Friends, family at heart of this weekend’s Hilly Hundred

ELLETTSVILLE — In May, Indianapolis resident Jim Turner and his wife celebrated their 30th anniversary by taking a bicycle tour of Napa Valley’s wine country. The experience made him realize how much he loved cycling, he said, and he bought a bike in August.

But Friday, as Turner stood on the cold, wet pavement of the Edgewood Junior High School parking lot in Ellettsville, he was far away from the sunny, vineyard-filled hills of southern California.

Turner was instead preparing to ride his bike over the hills of southern Indiana in the Hilly Hundred, an annual weekend cycling event that takes riders through 100 miles of rural roads in Monroe, Morgan, Owen and Greene counties. The rain was predicted to end overnight and stay away for the rest of the weekend, but the roads may still be covered with slick, wet leaves this morning.

Organized by the Central Indiana Bicycling Association, the event is celebrating its 45th year.

Turner’s bike had only 148 miles on it as he stood next to it Friday evening. He’s expecting to ride one-third of that distance just on Saturday. How did the 53-year-old Turner go from buying his first bike in August to preparing to ride a two-day, 100-mile event only two months later?

“It’s peer pressure,” Turner said, looking over at his friend through the rain.

Andy Costlow, also 53 and from Indianapolis, laughed as he huddled with his bike under the back hatch of a vehicle. Costlow said he’s been participating in the Hilly Hundred since 1993.

“It’s a way to stay in shape, as well as a chance to be with family and friends,” Costlow said. “We all enjoy the challenge.”

The event is a family affair, he said, and he often rides alongside his brothers and his 16-year-old son, Craig. Costlow said he wasn’t worried about their safety on the course, despite recent accidents, including one that left a West Lafayette man paralyzed last year.

Craig said he wasn’t worried either, and that this will be his third time riding in the Hilly Hundred with his dad.

“It’s a family tradition,” he said, as the three wheeled their bikes toward the middle school.

A chilly wind whipped a light but constant rain around the parking lot, soaking any bicycle seats not covered by plastic shopping bags but apparently not dampening the riders’ spirits. A large community of tents was set up near the parking lot — triangles of green, blue and brown dotting an orange canvas of fallen leaves.

Another parking lot was transformed into an RV park for those not wanting to brave the elements on the Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corp. property.

Inside Edgewood Junior High School, riders stood with their bikes in the hallway and waited for the gymnasium to open. Workers constructed bike racks on a tarp covering the gym floor. Riders are storing their bikes in the school at night, coming to collect them each morning of the event.

Terry Dugan, 66, shook the rain from his shoulders and leaned his wet bike against the wall. Dugan said he came to the event from Michigan, but he’s originally from Bloomington.

He said he heard about the bicycle tour and decided to return to his home state to scope the event out and report back to friends.

“For me, it could end up being the Hilly Forty, Sixty or Ninety,” Dugan said. “But I’ll give it a try.”

Originally published in the Bloomington Herald-Times.