Traveling to new places with my family means bonding, having fun, laughing, trying new foods, and exploring. We love to play sports, hike, visit museums and caves, and enjoy being together. Yet, my favorite way to explore new places is to do it at my own running pace before our children even wake up and are ready to start their day with us.
We have recently visited the Midwest and have enjoyed Chicago, the impressive, unforgettable, and most beautiful American city in my humble opinion, the sweeping and undulating corn fields of Illinois and Indiana, the magnificent lush forests, the balm weather, the history, and spending time with our friends.
After having spent a week in Illinois, we headed to French Lick, Indiana, a quaint, small town with a population of around 1,800. I also wondered about the name and found out that this town used to be a French Trading Post built near a spring and salt lick. Known for its Pluto Water and healing springs, French Lick is also the hometown of basketball legend Larry Bird.
From the moment we drove into town, I noticed the winding paths. As always, my husband helped me plan and plot my run, so I had a route ready for the next day.
On a crisp June morning with 55 degree temperatures, I took off for my long run that had to be at least 10 miles. I was soaking in the fresh air and was giddy with excitement. I was also thinking of my friends back home in Sacramento who had to put up with the 107-degree sweltering weather. In less than a mile, I arrived in front of the French Lick Springs Hotel, which is on the United States National Register of Historic Places for its architecture and old charm in our modern world (the hotel first opened in 1855).
After about two miles of running, I reached the next town and hotel West Baden Springs Hotel, also named the Carlsbad of America. I loved the arched entry and the brick path. I stopped to take some pictures, as well as learn about the history of the hotel and its mineral water and baths that were alleged to cure more than fifty ailments.
As I ran on the brick path towards the hotel and the beautiful gardens, I learned that it was the original brick street installed when the hotel was built in 1902.
Running is social – connecting with a local runner
Around mile 3 into my run, I ran into a local runner. I asked him how long the trail outside the West Baden Hotel was and he told me that the path ended right after the bridge. At that point, I figured I might as well repeat the same loop and asked him if I could join him. David told me that he was running his usual three-mile loop, so I was happy to have company and talk to a local runner. I found out that he was a teacher, married with two small children, and that his wife was a nurse. We talked about Indiana and why he liked it. I also told him a little bit about California and our lives there. He told me that he enjoyed running 5K races and that he also ran a half marathon with his wife in Kentucky. David was polite, kind, and a good running companion, which made my long run more enjoyable. No matter where I meet new runner friends, I feel so blessed to be part of a worldwide running community. Our universal love of running does not need translating; it simply resurfaces like a well-balanced surf board above high and tall waves.
After an enjoyable run, I said good-bye to David and thanked him for his company. I only had four miles left to make it to 10 miles, so I headed back towards French Link, passing by churches, small restaurants, a mini golf course, and small antique stores.
Besides exercising, socializing, learning about the history of French Link and West Baden, I also gathered some fun trivia knowledge that I can share during my runs with my runner friends back home.
In front of the French Link Hotel, there is a sign about the invention of the tomato juice. In 1917, French Lick Chef Louis Perrin ran out of oranges to squeeze for juice during the breakfast rush. With a group of Chicago businessmen waiting, Chef Perrin improvised and squeezed some tomatoes. The businessmen loved it and spread the word: tomato juice was great stuff. By the 1920, tomato juice was promoted as a health drink.
WEST BADEN – THE CARLSBAD OF AMERICA
According to one of the signs in front of the hotel,Carlsbad means “Charles’ bath,” named for the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, who is believed to have discovered the mineral springs at Carlsbad in 1347.
ORIGIN OF THE WORD HYGIENE
West Baden Springs Hotel had four springs all known for their amazing healing properties. One of the springs was named Hygeia, based upon the goddess of health in Greek mythology. Thus, the word hygiene comes from this Greek goddess’ name.
With running tours becoming more popular, I am grateful to go on my own running tours and learn on the go, as well as immerse myself in the culture of the new places I visit. During this trip, I have become fascinated with fireflies, brick homes and buildings, the dancing corn fields extending for miles, and the ubiquitous red barns.
When traveling, I also like to apply this German saying: “we grow too soon old and too late smart,” which matches with my philosophy to explore new places we visit with the eyes of a curious and inquisitive child and the soul of a wiser traveler.
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