Day 13: : Louisville, KY -> West Baden, IN (60 mi)
8:20 am - Storm and Tanner were up before I was and had already whipped up coffee, eggs, and toast. I was groggy, hungry, and grateful. They offered to ride out with me, over the bridge into Indiana through New Albany, where they had lived in an apartment together a few years back. I was excited as I’d never gotten to really ride with anyone before.
When we were crossing the bridge, the sky looked angry. Dark grey clouds threatened from above, but as we got farther down the Indiana coastline and into New Albany, the clouds thinned and Mr. Sun resumed his post. Phew. Thunderstorms are cool, but not on a bike. No, definitely not.
Shortly after Tanner and Storm turned around, the skies flipped again and down the rain poured, pummeling me with every turn of the cranks. My first planned stop was to be Paoli IN, 35 mi on the day and about 12 miles further through the storm.
Through worsening rain and thunder, I trudged it to Paoli and quickly took cover in a taqueria in the center of town. I sat inside, plugged in my electronics, and ordered some mushroom quesadillas and some piping hot coffee to sip while I (sort of) dried off.
It’s amazing how little it takes to turn one’s day around on a trip of this nature. Something as simple as a warm lunch indoors. That comfort would be short-lived, unfortunately.
After checking the forecast and deciding camping to be inadvisable in this weather, I consulted Google for other options. No WarmShowers nearby, and the cheapest motel was going to run me around $85. On a whim, I checked AirBnB and to my delight found a hostel offering beds for $20 in West Baden Springs, IN (another 25 mi away).
Stoked, I scrolled through the AirBnB description and noticed my phones touch screen started flickering. S**t. I promptly called the hostel and they gave me directions from Paoli, and I set off at the storm’s first lull.
*After the phone went kaput, I lost all photos of the Lost River Hostel. Still bummed.*
By the time I arrived at the Lost River Hostel, my phone was completely nonresponsive, and after checking in and getting settled, I tried not to have a panic attack. As silly as it may seem to get strung out over a waterlogged phone, it had also been my GPS, means of communication, camera, photobank, and lifeline. Whatever. I threw it in some rice the hostel told me I could use, and tried to put it out of my mind.
Shortly after checking in the rain tempered a bit, but din't let up completely, and Jasmine, the manager, showed me to my bed. The hostel grounds were enchanting. Buried in the Hoosier National Forest, guests stayed in one of three wooden octagon, double-decker cabins that featured singles, doubles and dorm-style rooms. The bathhouse was separate from the lodging, also a wooden octagon, and featured these two huge showers where the fourth wall was missing and replaced by a view out into the luscious forest landscape. There was even a jacuzzi on the roof (unfortunately it was not working).
After showering up, I walked through the woods along the path back to the main house with the kitchen and common area. Dinner was provided free, and was a delicious vegetarian medley of summer squash, broccoli, and quinoa with beans. Delicious! After dinner, the other guests and the volunteer staff, eight of us total, assumed the living room and shared stories, songs, and some chilled red wine as the storm continued to rumble.
The wine flowed as twilight turned to black, and one by one folks began to retire. By 10pm, there were only four of us still awake, and with the rain finally starting to subside, Chris, one of the volunteers, suggested a late night skinny dip in the lake just down the trail. Initially feeling too tired to partake, he poured me a whiskey and told me to drink up. We set out toward the lake about 10 minutes later.
The water was freezing, but it felt rejuvenating after a drunken, sedentary evening. When I crawled into my bed I felt a perfect combination of cozy, cool, and sleepy.