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Day 27 – Reflection

Day of rest and Artist Talk at the Swope Museum of Art in Terre Haute, I.N.

6/7/2011

The talk at the Swope Museum of Art took place at 12:00 noon and was billed as one of their “Brown Bag Lectures”. Taking place at lunch hour, it was encouraged for people to bring a lunch to hear the talk. The turn out for the presentation was a modest one. A TV crew from the local station came by and conducted a relatively lengthy interview with me in the space prior to the talk and filmed the first portion of the presentation as well. It proved to be fruitful to approach the newspaper the day before as well since a few people in attendance mentioned that it was the article in the paper that day that notified them that the talk was happening. The title to the article was, “Artist Trades Palette for Pedals”, a title I very much enjoy. One of the aspects to TFBD that I have become more appreciative of is exposing a larger public to a contemporary artistic practice. The nature of this project may strike some as existing in a grey area as far as art goes, with this in mind I am conscious of doing my best to explain the expansive nature of artistic practices in play now and the elements involved in TFBD are ones which may be seen as falling under the ever widening umbrella of contemporary art. The article started out saying something like, how I am “drawing” the shape of the border of Afghanistan with the bike tires similar to a drawing on paper. An interesting interpretation to explaining an art method in a way that people might be able to better relate to than what I have been saying to them.

The talk went well. The audience seemed interested and engaged, following the talk with thoughtful questions. One in attendence was a woman in her 80’s (although one would never guess) named Pat Creasey. She said that the article in the paper had brought her to the talk and that there was a meeting with the Mayor of Terre Haute later that day and invited me to go and gave me directions. This could be a good place to talk to people about the war. After she had left for about 5 minutes she poked her head around the corner and offered to take me out to lunch at the Traverse Pie Company. I got a kick out of the name of the place considering the name of this project. I thankfully agreed and we took Lisa Petrulis, the exhibitions coordinator of the Swope, with us.

Prior to the talk I went and scheduled a hair cut with a barber right next to the Museum, at Joe’s Barber shop. Joe had served during Vietnam, though not stationed in Nam he had some interesting things to say about the war. He had been cutting hair in the same location for some thirty plus years. About half way through Joe’s buzzing of my head, Pat Creasey in all of her sweatness stopped by to give me a copy of the newspaper, a map of Terre Haute, and 20 dollars which she insisted on paying for the haircut, claiming that she admired my adventurous spirit and thought that the project was admirable. She reminded me of the talk with the mayor and I told her that I would see her there.

In the time between getting the haircut to cool off the next 2,000 miles or so of cycling, I went by the Terre Haute public library to update this blog. Making it to the mayor’s talk, Pat came in and sat down next too me. She waved the Mayor, Mr. Bennett, over and introduced me to him and I told him about the project briefly. Although there was no chance of discussing the war at this venue, it was interesting to hear a very well informed, medium sized city Mayor discuss the expenses that he authorized in the last few years in his tenure. Next year the mayoral election was to take place and the meeting had a campaign feel to it but he did an impressive job. After the talk there was a town hall style Q&A session where residents were able to voice concerns and request that certain things be addressed in their beloved Terre Haute.

After the talk, Pat Creasey drove me to the restaurant that I was recommended by Todd Nation the day before. She almost teared up as I left. The risk involved and the sense that she enjoyed my company (which the feeling was mutual) effected her emotions. I thanked her several times and went into the restaurant and brewery interested in trying out their beverage selection. Met a young man named Tim Byrnes who had some thoughtful things to say about the war and allowed me to tape his thoughts.

Day 26 – Reflection

Cloverdale, IN – Terre Haute, IN

6/6/11

Apparently this day of cycling was fairly uneventful since I was compelled not to chronicle much in the writings. It was filled with more Indiana farmland and was very hot. This kind of heat has resulted in more frequent breaks to cool off and stops to convenience stores for a cold drink, typically Gatorade, to assist in temperature control.

It was a shorter ride to day to get to Terre Haute so I was able to walk around the town a bit to get a lay of the land.  I stopped by the Swope Museum of Art, where I was to speak about TFBD the following day just to introduce myself. The Museum was closed that day but one of the staff showed me around. The collection was fairly traditional and highlighted a lot of regional artist, mostly painters to the like of Thomas Hart Benton and Edward Hopper. To be giving a talk on an artwork that could be considered more in the contemporary means of art production I found it to be an interesting setting to be talking amongst a more traditional collection of works in the presentation room.

Visited “Nation’s Bookstore” a used bookstore on the main street in Terre Haute. It is nice to see that some used bookstores are able to survive the onslaught of online retailers and used item sellers such as Amazon.com. I met Todd Nation, the store’s owner, and was able to record his thoughts on the war.

I stopped by both the local newspaper office and TV station to let them know that I was speaking at the Swope Museum of Art the following day in case they were interested in running the story on the project.

