Column: Extra! Extra! Early voting, Little 500!

Today (Saturday April 22), walk-in early voters for this year’s May 2 municipal elections can cast a ballot at the election operations center at 3rd and Walnut streets. It’s open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Bloomington voters will be electing party nominees for mayor, clerk, and nine city council seats. Ellettsville voters will elect party nominees for clerk/treasurer and town council.

Also today at 2 p.m., riders in this year’s edition of the Little 500 bicycle race will roll off the start line at Bill Armstrong Stadium on the Indiana University campus. You can also watch the drama unfold on the university’s live stream. Continue reading “Column: Extra! Extra! Early voting, Little 500!”

Tuesday evening: Leader in cross-country bicycle race to cruise through Bloomington

Sometime early Tuesday evening, the leader in the Race Across America (RAAM), is projected to pedal through Bloomington, Indiana.

The RAAM is a 3,079-mile west-to-east bicycle race across the United States.

As of 4 p.m. Monday, the overall leader was Nicole Reist, who has solid credentials, as the RAAM’s first woman finisher in 2016 and 2018.

As of 4 p.m. Monday, Reist had 2,045.5 miles behind her, after starting in Oceanside, California six days earlier. That left 337.7 until the Bloomington time stop, and another 1,033.5 miles to go until the finish line in Annapolis, Maryland. Continue reading “Tuesday evening: Leader in cross-country bicycle race to cruise through Bloomington”

Wednesday night: Leaders of cross-country bicycle race roll through Bloomington, race referees know their movie quotes

Around midnight on Wednesday, a few minutes into Thursday, an SUV headed south on SR 45/46 waited at the light to turn left onto 3rd Street.

The door panel had an official placard—it was a race official’s vehicle for the Race Across America (RAAM).

RAAM is a 3036.9-mile bicycle race starting in Oceanside, California ending in Annapolis, Maryland. Since the race was founded 38 years ago, the route for the RAAM has not always been the same. But it has passed through Bloomington for several years.

Through the open window of the SUV the driver shouted to the B Square: “Cutters! The Italians are coming! The Italians are coming! Rebate? Rebate?!

He caught his own mistake: “Wait, no, that’s not it … Refund? Refund?!

The recitation of familiar lines from the movie “Breaking Away” was his response to the B Square’s question: “You know you’re in Bloomington, Indiana, right—the greatest bicycling town in America?” The highlight of the film is the victory of a team called the Cutters in the Indiana University Student Foundation’s annual Little 500 bicycle race.

The light turned green before The B Square could catch the driver’s name. Continue reading “Wednesday night: Leaders of cross-country bicycle race roll through Bloomington, race referees know their movie quotes”

Column: “Breaking Away” sometimes means taking a delightful detour


[Note: The Little 500, the bicycle race at the center of the 1979 movie “Breaking Away,” has been cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was scheduled to be run on Friday (women’s) and Saturday (men’s) this weekend.]

Last July, I managed to arrange a phone interview with a Minnesotan named Betsy Hodges.

Maybe 15 minutes into the conversation, Hodges launched into the Indiana University fight song. She sang it through to the end. “Indiana, we’re all for you!”

I did not ask her to do that. “When I meet somebody from Indiana I start singing the fight song,” she told me.

But on that occasion she wasn’t merely being friendly to a Hoosier she just met. Hodges was proving a point: The IU fight song is part of the opening festivities of the Little 500 bicycle race as portrayed in the film, “Breaking Away.”

The point: Hodges was not, as I had thought, mixing up the IU fight song with “Back Home Again in Indiana.”

Her performance was convincing, in part because Hodges is not an IU alum. How else could she possibly know the IU fight song by heart, except by watching “Breaking Away” a few hundred times as a high schooler?

“I memorized the film,” Hodges told me. Continue reading “Column: “Breaking Away” sometimes means taking a delightful detour”

Bloomington paves way for Little 500 street sprints

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On Saturday afternoon in downtown Bloomington, a blocked-off Kirkwood Avenue offered enough car-free asphalt for the Indiana University Student Foundation to run 54 heats of cyclists down a 200-meter course.

Kaethe Schroeder (SKI) and Robert Strobel (Black Key Bulls)  prevailed in the  finals of the women’s and men’s divisions, respectively. The Street Sprints are part of the fall cycling series tied to the Little 500 bicycle race held in the spring.

The first rounds of the Street Sprints included 24 heats, which winnowed the men and women’s fields from 167 total cyclists down to 32—16 men and 16 women. The remaining rounds were two-up sprints—only the winner advanced.

According to race director Andrea Balzano, this fall marked the ninth year of Street Sprints. For the first two years the event was held on North Jordan Avenue, but since 2013, it’s been held on Kirkwood.

Kirkwood, of course, is an avenue that’s storied not just in song (“Tonight, I’m gonna see my baby again, we’re gonna go walkin’ down Kirkwood, look at us go”) but in Bloomington’s public works budget presentations this year (“Pavement maintenance project for East Kirkwood Avenue…Delayed due to high contracting costs”).

Continue reading “Bloomington paves way for Little 500 street sprints”

5 ways to prep for watching the Little 5: “Do all those things while you can.”

This coming weekend, the Indiana Student Foundation will host the 69th running of the Little 500 bicycle race. It’s a 50-mile race, which means 200 laps around the quarter-mile oval of Bill Armstrong Stadium. It was immortalized by the 1979 film, Breaking Away.

The women’s race starts Friday, April 12 at 4 p.m. The men start at 2 p.m. the following day.

For maximum enjoyment of the race, the best way to prepare is simple:

Watch the movie, then go out and do all the stuff that’s in the movie. 

But you don’t have time to do all of it, because you’ve got a busy life updating your Twittergrams and Instabooks and whatnot. So I’ve pared down the stuff to just five things. Continue reading “5 ways to prep for watching the Little 5: “Do all those things while you can.””