Filling up my Camelbak, I wait eagerly for my friend Brian to arrive on his SV650S. A last minute work commitment forces us to wait until mid-day to depart. The high heat and humidity of the day wore heavily on my as I don my leather riding suit. One final check over the bikes, and we are finally ready to depart. Flipping my helmet visor down, I sense the rush of anticipation that accompanies the start of a new adventure.
Blasting briefly on the interstate, we exit onto 39 S. Almost immediately, we receive a reprieve from the sticky 94 degree day with old trees lining each side of the road. Grateful that I spent the time to find a shaded route, we slide from side to side powering through each corner. Following 39 S to 37 S, we look for Old 37 knowing that the sparsely traveled side roads would be much more conducive for leisurely riding than the 4 lane super slab. Trees create a green canopy protecting us from the sunís heat. Traveling at a steady clip, the light filtering through causes disorienting flashes of light similar to a strobe light. Careful to avoid the numerous bicyclists racing down this road, we, in due course, arrive in Bloomington, IN home of Indiana University.
Riding east on 46, I notice an increase in traffic slowing our pace as we near Nashville, IN. A notorious tourist trap, Nashville is a historic artist colony tucked into the blue hills of southern Indiana. There we meet up with another friend, Eric, riding his Honda ST1100. Avoiding the crowded thoroughfare, we head south on 135 passing expansive farms and enjoying the undulating, curvy tarmac. Veiled in the lush green Hoosier National Forest is the Story Inn. We stop for a delicious bite to eat and a respite from the heat. The tavern looks recently renovated with old tractor seats in place of bar stools. Our server tells us that just a last year, the tavernís basement at flooded with several feet of water when a nearby dam burst. Using this opportunity to revive this local landmark seems to have paid off with a steady stream of traffic. Thoroughly refreshed, we climb on our steeds and continue south on 135.
Tempering my desire to loft the front wheel in the air as I crest each hill, I unexpectedly find myself nearly knee deep in a series of sharp turns before we turn west on 58. The road, while still curvy, is much less technical and we make good time to Bedford, IN. There, we pick up 450 E past Williams Dam and onto Shoals, IN. Stopping in Shoals, we enjoy ice cream at Bo-Macís Drive Inn and meet up with another friend, Rod, riding a KTM Super Duke. Leaving Shoals, we travel south on 150 to French Lick. The smooth, sinuous road is simply magnificent with the brush cut back several yards on each side of the road allowing me to look through the wide sweeping turns. Arriving in French Lick, we stop briefly to intake the beauty of the West Baden Springs Hotel. Built in 1902, the West Baden Hotel was once touted as the 8th wonder of the world due to the ornate dome atrium. The hotelís guest list is impressive including Al Capone as well as entire baseball teams who would hold spring training at the resort. After the stock market crash in 1929 the hotel became a college and then a seminary before closing for many years. Just in the past seven years, the hotel has been completely renovated and reopened thanks to generous donations and the opening of the nearby French Lick Casino.
The late afternoon sun beats down unrelenting as we continued south on 145. Nearing Patoka Lake, we welcomed the sudden blast of cool air and with renewed vigor twist our wrists. At IN-62 we take an easterly course to Leavenworth, IN. There, we stop and gaze in awe at the mighty Ohio River watching a barge float elegantly upstream. As we cross the double decked, suspended bridge over the Ohio River, I pump my arms feeling a sense of accomplishment, we continue into Louisville, KY. After travelling for so many hours on nearly deserted back roads, the heavily trafficked interstate crossing the Ohio River is quite a shock to the senses. Since the sun is nearing the horizon, we decide to stick to the interstate and arrive quickly in Lexington for the night.
Rising early from our slumber, we meet up with Nathan on his Honda 919 and follow his lead south on 421 to Richmond, KY. At Richmond, we turn our wheels east on 52 and enjoy the two lane racing along the foothills until we at last enter the Daniel Boone National Forest. Almost instantly, the road becomes more enjoyable and technical as the road heaves with the natural barriers. Turning north on 2016, we stop in the Natural Bridge State Park and pay the $9 toll to ride the Sky Bridge (ski lift) to view the naturally formed sandstone arch. The expansive view from the bridge impresses me with the sheer size of the park and if not for the heat and yearning to ride, I would like to spend more time here.
Continuing north to Slade, we stop to refuel and replenish the fluids we desperately need. Just past Slade, we turn east onto 77 then turn again onto 715. Unexpectedly, the road narrows to just one and a half lanes with no yellow lines to keep oncoming traffic confined. Though the road is incredibly twisted following the hilly terrain, our speed drops considerably with nervous anticipation. Fortunately, not a single car is on this road. I gaze longingly at the small Ohio River tributary wishing I could jump into the water. Completing the loop back to Slade on KY 15, we decide that it is time to head back. Dark clouds form to the north threatening to spoil our fun.
Following 77 north out of Slade, my Speed Triple sings a high tenor as I dive in and out of the curvilinear tarmac. The absence of traffic coupled with an almost manicured road surface encourage a quick pace and we regrettably must continue north on 460. A wall of rain can be seen ahead and we stop to adorn ourselves with our rain gear. The deluge continues to pour on us for almost an hour. Arriving in Mt. Sterling, our rain gear finally comes off and we turn our wheels west to Lexington. The hot tub at our hotel feels especially nice this night!
Sleep eludes me, my mind replaying each and every corner then pondering the route home. Rising early, I consult the map looking diligently for a scenic path back to Indianapolis. Kickstands up, Brian and I bid farewell to our friends and leave east on 64 to Frankfort. Nearing the Kentucky state capital, we witness expansive equestrian farms stretching for miles. Exiting onto 421 we slowly traverse through the downtown traffic before slipping the urban atmosphere. Just outside of the city limits, 421 parallels the Kentucky River and offers us the excitement of exquisite pavement shadowed by lush green poplar trees. The temperature is temperate this day allows us to focus more intently on riding at a sporting pace and I whoop and holler in my helmet with each turn and dip. Reaching Pleasureville, the terrain flattens into rolling corn fields and the occasional house on a hill until we near the Ohio River Valley. Once again we happily toss our bikes side to side until we reach the Milton-Madison Bridge. Crossing into Indiana, we turn east on 56 following the Ohio River to Vevay, IN. After our late lunch, we head north on 129 and for a short time enjoy the newly paved road until the road turns to hardened gravel. Cautious to avoid the center of the lane where there is loose gravel, we pass by Amish buggies and mile after mile of farmland.
At Versailles, we follow 421 once again north to Greensburg. Looking up at the courthouse, I notice that there is a tree growing out of the courthouse tower. Following 421 as it merges with Interstate 74, we are greeted with the familiar Indianapolis skyline. Making tracks towards home, I realize how lucky I am to have friends that I truly enjoy riding with. The motorcycle community is small enough that I am able to meet friends along a 400 mile route and allow them to act as my tour guide on the best roads in their home turf.