The stable of nostalgic cruiser bikes outside the Turkey Run Inn turn into old nags that whine and moan when you pedal.
With only a single gear, they're totally unsuited for these hills. Worst of all, they're not allowed on the trails — and there are only maybe 5 miles of asphalt in this entire state park.
But never mind all that. That's just my inner fitness junkie talking, the self-absorbed control freak who was secretly hoping to pack a triathlon workout into a belated anniversary getaway with her husband.
It's ultimately a good thing that Turkey Run State Park isn't one of those drive-through nature preserves that let tourists gape at scenic views without ever leaving their vehicles. Its cycling shortcomings are more than made up for on rugged hiking trails through sandstone gorges and hidden mini-canyons you don't expect to find in Indiana.
This is the first trip since I lost 90 pounds in 2010 that I didn't bring the scale along. We're only going to be gone a couple of days, the weight loss contest the kids and I were participating in is over (we finished fifth), and I don't have any races for at least a month.
So now I'm working on listening to my inner kid: Letting go of goals and expectations. Trying to see my dashed workout plans as an opportunity to explore. And enjoying the Inn's ginormous buffet without getting too bloated to have fun.
That last part isn't too hard for me these days. To make it easier to focus on fruit and veggies, we stick to the soup and salad bar. But there are still plenty of high-calorie temptations.
To avoid feeling deprived, I let myself make as many trips as I want. But I try to create something interesting on each plate rather than just loading it up. My favorite weird concoction from this trip: Drizzling ham and bean soup like salad dressing over a plate of spinach leaves, then crumbling up a piece of corn bread into “croutons.”
As I clean my plate, I pause to appreciate my creation and gauge how I'm feeling. It's nice to know I'm no longer content to just waddle back to our room for a nap — not when there's so much to do here.
Looking over the map, we decide to hike to Camel's Back, a “fine scenic view” with several unusual rock formations. But we get distracted by all the canoes and kayaks as we cross the bouncy suspension bridge over Sugar Creek and blunder onto Trail 3 by accident.
I'm glad we did, because based on what we saw, it's clearly the most spectacular. I couldn't wait to tell the kids about Wedge Rock, the fallen cliff face frozen in time, or the Punch Bowl, a round sandstone room hollowed out by a glacial eddy.
When we finally arrived at our intended destination, there wasn't much to see. Tangled undergrowth obstructed the overlook. Though in a forest that still harbors bobcats and old growth trees, it's not like there wasn't anything else to look at.
Later, walking back to the inn after four hours of hiking — and several wrong turns — it's hard to see how we could've navigated those trails on a mountain bike, much less the cruisers we'd rented earlier in the day.
But there was fun to be had there as well. One of my favorite memories from this trip came on those old bikes, once I abandoned workout mode and got in the spirit of aimless meandering.
Without really thinking about what I was doing, I found myself standing on the pedals to gain a little speed going over a rise in the road. And in that moment, in that forgotten yet familiar movement, I was suddenly transported back to being a kid again.
A kid on an old bike with no gears or hand brakes, pedaling around and around in circles just for the heck of it, on a play date with her husband.