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Trip Report Big 10 Quest #2 - Indiana

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Big 10 Quest #2 – Indiana University – February 18, 2012
12 campuses – 12 months - 2012

When I started our quest to visit Big 10 campuses this year, I made a list and realized that we could cross a few off as completed. After all, all four members of our family attended Illinois and the last will graduate from there in May. I spent a week each summer for several years at Indiana, we’ve done a walking tour of Purdue and attended events there several times and we also have visited the Madison campus multiple times. However, when I realized what a nice ring 12 campuses in 12 months in 2012 had, I decided to try to go to a different one each month – no doubling up –and revisit schools that we’ve already visited.

In January, we spent a wintry, but sunny, Saturday at Ohio State. Five days later, our son called to say that he had been accepted to graduate school there. For February, we decided to head off to Indiana. A plus for it is that my favorite restaurant in Indianapolis could top off the day.

Fortunately, Indiana is not a great distance from home as we didn’t leave until 10 AM. En route, we stopped only once. I always try to note things that are new to me and this stop produced one of those. I know that truck stops feature showers for drivers, but this was the first time that I’d ever heard an announcement such as “#74, your shower is ready. Please proceed to shower #11.” followed by a sales pitch for truckers in the parking lot to come in and take advantage of the open showers. Their parking lot also caught our attention. It had signs prohibiting certain types of parking using terms that I didn’t understand and none of the many semi’s had trailers. Where in the world did they park their contents? I know it wasn’t at the nearby McDonalds because it had a sign prohibiting truck parking. Coming back out to our car, the sun and warmish weather (for February) made me feel like I was on a spring break trip to Florida. Alas, the end of the road was instead Bloomington, Indiana – fun, but not exactly Disney World.

I had done only minimal pre-trip research. I had the address of the visitor center and knew that the art museum featured free tours every Saturday at 2 (1 our time). Our GPS led us to the visitor center at 530 E. Kirkwood. We were surprised to see that it was not actually on campus, but instead in a nearby campustown area between a Pita Pit and Urban Outfitters. The friendly (assumedly) student inside shared a brochure of a walking tour. Since the art tour was about to start, we had her point out the art museum so we could go there first. The oddly named Sample Gates (named after someone named Sample) were a stone’s throw from the visitors’ center and marked an entrance to the university. We told our Big 10 Quest story, picked up a free pin and magnet, and started out.

The campus is lovely. Along our right was a woodsy area with a creek. I know from my NAJAC days that Jordan Creek flows through the campus. However, we saw creeks in several spots and I’m not sure if they were all connected or not. In addition to the peaceful pastoral setting, Indiana differs from Illinois and Ohio in that it is hilly. That in itself adds to the landscaping if not the ease of walking. The peacefulness was partly due to the lack of students. A winter Saturday, I suppose, is not the time to get the true flavor of a college. However, we did see a few people who pointed us in the right direction to the art museum. The building, we later learned, was designed by Pei and features no right angles. Outside is a big red circle which projects lights onto the building at night. We arrived only about 10 minutes late for the tour. I figured we could catch up to it. First fly was when a third floor guard told us that we needed to take our backpack down to the lockers. Later, another guard told DH that he could not take off and carry his coat. The IU guards take their jobs seriously. This is OK, though.
After ditching the backpack in a 25 cent locker, we found the colorfully-clad docent and her three charges and joined the tour. Each piece in the collection is apparently worth a five to ten-minute talk, so we didn’t learn about too many selections. On the other hand, her comments were very interesting and much better than my normal 10-second perusal. If we lived in the area, it would be fun to join the tour every week and I wondered If Illinois offered anything similar.

After the art tour, we decided that it made sense to finish the walking tour before looking for something to eat. Red clocks on red poles were photo opportunities as was a banner that had nothing to do with the walking tour but said, “Start here.”

