Sunday, May 31, 2009


The Weather-out-the-Window&trade today was terrific! Amazingly blue skies, moderate winds in the 10 to 14 knot range, clear air, and a temperature that would be high on just about anyone's "If I Could Only Have One Temperature It Would Be..." list. In short, the perfect flying day. But... I didn't. Instead I checked something off on my "Waiting For The Perfectly Appropriate Day To Do It" list.

That item was to walk the Darby Creek Greenway Trail up to the Darby Dan "Round Barn," a seven mile round trip. I've been curious about this barn since the day I noticed it while flying:

I was curious enough about that barn to engage Google in learning more about it and found a newspaper article about it. After learning that it was quite accessible should I ever choose to visit it as a groundling, I added it to the above mentioned list.

For years, Darby Dan Farm in western Franklin County served as a training ground for some of the country's top racehorses, including champion thoroughbreds. It was a place that celebrities, a president and a princess visited.

Time and weather have faded its track, barn and grandstand, which were purchased by Franklin County Metro Parks in 2003 and 2004.

But the parks district soon will begin refurbishing the grandstand and barn and convert the area into a museum of sorts, with historic markers and photos telling some of the history of the Galbreath family and reflecting prominent developer John W. Galbreath's love of horses.

On April 1, the park system opened a 4.3-mile trail connecting the Cedar Ridge area of Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park to the track, grandstand and "round barn" -- a covered, 1/8 -mile oval that once housed up to 32 horses.

The start of the trail is only a few miles from my house so it's eminently convenient, but the prospect of what was advertised as an 8.6 mile walk was enough to convince me to wait until a day that provided cool temps, no chance of rain, and time enough to allow a relaxed walk. Today turned out to be that perfect confluence that I had been awaiting.

After having found and utilized the appropriate parking area, I started looking for the trail entrance. My intrinsically superior map reading skills aided me in locating it after only a few minutes and I began the trek. Well, there was a slight delay. Last week I had somehow gotten on the topic of recumbent bikes. I can't remember why I was thinking about them, but I can certainly remember why I think they're more attractive to me than normal bikes: they offer both a more comfortable seat and much-needed lower back support. Actually, better seat padding could also answer to the call of "much-needed" when you get right down to it! As I was walking to the trail, I stopped to talk to the owner of this example:

I asked all of what are surely the usual questions he gets:

- Why a recumbent? Better seating.
- Are they expensive? Yes.
- Do they ride differently than normal bikes? Of course they do, you idiot! Just look at it - does it look like it would ride the same as a normal bike?

Well, that's not really what he said. What he actually said was "try it." I'm here to tell you, it rides very differently. I nearly fell off of it. I came so close to ignominiously flopping onto my left side that I actually ended up making what must have appeared to be a fairly normal turn.

"Hey, you picked it up with no problem at at all!"

"Yep, piece of cake."

It's just a fact of life: native incompetence can often be masked with false aplomb. Thankfully, it would appear that this would be one of those occasions.

I was somewhat taken aback at the very beginning of my hike, though. This is what awaited me at what I thought to be the start of the trail:

What tipped me off to the fact that this was not the trail I was looking for was a sign alongside what I thought to be a bike path warning that there is no water available on the Greenway Trail. "Hey," I thought, "the Greenway Trail is exactly what I'm looking for!" I then astutely observed that the sign was located in a position that left no doubt that what I thought was just a bike path was in fact the trail that I was looking for. Not quite as astutely, I disregarded the warning that there was no place on the trail where one could divest himself of the water (or coffee) that he was already carrying, if you catch my drift. That would ultimately introduce a not insignificant level of urgency in getting back to the parking lot a few hours later. But that was hours in the future; at that moment I was just getting started on what looked to be a very well-prepared and -maintained trail:

I hadn't even gone the first mile when I came across another trail user:

I'm so used to skittish creatures like Herons that I found myself sneaking up on this guy, stopping every few feet to snap a picture before he could run away. It took an embarrassingly long time for me to realize that him running away was the least of my worries. I mean, he's a turtle! How fast could he go? As it turned out, he was quite comfortable with me being there and didn't move a bit, although at one point it looked like he was considering closing up shop. As soon as I saw him getting ready to retreat into his shell, I stopped and waited a few moments while he calmed down.

There was quite a bit of scenery to stop and look at:

The trail remained smooth and mostly flat all the way up to the round barn. Of the people I saw on the trail, most were on bikes but there were a couple of runners that passed by. If I was actually capable of running, it seems like it would be a good place to do it. It ended up being about three and a half miles up to the barn rather than the 4.3 I had been expecting. Once getting to the barn, a runner could take a short break and look around before heading back. The scenery varies from what a sign called the "Oak Savannah" to a preserved wetland area to the barn itself. I think it would be great for a bike ride to, assuming I can ever solve the seat padding issue.

As far as walking, having now done it I doubt if I will do it again. After about a mile and a half I became aware that a couple of things were going poorly in my shoes. On the left side, I could feel a blister building on the back of my heel. I hadn't tied that shoe tight enough and my heel had worn itself raw against the back of the shoe. I tightened up the shoe but the damage had already been done, and more was yet to come. Trying to ease the movement against the blister caused me to change my gait, which in turn caused a recurrence of the pain that I've been having in my planter fascia on that foot. Feeble, I am.

That was the left side. On the right side, one of the shorter middle toes had armed itself with a poorly trimmed toenail and was using it as a weapon against that taller jerk next to him that he hates so very much. By the time I found a place to sit down and remove shoe, sock, and offending toenail, that poor tall toe was in poor condition indeed. Feeble times two.

None of that discomfort was enough to dissuade me from my goal, however. I finally made it to the barn:

I had hoped that I'd be the only one around and that there'd be enough privacy to avail myself of the opportunity to, well, ameliorate the coffee over-capacity problem, but no such luck. I had counted on the 3.5 mile distance from the trail entrance keeping the number of people getting to the barn at a bare minimum, but it seems that there must be a shorter way of getting there. Perhaps there is another entrance at the top of the trail. It matters not; for whatever reason, the coffee that made it up the trail would be heading back down too.

For the last two miles of the walk back to the car, I distracted myself by thinking about that recumbent bike. As I thought about it, it seemed that the whole thing could be improved with the addition of another wheel or two. I was visualizing something like a recumbent tricycle or human-power quad runner. My path of thinking then led to the obvious question of whether things like that were already available, or if it would be something that would have to be kludged together. As soon as I got home, I would Google it to see. Well, that probably wouldn't be the first thing I'd do, would it? No. No it most certainly would not!

Once I got home and had access to Google I started looking around the vast, deep reaches of the Internet, and finally came across this:

Perfect! Well, perfect in the sense of being perfectly suited to what I had imagined. Not perfect in the sense of "Oh crap. Here's one more thing that I simply have to have!" At $879 they aren't terrificly, unattainably expensive, but... let's just say it's not very likely.

Just to make it worse, look at how flipping cool these things are:

I console myself thusly: I just know, without ever even seeing one in person, that the seat would be hard and uncomfortable. That's the story I'm feeding myself, anyway.


  1. I had a Sun Sport recumbent as pictured above, then traded up for a Tour Easy. Expensive, but probably the smartest investment I've ever made.