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I love a parade (not) – Riding the Cultural Trail

I can’t believe it happened again. No, really, I can’t believe it actually happened again.

Dear City of Indianapolis,

Please stop throwing a parade every time I go downtown on the weekend. I’m flattered that you think I’m so awesome that there needs to be a parade every time I grace your metropolis with my presence on the weekends. But next time, I swear I will plow through your bright orange blockades to get into the parking garage.

Thank you,

Jennette Fulda

In June I tried rendezvousing with my mother to visit the tea room when I was detoured by the gay pride parade. Last Saturday, I drove downtown to take part in the Cultural Trail bicycle tour and couldn’t get past the roadblocks for the Circle City Classic parade. How many parades does this city have in a year? And is there a parade warning list I can be put on to warn me the next time a marching band stands between me and the parking garage?

Despite the barriers, I was able to drive downtown, pull my bike out of the trunk and figure out how to properly reattach the front wheel in time to make it to the bike tour and without suffering massive braking failure. The Indianapolis Cultural Trail is a project I discovered because of my recent Starbucks addiction. Whenever my coworkers and I escape from our cages to pay too much for coffee, we walk past signs saying “Cultural Trail.” One day, there were even men jackhammering designs into the road which were later painted bright colors to denote the trail. All of this made me wonder, “What the hell is the Cultural Trail?”

I visited their website and discovered the trail is “a world-class urban bike and pedestrian path that connects neighborhoods, Cultural Districts and entertainment amenities, and serves as the downtown hub for the entire central Indiana greenway system.” I also signed up for their newsletter and learned that they offered bike tours at the beginning of each month from April through October. I was curious, and I was looking for new and interesting ways to stay active, so I signed up.

A group of about 15 people met in the parking lot of the Central Indiana Community Foundation and I could tell I was in the right place because Gail, the organizer, had a big map of the trail. (She also had a mandatory waiver I had to sign in case I hadn’t reattached my front wheel as well as I thought I had.)

Gail and the big sign

Her husband, Brian, president of the Central Indiana Community Foundation and founder of the Cultural Trail, showed up soon afterwards to lead the tour. Since only about 5 blocks of the trail have been built, most of the tour involved biking around downtown and visualizing how pretty the trail will be when it’s all done. It was like a realtor showing you a house and telling you to envision yourself living there, even though it’s all drywall and carpeting for now.

Brian gives us the scoop on the trail

I had a lot of fun on the tour, whizzing through parts of downtown I would never bike down alone for fear of traffic. It also made me excited for the day when the trail is done. Here are some highlights in bullet points so I don’t have to think up paragraph transitions:

  • Part of the Cultural Trail will weave into a corridor behind some restaurants with patios and a brick road, giving it a European feel. A garden will be planted with herbs local chefs use in their recipes.
  • Although there have been some attacks on the Monon Trail recently, in comparison to the thousands of “touches” the trail gets every year, the crime rate is amazingly low. I might try pitching this to my mother so she’ll feel better if I bike to work. Or I might look up Brian’s phone number and tell her to call him directly :)
  • Part of the Cultural Trail will follow a street that goes under a parking garage that was dark enough that I could barely see with my sunglasses on. However, I didn’t feel good enough about my bike skills to ride one-handed to take them off. An artist is developing lights with sensors that will detect your presence and turn on and off as you pass through. This sounds totally awesome and I would ride the trail just for this feature.
  • One of the biggest advocates for the trail is the CEO of Eli Lilly, which is handy since drug companies have lots of money. The trail will pass by their campus and help connect the company with the rest of downtown.
  • The trail will benefit some neighborhoods more than others. The Fountain Square area for instance, has some great restaurants and clubs, but is a little east of downtown and not exactly pretty.

    Fountain Square

    Whereas the White River Canal area is already idyllic and beautiful and was the most relaxing part of the tour.

    White River Canal

Near the end of the tour we had to ride back to the parking lot, but our route was directly blocked by a marching band. We biked through a park trying to cross over, but then had to backtrack. I don’t know what the mostly black attendees of the Circle City Classic thought of the 15 white people on bikes who rode through their festival and almost became part of the parade. I only hope we drove fast enough that they didn’t get a good look at my face.

When we got back to the parking lot, I won a t-shirt because I have a birthday this month. Woo-hoo! Go October! I was much happier with this than the other prize, a bag of Cultural Trail mix, which looked delicious, but I would probably have scarfed down all at once and felt guilty about later. They sell the mix at The Best Chocolate in Town on Massachusetts Avenue and $1.00 of every bag is donated to the Cultural Trail fund.

The trail is privately funded, but right now they are concentrating on finding $1-million-dollar level donors. If I had that much money lying around, I’d be happy to donate because I love this city’s trail systems and I’d love to be able to bike around downtown more easily. I’ll have to wait until they start taking donations like the $20 in my billfold to help finance the project. I’ve noticed that projects like these don’t just happen, they have advocates, usually only one or a couple people who are really focused on getting the project completed. I don’t have the energy to deal with all the bureaucracy that a project like this would stir up, so I’ll just give money instead when the time comes :)

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DonnaLynn • October 6, 2008 at 10:32 am

Glad to hear you sounding so much more upbeat again!


