State 6: Indiana - July 13, 2017
We woke up in Indianapolis, IN excited about the day’s events. We always look forward to visiting the capitol city of each state we visit. It is the best way to learn what a state is all about in the shortest period of time. As soon as Nate and I entered the city limits, we immediately realized Indianapolis was a very special place, and the more time we spent there, the more we found to enjoy. The city was extremely safe and immaculate. The city has 8 universities, and 4 hospitals, providing ample job opportunities, and multiple avenues to further your education. From there the good only got better.
The city was extremely progressive. Bike lanes lined all of the streets, and rental bikes were available on every city block. They also had electric rental cars called Indigo plugged in on each city block as well. From what I understand, you rent the car on line, walk over to any one of the electric cars anywhere in the city, drive it to where you needed to go, and when you are finished, drop the car off at any charging station, and plug it back in. We did not want Rosie to feel jealous, so we did not rent an electric car. It was a very unique business model, and very eco-friendly! The city also had an air tram to transport people throughout the city, along with the expected city bus!
By far the most unique way to get around the city of Indianapolis is via the canal walk. Back in the 1800’s a canal was scheduled to be dug to connect Ohio River with Lake Michigan. However, due to lack of funding, only 8 miles of the canal was completed, which was entirely within the city. Fast forward to more recent times, the city regained control of the canal, and developed 3 of the 8 original miles to create the Canal Walk. It is a 30-foot-wide by 3-mile-long body of water with in the heart of the city. The 3-mile Canal Walk is entirely lower than street level, but not beneath the ground. There is an extra wide sidewalk on either side of the canal where people were walking, jogging and riding bikes. In the water of the canal, we saw people traveling by paddle boat, kayak, and even gondola. Yes, I actually saw someone commuting to work in a kayak in the downtown of the largest city in Indiana! Stores, café’s, museums and parks lined each side of the walkway along the canal. There were foot bridges every 100 feet to cross over to the other side of the canal, and stairs at similar intervals to get back up to street level. The city also features live music every night of the week throughout the summer. We have never seen anything like this anywhere prior, and we wished we could have stayed there all day!
After exploring the canal walk, we headed to the State’s capitol building for a tour. Most capitol building tours run on the hour every hour, and during normal business hours. They don’t take reservations, so you just show up. This has led to us being part of some very interesting tour groups. For example, when touring the capitol in Kentucky, we were joined by a group of seniors who were alumni's from Dr. Martin Luther College in New Ulm, MN. They sung a beautiful hymn in the rotunda, and their acoustics resonated with angelic beauty throughout the building. During our tour of the state’s capitol in Indiana, we were joined by a camp group of 6 year old's who were cute beyond all belief! In addition, the tour guide was excellent with the children, and explained the complex process of government in a manner in which a child could understand. The construction of the capitol building achieved a perfect balance of what a capitol should be. It was classy, but not gaudy. It was elegant, but not over the top. Since Indiana has the largest natural limestone deposits on earth, limestone is the stone they used to build their capitol. One of the most interesting features of the capitol was the massive stained glass dome making up the interior of the rotunda. Words and pictures cannot describe the sensation of standing beneath that stained glass dome as the morning sun light poured down upon you. It was a moment in time I will never forget!
Indiana has two state constitutions: the original from 1817, and a revised version from 1856. The 1817 constitution was said to have been signed beneath an elm tree in the capitol city, which Indiana historians refer to as the Constitutional Elm. The tree died in 1922, but the wood from tree was salvaged. In the 2009, the Indiana government had both of the constitutions professionally restored, and had a display case built from the 1922 salvaged wood from the Constitutional Elm tree. Many states do not publicly display their state constitution, and keep it locked in a vault in an undisclosed location. Indiana is the first capitol we have visited that display their states liberties proudly and prominently beneath their rotunda for all to see. Well done Indiana! We commend you!
After leaving the capitol building, headed back to the canal walk, but ended up walking into another unexpected Indiana surprise. Surrounding the outside of the capitol was an army of food trucks, and various vendors. Apparently they have a farmer’s market from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm during the weekdays, and it was packed with people! There was Asian food, BBQ, American food, Seafood, Cajun, produce, honey, soap, and so much more. What a great location for a farmer’s market right outside the steps of the Capitol Building!
After making our rounds through the farmer’s market, we walked a ¼ mile back through Canal Walk to where the States Museum was located. The State Museum appeared to be a recently built 5 story glass front building, and upon entering we were greeted by the states name Indiana stacked in large vertical block letters pictured above. It was quite the first impression, as each letter was bigger than me! Although the museum had great reviews, we regretfully decided not to visit because of the steep admission price of $15.00 per person with no discounts. We are visiting their state museum to learn about Indiana to consider moving here. This was triple the admission price of other states, and a few of the previous states offered free admission to their museums. We headed back to the canal walk and continued until we came across The Indiana Historical Society Building. They were offering free admission on Thursday, and since the price and the day of the week was right, we decided to go in to check things out. This museum had a very unique approach! They had 4 rooms that depicted important moments in Indiana history. When approaching each of the rooms, you would first walk through a dark fog filled room. Then, a door would automatically open in front of you, and upon walking through, you entered a second room designed to depict that exact moment in time. The scenes depicted included: a 1920 Polio vaccine laboratory, a Catholic Church within a WW1 prisoner of war camp, a WW2 community mason jarring station, and a 1920's jazz lounge. Each room also contained interactive live actors in period dress and character. The room that was the 1920's Jazz lounge , actually had a live singer who was depicting Cole Porter singing "The night is young, the skies are clear, so if you want to go walking dear, It's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely!". He was exceptionally talented! The whole experience was extremely realistic, and we actually felt like we traveled back in time.
On our way out of the city, we realized we missed one of the most iconic and photographed sites in Indianapolis: The Soldier's and Sailor's Monument. This struck us as funny because the monument is only 15 feet shorter than the Statue of Liberty, is located in the exact center of the city, and takes up an entire city block. Talk about missing the elephant in middle of the room!
After a few wrong turns, we finally found the monument. We have already seen many monuments on our trip thus far, but this was by far one the most impressive. Some of the unique features were cascading fountains on either side of the memorial. Like the capitol building, the monument is made of Indiana limestone, with numerous bronze sculptures. The most impressive of the sculptures is perched on top of the massive structure. It is a 20 ton cast bronze of lady liberty, which the locals also refer to as Ms. Indiana. She faces West welcoming our servicemen and women home. The traffic goes around the monument in a huge traffic circle. Nate hates driving in traffic circles, and this one was extremely busy and difficult to navigate. I think we went around the monument 8-10 times before we were finally free. I was reminded of the scene in the European Vacation Movie as I said to Nate, “Hey look, kids, there’s Big Ben"!
Although Nate and I generally dislike cities, we were both very impressed with Indianapolis, and Indiana as a whole thus far. We continued south through central Indiana, and happened across a very ominous skyline pictured here. We contemplated making a run for it and finding another town to call home for the night, but luckily the storm system piddled out and then quickly passed. We arrived at Bloomington, IN, the home of the Indiana University, and found a Walmart to spend the night.
Will Indiana be the first state on our cross country trip to be considered as our possible new home state? We will have to wait and see.