly managed to maintain control of his bike and ride the center of the track without taking everyone down in a crash. Pretty impressive. I didn’t capture any video of the blow-out, but comparing how slowly I poked around the track (around 14 mph), really puts into perspective how fast the racers are going.
Here are some helpful sites with additional details about the Velodrome:
The NITE Ride started at 11 p.m. It took about 20-25 minutes to walk our bikes with the crowd to get to the “start” of the ride. Organizers staggered groups of 100 or so people, so it allowed some space to open up between groups, making the beginning much easier than I anticipated. I’m terrible at judging crowd sizes, but according to WTHR TV, over 3,400 cyclists participated in this year’s ride. This was the 15th year for the ride.
The ride started up a slight hill. We rode this hill earlier in the day while riding to a Subway deli for lunch (which ended up being closed). Funny how riding up a hill in 100 degree heat and high humidity is much more difficult than riding it once temperatures have dropped. (Another hill near the end of the ride was pretty difficult, but we survived.)
Not being familiar with Indianapolis, I had no idea where we were until we reached the downtown area. There’s something strangely relaxing about riding at night in a city I’m not familiar with. Here’s the map of the route. Some of the landmarks we saw on the ride were Marian College, Indiana University-Perdue University at Indianapolis (very pretty campus), Butler University, the American Legion Mall, Indiana World War Memorial, the Soldiers & Sailors Monument, North Meridian Avenue (huge homes on a beautiful, tree-lined street), and other great sites. For the entire ride, police blocked the busy intersections, so it was nice to ride without having to deal with traffic lights and stop signs.
Indianapolis also has a great multi-purpose path that we rode on Sunday. We plan to ride more of the path on a future visit to Indy.
In summary, it was a fantastic way to spend a 3-day weekend. If you’ve never done the N.I.T.E. Ride before, I highly recommend it!