Though I was out of town on vacation for Thanksgiving, I still had the drive to explore. It might be even more interesting, I thought, to go somewhere I had never seen before! I got recommendations for possible places from the family members who live in Indiana and on black Friday we set out for my coldest and shortest excursion yet.
My dad and I hopped in the car, so generously chauffeured by my cousin. Our first stop was on the campus of Ball State University. My grandma had pointed it out the day before as we drove by: Studebaker East: a residence hall that’s under heavy construction, stripped down to its bare concrete. Cousin parked in a nearby lot. Even the couple hundred feet walking across the grass to the construction fence froze our faces. There was some wind chill! We made a half-circle around what was left of the building, peeking through the chain link fence.
The views were so different from the different sides: the side facing the lot was a flat slab of concrete. From that angle, ignoring the construction equipment, you could almost imagine this was a normal, functioning building. From just around the corner the structure was an eerie skeleton. I couldn’t help but squint and try hard to picture vibrant life in that dorm, past and future but certainly not present.
The details were beautiful too. The construction site reminded me of abandoned spaces, with random discarded shells of domestic life strewn about.
I wished I could cuddle up to the space more —there were so many things that could have been explored, perspectives to see, objects to play with. I might have been able to fit through the fence, but was deterred by a camera on top of the neighboring building. I stumbled on its camera feed later and wonder if I will watch it online as construction progresses. Would that change my thoughts about the space? It is foreign feeling looking at it now, the bird’s eye view is such a far cry from touching the construction fence at the level of the building’s foundation.
Too cold, we got back in the car and moved to our next destination, part of the Cardinal Greenway. The greenway runs quite a ways along the former path of train tracks. We entered the trail near McCullough Park in Muncie. Immediately I saw and made a beeline for an old, rusted shell of a train bridge over the White River. I couldn’t believe there was nothing preventing people (me) from climbing on it! I edged myself out on an I-beam, just suspended over land, not the muddy, cold river below. Though it was hard to fully enjoy because of the freezing temperature, I perched and tried to absorb the experience of being there. Dad and cousin explored underneath. One day I’d like to scoot all the way across. Maybe in warmer temperatures and definitely with a spotter or two.
After a few minutes I reversed my maneuver and climbed off. We went back towards the trail and across another former train bridge, this one without vertical supports, that had been transformed into a pedestrian bridge also over the water. They’d filled the metal beams with wood planks, reminding me of a boardwalk and much warmer times. Parallel to that bridge, and further upstream, is the bridge trains still go over.
On the other side we picked up a dirt and grass path parallel to the river. On this side only was a pitiful, worn-out “no trespassing” sign hung across the abandoned train bridge. Now I know!
Where the path was, land had been built up into a ridge, presumably so the river won’t flood the nearby houses. Their backyards to our left were filled with RVs, dilapidated fences, and miscellaneous semi-junk objects. The river ran on our right.
We looped back around, taking a more sterile, modern, mostly concrete car bridge with a sidewalk on one side and ending up back in the parking lot. On the way we got a peek at some quite nice graffiti under the car bridge.
This excursion was much different than most of my others – I had never been accompanied by two co-explorers before, never in such unfamiliar territory, never so cold or short. Despite lacking the time to absorb the surroundings and have the solitary moment as much as I was used to, it felt quite successful and triumphant.