As we walked, I kept trying to figure out the route from the dorms to the auditorium that I took every day during the Junior Achievement conferences. I never did figure it out. We did however see an interesting chapel flanked by memorial plaques for different religious groups and stone-clad fences. When we reached the stately union, we explored lunch options. Not many of the restaurants were open and we considered the Pizza Hut, a bakery, or going back to Campustown for the Pita Pit, Jimmy John’s, or an ice cream shop that featured lots of toppings. (We were parked in front of it and the signs were very appealing). In the end, we decided it made sense to forego lunch, since we wanted to eat dinner in Indianapolis and it was only an hour away. I picked up a visitors brochure as we leaved. It’s too bad that some of its information was not included in the walking tour. Unlike the Ohio State tour, this walking tour was very dry. Instead I found the most interesting trivia, such as that for the Pei building in the booklet. As we walked through the rest of the campus, we marveled at the gargantuan buildings and noted that they were all made out of the same stone. This contrasted to the brick style that we are used to. Later, driving away, we saw road construction and the cut-outs in the ground gave us a pretty good idea of where the stone came from. Under the dirt, it was all stone.

On the edge of campus, we saw the library school and remembered a previous trip when we had visited the rare book room. Later, we happened upon the stadium. Unlike Ohio, I hadn’t had as many opportunities to take photos that included the school name, so we stopped to take a photo of the huge vertical INDIANA that emblazoned the side of the very-modern building.

On the way to Indianapolis, we decided to stop at a winery that had been recommended by a co-worker. We were shocked to see the overflowing parking lot and pleasantly surprised by the very pretty grounds and landscaped fountain. Inside, we saw people crowded around a tasting area. We asked why the crowds and was told that it was unusual for this time of year and reminded the employee of football Saturdays. She said it was evidently a combination of a chocolate event, the warm weather and Mom’s Day at Indiana. (Now that I think of it, I did not see any moms when we were on campus.) The winery featured tastings. For $5, you received 8 tastings of wines of your choice. There were actually two tasting areas and the second was almost as crowded. I sprang for the $5 – DH was driving so just watched and listened to the comments. We went into the second room and headed to the far side thinking it might be less crowded. It was full too – but there was room for one person. I chatted with the couple on my left who were trying reds and the group on our right who were from Chicago but in the area to visit a sister at IU. It was interesting to hear the explanations of the pourer and to try to rate and remember each different wine. The pourer was generous with the samples. He also shared that the room was actually underground and that the winery opened in the 70s. Afterwards, we picked our three favorites to take home.
Something was going on in Indianapolis or perhaps people there were also taking advantage of the weather because parking near the Old Spaghetti Factory was non-existent unless we wanted to pay $10 for a garage across the street. We drove around the block and found a metered spot two blocks away near the train station. The meter gave us fits until we finally realized that between the 54 minutes left on it and the fact that you didn’t need to pay after 8 PM, it rejected our putting in anything more than 15 minutes (credit card) or 25 cents (cash). The restaurant was packed with a 40 minute wait. However, tables were available on the bar level for anyone over 21. I guess we were fortunate that most of the patrons were families that night. The food was as good as always and provided a fine finale for the second in our Big 10 quest.

Comparing and contrasting:

Setting: Indiana was peaceful and pastoral with hills and lots of woodsy trees. Illinois’s is very flat and Ohio was reminiscent of Illinois.

Building materials: Indiana’s were all the same stone. Illinois is brick and Ohio was similar.

Westminster chimes – all three sounded the same making me wonder if they were made by the same company.

School shirts – Ubiquitous at Ohio and Illinois (even though it was cold when we were at Ohio). Not so many at Indiana.

Lay-out – Ohio has an oval. Illinois has a quad. Indiana didn’t seem to have a large open area.

Walking tour – Ohio’s was interesting with lots of interesting trivia. Indiana did have one, but it was dull. I don’t know if Illinois has one or not.

Branding: Ohio touted its name. We saw it on the doorway of the union, streetlights, and the stadium. Illinois has nice entrances to campus that make good branded photo opportunities. Indiana was not so big on its name. We took photos of the upper parts of red clocks, but ended up making a special stop at the stadium just to get a good photo with Indiana in it.

Saturday activities: Many of Ohio’s building were closed or deserted. The union, rec center and library, however were bustling. Indiana had an interesting art tour available on Saturday. Most of the restaurants in the union were closed and we didn’t see the rec center or library.

Visitor information: Ohio had a great area in the union. Indiana had a center near, but off, campus. I’m not sure what Illinois has. It does, however, have plaques all over campus sharing information.