Day 25 – Reflection

Indianapolis, IN – Cloverdale, IN

6/5/11

Ate breakfast at what seemed to be the kind of diner in cities that get a reputation if for nothing else than for its longevity. Looked like it had been around for a while, did Peppy’s Diner. I had a fascinating conversation with Vicky a woman, in her late 50’s, sitting at the next little booth, facing me. As has become standard and appreciated, people’s natural sense of curiosity kicks in when a guy on a bike with a trailer wearing a jersey sits down and eats. Vicky struck up the conversation and it snowballed because she is thankfully a critical thinker and well informed.

The brief rain in the morning helped to cool of the day. As I have been doing, I blindly let Google Maps take me around this imaginary boundary as it sees fit. There have been times where it will take me down a road and then have me turn around to continue on the road that I was just on in the same direction. It doesn’t say it in those terms of course so it is not obvious during an initial glance of checking out the directions. Today it happened in a way that was unsettling. Typically it is only like a mile at max when google has it’s u-turn complex. This time it was about 5 miles on a really back woods road with trailer parks and questionable looking houses with rusted out automobiles a plenty.  As I was making the pathetic back tracking and approaching a very steep hill that I was enjoying coming down about a half hour earlier, a medium sized black dog came sprinting and barking to the road across his owner’s 3-4 acre front yard. This alerted the neighbors dog, a pit bull of a generous size, in which he or she too joined the race. The natural reaction is to just pedal faster. This happened just prior to the base of a formidable hill and biking while pulling a trailer results in a lack of an ability to accelerate and couple that with a hill and there is no way to out pedal a dog or two. The scenerio was such that they had a ways to go to get to the road so I was pedaling like a fool in the vein attempt to pick up speed, looking ahead, looking back at the dogs as they got closer, looking ahead, back at the even closer dogs. They got almost up to the rear tire of the bike, certainly parallel with the trailer and I was screaming at them to “Back OFF, Stop, Go Home,” you name it. Miraculously they backed off just as the ascent up the hill started. I guess I had gotten far enough away from their territory to satisfy them. The surge of energy expended plus the hill made me have to stop and push the bike up after catching my breath as this instance was the first time during the trip that I was concerned for my own safety. It was humbling to be pushing up a bike and trailer up a really steep hill with cars passing you.

I made it to Quincy, IL but the only building other than houses was a post office and the people that I spoke to there could care less about me. It was decided to got to Cloverdale, about 9 miles away and get a room.

Day 24 – Reflection

Day of Rest in Indianapolis.

Artist Talk at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art.

6/4/2011

Prior to the talk at INDY MOCA I took the bike over to Joes Bikes right there in Fountain Square. Shaun, the dude who looked over the bike was telling me that he and his buddies had to go back to NYC to go to court recently. They were hanging out in Brooklyn when a cop driving by saw a pocket clip that he knew was attached to a pocket knife. The guys were charged with some misdemeanour charge. Apparently after 9-11 it is illegal to carry even small pocket knives into the city or at least Williamsburg. Who would have known?

Shaun tuned up the bike and I got a spare tire, not inner tube, because he noticed that the rear tire was starting to “square off” as he put it. “You would hate to get a major blow out and not have this” his wisdom proclaimed which proved to be prophetic.

Went back to INDY MOCA to update the visuals for the presentation. Once updated I met Erin Polley (the organizer of the art exhibit on the war in Afghanistan going on at the same time in Indy) at a neighboring cafe for coffee to discuss her project and my own and the general state of things regarding the war. She went to the talk at IMOCA.

The talk went well. Another modest size turn out but those there seemed really engaged, asked good questions and we had a good discussion after the talk. Victoria Bradbury had to head back to Muncie and her and Mark’s van wouldn’t run right as she was heading to the talk so she high-tailed it on foot to iMOCA, knowing that she would have to get the beast towed back to Muncie. There was a huge and violent thunderstorm that night that swept through Indy. I stood right outside the Fountain View Hotel watching debris fly across the road, the sky blacken and lightning dance where it wanted to. But there was no rain for about the first hour and a half. With all of the recent occurrences of tornadoes that was on my own and other’s minds as the storm did its thing. It also proved to be an interesting element in Victoria’s experience riding back in a tow truck with a guy who was luckily a sane and collected driver.

Day 23 – Reflection

Muncie, IN – Indianapolis, IN

6/3/11

Basically from Lima, OH to Indianapolis and possibly further west is known as the Black Swamp region, according to Don Kennedy. They had to drain a large portion of the land to make it suitable for farming and there are large ditches on the sides of the road to account for flooding as a result.

Biked through more farmland on this day. About 6 or 8 miles into the day, my left knee became tweeked somehow and began to ache unexplainedly. I don’t remember any specific movement which may have caused this but it ended up meaning that every down pedal with the left leg was a painful one and I still had over 70 miles to go that day.

