Dublin to Indianapolis - The woman who sat on the toilet too long (and other odd American tales) - CycleBlaze

May 19, 2014

Dublin to Indianapolis

I GOT UP before dawn, made coffee, washed, packed my tent and left a note for the firemen. Plan A was to ride 165 to south of Bloomington, where Breaking Away was based (if you watch the film, notice how the main character changes down a gear so he pedals and looks as though he's going faster), and Plan B was to ride the 90 to a hostel north of Indianapolis.

And in the end I couldn't be arsed and I settled for the easier option. Which meant I was up too early but also that I would have the highway to myself for a couple of hours.

I just had my feet on the pedals when Pat, the shift leader, came out of the side door and the darkened station beyond it. We shook hands like old friends and I knew I had experienced one of those warm moments of small-town America. And 30 minutes later, pedalling alone with the sun and the breeze behind me, I heard the whoop-whoop-whoop of a destroyer entering port, which was one of Dublin's ambulance drivers touching the siren in greeting as he passed.

"We get to take patients from the emergency room at the hospital, back to their homes," Pat had told me. "And we take ordinary patients to the hospital for appointments, that sort of thing. We get paid extra for that, so all in all a man can make a decent living."

But only at the price of not knowing whether the peace and nervous relaxation will be broken next moment by a call.

"You get used to it, I guess. I've been here nine years now, so you know the sort of thing to expect. We can get some sleep from time to time but..." - he patted hand-written sheets hanging from a clipboard on the wall - "...we have these people to ferry about. On top of that, we can get called out three times a night on a normal shift, more if it's busy, not at all if it's really quiet."

He worked 24-hour shifts, he said, one complete day on and then two off.

I left him in the growing dawn and set off along the main highway west, the National Road, a Route 66 from coast to coast but without the romance. It was fine, an exercise in getting somewhere, with the pleasant interlude of the old wooden jail in Greenfield, where the lack of steel for cells brought the ingenuity of hammering metal spikes into the wood so prisoners couldn't saw through.

Tonight I am at a hostel 10km north of the city centre, along one of the rail-trails that America does so well. I don't know what happened to abandoned railways in France, although you often see the ridges and cuttings they left and, now and then, houses that were once stations or crossing-keepers' cottages, but they hardly ever became cycling trails. America, on the other hand, has seen the need - perhaps because it had the need - and has met it wonderfully.

The little jail was made of wood because there was no steel. And the walls and bars were filled with nails to stop the prisoners sawing their way out
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Wonderful old cars were for a sale beside the Monon Trail that led to my hostel
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Today's ride: 92 km (57 miles)
Total: 1,387 km (861 miles)

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