Alexia • October 6, 2008 at 11:16 am

That sounds awesome! That reminds me — I’ve been meaning to check out the American Tobacco Trail — just tossed out a comment over my shoulder to my husband and we’re going to do it this weekend!

I first misread the donation amount for the trail mix, by the way — I thought you wrote “$1000” and I thought that must be some DAMN good trail mix. Perhaps made with gold dust.

Hurray for October birthdays! I’m turning 40 in 11 days! I’ve never felt better in my life.


Julie • October 6, 2008 at 11:49 am

Looks like fun!!


Kyle • October 6, 2008 at 11:49 am

It’s so funny how in the U.S. you have to sign a waiver for everything. Here in Chile you can bungee jump without filling out a single piece of paperwork. Of course, if you die, your family has no legal recourse, so it really doesn’t matter.

By the way, if you are looking for a cause to donate your $20 dollars in your wallet, I have one, on my blog, right now.


victoria • October 6, 2008 at 1:52 pm

When I read posts like this, I think, “I wonder if she remembers what her life was like 5 years ago, when she spent a lot of her free time alone in her apartment.” Your weight loss revolutionized your life in so many ways, it’s hard to comprehend what a huge impact it’s had on you.


Tess • October 6, 2008 at 6:46 pm

Sounds like you had a great time, especially the part where you nearly got caught up in the parade!

If I were to put a wheel on my bike, undoubtedly it wouldn’t last for 2 minutes before I would be crashing into hedges, fire hydrants, or whatever else was on the side of the road.

Enjoyed the post!


Rachel • October 6, 2008 at 7:01 pm

I can’t even tell you how excited I get at free t-shirts, especially if it’s for something cool I can show off at the gym. Happy birthday!


Jennifer • October 6, 2008 at 7:50 pm

I just wanted to drop a comment, and tell you what an inspiration you are. A friend told me about your site, so I though I would pop in to see what it was all about. I am so inspired, and in awe of you and your site. I absolutely love the 3D progress video. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to do one too. Thanks so much for sharing your story with everyone!


Niagaraview • October 6, 2008 at 9:40 pm

Sigh, you can really make a girl miss Indiana.


Bethama • October 7, 2008 at 8:48 am

Okay, it’s settled. EVERYONE’S birthday is in October.

Sounds like a fun time on the trail, at any rate!


JEM • October 7, 2008 at 1:03 pm

I am asking for a bike for christmas! We don’t have cool trails like this down here though…I would love it!


Amy • October 7, 2008 at 4:40 pm

You may be excited to know that Mayor Ballard is announcing Indy as trying to be a bike friendly city next week! There are lots of bike lanes planned… then you can ride down to the trail next time!


Cindy • October 7, 2008 at 5:49 pm

Cool! I’ll be in Indianapolis in May to sing with the opera company, and I’ve been wondering what I could do for workouts on the road. Can’t wait to check it out. Is there anyplace in the vicinity to rent bikes?


Amy • October 8, 2008 at 10:09 am

We’re not advanced enough to rent bikes downtown, but I think they do in Carmel along the trail. But anyway, I think Fountain Square is cool! Has lots of potential and hasn’t been gummed up by gentrification yet.


PastaQueen • October 8, 2008 at 10:11 am

@Amy – Part of the plan is to set up bike rental stations like they have in Paris and London. However, I don’t know when that will happen.


PastaQueen • October 8, 2008 at 10:15 am

@Cindy –

The Monon Trail is a great place to ride. I believe you can rent bikes at 86th Street, near the Westfield Blvd intersection at the Bike and Skate. It’s up north though, so I don’t know where you will be staying.

Hope you enjoy Indy!


Gail • October 9, 2008 at 12:34 am

Thanks for your thorough report on the Trail Tour. I’m glad you had fun! We would be MORE THAN HAPPY to take your $20 or any other gift you would like to offer. AND, another donor has stepped up to match your $20 with another $10 if you designate your gift to the maintenance endowment. We accept gifts of any size and take cash, check, credit card, stock or even real estate and planned gifts.

For more information, contact me at 317.713.3333 or visit our Web site for information on donations: http://www.IndyCulturalTrail.org/donate.



Tara • October 9, 2008 at 4:48 pm

Wow that sounds like it will be a wonderful place to ride, i wish we had something like that here were i live. I get bored walking the same tiny path in the park near my house. Glad to hear you had a good time on the tour too.:)


Cindy • October 10, 2008 at 12:16 pm

@PastaQueen –

Thanks! I don’t know where I’ll be yet myself, but I’m looking forward to spending some time there.



PastaQueen • October 11, 2008 at 10:20 am

@Gail – Thanks for the info, Gail!


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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JennetteFulda.com now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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