Thursday, November 12, 2015

Oxlford, Ohio

Its not so easy to pull myself from the toasty warmth of my down sleeping bag when the temperature isn't much above freezing, even when there is a Carnegie awaiting me just down the road.  I can be happy though for the frost that dusts the vegetation surrounding my tent.  If it were a wet dew I'd soak my shoes pushing my bike back to the road, and I'd have the lamentable lot of wet, cold feet for an hour or more.

I may be starting my days chilled, but the pedalling soon has me warmed up and shedding layers and glorying in being on the bike. I'm a physical being meant to be outdoors and active, not cooped up in some cubicle of a cell. When I eventually shed my corporeal form I can take up a sedentary existence or whatever lays beyond.  

The worst of bicycling this time of the year isn't so much the cold, but rather the shortness of the days, abbreviating my time on the bike.  Dark comes much too early.  Its nice though to spend more than the ten or twelve hours at my campsites that is my usual time in the warmer months when I'm biking until dark and then off early in the cool of the morning.  Each campsite is a jewel that deserves more appreciation and time than I give them.  I'm always too eager to begin pedaling than to linger in camp watching the sun brighten the landscape and giving a full examination of the spot that was my refuge for the night, whether it be surrounded by trees or beside a field of corn.  The best I can do is leave some fertilizer. 

I was able to linger outside the Union City Carnegie on one of its benches and revel in the marvelous setting, as I arrived a few minutes before it opened at eleven.   It had a block all to itself, set back from the street with a vast green lawn before it.  If I had spotted this regal edifice in France I would have guessed it was a residence of royalty.  It was an amazingly distinguished-looking building for such a small, out-of-the-way town. After being subjected to the antiseptic sameness of the last few libraries that had replaced Carnegies, sitting in the cozy warmth of this historic building felt like putting my feet into a pair of beloved, well-worn shoes.

At Winchester it was back to the modern mundane in an attachment to its Carnegie that was an abomination.  The Carnegie was closed off from the addition and only used for meetings.  The entry to the new library hugged the backside of the old building.  It was all enclosed.  Those who enter could go to one side into the new library, or, if they didn't know better, such as me, climb a few steps to the old library.  If one went up those steps, he'd be thwarted by a sign that announced "Closed."  Most additions find a way to incorporate the original library and let it continue to fulfill its purpose.  Not here unfortunately. At least the front side of the true library maintained its gallant dignity of a century ago, though somewhat blighted by the wings behind it that were part of what is now the library.

The city of Richmond did not need the beneficence of Carnegie for a library, but there was a Carnegie in the city on the campus of Earlham College.  It was in the middle of the campus and was now its Welcome Center and administrative offices.  The school appreciated its significance, spending $5.6 million dollars renovating it in 2012.

The tenth and final Carnegie on my route through Indiana came in Liberty.  It faced the town's central plaza and fully functioned as it was intended.  Unfortunately it was closed for Veteran's Day so I couldn't soak up its ambiance.

Not too far across the border into Ohio I came to Oxford and Miami University, one of eight colleges in the state with a Carnegie-funded libary, more than any other state except Pennsyvania with nine.  The domed building now fittingly housed the Architecture Department.  It was the most prominent of a row of red-brick buildings that faced out onto a vast quad.  I was the only one among the streams of students on a bike.  If I were on a crusade to promote the bike, I would have given up long ago. My only crusade, foolish or not, is to get in a bike ride as often as I can. 

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