Biking through Middletown, IN I stopped in at the Sport Card Bar and Restaurant. The bar was call “Coon Dick’s” and there was a colorful bunch of characters there. The one guy called me a “fucking idiot” for biking alone and asked me what I would do when I get hit by a car, “just lay there and be hurt?”. Well, yes I guess I would lay there and be hurt. It was interesting to talk to people who might not otherwise be exposed to a contemporary artistic practice such as what is employed in TFBD and to try and explain to them why I and the contemporary art world may consider it art. This in general has been an interesting and rewarding component to the project.

The Indianapolis Museum of Art had agreed to put me up during my stay in Indianapolis since I was due to speak there the following day. They got a room for two nights at the Fountain View Hotel across the street from the Museum. Fountain Square is a culturally rich part of Indianapolis, on the hip side of things. The Fountain View Hotel had its fair share of character, a building from the 1920 which houses a bowling alley in the basement, bar and restaurant on the ground floor, the hotel is on the 3rd, another bowling alley on the 4th and a rooftop restaurant and bar to cap it off. This is the kind of place that I would not have been able to afford on my own so I appreciate INDY MOCA for the generous accommodations. I got a kick out of hearing the bowling lanes over head.

I was able to meet back up with Victoria who came into town for the talk tomorrow. Her husband has a family friend in Indy so it worked out well that she could stay there until the talk the next day. We went over to check out INDY MOCA. I was able to meet Shauta Marsh and check out the exhibit.  Earlier Shauta had put me in contact with Erin Polley who had set up an exhibition a number of blocks away at a re-appropriated church on the war in Afghanistan. The powerful exhibit consisted of about 2 dozen large mural painted by selected artists in response to the war as well as Afghani children’s drawings regarding the war. I spent a lot of time in front of the children’s drawings as they about would knock anyone off of their feet.

Day 22- Reflection

Lima, OH – Muncie, IN

6/2/11

Somehow after the 100 + mile day, the day before I got an early start from the Kennedy house. They sent me off with sandwiches and fruit, extending the generosity into the morning.

The day’s biking was beautifully flat, through Ohio farmland crossing into Indiana farmland. This resulted in the best time and highest average mph so far on the tour. I stopped to eat at a dinner, The Koffee Kup,  in Indiana where the younger waitress had lost her brother in Afghanistan a few years earlier. Again, the amount of people effected by the war in smaller communities is astonishing.

It was rather smooth sailing into Muncie, Indiana from The Koffee Kup. I was scheduled to meet up with a dear friend living in Muncie and teaching at Ball State University, Victoria Bradbury. Victoria and I studied at Alfred University together, both in graduate school and she had since married one of my closest friends Mark Hursty from Alfred as well. It was great to see Victoria again. After I took her up on an offer to take a shower, she cooked up some tacos and then we headed down to Savage Bar to meet some of her colleagues from the University. It was good to be surrounded with people of a similar mindset and interest set in the academic world again. Thank you to Victoria for the accommodation and good conversation.

Day 21 – Reflection

Tiffin, OH – Lima, OH

6/1/11

Another day full of back country Ohio farmland roads. The first 60 miles I was having to battle steady and strong head winds. Compared to the slow paced riding ascending hills or mountains, I have come to the conclusion that riding at a meager 6-7 miles an hour on flat land, feeling like you are swimming against a current is much more demoralizing. It does not seem right to be moving that slow on flat ground. Frustration set in on multiple occasions and I admittedly shouted profanities more than once into the empty farmland space surrounding this seemingly endless challenge. The wheat fields on either side of the road acted as visual enhancements for the wind when they created waves of wheat, announcing when larger gusts were approaching during the constant medium paced head winds.

Somehow I missed an important turn on a road. Ended up going 24 miles round trip out of the way, or about 2 and a half hours. I made it back on route and when I was in Lima, OH, I realized at about 8:30pm and having already biked 95 miles that day, by far the farthest so far, that I still had 27 miles to go before reaching the original destination of New Bremen, OH. Realizing this, I looked up lodging choices on the phone for places near Lima. As I was engrossed in Google’s wisdom, a man named Don Kennedy stopped and asked if I was alright. I told him the dilemma and he offered for me to stay at his house. When I got there he mentioned that his wife, Kathy, was skeptical about having a stranger stay the night. Hearing this I upped the politeness even more so than my normal polite self in a stranger’s house. She seemed to become comfortable with me rather quickly.
After a shower they offered me some leftovers which after what ended up being a 100 + mile day I gladly accepted. We chatted it up about the war, college football and the local area’s history while I ate. The Kennedy’s have children about my age, if not older and have a few grandchildren. Thank you to the Kennedy’s for welcoming me into their house with generosity and warmth on a day that was one of the toughest.

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