I woke up early (4:30 AM) the next morning and began rethinking our schedule. Based on our average speed from the previous day, I did not believe that we could ride 63 miles and still have any time leftover to eat or enjoy the scenery. So, I plotted to convince Joyce to consider an alternate plan. I suggested that we take Uber back to our bikes, continue riding north to the end of the southern portion of the trail in Gaston and then bike back to Muncie to rent a truck. I’d already checked online and reserved a small pickup at Enterprise (just in case I could persuade her to accept my revised plan) 🙂 . After renting the truck, I planned to transport the bikes beyond the 15 mile stretch between Gaston and Gas City where the trail is not complete, and then resume our ride on the northern completed section to Marion. After two hours of planning and scheming, I finally decided to get up and take another shower. To my surprise, there was no hot water! I called the front desk, and they confirmed that the hot water was out in the whole building. Although they had a plumber working on it, they were not sure when it would be repaired. I woke up Joyce and told her the bad news, and she could not grasp the possibility of not being able to take a hot shower.
Since I was already dressed, I decided to go downstairs and purchase milk, orange juice, and a scone to eat with our leftover pizza for breakfast. While in the lobby, I inquired about the hot water and asked whether any monetary compensation would be offered for our inconvenience. The night attendant assured me that the manager would adjust our bill when he came into work so I went back upstairs. Joyce had accepted the fact that she wasn’t going to get a hot shower and had already dressed. We heated our leftover pizza in the microwave and ate breakfast. Afterward, we packed our gear and called Uber to take us to pick up our bikes.
By now, I had explained my revised plan to Joyce and she was pretty much onboard. Our Uber driver recommended that we call U-Haul because she thought we could get a better rate on a pickup truck. I called U-Haul; although their daily rate of $19 was better, the mileage charge of $0.59/mile would make the cost significantly more than Enterprise. So, with the plans set for the day, we embarked on our journey. Fortunately, our bikes were exactly where we had left them the night before. We unchained them and started biking northward through Muncie, which is a mid-sized town with a population of 70,000 and home to Ball State University. With the exception of one major intersection, we hardly realized that we were passing through a town. We stopped at the Visitor Center (converted railroad depot) at the Muncie trailhead and picked up a mileage chart. Although the map on the brochure included mile markers, it was much easier to read the mileage chart 🙂 . Normally, you can rent bikes at the Muncie depot; however, the rentals were closed for the season.
With Muncie behind us, we biked another seven plus miles to Gaston, which is the current end of the southern portion of the Cardinal Greenway. We turned around and headed back south to McGalliard Road in Muncie where we biked one block west to the Chick-fil-A. While Joyce hurried into the restaurant to order our lunch to go, I called to check on the status of the Enterprise Car Rental driver who was supposed to pick us up at Chick-fil-A. Within minutes, the driver arrived and helped me load the bikes into the pickup truck. Joyce returned with our lunch and we rode in the truck with the driver about 2 miles west to the Enterprise rental office. I was relieved that Enterprise was willing to pick us up because most of McGalliard Rd was a 4-lane highway with no sidewalks. After completing the necessary paperwork and transferring the bikes to another truck, we ate our lunch while driving approximately 15 miles north to the trailhead in Gas City.
We estimated how much time we had to ride the 9-mile northern portion of the trail in order to allow sufficient time to drive 75 miles back to Richmond where we had to turn in the bikes before the store closed at 6 PM. Estimating that we could ride about an hour and fifteen minutes before turning around, we started biking. Immediately, we both noticed that the scenery was slightly different than the southern portion of the trail. There were more woods in full fall color and more cattle farms. With a slightly downhill slope, this nine-mile portion of the trail was pleasant, and we enjoyed the ride much more than our stressful ride on the previous day. When we reached the trailhead in Marion, I tried to convince Joyce that it was the end of the Cardinal Greenway; however, a man loading his recumbent bike explained that the trail continued for approximately three more miles to the Sweetser Connector. So, realizing that we had extra time, we decided to keep riding.
Although we noticed that the trail was narrower and did not have the recognizable mile-marker rocks, we pedaled on for a couple of miles against a stiff headwind through an open corn field. When a friendly retired couple from Indianapolis approached us, we asked them about the trail. They were not sure whether the trail was a connector trail or part of the Cardinal Greenway; however, they were extremely complimentary about the little town of Sweetser. We rode a little further north until we realized that we must turn around in order to make it back in time to return our bikes in Richmond. After further research, it looks like we were riding on the Sweetser Trail which joins the 2-mile Converse Junction Trail to a segment of the Cardinal Greenway. This portion was still listed as “Future Cardinal Greenway” on the map posted at the Marion Trailhead. The ride back to the pickup truck was slightly uphill, but we made good time. When we reached the parking lot, we decided to ride the ½ mile down to the actual end of the northern portion of the trail. This was a good decision; the trail was tree-canopied and paralleled a small river.
Returning to the rental truck, we loaded the bikes and headed south toward Richmond. We had allowed an hour and a half for the drive, but we hadn’t planned to get stuck behind a tow truck and an 18-wheeler. The road was rural with hardly any traffic, except in front of us 🙂 . Calling ahead to inform Danny that we were running a little late, he reminded us that he needed to leave promptly at 6 PM to pick up his grandson. Driving as fast as we could under the circumstances, we managed to pull into the Cycling & Fitness parking lot at 6:01 PM. Danny was waiting for us in the parking lot; he helped us unload the bikes and quickly closed up the shop. Needless to say, we owe him a debt of gratitude!
After dropping off the bikes, Joyce followed me in the rental car back to Muncie (approx. 45 miles) where we dropped off the pickup truck and grabbed fast food (again). Realizing that we were not going to make it to the Holiday Inn Express in Greenfield before my scheduled online help session for my math class, we changed our reservations to a Fairfield Inn & Suites in Anderson, which is located about 30 minutes west of Muncie. We checked into the hotel and I logged into my help session with a few minutes to spare. Fortunately, no one logged in for help, and I was able to unwind and get ready for bed.
The next morning, we ate an early breakfast in the hotel and drove to the airport in Indianapolis where we returned our rental car and caught our flight back to Atlanta. I took MARTA from the airport to the North Springs station where my husband, Ed, picked me up en route to our daughter’s house in Villa Rica where we planned to spend Halloween with our grandson. Although the trip was rushed, I enjoyed the ride! I’m thankful that we had good weather (no rain; not too hot and not too cold) and the leaves were magnificent!