Rather than continuing south from Earl Park along Indiana’s border with Illinois down route 41 to the Carnegie in Kingman, I zigged halfway across the state to Kirklin for its Carnegie, then zagged back to Kingman, as I continue my sweep of the state gathering up the stray Carnegies that have eluded me over the years of biking through Indiana. In the past I haven’t detoured much from whatever route I may have been following for a Carnegie, as with their great abundance, there were always plenty to visit. But on this trip, fully focused on Carnegies, I am prepared to go out of my way, even one hundred miles, as I put a wrap on Indiana, the third state I will have completed after Illinois and Colorado.
Kirklin’s Carnegie was at the intersection of the two main highways bisecting the town—30 and 421. It had a Main Street address and an addition to its rear that didn’t detract from its stature. Nor did the addition’s alternate entrance close the original entrance, as happens all too often. It didn’t have Carnegie on its facade, just Public Library, but Carnegie’s portrait hung in the vestibule, facing that of George Washington, a most admirable duo. A quilt hung above the new entrance and a rocking chair faced it, enhancing the library’s small town aura.
I felt the lure of Indianapolis, just thirty miles south, as it has a pair of Landmark Theater multiplexes. I have a pass to this chain of art theaters, which I have used in Dallas, Manhattan, St. Louis and Milwaukee, as well as Chicago on a weekly basis when I’m in town. One of the theaters in Indianapolis, which I had previously visited with Janina, was playing two movies that hadn’t been playing at Chicago’s two Landmarks, and I wished to see—”White Boy Rick,” which had its World Premiere in Telluride and “Crazy Rich Asians,” one of the year’s biggest box office hits. There was a hostel just three miles from the theater, helping me make the decision to enter the metropolis. I had already visited it’s three Carnegies.
As I cycled across the northern periphery of the city I met a cyclist who told me about a bike path that would take me within a block of the hostel. The Monon Trail was a former rail line that ran north and south into the city through woods and past a few outdoor cafes. It was full of joggers running hard as if in final preparation for the marathon in Chicago this Sunday. I reached the hostel at 6:45, less than an hour before my first movie, not quite enough time for a shower. The hostel was in a house in a residential neighborhood. It had 40 beds, divided between dorms and single rooms. Two of the rooms were named for prominent locals—Kurt Vonnegut and David Letterman. It would have been an honor to sleep in either, but with only one other person in the six-bunk dorm and at less than half the price, a bunk sufficed.
I was able to backtrack on the fabulous Monon Trail that I had ridden my final five miles to the hostel to within a mile of the theater. “White Boy Rick” was the true story of a teen in Detroit in the ‘80s who gets mixed up with black drug dealers. His father, brilliantly played by Mathew McConaughy, deals in guns and is known to the FBI. The feds enlist Rick to go undercover for them, buying and selling crack. People weren’t overly enthusiastic about it at Telluride, but for me it was a fine indulgence after 80 miles on the bike. The crowd-pleasing filthy-rich Asian Cinderella-story movie equally so. Nearly everyone who wanted to see the movie had seen it, as I had the 9:30 screening all to myself.
Biking back to the hostel near midnight I had the streets to myself. I bypassed the forested dark bike trail and stuck to city streets. My route took me past an enlightened Aldis. Beside its dumpster sat a tray of food on a post. I took back a bag of potatoes and baked myself a few in the microwave. But first I connected to the WiFi (password “trotter317” combining a glorified term for travelers with the city’s area code) to get the result of the Cubs/Rockies wildcard game at Wrigley. I was shocked to see it was the 11th inning and the score 1-1. It took two more innings, making it the longest playoff game ever, for the Cubs to end their season, giving me one less thing to be concerned about in my travels ahead through the World Series. But it means our great Telluride compatriot Casey, who we have spent a month working with in Shipping the past eight years, won’t be coming to Chicago, as she promised if the Series boiled down to the Cubs and her team, the Bosox.
It was seventy miles nearly due east to Kingman for my next Carnegie. I am nearly far enough south into the state to be in the Bible Belt with witty sayings on church message boards—“Faith is the postage stamp on our prayers,” “Are you part of God’s harvest?”—keeping me entertained. A strong wind from the west that had helped me reach Indy in time for the double-feature the day before now held me back from reaching Kingman before its library closed at five. I camped a few miles outside of town in a thick forest. I was lucky I went off into the forest rather than camping in the open strip between a cornfield and the woods, as at three a.m. I was awakened by the sound of a sudden downpour on the forest canopy above. I hadn’t bothered to put up my rainfly. I scrambled fast as a few drops began to penetrate to put on the fly before the rain started penetrating in earnest. If I had been out in the open my sleeping bag and everything in my unshielded tent would have been instantly soaked. When the rain did start pounding down I feared my tent might be swallowed by a torrent of water, but the forest floor absorbed it all. I did have muddy puddles to penetrate in the morning alongside the corn field to get back to the road.
I delayed my arrival to Kingman until nine, hoping that might be when the library opened, but the library didn’t open until noon on this day. The library had only limited hours to serve its small community, small enough that the library hadn’t been expanded since it was built over a century ago. If the wind hadn’t been so adversarial the day before I might have been able to camp in Turkey Run State Park or in Raccoon Recreational Area down the road from Kingman. I was at least able to take on a pint of chocolate milk from Gobbler’s Knob general store before the state parks on my way to Greencastle and its pair of Carnegies. Dead deer preceding the hunting season that would thin their numbers were a common site in this thickly forested stretch.
I had passed through Greencastle on another trip and had visited its Carnegie, but didn’t realize there was a second on the campus of DePauw University, one of two academic Carnegies in Indiana. I remembered the town Carnegie was a little bit more majestic than most, as it was built with more than twice the usual $10,000 grant. It was also one of the rare Carnegies in Indiana that wasn’t identified as a mere “Public Library,” as the first five I had visited on this trip had chiseled on their facades, but as a “Carnegie Public Library.” Greencastle has grown considerably since its Carnegie was erected, so has had a significant addition to its side and rear.
Just a few blocks down College Avenue as one enters the DePauw campus one is greeted by its grand Carnegie Library funded by a $50,000 grant. It is now an Art Gallery and admissions office. It looks out on a huge grassy expanse. Its upper facade refers to it as “Emison Museum of Art,” in honor of the family that funded its transition from a library in 1958. Though “Library” had been buffed out above, “Built by Andrew Carnegie 1908” remains chiseled into the stone on the side of the building at street level.
It’s over one hundred miles to my next new Carnegie at the bottom of the state in Mt. Vernon on the Ohio River. It will be several days before I reach it as I will take a weekend hiatus from my Carnegie-quest to participate in the 51st annual Hilly Hundred in Bloomington, one of the premier cycling events in the US.